THE AMERICAN urge to set right the miscreants of the world certainly didn't begin with Iraq. Nor did the conviction among some Americans that theirs was the cause of justice and righteousness - whatever the particular cause of the moment might be.
Here's one example:
In the years after World War I, one of the losing countries, Turkey, came in for harsh criticism because of its violent treatment of Christian Greeks and Armenians and because of its general recalcitrance in the face of American and European attempts to dictate policy.
Anger against the Muslim country flared in 1922, especially among what we would today call Christian fundamentalists. A commentary by William T. Ellis, excerpted below, was published in the newspaper Philadelphia Public Ledger on Nov. 28, 1922, under the headline, "Johnny, Get Your Gun!" A subhead, for those readers who might not get the point, read, "A Satirical Comment on the Clamorous Appeals for American Vengeance on the Turks."
Preachers are proclaiming a "holy war" against Turkey. ... The cause is satisfactorily moral and the slogans are smugly convincing. The Turk has done wrong, and America is Heaven's avenger on earth. Ours it is to punish every international misdeed and straighten out every international crookedness. Even the Crusaders themselves had no such justification for a foreign expedition as is now America's.
One warning we would give: Let not the holy task be half done! When Uncle Sam, the world's Sir Galahad, rides forth to redress humanity's wrongs, he should leave none unredressed or half-redressed. We want no unfinished task remaining on our hands. ... Into the knapsack of every soldier, and into the dunnage bag of every sailor, let these "general orders" be placed; and let no man return until all have been fulfilled, upon peril of a righteous nation's scorn:
First, terminate the Turks. They have been guilty of atrocities.
Second, gibbet the Greeks. They have been guilty of atrocities.
Third, annihilate the Armenians. They have been guilty of atrocities.
Fourth, kill the Kurds. They have been guilty of atrocities.
Fifth, abolish the Arabs. They have been guilty of atrocities.
Sixth, beat and bury the British. They have been guilty of atrocities in Egypt, India and Transjordania. Besides, they are bad for the petroleum trade.
Seventh, finish the French. They have been guilty of atrocities in Syria, and they have Turkish oil on their hands.
Eighth, injure the Italians, for they have been guilty of atrocities in Fiume, Albania and Dalmatia. Also they are militaristic and imperialistic.
Ninth, tenth, eleventh and twelfth, execute American justice upon the Egyptians, the Moroccans, the Tunisians and the Algerians for having interfered with the plans of the powers and for having shed the blood of white men.
Isn't this a thrilling program and a worthy mission? Does it not make the hearts of the patriot parsons and their flocks leap high with joy? What a vindication of piety and righteousness it will be when our stainless American flag has waved in victory over all these defeated wrongdoers of earth!
President Warren G. Harding did not take Mr. Ellis up on his proposal - nor did he listen to the preachers.
And somehow the world survived.