Does the atrocity of 9/11 justify endless atrocities in response?

The Lancet study (noted here previously) estimates there have been
100,000 Iraqi casualties since the beginning of the war in Iraq. While
the exact figures are debatable, the experts in public health who
conducted the research seem to be on solid ground. When I ask college
students and ordinary American folks about this slaughter, including the
recent leveling of Falluja, some are sickened or outraged. But a
surprising number of people say something like this: “After what they
did to us on 9/11, America can’t be criticized for hitting back!”

Of course the “they” in emphatics sentences of this kind is most peculiar.
Evidently, any brown skinned Muslim can be counted in this category.
Oh, please don’t bother us with the details. We don’t need to know the
names of the women and children or even the numbers of those killed.
America’s lapdog press, including the New York Times and Washington
Post, helps out here by suggesting that all civilians killed in Iraq are
“insurgents” and not mentioning anyone else. If you’re dead, you were an
insurgent. The logic here is stunning and its moral implications
deadening to heart and soul. Now the war comes home (as it always
does) and begins to infect our national character. The idea that the
violence is
“over there" and not "right here at home" is badly mistaken,
a lesson that will take decades to unfold.

Two recent pieces are well worth anyone’s reading. One is a brief essay
by Jeffrey Sachs, professor of economics at Columbia University, “Iraq's
civilian dead get no hearing in the United States.” As Sachs observes,

“The U.S. is killing massive numbers of Iraqi civilians, embittering the
population and many in the Islamic world, and laying the ground for
escalating violence and death. No number of slaughtered Iraqis will
bring peace. The American fantasy of a final battle, in Fallujah or
elsewhere, or the capture of some terrorist mastermind, perpetuates a
cycle of bloodletting that puts the world in peril.

Worse still, American public opinion, media, and the recent election
victory of the Bush administration have left the world's most powerful
military without practical restraint.”

At an even deeper level of reflection is Chris Hedges piece in the New
York Review of books. Hedges is a former war correspondent whose
book, War is a Force that Gives Life Meaning, describes the hideous
attractions of war and their implications for any society, including the
U.S.A., that embraces war as central to its a way of life. (See Chalmer
Johnson’s The Sorrows of Empire for further details). Hedges writes:

“Those who cover war dine out on the myth about war and the myth
about themselves as war correspondents. Yes, they say, it is horrible, and
dirty and ugly; for many of them it is also glamorous and exciting and
empowering. They look out from the windows of Humvees for a few
seconds at Iraqi families, cowering in fear, and only rarely see the effects
of the firepower. When they are forced to examine what bullets,
grenades, and shells do to human bodies they turn away in disgust or
resort to black humor to dehumanize the corpses. They cannot stay long,
in any event, since they must leave the depressing scene behind for the
next mission. The tragedy is replaced, as it is for us at home who watch it
on television screens, by a light moment or another story. It becomes
easier to forget that another human life has been ruined beyond repair,
that what is unfolding is not only tragic for tens of thousands of Iraqis but
for the United States.”