HATE THINE ENEMIES
Enemies never get a break. But then why should they? – They’re the enemy. And to justify the battle against them they must be viewed as irredeemably evil. Deviant, brutish, uncivilized, fanatical – they’re everything we’re not. So don’t expect a fair or reasoned assessment of our enemies during the many wars we’ve fought.
It was difficult, however, to demonize the English, our adversary in the War of Independence. After all, they were much like us though we railed against the foreign Hessian mercenaries that the King had recruited, and England’s brutal heathen Indian allies. Our “Mother Country” had clearly broken faith with her American offspring.
The United States fought against the “Indians” on and off throughout the 19th Century. They were, we declared, despicable savages who spread terror far and wide. These red-skinned devils attacked with blood curdling screams, showed no mercy and killed (and scalped) many an innocent settler. The situation required Indian extermination (“The only good Indian is a dead Indian”.) or forced assimilation to assure the advance of white civilization. The Mexican War pitted our brave boys against “half breeds” and “greasers” while the Spanish American conflict was presented as a “civilizing mission” justified by Spanish cruelty and evidence of widespread brutalities in Cuba. Before and during World War I Americans were treated to a coordinated propaganda campaign against the horrible Huns, fiendish German enemies whose submarines sank defenseless passenger ships in the Atlantic and who unleashed poison gas on the battlefield with gruesome effects. Later, in World War II, while German soldiers were not demonized, they were feared as goose-stepping efficient Nazi killers under the sway of Adolph Hitler, a demented madman.
The Japanese were considered to be far worse than their Axis allies. The Yellow race had never been welcome in the United States, but they now were bitterly despised because of Japan’s sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. The brutal war in the Pacific only reinforced long standing attitudes. The Japanese tortured our men, brutalized American prisoners, sent them on a death march on Bataan while Japanese soldiers killed themselves rather than surrender and were ordered on suicide missions (Kamikaze pilots) in an effort to sink US warships.
There was no letup in our hatred of our next set of enemies, namely the North Koreans, Chinese and North Vietnamese. Being Asian they were painted with the same broad brush that had been applied to the Japanese. They were not our equals but were “gooks”, surely a lesser breed. They had little regard for human life (consider the Chinese hordes in North Korea that stormed our troop emplacements in human waves). They tortured and brainwashed American prisoners of war and shamelessly used the POWs as bargaining chips in negotiations at war’s end. In Vietnam the Vietcong enemy were ruthless communists, who constituted a stealthy, elusive force (disguised as peasants during the day) burrowing tunnels everywhere and relying on ambushes and booby traps to thwart American forces and their South Vietnamese allies.
In Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan the United States considers itself battling against a new breed of adversary – dedicated terrorists. Like many of our previous enemies they’re viewed as fanatics, in this case extremists; radical Muslims committed to militant Jihad and, therefore, beyond appeals to reason and reconciliation. Their determination to restore the Caliphate and institute Sharia Law (with particular emphasis on the subordination of women) across the Middle East we view as an objective completely fantastical and reactionary. Their brutality (beheading) and deployment of unending numbers of suicide bombers appear utterly reprehensible. No quarter can be given this enemy.
As a Christian nation we might have pondered the teaching of Jesus Christ urging us to “love your enemies”. Our account, however, suggests the United States consistently viewed matters differently.