Friday, January 14, 2005

The Problem with War

Be not overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.

-The Apostle Paul

It has occurred to me again - as we learn yet again there were no WMDs in Iraq - that this war we are embroiled in is a perfect example of all that is wrong with war. As war is an integral part of US foreign policy and has dire implications for our world, it is worth our time to consider its morality.

War is an evil. It has evil results. “Collateral damage” and “friendly fire” are not exceptions, but an inescapable part of war.

We have seen this evil in Iraq in the pictures of then-12-year-old Ali Ishmail Abbas whose arms were blown off and whose family was killed as a result of our bombs. This was not, by anyone's estimation, a moral good.

We have seen this evil in the sadistic torture of prisoners. We have heard this evil in the words of our own soldiers when they make outrageous, inhumane statements (“All right! We finally get to kick in doors and shoot people!”).

It is vital to understand this point. War is, indeed, Hell. It has diabolical, devastating results. Most war supporters generally acknowledge this point. That is why, war supporters say, war should be a last resort.

The pro-war argument says: “War should only be engaged when the evil results of not going to war outweigh the evil results of going to war.” This argument has the appearance of logic about it.

However, the argument makes assumptions that should not be made.

First, it assumes we can know how much evil will result from beginning a war. When Bush began the invasion of Iraq, he apparently thought that once we moved in, the Iraqi people would be dancing in the street and any fighting would be swiftly over. We can tell Bush made this assumption because of his premature declaration of “Mission Accomplished.”

How many innocent Iraqis have died as a result of our invasion? Twenty thousand? One hundred thousand? At what point will we have killed more Iraqis than Saddam? Is the war a just one as long as we kill fewer than Saddam did?

Secondly, the argument assumes we must prepare for war. This act of preparing for and engaging in war requires a morally repugnant amount of money. The US spent, in the last century, TRILLIONS of dollars on the military and war. What sort of world would we have today if we had spent that money instead on education, sustainable farming programs, healthcare and the creation of good jobs? What if we had spent that money on causes that work for understanding and peace?

We must ask ourselves, has all that money made our world more or less safe?

Another problem with the argument is that it assumes that by engaging in the evil of war, we can maintain the justness of our cause. I have a bumper sticker that says, “When we kill the innocent, we become the enemy,” and in that short phrase is expressed more logic than within the whole of our presidential cabinet.

One of Bush's stated reasons for invading Iraq was to stop terrorism, but where there was no significant terrorist activity in Iraq before, now Iraq is swimming with what we call terrorists. We are less creating terrorists faster than we can kill them.

Think about it: What if another country were convinced our president was a threat to the world and invaded us? And, in the process of war, some of our families and friends were killed. Some of our children had their arms blown off. Would we gladly receive the invaders because they believed in the justness of their cause? NO! We (those of us who believed in the Myth of Redemptive Violence) would pick up our rifles and weapons and start shooting at the “Liberating Forces.”

Violence always begets violence. War cannot bring peace and justice cannot be won through evil means.

That is precisely why the terrorists who crashed the planes in our country were wrong, even though they believed in their cause.

And that is precisely why our War President is wrong.

Those who support the notion of war will suggest that pacifists are naïve and that peace doesn't work as a national policy. To those, I'd recall Joan Baez's response: That Peace is, indeed a failure and the only thing that has failed worse is War.

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