Monday, January 15, 2007


The February issue of “Harper’s” contains some interesting articles on things-military. Steve Featherstone’s article “The Coming Robot Army” (not yet online) prompts further thoughts on a subject raised before on this site. His interviews raised the interesting conundrum: if we are going to need a ‘warrior’ spirit for our military [especially if the troops are to be deployed in imperial-ish ventures] what will happen if we come to rely more and more heavily on robots technology not only for surveillance but for fighting and killing? If the troops’ tasks will increasingly become the manipulation of joysticks, what will become of our military’s vaunted (if not altogether well-grounded) warrior-spirit?

That got me to thinking: do the professionals in the military (lawyers, doctors, clergy) see themselves as ‘warriors’ too, in their particular activities? This has been discussed in “Bishops Bomb” on this site. But let’s put a finer point on it: if the professional people not only see themselves as ‘team players’ but also as ‘warriors’, then all sorts of darknesses arise.

The JAGs, of course, are one of the most threatening groups to ‘go warrior’. The process of administering justice as envisioned by the Framers most surely did not envision law enforcement as a ‘war’, nor the participants (especially police and prosecutors and judges, let alone jurors) as ‘warriors’ and the accused defendant as ‘the enemy’. Yet such warrior-ization, such militarization, of our legal personnel has already taken place, deformed by hot and sustained pressures both from the putative Left (the Advocacies) and the Right as it has morphed in the past decades (the War on Drugs, the War on sex-offenses, the ‘war’ of Fundamentalists vs. ‘evildoers’, as well as the actual wars in Iraq and the Middle East). And to this we add the numbers of former JAGs now in criminal justice as prosecutors, judges, and elsewhere in the court systems and on law schools faculties (and the number of former ‘warriors’ in law enforcement). The American Bar Association, while taking some position against this or that law, has studiously avoided addressing this overall situation.

Are the medical professionals also ‘warriorized’? The prescribing of psychoactive drugs to troops in combat (and the whole of Iraq is a battlefield, every alley and street and road) might simply be a result of the (very professionally dicey) adherence to the ‘team player’ concept of the military. But the role of psychiatrists and – far more worrying in its extent and nature – psychologists in the torture and ‘robust’ interrogation techniques is so blatantly contrary to the Western concept of the ‘healing professional’ and the American concept of soldiering that one has to imagine that they must embrace not simply a protective rationalization such as ‘team playing’ but a far stronger (and more toxic) mythos such as ‘being a warrior’. The American Medical and Psychiatric Associations have taken strong formal positions on this, but the American Psychological Association has been cagily trying to keep the skids greased for its membership to stay at the table in the prisons and interrogation facilities; Stephen Soldz has been following their twisty doings over on The Atlantic Free Press (

And what of the clergy in the chaplaincies? As we become more aware of the Fundamentalist Ascendancy in the Service-chaplaincies, we have to conclude that the Fundamentalist religious stance – especially in its Christian Dominionist uniform – is far more amenable to cheer-leading warrior-hood and war than any mainline Protestant approach. And to the cheer-leading of imperialish warring the genuine Roman Catholic ethos is nowadays almost antithetical.

Yes, in the days of a citizen-army muchly composed of Roman Catholic urban, immigrant descendees, there would be great encouragement and the solace and support of the massive Catholic sacramental system, and also the omnipresent visitations made by Catholic clergy as they went about their sacramental rounds at all levels of the organization, all fields of activity from headquarters to foxholes. But even in those heady days, the presence of the ‘priest’ was not so much to cheerlead the war or the government but rather to offer spiritual solace and encouragement to the troops. There was no facile and total identification of the government or war with God Himself. If anything, the Catholic ethos reminded troops that beyond wars and governments there was a wider Church and a God Who oversaw and judged such things. And kept an all-seeing eye on the troops themselves.

This is hell and gone from the Fundamentalist collapsing of the Divine Beyond into the flat surface of the present and into the entity of the government and, in an almost Berserker religious gambit, into the very waging of Battle and War itself. The worship of Ares Ferox and of the State are compatible and synergistic idolatries. And constitute the gravest folly. And constitute Sin.

Since the Catholic ‘vision’ and ethos is so inhospitable to the functional – might we be allowed ‘de facto’? – idolatry of the State and of War, can it be any wonder that the Fundamentalist Ascendancy has made such swift and pervasive progress in the military chaplaincies as well as among the officer corps? And the fact that the young troops of this generation have been raised with far less overt and comprehensive religious influence than previous generations of troops (the evangelical and fundamentalistic young to some notable extent excepted) then the Catholic ethos – represented by its chaplains – became far more expendable. And perhaps at least partly because of this the Catholic Archbishop in charge of military ministry recently allowed himself to mouth Pentagon talking-points on how well Iraq is going, really.

The role of the chaplains in such dark-side programs as interrogation and the imprisonment of so-called enemy combatants has not received much attention, and perhaps the chaplaincies prefer it that way. I am not thinking so much of Christian chaplains trying to provide ministry to the mostly non-Christian prisoners – which would be complex in any case – but rather the content of the ‘ministry’ they provide to the imprisoning troops, to the little folk who staff the ‘facilities’. What do the chaplains say to the troops in regard to their daily tasks and activities and actions? We can presume that almost without exception no chaplain – even one of some rank – is ‘speaking truth to power’ in front of generals, admirals, and commanding officers.

There are many Consequences now a-brooding in these matters, and they will come home to us in the fullness of time. History, especially if it is influenced by Justice and the capital-letter entities of the Beyond, will see to that. We The People must take the trouble to ‘see’ now, lest our unseeing continue, and we – as well as the troops deployed on Our authority – become blind and all hearts be hardened … to Our and the world’s great detriment and loss.

I have a copy of Chris Hedges’ “American Fascism”, just published. More on that shortly.

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