THE BLOG
06/13/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Time for the Military PR Folks to Come Up With a New Spin

Every time the military slaughters a bunch of children in some distant land the PR staff robotically cranks out the same old chestnut: "it-is-not-our-fault-the-enemy-is-using-human-shields." First, in order to grab the moral high ground here you would have to actually be deterred by this nefarious stratagem, which no one ever is. Second, this argument presumes that any dissident leader we want to assassinate should not live in his own home with his own family in his own village but should somehow, by ESP, intuit that a drone was on its way, hastily find a translator, email the operators in Las Vegas that he was going to run out into an empty field, carrying a big sign saying "kill me" in English, and give them his new coordinates.

Our wars aren't fought against armies any more. No army would ever attack us. They are fought against civilians, in foreign countries where armed killers don't wear uniforms--where you can't tell enemy from neutral. Furthermore, Afghanistan is a country riddled with feuds--ethnic, tribal, family, and personal. The 'reliable information' on which the military acts is anything but. In 2003 the Bush administration had the brilliant idea of dropping millions of leaflets on the (largely illiterate) population promising $5000 rewards for identifying bad guys. This was the equivalent of a quarter of a million dollars to an American. Who could resist the temptation to finger a neighbor you've been feuding with for generations over a piece of land? You're immediately rich, rid of your neighbor, and you've got all his land. And has anyone ever considered the possibility that the reason we've bombed so many wedding parties is that our information might have come from someone who felt he should have been the groom?

We should also abandon any attempt to take the moral high ground when the killing is being done--not on the ground, not even from a plane (which is cowardly enough), but by some guy sitting safely in a room outside Las Vegas playing video games with the lives of people he's never seen and whose deaths he will never have to confront. This is the ultimate in cowardly attacks, right up there with Al Qaeda using retarded girls as suicide bombers, or the Taliban gassing schoolgirls. Unfortunately, it's what modern war and modern machismo have come down to.

So I would suggest--in view of Obama's new effort to have more transparency in government--that a little more honesty from the PR folks might be appropriate. Something like this: "Look, folks, we're the military. Our job is to kill folks. If you're going to get picky about who, send someone else."

(In his inauguration speech, Obama talked of a whole new way of doing things. To understand the cultural paradigm shift that engendered this change--the shift that both the neocons and the Taliban have resisted so fiercely, see my website for information on The Chrysalis Effect: The Metamorphosis of Global Culture).