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The horror, the horror

Post by Patrick O'Callahan on Sep. 30, 2010 at 6:22 pm |
September 30, 2010 6:22 pm

Hate to get all literary now, but these allegations of murder and dismemberment in Afghanistan and Iraq follow a distinctly familiar script:

Westerner ventures into backward land on civilizing mission (or profiteering mission – take your pick). Westerner progressively loses moral compass. Corrupted by power and dark impulses, Westerner winds up more savage than natives.

The book is Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness.” Or if you prefer the cinematic version, Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now.” Or any number of real-world clashes between predatory European colonial powers and dark-skinned people.

The Taliban-enabled 9/11 attacks being still vivid in my mind, my narrative for the Afghanistan war runs something like, “We get attacked. We try to keep attackers from doing it again.” But the competing narrative – very convincing in much of the world – runs, “Amoral Western nation with immense military power again has its way with third world country.”

I suspect we’d have to build 100 schools in Afghanistan to counter the image of depravity created by a single American atrocity. Sociopaths are few and far between in today’s military, but even one is more than we can afford.

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