The Brutes Haven’t All Been Exterminated
By David Swanson
Sometimes I struggle to explain why none of the endless wars can ever be ended. Are they just too profitable? Is the propaganda self-fulfilling and self-believing? Is the bureaucratic inertia that powerful? No combination of semi-rational motivations ever seems sufficient. But here’s a potentially relevant fact: there are still people alive in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, and Yemen.
There’s no secret memo in the Pentagon stipulating that every human being must be dead before the troops can “withdraw with honor.” And if they were all dead, the very last thing any troops would do would be to withdraw. But there are mountains of memos, secret and otherwise, declaring it counterproductive to slaughter innocents and sanctioning the slaughtering of innocents. There’s madness on top of contradiction compounded by nonsense, and this sort of stuff is not random. It comes from somewhere.
Sometimes I marvel at the relentless racist police murders in the United States. That many police officers cannot really have mistaken their guns for their tasers or coincidentally just happened to attack people of similar appearance. What’s going on?
It is established fact that a nuclear war would devastate and probably eliminate human life, and yet I can watch testimony before the U.S. Congress discussing how to “handle” and “deal with” and “respond to” nuclear wars. Something other than what’s being said aloud is clearly at work.
A guide to a possible source of the collective insanity can be found in the 4-part film on HBO called Exterminate All the Brutes. It draws on books by Sven Lindqvist, Michel-Rolph Trouillot, and Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, two of whom I’ve read and one of whom I’ve interviewed. So, I watched the film with expectations — and they were mostly met though also disappointed and surpassed. The disappointment stemmed from the nature of the medium. Even a 4-hour film has very few words compared with a book, and there’s just no way to put everything into it. But the powerful video footage and photographs and animated graphics and combinations thereof add great value. And the connections made to the current day — even if not the same as those I just made above — surpassed my expectations. So did the role-reversal scenes and the juxtaposition of characters in enacted scenes from different times and places.
This film is both a terrific supplement to the books it draws on, and an introduction to them that ought to motivate at least a few viewers to learn more.
Learn what, you ask?
Well, learn the basic points that seem to have mysteriously escaped the reviews I’ve seen of the film:
The development of racism and of scientific racism and eugenics led to mainstream Western belief in the inevitable/desirable extermination of non-“white” “races.”
The 19th century was packed full of genocides (before the word existed) committed by Europeans around the globe, and United Statesians in the United States.
The ability to commit these horrors depended on superiority in weaponry and in nothing else.
This weaponry created one-sided slaughters, just as seen in current wars waged by wealthy countries in and on poor ones.
Germany didn’t really get in on the act until 1904, but the 1940s were part of a common practice, unusual principally for the location of the crimes.
The notion that other nations seriously objected to the Nazi genocide is an ahistorical falsehood concocted after WWII was over.
Extermination of Jews was not a new idea any more than genocide was a new practice. In fact, the deportation of the Jews (and then the Muslims) from Spain in 1492 was an origin of much of the racism that has followed.
(But there is something bizarre in this film, like everywhere and everyone else, recounting the Nazi murder of “6 million Jews” rather than “17 million human beings,” [do those other 11 million have no value at all?] or indeed of World War II’s murder of 80 million human beings.)
The first U.S. corporation was a weapons dealer. The U.S. has never not been at war. The longest U.S. wars were nowhere near Afghanistan. Bin Laden was called Geronimo by the U.S. military for the same reason that its weapons are named for Native American nations and enemy territory is “Indian country.” U.S. wars are a continuation of a genocide in which disease and starvation and injury killed because societies had been violently destroyed.
“Kill anything that moves” is not just a command used in current wars, but a common practice in wars of the past.
Hitler’s primary inspiration for his murderous conquering of the wild East was the genocidal U.S. winning of the wild West.
Excuses and justifications for the nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (or even just Hiroshima, pretending Nagasaki didn’t happen) (including this film’s false impression that these outrages were needed to compel surrender) come entirely from sources other than Harry Truman who said, as quoted in the film, “when dealing with an animal, treat it like an animal.” No justification for killing people was needed; they were not people.
Assume that the people of Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, and Yemen are not people. Read news reports on the wars not ending. See if they don’t make a lot more sense that way.
David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is executive director of WorldBeyondWar.org and campaign coordinator for RootsAction.org. Swanson's books include War Is A Lie. He blogs at DavidSwanson.org and WarIsACrime.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. He is a 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee.