Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Thomas Merton Tuesdays

The Asian whose future we are about to decide is either a bad guy or a good guy. If he is a bad guy, he obviously has to be killed. If he is a good guy, he is on our side and he ought to be ready to die for freedom. We will provide an opportunity for him to do so: we will kill him to prevent him falling under the tyranny of a demonic enemy. Thus we not only defend his interests along with our own, but we also protect his virtue along with our own . . .
Words like "pacification" and "liberation" have acquired sinister connotations as war succeeded war. Vietnam has done much to refine and perfect these notions. A "free zone" is now one in which anything that moves is assumed to be "enemy" and can be shot. In order to create a "free zone" that can live up effectively to its name, one must level everything, buildings, vegetation, everything so that one can clearly see everything that moves and shoot it. This has very
interesting semantic consequences.

(Thomas Merton, "War and the Crisis of Language," 1968, published 1969 in The Critique of War: Contemporary Philosophical Explorations, ed. Robert Ginsberg.)