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March 2012

War Is Cruelty, And You Cannot Refine It

Dear Friend of Radio Liberty,

"We reject the old systems of morality. Our morality has no precedent, and our humanity is absolute because it rests on a new ideal. Our aim is to destroy all forms of oppression and violence. To us, everything is permitted, for we are the first to raise the sword not to oppress races and reduce them to slavery, but to liberate humanity from its shackles.... Blood? Let blood flow like water … for only through the death of the old world can we liberate ourselves...."
KrasnyiMech (The Red Sword), the official press organ of the Soviet Cheka secret police, 1918. (1)

“Were I to discover that my only possibility of happiness lay in excessive perpetration of the most atrocious crimes, without a qualm I’d enact every last one of them this very instant, certain … that the foremost of the laws Nature decrees to me is to enjoy myself, no matter at whose expense."
Marquis de Sade, Julstine (2)

“This is where I come to do f****d-up things, so I don’t do them at home,” a U.S. Army Sergeant deployed to Afghanistan told reporter Neil Shea, who was embedded with the unit. Shea, who has covered the Afghan war since 2006, accompanied the unit – which he dubbed the “Destroyer” platoon – during a recent mission in pursuit of suspected “insurgents.” He was prompted to publish his account in The American Scholar by the recent murder spree allegedly committed by SSgt. Robert Bales, who has been accused of slaughtering 17 Afghan civilians – among them nine children. (3) Shea’s story is an unbearably vivid depiction of the wages of permanent war.

The soldiers whose company Shea kept, writes “were men who enjoyed demolishing Afghan houses, men who shot dogs in the face.” There was nothing exceptionally depraved about these young men; while some of them struggled to maintain their moral balance, in many of them the basest and most vicious impulses of fallen human nature had been laid bare by what Shea calls the “subhuman wash of aggression.”

When not on patrol, they amused themselves with “homoerotic jokes” and idle talk about abusing or killing their wives and girlfriends back home. Pending their return, they routinely engaged in petty acts of sadism and occasionally committed unambiguous criminal acts. After all, they had been given official permission to kill, and they were surrounded by people who resented them – so why should they be constrained by the laws of civilized behavior?

“The soldiers of Destroyer talked about how their house searches had become demolition parties,” Shea reports. “They shattered windows and china, broke furniture, hurled civilians to the ground. Earlier that day they had blown up a building. They tornadoed through Afghan houses and left such destruction that their ANA [Afghan National Army] allies at first tried to stop them, then grew angry, sullen.”

“I imagined the Afghan soldiers standing by, helpless, while Destroyer destroyed,” Shea continues. “I thought of attacks over the past several years in which Afghan policemen or soldiers had suddenly turned on their NATO allies and opened fire. Such betrayals have been increasing. Sometimes the Taliban claim responsibility for them, but often it seems the assailants have been taking revenge on foreign soldiers for some perceived insult to their honor. It was not hard to envision the seeds of such an attack sown in the ruts of Destroyer’s visit.” (4)

Destroyer was hardly an anomaly: Indiscriminate destruction of property appears to be standard operating procedure for U.S. occupation forces in Afghanistan. One member of the platoon recalled that the rules of engagement in his last deployment were “Make sure nothing lives. Cows: Taliban food. Sheep: Taliban food. Donkeys: Taliban transportation. Kill everything.”

How would Americans react in similar circumstances? Were our country to be occupied by a prohibitively foreign power, and been treated the way the U.S. and NATO have treated the Afghans, wouldn’t we use whatever means we could find to expel the occupiers? At least some of the soldiers who have been deployed to Afghanistan have come to understand the occupation has cultivated another generation of enemies – and at least a portion of the soldiers who share that understanding simply don’t care.

Destroyer was led by a platoon sergeant described by Shea as a young nihilist “in his mid-20s, charismatic and quick, a combat veteran [who] threw down declarations like a hip-hop star – respect yourself and no one else; f*** b*****s, get money” who was admired by the younger infantrymen. Surveying the devastation wrought by the soldiers under his command, the sergeant gloated: “Yeah, we definitely made some Taliban out there.” (5)

This young American – who will be ritualistically praised as a “hero” when he returns to the United States – isn’t troubled at all by the fact that his service actually helped to expand the potential threat of terrorism. To the elitists who deployed him, the cultivation of foreign “threats” is the entire purpose of the enterprise; for them, perpetual war is strategically useful, and personally quite profitable. The truly horrifying thing is that the ruling elite has succeeded in creating a large cohort of authentically amoral people who are willing to kill and destroy for the simple pleasure of doing so.

Shea points out that “we require our fighters to be ready hurricanes, on-call combat machines. We want them held easily in check, and we expect light-switch control over their aggression…. Soldiers like [Destroyer’s platoon leader], so barely restrained, [have] switches unreliable after years of war…. We vaguely hope their anger does not spill over, or come home.” (6) But once an individual has been given official permission to do “f****d-up” things, he’s likely to find it a very hard habit to break.

In his book Generation Kill, Evan Wright captured another vivid snapshot of the casual amorality and indifferent violence that has come to characterize the emerging breed of nihilistic warriors. Surveying the wreckage of a bombarded town in Iraq, a Marine Lieutenant – who, although not an old man, was from a very different generation – was taken aback by the carnage left in the wake of the unit with which Wright was embedded – Bravo Company of the Marine Corps’ First Recon Battallion.

"Did you see what they did to that town?" the officer asked Wright. "They f***ing destroyed it." Unlike the American fighting men during WWII, the fighters who had laid waste to that Iraqi city "have no problem with killing."

That is to say that they, unlike their forebears, were not inhibited by respect for human life. It must be remembered that the Lieutenant was describing, with obvious admiration, the Marines under his command, not the Iraqi "terrorists" who were fighting back.

Wright offers finely etched portraits of individual Marines, for whom he displays abundant respect and genuine affection. He also offers telling, and probably unintentional, insights regarding the role of America's welfare/warfare state in incubating a generation of impenitent predators.

"They are kids raised on hip-hop, Marilyn Manson and Jerry Springer," notes Wright of the fighting men he came to know. Many of them consider an unprintable 12-letter word describing Oedipal intimacy to be "a term of endearment."

"These young men represent what is more or less America's first generation of disposable children," he continues. "More than half of the guys in the platoon come from broken homes and were raised by absentee, single, working parents. Many are on more intimate terms with video games, reality TV shows and Internet porn than they are with their own parents." They went to war "predisposed toward the idea that the Big Lie is as central to American governance as taxation.... Even though their Commander in Chief tells them they are fighting today in Iraq to protect American freedom, few would be shaken to discover they might actually be leading a grab for oil. In a way, they almost expect to be lied to." "We're like America's little pit bull," one Marine wryly told Wright. "They beat it, starve it, mistreat it, and once in a while they let it out to attack somebody."

The mindset Wright described in Generation Kill is displayed in much greater detail in Hard Corps: From Gangster to Marine Hero, the battlefield memoir of Iraq veteran Marco Martinez.

A product of a military family from Albuquerque, Martinez enlisted in Latino street gangs as a teenager. He was "rescued" from a life of private-sector gangsterism through a federally funded, police-supervised school program called GREAT (Gang Resistance Education and Training), which eventually led him to enroll in the ROTC program at his High School. This curriculum prepared Martinez for a career as a state-authorized gang-banger.

"Salvation from a civilian existence is through these doors, boys," Martinez and several other enlistees were told as they assembled at the local recruiting station. Like most gang-bangers, Martinez was susceptible to an appeal based on tribal and territorial loyalties, so he was an apt pupil at boot camp. Discipline refined his instinct for violence; training enhanced his capacity to inflict it; and the potted platitudes of nationalism sanctified his urge to kill into something he believed was noble.

Reciting the Rifleman's Creed "got me so fired up that it put me into a blood lust," Martinez recalls. "I wanted to kill America's enemies. I could see and taste it."

That opportunity came in April 2003, one month after George W. Bush ordered the assault on Iraq. Corporal Martinez was part of a 42-man Marine platoon that was dispatched on a "contact patrol" in the town of Al-Tarmiya, a predominantly Sunni town about sixty miles north of Baghdad.

A "contact patrol," Martinez explains, "is the most coveted of infantry patrols.... Marines on contact patrol become human wrecking balls, leaving maximum carnage in their path, as any person encountered, armed, is to be considered hostile and killed at will."

This was not the first time Martinez had carried out a mission of that kind. As a street thug, he and his buddies would often go out on "contact patrol" by rolling into a rival gang's turf, seeking to provoke a firefight by throwing gang signs and calling out their "sets" at their enemies.

"You are to take out anybody displaying any type of aggression toward U.S. forces," explained the lieutenant commanding Martinez's platoon prior to the mission in Al-Tarmiya. How residents of a neighborhood could be guilty of "aggression" by displaying hostility toward armed invaders, the lieutenant didn't explain. In any case, the rules of engagement were clearly intended to bring about the result Martinez described: The Marines were being sent into Al-Tarmiya to provoke a firefight and kill as many people as possible.

Shortly after the platoon was deployed, Martinez's squad was ambushed by a group of guerrillas. The squad leader was severely wounded. Martinez identified the source of the gunfire, threw a grenade into the nearby building, then stormed in and gunned down four Iraqis.

That this was an act of individual courage is impossible to deny. Martinez's actions saved the life of his squad leader (who was left crippled by his injury, and actually became a public opponent of the Iraq War after leaving the military). But the word "heroism" isn't appropriate here – unless we could apply it just as accurately to similar actions taken by a street-level gangster in an inner-city turf war.

"All those times that I'd carried a gun as a teenager had been for sh*t," insisted Martinez in Hard Corps. "My friends at the time and I were prepared to shoot and get shot at over girls, cars, money, or something as stupid as the way somebody looked at us.... But my Marine buddies and I carried weapons to defend our nation against its enemies. We, like millions who came before us, used the awesome might of America's military power for liberation, not conquest....”

It takes a formidable gift for self-delusion to refer what was done to Iraq as “liberation,” and a complete hostility to the truth to suggest that the invasion of that country was in any sense a defensive act. Martinez’s rationalization for the state-mandated criminal violence he committed could have been adapted from the hymnal of the Soviet Cheka secret police: “To us, everything is permitted, for we are the first to raise the sword not to oppress races and reduce them to slavery, but to liberate humanity from its shackles....”

Even when it is fought for purely defensive purposes, war is an unqualified curse. As James Madison famously warned, war is the greatest of all “enemies to public liberty” because it “comprises and develops the germ of every other.” This isn’t only the case with corruption of public policy and the consolidation of political power; the principle applies just as well to matters of individual morality on which the preservation of freedom ultimately depends. This is why Madison lamented the “degeneracy of manners and morals” that inevitably ensues whenever a country goes to war, however briefly – and why he emphasized that “No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”

Those facets of war most abhorred by Madison were considered by Karl Marx to be most admirable. Writing in 1851 to his disciples, Marx extolled the revolutionary “virtues” of generational war: "You will have to go through fifteen, twenty, fifty years of civil wars and international wars, not only in order to change existing conditions, but also in order to change yourselves and fit yourselves for the exercise of political power."

How do people who pass through this revolutionary curriculum behave? What does it mean to be people Marx would describe as “fit … for the exercise of political power?” And what would America look like a generation from now – if not sooner – as a result of being immersed in “continual warfare?” One appropriate answer could be found in examining the people who embodied the revolution Marx and his heirs inflicted on Russia – the agents of the Soviet Cheka secret police, the chief instrument of Soviet terror.

The ruling ethic of Lenin’s regime, recall, is that the fundamental political question is not defined by the Golden Rule, but rather “who does what to whom” – and the Cheka, being the enforcement arm of the “Who,” saw no reason to restrain itself in plundering, torturing, and slaughtering those unfortunate enough to be part of the “Whom.”

"This organization is rotten to the core," observed Bolshevik official Serafina Gopner in a March 22, 1919 letter to Lenin. Those who enlisted to be the "sword and shield" of the revolution were, almost without exception, "common criminals and the dregs of society, men armed to the teeth who simply execute anyone they don’t like. They steal, loot, rape … practice extortion and blackmail, and will let anyone go in exchange for huge sums of money." (7)

"The Cheka are looting and arresting everyone indiscriminately," reported a Bolshevik regional secretary in Yaroslavl on September 26th of the same year. "Safe in the knowledge that they cannot be punished, they have transformed the Cheka headquarters into a huge brothel where they take all the bourgeois women. Drunkenness is rife. Cocaine is being used quite widely among the supervisors."

A dispatch to Moscow dated October 16th informed Feliks Dzherzhinsky, the head of the secret police, that "Orgies and drunkenness are daily occurrences. Almost all the personnel of the Cheka are heavy cocaine users. They say that this helps them deal with the sight of so much blood on a daily basis. Drunk with blood and violence, the Cheka is doing its duty, but it is made up of uncontrollable elements that will require close surveillance."

If those reports from a century ago have a strongly contemporary flavor, this is not entirely coincidental. If we could peel away the veneer of “respectability” from those who rule us, we would be rewarded with a spectacle at least as squalid as the ones described above. More ominous still is the fact that the degenerate elite presuming to rule us has effectively eradicated every significant institutional, legal, and social impediment to the exercise of total power. And they are filling the enforcement apparatus with people who subscribe to the nihilist’s credo “Respect yourself and no one else” – the hip-hop culture’s updating of Lenin’s “who/whom” formula.


(1) Quoted in The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression (Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, England: Harvard University Press, 1999), pg. 102
(2) This quote was extracted from my copy of this vile book by the scabrous Marquis de Sade – before I threw the book away in mortal disgust. I cannot in good conscience recommend that the reader consult the source himself.
(3) “U.S. Says Soldier Split Killing Spree,” AP, March 24, 2012.
(4) “Afghanistan: A Gathering Menace,” Neil Shea, The American Scholar, Spring 2012.
(4) Ibid.
(5) Ibid.
(6) Black Book of Communism, pg. 103.
(7) Ibid, pp 104-105.

Written by William Grigg

As I read William Grigg’s letter, I recalled the frightening words that General William Sherman wrote during, and after, the American Civil war.

In a letter to James Calhoun, the mayor of Atlanta, General Sherman wrote:

“You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it.”

Fifteen years later, when he addressed the graduating class at the Michigan Military academy, General Sherman stated:

“War is at best barbarism.… Its glory is all moonshine. It is only those who have neither fired a shot, or heard the shrieks or groans of the wounded, who cry aloud for blood, more vengeance, more desolation. War is hell.”

We are on the verge of another dreadful war because the Brotherhood of Darkness has been planning a war with Iran and the Moslem world for many years. Can we prevent the conflict? No, but we can warn others, and when the conflict comes, some of the people you warned will believe the other things you told them, and hopefully accept our Lord.

We live in deadly, dangerous and dreadful times, but we are blessed by having a personal relationship with our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Please pray for Alex Jones, Joyce Riley, Rev. Chuck Crismier, Pastor Butch Paugh, Congressman Ron Paul, and the members and staff of Radio Liberty.

Barbara and I appreciate your loyal support and your faithful prayers.

Yours in Christ

Stanley Monteith

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