Mahatma Gandhi is often cited as responding to a question about Western civilization saying he thought it would be a good idea. However, recent research suggests Gandhi likely didn't make this quip.
Regarding Western civilization though, despite many impressive accomplishments such as the Renaissance, wonderful arts, scientific discoveries, great ideas of liberty and human rights, these advances are countered by events such as the Spanish Inquisition, slavery, Western colonial conquest and butchery in Africa, Asia and the Americas, U.S. genocide of the American Indians, WWI with its almost 14 million deaths, and the Jim Crow racism in the U.S.
Even if we only consider events since 1940, there is the Nazi Holocaust that killed more than 11 million people, including about six million Jews. WWII resulted in more than 60 million deaths. War crimes such as the fire bombing of cities were followed by the unconscionable U.S. use of atomic bombs against Japan on August 6th and August 9th, 1945.
The use of nuclear weapons led to the mad policy of mutual assured destruction between the U.S. and the USSR that threatened the entire world with destruction.
Overwhelming U.S. bombing campaigns, including spraying agent orange, caused horrific damage in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. Following these terrible slaughters, the U.S. supported right-wing governments and death squads in Central America in the 1980s.
More recently, the U.S. attack on Iraq and the November 2004 attack on Fallujah stand out as particularly hideous and shameful acts. The war crimes against Iraq set the stage for much of the current violence in the Middle East.
Unfortunately it appears that the U.S. is still addicted to violence, frequently expressing itself in the devastation of much weaker nations.
Israel's attack on essentially defenseless Palestinians as well as its merciless siege against Gaza simply adds to the list of monstrous war crimes. Shamefully, the U.S. and its Western puppets didn't call for sanctions on Israel to stop the massacre of Palestinians that was occurring before our eyes. Instead the E.U. wagged its finger and the U.S. rearmed Israel. While most of the Western political and religious leaders, especially Jews, said nothing or supported Israeli crimes, the razing of Gaza and the barbaric attacks on civilians continued. If this is Western civilization, there is little hope.
In closing, Martin Luther King, Jr. said: “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”
This statement is particularly fitting for both the U.S. and Israel.
The Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center's “Peace Train” column runs every Friday in the Colorado Daily.