The Founding Father of ‘Collective Responsibility’

Monday, September 12, 2011
By Paul Martin

by Thomas J. DiLorenzo

The phrase “collective responsibility” is rather pleasant sounding, with its implication that, perhaps, we should all collectively take responsibility for our own actions. What parents should not teach their children such things? But for at least the past 150 years “collective responsibility” also has a specific meaning with regard to U.S. military policy. In the military context, “collective responsibility” is a euphemism for the mass murder of innocent civilians. It is a phrase that was used by General William Tecumseh Sherman himself, long preceding today’s nonchalant dismissal of the murder of civilians in foreign countries as “collateral damage.”

The idea is that if the U.S is at war with another nation it is not only the combatants who are legitimate “targets” but all inhabitants of the “enemy nation,” women, children, the disabled, everyone. As such, it is the primary cause of “blowback,” or retaliation for the intentional murder of noncombatants by the U.S. military. It is common sense to expect the people of other countries to retaliate for such atrocities, even committing acts of terrorism against us. But most Americans seem to be so brainwashed in the lies and propaganda of “American Exceptionalism” (the idea that whatever foreign policy the U.S. pursues is virtuous by virtue of the fact that it is the U.S. foreign policy) that they simply cannot imagine why anyone from any foreign country would want to harm us. In their ignorance they are prone to believe such fantasies and absurdities as the theory that Middle East terrorists attacked us on 9/11 because they hate the idea of freedom.

William Tecumseh Sherman was indeed the founding father of terrorism perpetrated by the U.S. government and disquised by the language of “collective security.” Sherman biographer William Fellman (author of Citizen Sherman) quotes Sherman as saying this about his fellow American citizens from the Southern states: “To the petulant and persistent secessionists, why death is mercy, and the quicker he or she is disposed of the better . . . . Until we can repopulate Georgia, it is useless to occupy it, but the utter destruction of its roads, houses, and people will cripple their military resources” (emphasis added). Sherman was referring here to his plans for the civilian population of Georgia after the Confederate Army had left the state.

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