Thursday, December 22, 2011

“Inter arma enim silent leges.”

“In Time of War the Law is Made Silent.” – Cicero

The infamous, illegal, immoral and shameful American war of choice in Iraq has ended, as it should, in ignominy. The few remaining American troops took the flag and slunk over the border to Kuwait, home of another American war that, at least, had the virtues of being morally right and being legal (insofar as any war can ever be called ‘legal’).

Almost 5,000 American lives were lost in vain, more than a million Iraqis died also, it looks like, in vain. Just a few days in and the Iraqi republic is falling apart like a sand castle in the waves.

Inter arma enim silent leges.

We shattered our army, paupered our economy, destroyed our reputation and drowned our morality in Fallujah, at Abu Graib and with the imperial satrapy of Mr. Bremer in the Green Zone…. and all of it in the Name of Oil.

Inter arma enim silent leges.

At home we threw Habeus Corpus out the window along with Posse Comitatus. We created the Department of Homeland Security: the largest and most comprehensive secret police service since the Stasi. We allowed torture and secret prisons, ‘rendering’ and ‘extreme interrogation’ we regularly submit to x-ray machines and full body searches for internal and external traffic, we’ve created another branch of surveillance and control, the TSA, with almost unlimited powers of control and no accountability. We no longer even require the rubber stamp of security courts post hoc for eavesdropping and now countenance ever more surveillance by any agency for any reason they care to offer, or not.

Inter arma enim silent leges.

Our local police departments have been transformed over the last ten years into militarized heavily armed crowd control shock troops, rent-a-cop security forces casually pepper spray seated protesters – prophylactically. The riffraff are herded into ‘free-speech zones’ where they can howl their fury against the chain-link fences that conjure images of every dictatorship we’ve ever encountered… they may even be able to glimpse the motorcade as it glides serenely by, several blocks away.

Inter arma enim silent leges.

For 500 years the Roman Empire ruled the Mediterranean world and for 500 years before that, the Roman Republic fascinated and terrified an ever expanding sphere of influence. What made the Romans so powerful? What made their power so long lasting? What made them fail at the end and fade into history?

Volumes, entire libraries have been written about the Roman Empire. Extensive studies, archeological evidence, contemporary testaments abound and certain themes emerge.

Development of the Roman Model

  • Development of a permanent, professional standing army – the legions’ training and tactics were far ahead of adversaries (with some notable exceptions).
  • Development of a network of hard infrastructure – the famous Roman roads and aqueducts
  • Development of the Rule of Law – Roman jurisprudence was evenly and widely applied

Distribution of Power

  • Distribution of Power - A militant Republic develops elite classes

o The orders of Roman Knights

o The concentration of money and power

o The ascendance of familial/tribal networks

· Distribution of Power – The Republic becomes The Imperium

o The path to power is through the military

o The means to secure power is through the granary (Egypt)

o The means to preserve power is through Bread and Circuses

Dissolution of Empire

  • As the power concentrates, the Rule of Law begins to break down
  • As the money concentrates, the social contract dissipates
  • The Center Cannot Hold, the Empire melts away

Inter arma enim silent leges.

Even in the drastically abbreviated ‘Rise and Fall’ above it is easy to see parallels to our contemporary situation, or to any empire for that matter. The difference is that, now, we know that we know (‘known knowns’ in Rumsfeldian). We need not follow Santayana’s dictum to destruction.

But we’re in a permanent state of war now: War on Afghanistan, War on Pakistan, War on Terror, War on Drugs…

The total cost, so far, for wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan is at least $3.2-3.4 trillion. (1)

The river of blood flows on, the river of treasure bleeds on, the river of the spirit continues to hemorrhage.

Never has Yeats been more apropos:

The Second Coming

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

–William Butler Yeats

The dead cry out for meaning, the living cleve to rotting gods, the worst dance on the grave of our morality.

Stop our several wars, stop our home-grown Monsters of the Id, restore the Rule of Law before it really is, too late. All war is a crime and the first casualties are truth and the Rule of Law.

Inter arma enim silent leges.

1 comment:

Narble said...

Dare I say 'lovely' to describe such painful honesty? I think it fits nicely.