by Sherwood Ross
Despite false protestations that it goes to war only for a just cause, the United States has been acting immorally for some time and “is in the throes of a moral meltdown,” a prominent legal authority writes in a 2008 book of essays.
“What should one call it but immoral when a country tortures people; when it kidnaps them off the street…when it causes the deaths of tens of thousands of persons by artillery, bombings, (and) missiles…for a cause nearly all think a great mistake and one caused by lies…?” asked Lawrence Velvel, dean of the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover.
“What should one call it but immoral---and even worse than the Germans under the Nazis---when American citizens, unlike the Germans of the 1930s and 1940s, could speak against the criminals, and vote to throw them out, without fear of being hung from lamp posts or meat hooks, yet instead speak in favor of the criminals and vote to keep them in office?” Velvel wrote.
“Americans,” Velvel writes, “do not think in terms of the morality of their national actions. They discuss their national actions in terms of self interest, wisdom or folly, idealism or pragmatism, but never, or almost never, in terms of simple morality.”
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The U.S., he says, has failed to act morally on numerous past occasions and over extended periods of time, and glosses over its crimes in the history books it uses to teach its children. Among the examples Velvel cites:
The country approved of slavery for nearly 90 years and reviled abolitionists.
The country allowed segregation (Jim Crow) to be imposed by the South for nearly a century.
The country “acted unspeakably in the Philippines Insurrection, when it tortured people, burned down villages and engaged in mass murder.”
The country acted “unspeakably” in Viet Nam and, again, in the invasion of Iraq under false pretenses.
“Moral breakdowns are, it appears, a regular phenomenon of American national life,” Velvel wrote. “And, without getting into it very deeply, they are always accompanied, as today, by false protestations that what is being done is in the name of a higher civilization, is in the name of an asserted moral imperative…”
The law school dean pointed out that slavery “was claimed to be a positive good; Jim Crow was claimed to be a desirable and necessary separation of the races; socialists had to be eliminated lest they destroy the nation; we were civilizing the benighted in the Philippines; we were stopping the march of worldwide Communism in Viet Nam; (and) today it is claimed we fight in Iraq to stop the march of worldwide jihadism, worldwide Islamofascism, etc., etc.”
Velvel said the U.S. could not continue its immoral conduct if millions of ordinary people did not support it: “What should one call it but immoral when things mentioned in this essay have been permitted because so many conservatives in the country---so many citizens who are red staters in viewpoint regardless of where they live---have agreed with what has been done; continue to agree with it and want it done; vote for the people who are responsible for it; and by their agreement and votes have enabled it to continue, especially since the cheap hacks in politics who---often knowing no trade or profession or job but politics---fear loss of an election above all else?”
Velvel said that rather than follow the injunction of Commodore Stephen Decatur’s philosophy of “my country right or wrong,” it would do better to follow the injunction of Senator Carl Schurz who told an anti-imperialist rally in 1899: “Our country right or wrong. When right, to be kept right; when wrong, to be put right.” Velvel’s comments were taken from his latest book, “An Enemy of the People”(Doukathsan Press).
Velvel is cofounder of the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover, a law school purposefully dedicated to the education of low-income students, minorities, and immigrants that otherwise could not afford to enter the practice of law. Sherwood Ross is a media consultant for the Massachusetts School of Law. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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