Mar 18, 2007
Commentary: The Irony of General Peter Pace -- By Bill C. Davis
Pace in Italian means Peace. His last name is only one irony. The fact that he, an accomplice to the military assault and occupation of Iraq, classifies erotic love between two human-beings of the same sex as immoral redefines the concept of irony. It's more than a cruel irony - it's epic.
For this particular military man a certain kiss is a special sin. A bayonet, a bullet or a bomb are blessed by some divine arbiter. The violent tension of repressed homoeroticism is in the Spartan worship of destructive testosterone that fuels much of the military as it is being used by this administration. Beyond this moment there is a timeless romanticism of buddies side by side killing who they're told to kill - in exacting vengeance when one of their own is hurt or killed - in the passionate desire to get back to the group you were forced to leave because of injuries.
In fact, what is presented as universally beautiful in any war is the fact that soldiers care less about the politics of their mission, or for that matter their wives and girlfriends at home, and much more about the brotherhood. The band of brothers. High romance. A romance that is sullied by a kiss - a passionate erotic kiss is immoral to General Peace. Romantic love between men is useful only to the extent that it encourages violence against the enemy. Tribal fraternal loyalty can be harnessed - erotic emotional connections are destructive to morale and decency. Decency. A kiss is indecent.
Tenderness is dangerous. Maybe General Pace could tolerate the concept of rough sexual play by straight soldiers. But an ongoing, loving, warm connection between two men is a menace to the integrity of the corps. It confuses a certain ethos. Morality is less the point - the ethos - the organizing ethos of the military cannot see the human body as an instrument of tenderness and erotic expression. Repression is holy - expression is evil.
General Pace is tight. His voice, cadence, haircut and persona are like a coiled rubberband. He is a manifestation of a mindset chastened by the Catholic Church and the US military - both looking to spread a gospel by mortifying the body.
The only morality is the human body. How do you act upon the human body? Go to Walter Reed to see the harvest of General Pace's view of morality - Go to Baghdad, Fallujah or Abu Ghraib.
The Taliban and most fundamentalists clearly share the view of General Pace. The body - even your own body - is something to attack or even blow up - to use as an instrument of destruction. That use of the body is considered holy and heroic.
The body is a channel to revelation. If a person uses his or her body to invite and explore the phenomenon of love how can that be classified as immoral? If you use your body to betray the integrity and truth of our common humanity, how is that heroic?
The final irony of General Pace is the other part of his name which also describes a principle - the peter principle - The theory that employees within an organization will advance to their highest level of competence and then be promoted to and remain at a level at which they are incompetent.
The question is and will remain - how much of this war is a failure of competence or a failure of morality? To prove his competence and morality General Pace felt compelled to preach from his seat of influence and power. Ironically, guilt - acknowledged or not - fuels the need to preach.
This article appeared first in Atlantic Free Press (17 March 2007). You may reproduce it free of charge but make sure you respect their license.