Brow Beat

The Alleged Massacre at King’s Landing Means U.S. Military Aid to the Targaryens Is Now More Important Than Ever

A panoramic view of King's Landing.
As this up-to-date photograph shows, King’s Landing is just the same as it ever was. Nothing about the city’s geography has changed over the course of the show’s eight seasons, and there certainly wasn’t any massacre. HBO

Avast! Spoilers!

From the moment the first shaky reports of a “massacre” in King’s Landing showed up in American newspapers, the usual college malcontents and professional bleeding hearts have been urging the United States to cut off military and financial aid to the Targaryen forces for their alleged human rights abuses. But taking the advice of these overly credulous left-wingers would be fatal to our efforts to promote democratic reforms in Westeros, and there are reasons to have serious doubts about the official story being promoted by pro-Lannister forces and their willing dupes in the media. It’s more important now than ever that the United States stand strong with the common people of Westeros in their brave fight for freedom, no matter what the the common people of Westeros have to say about it.

If a massacre on the scale that left-wing outlets are reporting had occurred, it would be understandable to put some of the blame on the U.S. After all, the Unsullied were trained at the School of the Americas, and the Dothraki learned to fight by carefully studying the way our film industry depicts Native Americans. Still, to proceed from the premise that the School of the Americas is some kind of a torture academy besmirches the reputation of illustrious graduates like Heriberto “El Verdugo” Lazcano, Roberto “Blowtorch Bob” D’Aubuisson, and Ramsay Bolton. And if there’s anything wrong with basing your entire personality on a bunch of old westerns, it’s a good thing for all of us that nobody told Ronald Reagan. Still, tracing the causes of the so-called massacre is very much beside the point, because as this declassified cable from our embassy in Westeros shows, it’s not at all clear that it ever happened:

Although it is not possible to prove or disprove excesses of violence against the civilian population of King’s Landing by Targaryen troops or dragons, it is certain that the Lannister forces who established defensive positions in the city did nothing to remove them from the path of battle, which they were aware was coming and had prepared for. Nor is there any evidence that those who remained attempted to leave.

Civilians did die during the operation. But no evidence could be found to confirm that Targaryen forces systematically massacred civilians in the operation zone, or that the number of civilians killed even remotely approached the number being cited in other reports circulating internationally.

There’s nothing in that cable that suggests that the United States conducted a deliberately cramped investigation of the incident at King’s Landing, either out of a Peggy Noonan–style belief that “some things in life need to be mysterious” or because making even a minimal effort to look into the situation would reveal evidence of a coldblooded slaughter that would make continued U.S. support of the Targaryens a political impossibility. It would be the height of political naiveté to place more credence in the eyewitness accounts of the residents of King’s Landing—known Lannister sympathizers—than in the carefully vetted reports from the United States’ own intelligence services, which are much more trustworthy. Otherwise, we risk being manipulated into acting against our own interests —and the interests of the residents of King’s Landing, who are the main people we’re concerned with here—by the Lannisters’ sophisticated, raven-based PR operation. Whatever happened at King’s Landing is being significantly misused, at the very least, by the Lannisters and their supporters.

The conditions on the ground are complicated, we assume, although we will not be sending anyone to look into this in more detail. We know that many innocent civilians have been murdered by the Lannisters. We know that many have been murdered by the Targaryens and by the Starks. Anyone who studies the conditions of life in Westeros comes away sick at heart. Who’s to say what’s right and what’s wrong anymore, really? It’s important to keep in mind these wise words from Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs Elliott Abrams’ prepared statement at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing about human rights abuses under the Targaryens:

Our goal is not purity. We do not live in utopia. Our goal is effectiveness in a violent and bitterly divided area of the world. Once again, I would never argue that all those opposed to Queen Daenerys are Communists. I do argue, however, that extremists would take power and a regime would emerge which would impose a Communist dictatorship.

Democracy in Westeros will not come without cost, and the growing pains will undoubtedly be painful, especially for alleged civilians who were allegedly in the wrong place at what allegedly turned out to be the wrong time and allegedly ended up burnt to an alleged crisp by an alleged dragon. But if the United States sticks to its principles, primarily the principle that sometimes it’s better to pretend that you don’t realize you’re propping up a murderous psychopath, we may one day see a new Westeros, a free Westeros, a Westeros that gives the United States access to a workforce of peasants who’ll happily accept wages of pennies a day in exchange for not being burned alive by a dragon. And that will be a fabulous achievement.