Sunday, December 20, 2015

Trained to kill (1997)

The Last Word Column from the February 1997 issue of the Socialist Standard

Nobody likes a bully—unless he has a medal on. Her Majesty’s well-paid bully-boy, ready to blow to pieces any stranger his masters set him upon. Bullies in uniform.

At least the street bully, thuggish and anti-social as he is, acts from self-interest. Beat up that old woman—frighten that mother with kids—scare the hell out of that kid— and they’ll give you their money. The working-class bully is a disgrace to society. But he’s a disgrace created by a system of society which rewards the most ruthless predator. The street thug is only doing what the supermarkets do to the comer shop; what Murdoch does to the small-fry press; what Uncle Sam does to the neighbouring country which can’t defend itself against him. I’m bigger and tougher, says the bully, and capitalism likes a callous brute.

But the hired bullies are an even lower breed. Whereas the anti-social mugger thinks that he can use his boots and fists to become one of the rich kids, the wage-slave in bully’s uniform is content to stay a slave, but uses his boots and fists so that the rich kids can stay rich or get richer. The military bully is the human fighting dog—the bulldog breed, they call them—who will leave his wife widowed and children fatherless to that somebody else can get rich—stay rich. Pitiful thug, all dolled out in his Action Man kit, mud on his face to disguise his humanity, and gun in his hand to show any brave opponent that he will fight muscle with bullets, the soldier is one of the most disgusting distortions of humanity that capitalism has conceived in its perverse history.

But out of that particularly distasteful brand of state-paid bully there is a sub-group which is even more malignant than the rest. These are the bullies who are trained to kill strangers from the air. At least the pathetic thugs in the army have to walk through dangerous streets occasionally and pop their mud-stained heads up above the trenches to face their masters’ enemies. And the naval bullies have to endure months at sea being treated like a Ship of Fools, sailing from here to there in voyages of pointless enmity against whichever stranger the Admiral class picks for them. But the Air Force contains the scum of state thuggery. What could conceivably be more uncouragously intimidating and vicious than to travel by jet to distant lands and, from vast distances in the skies above, drop bombs which kill people whom you have never met and whose language you cannot speak.

We are trained to forget. So, the bombing of Libya fades into the bombing of Iraq and that fades into the Vietnamese atrocities, and who even remembers about the villainous aerial bombing of Dresden by “the democratic allies” in which more bowed, defeated and defenceless Germans were killed than in Hiroshima and Nagasaki (two more successful targets for the sky terrorists)? Thatcher was not alone in calling for the bully bombers to do their business in Bosnia, killing vast numbers of workers whose only crime was being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Voices from the British Left conspired with the likes of Thatcher to call for such aerial warfare. These were doubtlessly the same people who had once praised “the wonderful Soviet Air Force” whose planes were poised to fly over Britain and kill thousands of workers here with the press of a button. The bomber from the skies does not select victims on the basis of any kind of justice, however misplaced. Aerial bombing is indiscriminate in its slaughter. In Baghdad the USAF and the RAF killed children as they played. This was Dunblane with precision accuracy, carried out with the blessing of Church and State, and with the killers given medals upon the completion of their sick deeds.

And when they return, these uniformed murderers, they have children whom they love and care for, and dogs which they take to the vet when they limp, and they give money to charities because they feel sorry for neglected whales or crippled war veterans. In short, they are bullies by profession, not by birth. Their sick behaviour takes arduous training to develop. One day they are spotty teenagers, standing in the dole queue and wishing they could make a living wage out of doing something decent. And then the wages of military indecency are offered to them and off they go to train to kill. Look carefully next time you pass an RAF Careers Office. They are buildings which humans shall one day be ashamed to remember. They are bastions of the inhumanity which the profit system needs, like a vampire needs blood.
Steve Coleman



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