“It was straight out of the movies. It was like: Let’s kill them all.” –A former CIA intelligence officer commenting about building military teams of Special Forces commandos to kill al Qaeda members.

On July 22, 1208, and after Pope Innocent III launched the Albigensian Crusade against Catharism, the army reached the walls of Beziers, a small town in southern France. The soldiers consisted of religious fanatics and opportunists who believed their divine mission was to kill all Cathars. Catharism, which was thought to be a dangerous heresy, denied the divinity of Christ, was anti-authoritarian, and resisted the corruption and worldliness of the Church of Rome.

At the city gate, the papal legate, Arnald-Amaury, handed the Bishop of Beziers a list of 222 Cathars to be handed over for execution. The bishop and city leaders refused the army’s demand saying, “We had rather be drowned in the salt sea than surrender our fellow citizens.”(1) When the brutal assault against the Beziers and to capture and kill the Cathars was ordered, Arnald-Amaury was asked how the soldiers could tell a Cathar from devout Catholics? He replied, “Kill them all, God will know his own.”

The recent revelation of the Bush Administration’s CIA and military Special Forces commando teams-emulated from the Israelis who carried out assassinations and killings after the Munich Olympics attacks-in some ways mirrors the crusade against the Cathars, specifically the notion and order to “kill them all.” Such acts were supposedly banned by the Ford Administration. Still, President George W. Bush and Vice President Cheney secretly authorized and tried to implement such an illegal plan and inhumane ideology

The order to immediately assassinate (“Kill on site!”) all al Qaeda leaders and members is extremely problematic, due to the accuracy of intelligence, bounties paid to informants and warlords, the possible capture and execution of innocent civilians trapped in war zones, and the lack of a trial. The $50 million program kept secret from Congress, the Senate Intelligence Committee, and the American people, is also troublesome. But then “kill them all” has long been ideologically institutionalized and hidden in Massive Retaliation, First Strike Doctrine, Mutual Assured Destruction, Shock and Awe, and Troop Surges.

Most disturbing too is how the “kill them all” mentality trickles downward and outward, and how it has been a part of America’s narrative. The belief in “the only good Indian is a dead Indian,” whic resulted in the genocide of the Amerindian; the tens of thousands of children and women slaughtered in the U.S.-Filipino Uprising, the atomic bombs dropped on civilian centers in Japan; the My Lai’s of Vietnam and the U.S. backed death squads in Latin America; and the Abu Graibs, Fallujahs, Hadithas, and Bagrams, of Iraq and Afghanistan, all point to a deep malady in America’s perception and war strategies.

Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda were also mistaken when they assumed America was a democracy and therefore, held the American people liable for the gross injustices around the world being carried out by U.S. leaders, global corporations, and the Pentagon‘s war machine. They had no justification in “killing them all” on Sept. 11. The bombings of two U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, along with suicide bombings in public places that kill civilians, reveals not only a dangerous “kill them all” attitude, but a self-destructive “kill us all” mentality.

According to military historian Carl von Clausewitz, the use of force would someday become “contrary to common sense.” Have wars now become offensive, instead of solely for defensive purposes? Have attacks and future military interventions become imaginary, pre-planned and prophetically fulfilled by violent and pathological leaders? Have the gods of metal and science, in which you can “kill them all” from far away, crucified the up close gods of miracles and salvation? Have soldiers turned into predators, and in the words of the CIA officer, has killing become a spectacle? Finally, has war become absolute?

James Carroll writes in his book, House of War, The Pentagon And The Disastrous Rise of American Power, “The blind impulse to respond to hurt by striking back is part of the human makeup, yet the impulse is a deep source of shame, too, opening as it does into the dark realm of the irrational, where we know we do not belong.” Courageously, President Barack Obama has ordered a probe into the killing of 2,000 suspected Taliban Prisoners near Bagram, which occurred under the Bush Administration and where America should not have belonged. Will Osama Bin Laden do the same with the war crimes al Qaeda has committed?

Uncovering mass graves that expose indiscriminate killings, committed either by political opportunists trying to impose American globalization or religious fanatics, demonstrates the irrationality of “kill them all” and the dark realm of disproportional vengeance. And what of the 222 Cathars out of a population of 15,000 Catholics living in Beziers? Almost the entire population, including children, women, and men, were put to the death by the sword.(2) And what of the several thousand al Qaeda members out of a population of tens of millions living in the Middle East? How many hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians have been put to death by U.S. weapons? “Kill them all” because they are in the way or because they believe and live differently, may be the greatest heresy of all times.

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