Founding Father of ‘Collective Responsibility’
Thomas J. DiLorenzo
by Thomas J. DiLorenzo
by Thomas DiLorenzo: Is
the Fed Treasonous?
"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
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.
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.
his plans for the civilian population of Northern Alabama, Fellman
quotes Sherman as saying that the "Government of the United
States" had the "right" to "take their lives,
their homes, their lands, their everything . . . . We will take
every life, every acre of land, every particle of property . . .
" And he was not referring to slaves when he used the word
In a July 31,
1862 letter to his wife Sherman wrote that "the war will soon
assume a turn to extermination not of soldiers alone, that is the
least part of the trouble, but the people . . . . There is
a class of people, men, women, and children, who must be killed
. . ." (emphasis added).
the autumn of 1862 Confederate snipers were firing at U.S. Navy
gunboats on the Mississippi River. Unable to apprehend the combatants,
Sherman took revenge on the civilian population by burning the entire
town of Randolph, Tennessee to the ground. In the spring of 1863,
after the Confederate Army had evacuated, Sherman ordered the destruction
of Jackson, Mississippi. Afterwards, in a letter to Grant Sherman
boasted that "The inhabitants are subjugated. They cry aloud
for mercy. The land is devastated for 30 miles around."
also destroyed Meridian, Mississippi after Confederate troops were
driven out, after which Sherman wrote to Grant: "For five days,
ten thousand of our men worked hard and with a will, in that work
of destruction, with axes, sledges, crowbars, clawbars, and with
fire, and I have no hesitation in pronouncing the work well done.
Meridian . . . no longer exists."
chief military engineer, Captain O.M. Poe, advised that the bombing
of Atlanta after the Confederates had fled was of no military significance,
Sherman ignored him and declared that the corpses of women and children
in the streets was "a beautiful sight," as Fellman writes
in Citizen Sherman.
of 1864 Sherman ordered the murder of randomly-chosen citizens in
retaliation for Confederate Army attacks on his army. He wrote to
General Louis Watkins: "Cannot you send over about Fairmount
and Adairsville, burn ten or twelve houses . . . , kill a few at
random, and let them know that it will be repeated every time a
[military] train is fired upon . . . " (See John B. Walters,
of Terror: General Sherman and Total War, p. 137).
after the formal end of the war, Sherman was placed in charge of
the Military District of the Missouri, which was all land west of
the Mississippi. His assignment was to commence a war of genocide
against the Plains Indians, primarily to make way for the government-subsidized
transcontinental railroads. Lincoln’s personal friend, General Grenville
Dodge, was the chief engineer of the project and recommended that
slaves be made of the Indians, who could then be forced to dig the
railroad beds from Iowa to California. Government policy was to
attempt to murder as many of the Plains Indians instead, women and
children included, and Sherman was the natural choice as the director
of such an enterprise.
Sherman’s marching orders as the following (p. 26): "We must
act with vindictive earnestness against the Sioux, even to the
extermination, men, women and children" (emphasis added).
Fellman writes that Sherman "had given [General] Sheridan prior
authorization to slaughter as many women and children as well as
men Sheridan or his subordinates felt was necessary." "The
more Indians we can kill this year, the less will have to be killed
next year," Sherman wrote to Sheridan. By 1890 the U.S. Army
murdered as many as 60,000 Indians, placing the survivors in concentration
camps known as "reservations."
As Murray Rothbard
once wrote, all government power rests ultimately on a series of
myths and superstitions about the alleged magnificence of the state
and its leaders and henchmen (and of corollary myths about the "evils"
of the civil society). Americans will continue to be duped into
supporting unconstitutional wars of aggression – and to be the victims
of blowback – as long as they are conned into believing that such
monsters and psychopathic killers as William Tecumseh Sherman are
secular saints and heroes.
J. DiLorenzo [send him mail]
is professor of economics at Loyola College in Maryland and the
author of The
Real Lincoln; Lincoln
Unmasked: What You’re Not Supposed To Know about Dishonest Abe
Capitalism Saved America. His latest book is Hamilton’s
Curse: How Jefferson’s Archenemy Betrayed the American Revolution
– And What It Means for America Today.
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