Ethnocentric Warfare – What drives one to war

Dr. Mike Ghouse   June 15, 2019   Comments Off on Ethnocentric Warfare – What drives one to war

The article gives clues to some of the excesses our army has committed in Iraq and Afghanistan.  A few thoughtful words from the article below

“It is also possible that they are among the many good Americans who get caught up in unfounded beliefs that endanger themselves and the military’s success. The unfounded beliefs are usually associated with a phenomenon known as ethnocentrism, a belief that one’s own culture is superior to all others, past or present. ”

The purpose of going to a place of worship is to commit to an idea that all of us are equal in the eyes of God.  The divorces in families, the conflicts between communities and the wars between the nations happen because our leaders don’t get their religion right. If they do, they will be the blessed peacemakers.  One of the other names of religion is humbleness that builds bridges, whereas the arrogance is destructive.

Indeed, it is the arrogance claims and beliefs of superiority that is the source of much of the evil on the earth.  A good piece to read

Mike Ghouse

Duncan Southall

Child Welfare Specialist at the State of Oregon

President Trump, responding to their supporters’ requests, recently pardoned former Army First Lieutenant Michael Behenna, convicted of murdering an unarmed Iraqi man, and ordered that Chief Petty Officer Eddie Gallagher, a Navy Seal awaiting trial for the premeditated murder of an unarmed prisoner, be removed from a brig and placed in less restrictive housing until his trial.

President Nixon, responding to widespread pressure, ordered in 1971 that Army Second Lieutenant William Calley, who had been sentenced to life in prison for murdering twenty-two unarmed South Vietnamese civilians, be removed from prison and placed under house arrest after serving only one day of his life sentence in prison. Three years later, his sentence was reduced to time served.

It is possible that Behenna, Gallagher, and Calley were criminally inclined individuals who relished their use of power. It is also possible that they are among the many good Americans who get caught up in unfounded beliefs that endanger themselves and the military’s success.

The unfounded beliefs are usually associated with a phenomenon known as ethnocentrism, a belief that one’s own culture is superior to all others, past or present.

When people focus on the virtues of their own culture, they often become blind to the virtues of other cultures, but not blind to the other cultures’ different features such race, color, and religion.

Political opportunists use the different features to pit one group of Americans against other Americans, against other peoples, and even against the very people that the military is supposed to help.

For example, some Americans carry a belief that they are superior to Iraqis and to Muslims and are therefore entitled to treat them as inferior people. They fail to distinguish between the vast majority of peace-loving Muslims and the murderous thugs who threaten both Americans and peace-loving Muslims.

Anti-Muslim rhetoric contributed to such intense public support for the invasion of Iraq that our leaders ordered the 2003 invasion without having a factual understanding of the conditions and cultures existing in that country. Much of that rhetoric and the underlying prejudices were carried directly into the military by young soldiers and through flawed pre-deployment training.

Small wonder that soldiers in 2004 were often abusive of Iraqis and that the American people had little understanding of the war. Fortunately, the anti-Muslim rhetoric and prejudices diminished over time, at least in the battle-hardened units with which I served in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2007 and 2009.

However, the American people will remain at risk of being overwhelmed by opportunists manipulating the endless stream of prejudices emanating from the ethnocentric phenomenon until political leaders are required to produce policies, foreign and domestic, that are free from prejudice and based on objective facts.

The leaders’ lack of such policies has allowed failing leaders to cover up both their failures and the commendable attempts by soldiers to overcome the failures.

For example, the failure of the Army’s senior leaders to resolve fundamental problems with their strategies in Vietnam contributed to the confusion that resulted in Calley leading his platoon into the village of My Lai on March 16, 1968, where he began the massacre of over three hundred and fifty unarmed villagers.

The massacre was stopped by a heroic and remarkable soldier, Chief Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson, who happened to be flying over My Lai when he noticed the ongoing massacre.

Thompson promptly landed his helicopter and placed himself between a group of villagers who had been rounded up to be killed and the soldiers who were preparing to do the killing. He was able to persuade the soldiers to stop the killing and then reported the incident to his commander.

Thompson’s report triggered a major coverup directed by senior army officers. It was later exposed and more than twenty-six officers and enlisted soldiers were initially accused of participating in the massacre or in its coverup. All, except Calley, escaped imprisonment.

Incredibly, Thompson’s actions were widely condemned and he was summoned to Washington where a prominent congressman demanded that he be tried for treason. Eventually, the threat of trial was lifted, but Thompson suffered harassment for years.

Thirty years after the massacre, Thompson and his two helicopter gunners finally received recognition for their bravery and compassion when they were each awarded (one posthumously) the Soldier’s Medal.

I was with a small team of Oregon soldiers who encountered problems somewhat similar to Thompson’s problems when we entered an Iraq Ministry of Interior (MOI) detention facility in June 2004 in response to reports of detainees being subjected to brutal, life-threatening torture.

When we entered the facility, we did not know how the MOI guards would respond. Thankfully, they surrendered their weapons.

Members of the team began interviewing the detainees (approximately one hundred) and providing lifesaving medical treatment to the most seriously injured detainees. We were interrupted with orders to immediately leave the facility and to never discuss what we did and saw at the facility.

The orders were the beginning of a very sophisticated coverup that falsely placed the Oregonians under a cloud of suspicion and prevented the American people from knowing about, and stopping, flawed plans involving the MOI that would lead to the explosive growth of al-Qaeda in Iraq.

The orders brought us face to face with the recognition that our government was ordering us to leave all detainees, even those apparently near death, with their torturers and that our government was apparently involved with the torture being conducted at the MOI facility.

I remain burdened by those orders, by the coverup’s success and by memories of detainees clinging to me and begging not to be left behind. I am sure other team members carry similar burdens.

Possibly for the same ethnocentric reasons that Thompson was widely condemned, the team received no help in dealing with the orders or with the coverup’s impacts and has yet to receive recognition for its member’s courageous and compassionate efforts to save the lives of defenseless people.

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