"The Davidian cult in Waco was dealt with by armored vehicles," remarked Muammar Gaddafi in February, defending his own crackdowns in light of the U.S. government's. April 19 marks eighteen years since the end of the Waco siege and exactly one month since Obama began bombing Libya. Now that the federal government is again shedding blood in the name of humanitarianism, we might reflect on how it obtains legitimacy for its most brazen acts of violence.
Long ago, when governments slaughtered the enemy merely for being different and thus subhuman or for occupying desired territory, such crude rationales satisfied the states' agents and subjects. The modern democratic state, however, employs more sophisticated propaganda when it burns, gasses, shoots, and bombs people including civilians. There is always the excuse of security: the targeted people pose a threat. When this argument seems tenuous, it is well complemented by that most insidious of pretenses: The killing is done for the good of others. It is an act of kindness. The American empire, like the Roman and British before it, inflicts violence to civilize and rescue those in need.