I guess the answer to the question is life important depends upon whose life it is you have in mind. We here in the United States seem to believe life is very important. We insist people wear seat belts, try to make abortions illegal, try to keep people alive even after they themselves would prefer to die, worry about the safety of our food and drugs (well, maybe not drugs so much), have laws against (even medically assisted) suicide and euthanasia, and on and on. We like to pretend, at least, that life is sacred, and should be protected at all costs. We condemn murder and torture (well, maybe not torture so much), and in general think life, per se, or in principle, is good (actual lives may not always be so good).
This concern for the sanctity of life doesn’t seem to extend outside the bounds of our own culture. I see today, for example, that Leon Panetta has announced we are ready to attack Iran. We are ready to attack and kill who knows how many of them in order to prevent them from developing a nuclear bomb they are not ,as far as we know, trying to develop. We are thinking, apparently, of doing this even though we are not yet ready to stop killing Afghans, Pakistanis, Somalis, Yemenis, Syrians, and who knows how many “Others,” ostensibly because they are doing things we don’t like them to do. We also support Israel, a government that murders Palestinians just as a matter of course. I guess their lives are not as important as ours. Israeli attitudes toward Palestinian lives can easily be seen in their willingness to exchange hundreds of Palestinian prisoners for one Israeli (and their racism is no secret). Perhaps the most outrageous example of this came from our former Secretary of State, Madeline Albright, who when asked if the lives of 500,000 Iraqi children resulting from our sanctions on Iraq was worth it, responded that yes, it was! There is also, of course, the little matter of Bush/Cheney’s war on Iraq, based on nothing but lies (and greed), that resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths, mostly innocent women and children. And we are, even now, employing our drones to bomb and kill in Pakistan and elsewhere if it suits us, often resulting in the loss of innocent lives, including children. I think our attitude towards “others” can be seen in this quote attributed to one of our greatest Generals, William C. Westmoreland:
“Well…the Oriental…doesn’t put the same high price on life as does the Westerner. Life is cheap in the Orient…and, uh…as the, uh, philosophy of the Orient, uh…expresses it, uh…uh…life is, uh, is not important.” (quoted in Langness, Other Fields, Other Grasshoppers, 1977).
This is an attitude probably shared by many Americans (American exceptionalism, you know) and is, I suppose, what makes it so easy for the Hawks and Neocons to so cavalierly insist we should attack Iran. After all it would probably only result in thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions of (mostly innocent) deaths before it was over. I guess a small price to pay for a “war” completely unnecessary, stupid, vile, and disgusting, just like our “wars” against Iraq and Afghanistan. But, hey, if the (apparently) Supreme Ruler of the Middle East, Benjamin Natanhayu, speaks, we apparently have no choice but to comply. I give President Obama credit for so far keeping this ridiculous “war” from happening, but if he insists on maintaining the severe sanctions in place, and on the constant threats of war against the Iranians by both Israel and the U.S., as well as on actions by the Iranians they should not legally have to take, I suppose hostilities will become inevitable. Not only that, they will also most probably cause the Iranians to actually produce a bomb they do not apparently even want to produce.
Of course this isn’t really about a nuclear bomb anyway. The Israelis know this just as the U.S. knows it. The Iranians are not insane. They know perfectly well they would have no chance against the might of Israel and the U.S., and if they attempted to use such a bomb (if they even had one) they would immediately cease to exist as a nation. It’s really about Western- European hegemony in the Middle East, hegemony that would be weakened by a more powerful Iran. It also, I assume, has to do with Israeli paranoia, resulting from their guilt over what they have and are doing to the Palestinians. The real problem in the Middle East is not Iran, it’s Israel. I am absolutely convinced that without the influence of Israel the U.S. and Iran could relatively easily come to an agreement satisfactory to both sides, indeed an alliance that would be extremely beneficial to both nations. If Obama can prevent this absurd “war,” and, more importantly, if he could eventually force the Israelis into a fair and just peace with the Palestinians, he would surely go down in history as one of our greatest Presidents. I believe he would like to accomplish this, but Congress, apparently waiting for Armageddon (and in the pockets of the Israeli lobby), will never allow it to happen. After all, we are merely the dog being directed by the Israeli tail. And after all, life is only important to Americans.
You cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war.