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Tarek Ali Hassan

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An Historic ethical failure
By Tarek Ali Hassan   
Rated "PG" by the Author.
Last edited: Sunday, August 27, 2006
Posted: Saturday, August 26, 2006

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presenting the hypothesis that with the advent of the industrial age, the unethicality of mechaised killing and mechanised impersonal killing escaped theologians and politicians sliding the advanced new World into a new darkness and barbarity and setting the example for nations that had not yet gone through the industrial revolution. All this degradation while all the major religions absolutely forbid the killing of one single innocent human-being!

An historic ethical failure

Being committed to the inherent humanness of all human beings of all classes of all races, all religions, I donned for this article the mantle of a questioning Westerner. Not a neo-Conservative and not a member of one of the fascist parties, but a Westerner who is concerned, striving to be fair and able to do some self-analysis and self-criticism towards the path of greater insight and eventually peace and security for all.

We have a deep social, moral and security crises in the West.

We are truly terrified not just because of the enormity of what happened on 9.11 in New York , later in Madrid and in London but because since the industrial revolution we have had no compunctions about using and developing mechanised warfare and/or weapons of mass destruction and mass impersonal killing, as instruments of our power and dominance.

History demonstrates without a shadow of doubt that we have gained enormously in wealth and in power through the invention, development, manufacture, ruthless use, and sale of these devastating killing machines and destruction machines. The spectre of history turning full circle to place us at the receiving end of our own evil inventions is truly terrifying. Yet the more developed and sophisticated we become, the more vulnerable we become to the secondary effects of unresolved injustices and deeply hidden atrocities along our social and political evolution. The richer and more developed we become, the more vulnerable we find ourselves to the harm of our own evil inventions falling into the hands of individuals or groups who harbour legitimate or illegitimate hate towards us. We have never deeply tried anything other than violence and War as an instrument of conflict resolution. We have never dropped out of the process of continuous development of weapons more and more terrible at each round. We have rarely desisted from selling weapons to anyone who could or would pay the price.

For three centuries the challenge of modern instruments of death demanding new and original ways of conflict-resolution were ignored. International regulation of War remained imprisoned in a false a priori assumption that War is necessary and inevitable.

The most advanced nations restricted themselves to clauses about treatment of prisoners, protection of civilians, banning of poison gas ..etc. All these pseudo civilized conventions obstinately falling short of stretching to see the obvious, namely stretching all these noble humane ideas to the logical and necessary conclusion of demilitarisation and the banning of mechanised warfare and impersonal killing as an instrument of conflict resolution. Simply stretching to see that modern postindustrial, mechanized and computerized impersonal killing instruments have automatically banned war from civilized life and civilized people! War has become inherently un-ethical, immoral and contrary to the fundamental quintessence of all the major religions.

With the advent of post-industrial arms and weapons of impersonal killing the industrial countries as the new masters and leaders of the world were to face a challenge of enormous magnitude. Will the win/lose, submit or be submitted concepts that reigned so far continue to dominate human relations, intra-nationally and internationally?

How can impersonal killing on an unprecedented scale made now possible by post-industrial weapons be justified on moral, ethical or religious grounds?

The simple and clear answer is NEVER! Yet we have all failed to rise up to the challenge. Is it not high time we do?

Therefore someway has to be seen round this three centuries of blindness to the obvious: All impersonal killing is immoral and unacceptable!

What religious, ethical or moral system can justify the killing of someone you do not know and can not see who may be completely innocent and may possibly be on your side? Yet we kill thousands of innocent civilians holding the cricifix, the bible and the Koran close to our hearts!

An opportunity, nay a necessity for evolving indestructible dialogue paths and new norms for national and international relations was lost and ignored during the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century
The temptation of steel, armour and the overpowering "superiority" and supremacy achieved by the violence of the new post industrial machines of war was too great for moral, religious or philosophical issues to impede!

It is a deep fracture in the history of the slow human march towards civilisation and humanisation.

It is a deep fracture created disseminated and perpetrated by us. The casting of a blind eye to the immorality of mechanised warfare and the absolute immorality of weapons of impersonal killing is a serious mind-boggling uncivilised relapse in the history of human social evolution perpetrated by us, the very nations that purported to carry the banners of civilisation and progress.

Where were the leaders of the great religious faiths when this flagrant over-ruling of their most sacred teachings (the unacceptability of impersonal killing) crept through the back door into becoming a new norm in international behaviour and international relations. Where were they when civilians including children together with the old and infirm became regular targets and victims??

No wonder we in the West and the US became used to glaring double standards. Our founding fathers wrote the magnificent declaration of independence but cast a blind eye on slavery as it affected “others”, the blacks, the heathens.

We fought for freedom, liberty and human rights in two World Wars, but supported without limits the creation and expansion of a Zionist state sequestrating human beings according to race and religion. Dispossessing and displacing thousands of Arabs and Moslems out of their homes and land.

Through the back door avoiding the glare of human consciousness and the risk of the tormenting human conscience, crept the instruments of death and violence of the postindustrial era evading any answers or resolutions to the major moral and ethical challenges they posed.

They had brought to an end the era of man to man evenly matched struggle. It was to be from now on, automated, then computerized war machine against war machine with men being used as victims/perpetrators in the process. Alternatively if one side had not mastered the “art” or capability of post-industrial mechanized weaponry and warfare, the insensitive overruling and abuse of the “weaker” party would generate what we call suicidal terrorist mentality. We obstinately in the post-industrialised West refuse to comprehend that human beings are never born terrorists. Random, desperate violence is generated by an impossible mismatch power gap with peoples who perceive –rightly or wrongly- that a serious injustice is imposed upon them by mechanized, automated forces that are overwhelmingly and hopelessly superior. Random callous violence is the tragic seed watered when nations, peoples and cultures are forced to succumb to the overwhelming random and callous vastly superior force of mechanized modernized relentless war machine.

Very ‘civilised’ men and nations are sucked in as perpetrators, culprits and victims of the mechanized/computerized war machine in win/lose/unconditional surrender confrontations.

The subtle change had started with the Napoleonic wars. the American civil war, the Crimean war. The atrocity of impersonal killing becoming an acceptable norm. The unnatural violence of the industrial age had created prosperity in certain quarters but practiced, spread and "normalised" mechanised automated violence of an unprecedented scale on "self" and on "other”.

Impersonal mechanical violence of enormous proportions did not jolt the Christian West -- the new leader and teacher of the World -- into exploring the now imperative alternatives to the winner/loser, conqueror/vanquished, submitter/submitted patterns. The all powerful West invented the perverse formula for continuous war which the West blithely calls ‘unconditional surrender’ without the slightest awareness that this is an unworkable concept for international peace and security and a formula for never ending warfare..

Following many TV channels especially the US and the UK. You will frequently come across programmes that brandish and take the greatest pride in showing the way normal, sensitive, peace loving citizens are turned into efficient elite soldiers as cogs in an unthinking hyper-efficient war machine. ”Normal” people who believe in peace and in non-violent conflict resolution, will find the process of training of their military elite abhorrent, dehumanising and at direct variance with the basic principles of ethics, morals, religious values and the pretense to civilisation. Analysing the procedures of normal military training especially the military training of the elite forces, in post-industrial ‘advanced’ countries, you understand how the terrible dilemma of mechanised impersonal killing of innocents in automated responses has been amputated. This antireligious anti-ethical anti-moral and anti-civilisation process practiced daily and regularly is allotted to dehumanised soldiers trained to be triggered like automatons by orders from superiors in automatically hierarchical social formations which all of us are brainwashed to call glorious armies.

The non-militarised populace are helpless observers. The populace is so captured by misinformation that contrary to their purported principles of humanity, morality and civilization, easily slip into becoming applauders of the immoral processes and practices that happen far away ‘out of there’ where we won't see or hear or understand!

It is only in defeat that the atrocity of our conflict resolution by force system of immoral values is brought to book. The victorious are NEVER brought to justice. Power superiority and dominance insures perfect cover up and un-accountability even though an impartial and balanced analysis will always show tragically that the crimes and anti-moral, anti-ethical, anti-civilisation acts of the victors were not less ‘evil’ or qualitatively different from their ‘wicked and evil’ adversaries.

That analysis still holds even though in the deeply disturbed and self-deceiving ‘civilised’ countries there is staged every now and then a face-saving stage play of internal investigation regarding immoral, uncivilised acts, atrocities and murder which are of course natural accompaniments of the principal of resolution of conflicts by force of modern postindustrial mechanised warfare and of computerized unintelligent ‘intelligent’ bombs and rockets..

The tragedy is made possible as you study the conditioning, training sequences of any mechanised automated army soldier. You will discover that we are still engaged in turning sensitive feeling human beings into automated machines for impersonal killing and destruction on an unprecedented scale. One of the peak tragedies emanating out of this Western blindness incongruously denied and glossed over by misinformation and selective information, was the full chronicle of horrors of the Second World War. It is a chronicle hitherto deprived of critical examination and understanding by all sides.

Through our habit of escaping unpleasant data by plunging into the oversimplification of absolute good on one side in opposition to absolute evil on the other we are continuously being prevented from understanding history at a causal level . A process that is necessary if humanity is to transcend its blood bespattered history marked by enforced injustice and abuse.

The Jews of the Christian West in modern times together with many –but not all- jewish bodies representing them, understandably scarred and maddened by the holocausts in Europe, had no time or space for moral considerations about impersonal killings of “other” or about the core values of religion. Certainly they had no space to rise above the literal understanding of the old testament. Any one of goodwill attempting to resolve the tragic conflict in the Middle East needs to understand deep dynamics and causes for a significant contribution to the many impasses encountered.

Enclosure within the darkened boundaries of the literal understanding of religions has been one of the most tragic dehumanising blights afflicting humanity in the 20th and the 21st century. It started in the hyper-romantic 19th century!

For generations the ecstasy of the delusion of power generated by these deadly modern weapons and machines for mass impersonal killing, was to blinden "the leaders" to religious, moral, ethical and human compunctions.

Blithely oblivious to the nature of the seeds they were sowing or the precedents they were establishing, they plunged themselves and the world into the blunders of the First World War, the blunders of the Versaille treaty, then the Second World War. They coined the term "unconditional surrender".

We in the West as the material and moral leaders and masters of the world have been teaching the whole world throughout the nineteenth century and throughout two world wars about the legitimacy of violence, about the supremacy of the win/lose principle in human relations, about polarisation into absolute good and absolute evil and about "unconditional" surrender of those who dare to be our adversaries. The ultimate horror peaks of mass impersonal killing of innocents still fail –with a few notable exceptions- to breathe life into our deadened moral eye. How is it that our civilized moral eye failed to wake up with the deliberate bombing of cities and civilians, the indiscriminate execution of ethnic and political groups chosen for persecution or extermination at a mind boggling scale, the development of the submarine, the intercontinental death carrying missile, the high explosives and the means to propel them hundreds or thousands of miles raining death and destruction upon utterly unknown recipients civil or military, young or old, the science of generating fire storms in civilian cities and then the ultimate violence of the Hiroshima Uranium and then the Nagasaki Plutonium bombs when Japanese diplomats were for months desperately trying to contact the Russians to offer Japan’s surrender.

The effect of this negative "teaching" must never be forgotten or underestimated even when speaking about something that seems totally unrelated like the violence in Iran or Libya or Ireland or Palestine or Indonesia or Cambodia or Iraq or Yugoslavia or Lebanon or the threatened violence in the former Soviet Union.

If the maturation and critical self appraisal process is not practicedm and the unitary vision continues, the circle of violence will come round to the advanced and ‘civilised’ nations as they insist on ignoring the role of striving towards a more just world in which all parties have a right to be heard. It is to be noted that the social fabric in the West and US , already shows many signs of pathological violence. The pumping in and condoning of generators of violence any where in our "village" world condones and generates violence elsewhere and everywhere


It might be argued that the world has always been violent. History is a continuous record of that violence. The West can not be blamed for a Universal human phenomenon. Indeed violence has unfortunately been practised as a normal method of conflict resolution by many societies -- contrary to man's evolutionary role in the biological scale.

The West did not teach the world violence. That would be a silly and uncorroborated assumption. The West failed to realize the unethicality of post-industrial war and of mechanized impersonal killing. The West practised and taught the world post-industrial violence on a massive and unprecedented scale. This is violence with a difference. Mass impersonal mechanical killing was introduced as a norm.
IT CAN NEVER BE NORMAL and yet the West taught the world that it was normal.

The West as leader should have devoted all its ingenuity to devise non-violent means of dialogue and conflict resolution when faced with the challenge of the new "killing machines”. The terrible challenge to all basic moral and religious values should have induced the best in the West to embrace and develop upon the Ghandian path demonstrated to the West in principal and by example. We must now work together to re-bottle the genie we have released. We need an utterly different and new Geneva Convention. We need to believe in, support and respect international governing bodies and arbitrators. This is a far cry from our glaring overruling of the UN and security council when and as we fancy. It is a far cry from the glaring double standards that we practice in relation to international law and vital values. I am sure that a few years of US and West absolute respect and support of the UN would bring much more security than the many tragic wars that never end..

An unprecedented trade in "advanced" weapons to "backward" countries, tantamount to the exportation and condoning of violence, must stop if any true progress towards dialogue and a healthy pluralistic world community is to be achieved. We must all strive for and expect some effective measures and mechanism to ban the international arms trade.

The continued flow of arms would if allowed, certainly continue to abort the normal processes of socio-political development in societies that badly need to concentrate on human development and education for self help. The continued nefarious arms trade would mean governments independent of "consent" and accountability, it would mean suspension of civil and human rights, endless strife, unrest, economic failure, extremism and fanaticism, continued threat of terrorism and perhaps even civil war.

Ladies and Gentlemen of good will all over the globe:

It would seem that one of the curses of Holocaust and Violence is that it imprints upon perpetrators AND victims alike Holocaust and violence as the pattern of human relation.

The Holocausts of the thirties and forties in Europe have been exported all over the world and tragically into the Middle East.

On all sides generations are forged believing in violence and the necessity of "crushing" the "other" as the only possible form of "dialogue." What an education!

There are many hopeful contrary signs and contrary awareness. These initiatives badly need to gather momentum and support. They need all our support.

The sum total of the US and Western stance as yet is to perhaps pay "lip service" to alternative postures in human relations and dialogue. Perhaps some lip service admiration for the Ghandis, the Zaghlouls, the Martin Luther Kings, the Desmond Tutus, the Nelson Mandelas and the process of DIALOGUE, but in reality we all continue to undermine the non-violent, dialoguical stance in power relations by our continued practice of the win/lose principle and our rabid arms race, production, deployment, development and export so deeply embedded in our economic growth-needs and wellbeing and all backed by a mostly win/lose mass media apparatus and conceptual frame of mind inculcated very early across the violence torn globe.

Web Site: pluralistic peace

Reader Reviews for "An Historic ethical failure"

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Reviewed by Tarek Hassan 8/27/2006
Dear Jeff,
As usual you are quick with a preofound and perceptive review. I have reposted a corrected version as the first post had many typing errors.
I shall keep rminating your valuable comments. I also meant automated/computerised mass impersonal killing where you never see your adversaries. May there be more enlightened people like you.Thank you
Reviewed by Jeff Mason 8/26/2006
Tarek, how very timely and pertinent. It is so true that the "mechanized impersonal killing" gets past most moral and ethical boundaries. I think it was Anthony Quinn in either "Guns of Navarone" or "Force Ten from Navarone" who was the "knife killer," and he basically said words to the effect of: "Any man can kill with a gun; it's less personal; it's like the 'bullet' killed the person; I like killing with a knife, because it's much more personal." So... those words always rang true to me - and they still do, especially in light of more and more "impersonal mechanized killing."

If each and every arms bearer realizes that "when I pull the trigger, "[*I*] [[AM]] the gunpowder and the bullet that penetrates that human target at which I am aiming; "[*I*] [[AM]] the one who just took this person away from his wife and children - and "[*I*] [[AM]] the one who inexorably changed the course of the lives of an entire family...;" then, and only then, will conscience and morality begin to have the sobering effect that it should have. Another viewpoint is from a rather cheesy movie with some decent moral lessions: "With great power comes great responsibility." If we fail to take responsibility for our actions, we cease to retain the core of our humanity. -- Jeff

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