Sunday, August 7, 2005

Some thoughts on Peace Sunday

Having started a conversation in my previous post on peacemaking and warmaking, especially as it relates to the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I'd like to continue these thoughts.

One thing that occurred to me is that it may be useful for us to consider that our support for the nuclear bombing of two civilian cities helps us get an insight into the terrorists' mind. After all, the terrorists believe that sometimes there are legitimate reasons to kill innocent men, women and children. Those who support the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki believe the same thing.

I'm not making a judgement call, there, just pointing out a fact: Both parties mentioned believe that there is a time for killing civilians. In fact, there are several similarities.

Both American (especially religious American) war-supporters and modern terrorists believe:

1.That war can be God-ordained, indeed, they believe in the concept of a Holy War
2.It is permissible to kill innocents in the course of war IF the war is just
3.It is permissible to target thousands of innocent civilians IF the cause is just
4.It is okay to lie – even if people are dying as a result of the deception – as long as the cause is just
5.That "the enemy" are godless and/or the Great Satan and must be killed
6.That those who die in the war against terrorists are heroes who might be destined for heaven
7.That torture (in one form or the other) is a legitimate tool to obtain information from captured enemies

The difference then, between those who believe in violence as a solution and those who don't, is that violent solution supporters have some of the same logical starting points and pacifist/non-violent resisters don't. We (pacifists) believe in a different sort of logic.

We believe that wrong-doing must be stood up to, but not using the same tools or methods that the wrong-doers use. Where they say, sometimes it's okay to kill innocent people, we say, NO. Where they say, sometimes violence can result in a positive end, we see that violence leads to violence. Where they say, sometimes bombs can save lives, we know that bombs have one purpose only.

I say this not to belittle those who disagree with me. I know that all the folk whom I've talked to who do support war do so for, in their minds, positive reasons. They want to save lives. Protect the innocent. I acknowledge the similar goals between "us" and "them" and I praise the lofty ideals.

Where we disagree is how to obtain these goals. We'll continue that thought later. For now, I just hope that we can make deliberate decisions about what sort of logic we want as our starting point.

While not a Just War Theory supporter, I'd be glad if we could even reach that level of agreement. It would, at least, be a starting point and a starting point is no small thing.


Eleutheros said...

Dan, those similarities are well taken, but do you see any differences between the "logic" for bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the "logic" for 9/11?

voixdange said...

Excellent Post Dan.

Seth said...

Sounds very nice, except in practice, like most such utopian ideals, it won't work on this particular planet.

Any country embracing your "pacifism at any cost" philosophy would have to resign themselves to occupation and oppression by anyone with an army and a more aggressive point of view.

Look at sheep. The only reason they don't provide an all-you-can- eat buffet 24/7 is because of the shepherd with the rifle, who is willing to kill wolves to protect those sheep, and the dog or, increasingly, the llama, who're also willing to kill to protect them.In your scenario, there's no shepherd, no dog, no llama, because having them around is potentially "violent".
Wolves, bon apetit.

Sky Niangua said...

'It won't work on this planet'

Hmmm...well, t won't until it is tried.
Bush stood at a threshold for change. To execute patience and work with the world at large or to behave as he did. He played into the motives of those much smarter than him..he reacted just as they knew he would and what we see now is what was chaos, fear, hatred, division.

As Ghandi said..*An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.*

Peace is a process that would take everyday steps in our lives to achieve...teaching compassion, negating all killing of sentient life, learning from our past mistakes and actions etc.

Peace is not a white lily field that we sit is a way of life that present consciousness does not understand.

Clearly the concept is not understood.
For what is not understood cannot be imagined and therefore will not be believed.

Kim said...


Wonderful post.

Dan Trabue said...

I find this kind of conversation quite intriguing and very important and am so thankful for all of your participation.

Eleutheros, thank you so much for the honesty to admit that the violent solution logic is the same in many ways for both terrorists and us. Many I've talked to will not admit that much.

As to your question, was there a difference between their reasoning and our reasoning...I think that's a good question. The reasons for us bombing Hiroshima range from Revenge, to End the War, to Scare the Soviets and to Save Lives. I suspect there's some truth in all these thoughts.

As to the reasons for 9/11, I'm less clear. I suspect they include to Stop the Great Satan, to Gain access to Paradise, to Promote their Vision of Islam and to Stand up to the Great Bully.

I'm guessing you think the reasoning behind a bombing/destruction is what makes it moral or immoral? If so, I don't agree.

Let's suppose for a minute that the reason for 9/11 was because they feared the US was a threat to the world (similar to our reason for invading Iraq and the bombing of Hiroshima). If that was their reasoning, would it have made it right?

Dan Trabue said...


While Sky very nicely addressed your "won't work on this planet" idea (thanks, Sky), I'd like to ask you a rather personal question:

Are you coming from a faith-based position? If you're a Christian, as many of us are, that would seem an odd position. You know, following God's teachings are often considered impractical by those who don't want to follow them.

If you'd rather not go there, that's fine, I'll keep this on a secular level. It's just, for many of us, our pacifism springs forth from our faith. WHICH IS NOT to say that we think peacemaking is a pie-in-the-sky position to take.

To echo Sky's comments and to paraphrase Chesterton, "Pacifism hasn't been tried and found wanting. it has been found difficult and left untried..." At least on a national level.

On a community level, pacifism has indeed been tried and found fine and dandy, thank you. I give you the Amish, the Hutterites, the Quakers, among others. Have they been killed and oppressed? Yes. Have they persevered nonetheless? Yes.

the Contrary Goddess said...

Dan, your examples have persevered only because they have come to live in places where others were willing to protect them, to take up the share of the yoke that they shirked. In just the same way that force, in the end, is the only thing that ended institutional racism, not the nonviolence but the force of government protection.

Dan Trabue said...

CG said:
"Dan, your examples [amish, etc] have persevered only because they have come to live in places where others were willing to protect them..."

That has sometimes been the case but not always true (and from our point of view, they've/we've been as often oppressed by a "savior military" as not), but, let's take it a face value.

How about the early church? Persecuted bitterly, off and on, for the first 300 years of her existence. Who was her protector?

Thanks for writing Ms. Goddess. I still like you, you know...we just disagree on this issue.

Eleutheros said...

Dan, I don't want to mix comments so let me do this one seperately if you don't mind:

"How about the early church? Persecuted bitterly, off and on, for the first 300 years of her existence. Who was her protector?"

You haven't invited this as a thread on your blog, so let me treat it lightly, although I could go into some detail: There are some (or many) who hold that the church as we know it today began in the early fourth centruy and as part of that beginning, the story of the first 300 years was made up, albeit from bits and pieces of actual happenstances, to give the new religion an authenticity of antiquity. If that were the case, the first 300 years of a pacifist church protected by God because of their peace-loving is sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy in reverse .... as it were.

Remember though, that right on the tail of that first 300 years, Jesus himself is supposed to have told Constantine, "In hoc signo vinces." By and large that sentiment persists to this day.

Alas that still leaves those of us with no dog in the fight scratching our heads and asking, "Is there (is that) a real example of pacifism working, or are the exmples simply stories that leave out a lot of the details and only look as if they are examples of pacifism?" I've seen long lists of this or that bloodless revolution, but never one example where there was not the threat of arms in the shadows that could easily explain the REAL motivation for the capitulation of the despot in what otherwise seems to be only yielding to the pacifist.

Wasp Jerky said...

Pacifism also worked rather effectively during the civil rights movement. Would that movement have had the same impact had its leaders tried to take their rights at gunpoint?

Wasp Jerky said...

"As to the reasons for 9/11, I'm less clear."

I think it was because terrorists hate freedom. Oh wait. No it wasn't. According to bin Laden's speech shortly after the fact, it was because of our support for Israel and our ties to the Saudis. Apparently they're actually pissed about our geopolitical policies.

Dan Trabue said...

eleutheros referred to Constantine and "In hoc signo vinces" which is Latin for "In This Sign (the Cross) You Shall Conquer" (I had to look it up. I'm neither Catholic nor Latin.)

I agree, Ellie, that the church as we know it today (by and large) began with Constantine. But this is not a good thing, I'd say. And it's why reformists (anabaptists among others) have been trying to return to the early church's teachings.

But this faithful remnant is evidence to me of the enduring nature of God's teachings. I take it that you're suggesting that the “original church” pacifized themselves to death? I don't think that is the case.

I think Empire tried to conquer the church by violence and oppression and when that continued to fail century after century, they tried to co-opt and seduce it from within. That tact has been much more successful.

But not entirely, for here I am. Here is Angevoix. There was King. There was Gandhi. There was Dorothy Day and the beat goes on...

Eleutheros said...


"But this faithful remnant is evidence to me of the enduring nature of God's teachings. I take it that you're suggesting that the “original church” pacifized themselves to death? I don't think that is the case."

No, not that. Something much more picturesque actually. Never forget that Constantine was desperate for military units to support his cause against his brothers. When he pitched about for allies, the most potent and deadly military units were three groups of Christians, hence the "In hoc signo .." episode. If the Christians up to that time were such dedicated pacifists, how is it that they were such a powerful military presence?

But more to the question, not that the early Christians were pacified to death, more that they never existed at all except in myth. at least as we imagine them now. The first two centries of the Common Era saw a rich mix of mystery religions, Mithric cults, and prophets and Messiahs were as common as fleas. Literacy was also on the rise what with a convenient common language in wide use (Greek). By the beginning of the fourth century the mystic and religious soup was quite thick and satisfying, thousands of religious books abounded all with a colorful array of 'annoited ones' (Christs) and those of the Aramaic background were rich in individuals called 'the Savior'. In Aramaic 'savior' is "Yeshu", which was transliterated into the Greek "Yesous" and gives us the moden "Jesus". (In Hebrew the same name is 'Joshua').

Comes the year 312 and Constantine (and his scholars) pick and choose among this great body of religious literature and come up with the present textus receptus, which, what are the odds, directly support the divine asperations of Constantine.

Or so one version of things goes.

Dan Trabue said...

El asked:
The faith-based pacifist is saying the same thing, people should believe and act a certain way because God has said so. How is that different?

That's a great question, sir. Let me begin by saying that I address myself from a Christian point-of-view because
1. that's what I am and what I know and,
2. because so much of our country's thought processes are guided and influenced by those claiming biblical or christian reasoning. I raise my voice, therefore, as the other side of the coin.

Having said that, let me be clear: I do NOT think we ought to base ANY policy on what I think or W thinks the bible says.

The catholics have this political philosophy (or so I've been told) wherein they acknowledge that some of their doctrine is mainly theological in nature (ie, Virgin Birth, the triune nature of God). They believe that they should in no way push this off on society, it's a faith issue.

But, they also believe that there are some universal teachings that can be argued upon logical grounds (for example, don't murder). Yes, they believe in not murdering because of God's teaching, but they also believe there is a logical moral basis for this sort of law. This is the field in which Catholics say it's okay to try to influence policy.

I agree with that notion.

This is why I began this post based on finding what logic we're using for supporting the bombing of Hiroshima.

[This is why I support the notion of gay marriage - there are no significant purely logical reasons for opposing it. Only religious ones (with which I disagree, too).]

And so, I believe that we should lean more towards peacemaking because it only makes sense. I don't buy that a military makes us safer or that I only have the freedom to say this because a soldier is guaranteeing that freedom.

I'm saying that if we're logically opposed to the 9/11 terrorist killings because they were targeting civilians, then we should be consistent in our policy.

On the other hand, while I conditionally disagree with the notion of deadly self-defense, you will not hear me condemning (too much) a people who have been invaded with lethal force using lethal force in defense.

This is because I think it less clear-cut a case of logically being correct or incorrect and I'm not interested in forcing anyone to die to live up to my beliefs.

In other words, I'd be more satisfied if we would at least take Just War Theory seriously. I think we ought to have consistent international laws that apply to the jihadists and the US both. That just doesn't sound that unreasonable to me.

Sky Niangua said...

Well spoken Dan.

"I think we ought to have consistent international laws that apply to the jihadists and the US both. That just doesn't sound that unreasonable to me."

Not unreasonable at all..that is what I was trying to express in an earlier post. Thanks for 'speaking' so many of my own thoughts.

Eleutheros said...

"Pacifism also worked rather effectively during the civil rights movement. Would that movement have had the same impact had its leaders tried to take their rights at gunpoint?"

This is the best example before us because it illustrates precisely the failure of a purely pacifist approach. A great many of the first pacifists were killed. The movement only found legs when the pacifists marches and protests were backed up by federal agents with guns.

Just a breif bit at the beginning: When integration was ordered for Arkansas schools in 1957, the govenor sent guardsmen to prevent the nine students, the "Little Rock Nine" from attending Litte Rock High School. Within two weeks, President Icenhour federalized the Arkasas National Guard, putting them under his command, and ordered them to return to barracks. He then sent in the 101st Airborne armed to escort the students to school and protect them.

Armed soldiers, Kevin, escorting high school students to school. How is this an example of successful pacifism?

The rest of the entire civil rights movement is the same. Sometimes openly, sometimes in the shadows, but always police and soldiers there with guns at the ready to protect the pacifist.

Pacifist often make the mistake of viewing any action in which no shot is fired as an example of the effectiveness of the peaceful way. Guns are much more effective when they are NOT fired. But make no mistake, if there had been no armed support, the civil rights movement would have gotten nowhere.

Dan Trabue said...

Thanks, Sky.

See, y'all, I think this gets to the heart of our difference. Some of think that laws ought to apply across the boards. If we don't have a universally defined law that says, "this is wrong, and this is what can happen if the wrong is done...", then all we have is a Might makes Right rule.

It is acceptable that the US has WMDs but not Iraq because we decided that it's okay. We decide that we can bomb Hiroshima but they can't bomb NY because we decide it's okay.

Might makes Right may work out temporarily in your favor (although I'd question even that) as long as you're the one with the might. But when you're the one being dictated to by those with power, it's less than desirable.

It's about standards and personal accountability. Conservatives should be down wid dat.

Dan Trabue said...

AHA! Now see, THIS is why I like you, brother Ellie. This is where we find common ground. I agree with much of what you've said here.

I know that I'm a minority. I can't "fix" the system because I don't have enough votes and can't sway enough minds. The system is destructive, itself.

And so, what can a person interested in fixing an unjust system do if they can't fix it? Unplug from it, as you wisely have said.

Now, at least at this point, I still think it worthwhile and important to try to change the system, knowing that may be tilting at windmills. But in the meantime, I work at unplugging and disentangling.

Leaving Babylon, in your vernacular.

And, if enough people see the beauty and wonder and justice in this Other Way, then they may begin to join us. If enough people join, Babylon becomes a ghost town and is thereby defeated.

On this, at least, we agree.

voixdange said...

E.Your wholistic view of working towards world peace is exactly what I would call non-violent direct action, and is what I espouse, except inclusive of the "rallies, speeches, shaking with righteous indignation," to my way of thinking they go hand in hand, and include as well making it our personal responsibility to stay informed of pertinent legislation, calling elected officials to voice our opinion, signing petitions, writing editorials to the paper, etc...
That isn't doing nothing. Honestly I don't see why the two would ever be seperate...

Seth said...

The idea of enacting laws that would apply equally to Bush and Osama is purely an intellectual fantasy.
Terrorists don't obey any laws but their own and since the whole point of the exercise, from their point of view, is to confront mankind with a choice: "Live under Sharia law or be exterminated, no compromise acceptable", there is no peaceful way to address this threat.

And no, Dan, I'm not a Christian. I'm a Conservative Jew.I'm old enough that as a young kid and an adolescent, I met many of my distant relatives whose arms were tattoed from the camps.
Between stories from them and stories from my grandparents, who raised me, I grew up with a very strong sense of reality.

So I'll throw you a quick quote from the Talmud, from Ethics of the Fathers:

"The sword comes into the world
Because of justice perverted
And justice delayed."

Dan Trabue said...

Thanks, Seth.

I believe that quote for what it is (much written in the bible and elsewhere is a statement of truth, but not necessarily of God's will).

The non-violent resister would ask, "Why was justice perverted or delayed?"

Dan Trabue said...

Kobayashi, you asked:
If you were responsible for the lives of millions...what would you have done?

Again, not a bad question. What we did was tell the world that sometimes there is a time that it OK, according to the US, to destroy a whole city. That nuclear weapons are an acceptable choice for warring. We helped usher in the Cold War that has cost the world trillions of dollars that could have been used for peaceful purposes, not to mention countless lives.

What are the longterm affects of such actions? I borrow from Seth (who quoted the Talmud): What have been the consequences of justice perverted and justice delayed?

Put another way, if we prepare for war and nuclear destruction, that is likely what we'll get. If we prepare for justice, it may or may not be coming, but that is our best hope of coming close.

Eleutheros said...


There are two points you made that I wonder if there is not another aspect to them that somewhat deflects their import:

"We helped usher in the Cold War that has cost the world trillions of dollars that could have been used for peaceful purposes"

Trillions were indeed spent on the cold war. I am of the age when we had those ridiculous nuclear attack drills. But does it follow that if we had not spent the money on the cold war, it would have been available for anything else. This is one of the clever fallacies of money. We are accustomed to thinking of it as real (see 'Beginning of Wisdom' on my blog). But it isn't real in the sense that if we had not spent the money on missles and technology, we would have had it to spend on housing and food. The moment those trillions were diverted to housing or clothes or medicine, it doesn't mean that there is more housing or clothes for the folk, only that they are more expensive. Witness that in my (misspent) youth, medical services cost very little, education cost very little. But as soon as funds were diverted in the form of Medicare and Medicaid and student loans, those services greatly increased in cost. The eventual reaction is that there is more of it (and at poorer quality, alas). The immediate raction is that the price goes up when more money is available to buy them.

" if we prepare for war and nuclear destruction, that is likely what we'll get."

On a purely intellectual and speculative basis, that seems like a reasonable posit. But what has experience shown us? It has shown us that almost every military aggression in history has been the result of NON-preparedness. The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor because they percieved us as unprepared and unlikely to want to or be able to respond. Saddam invaded Kuwait because he though he had felt out that there was not going to be a response from the US. I could go on and on but throughout history, aggression has come because one side evaluates the other as unprepared.

The concept that if we prepare for war we will have war to be much like the arguments offered here in the states which have 'conceal carry' laws. Opponents said that if anyone, without good reason to deny them, could carry a firearm, chaos would result. Police would be gunned down and people would settle minor traffic disputes with shootouts. After 'must issue' laws were passed in several states (including this one) the rate of violent crime dropped significantly and there has never been one incident of conceal permit using the weapon in a crime, much less against the police.

While it's true that employing violence to achieve what can be achieved by other means is messy and costly and destabilizing, the treat of violence being used against an aggressor is a very effectual and cost effective measure.

Consider that the rich mystic and spiritual culture that gave rise (eventually) to Christianity took place at a time when the people involved, Jews, Samaritans, Greeks, Egyptians, Persians, etc. could relax and follow such pursuits because they were free of military threat on account of being part of the Pax Romana. The Pax Romana was based on the treat of swords to anyone who would disturb the Pax.

Dan Trabue said...

Oh Lord,

In a perfect world, I would be a pacifist, too,
with smiles and hugs, kisses and kind words.
But this world is so far from thy blessed heaven.

In a perfect world, I wouldn't have to kill the poor bastards trying to kill us,
blast their cars to jagged, blackened shards
blow up buildings
and whoever the hell is inside them.

In a perfect world, children wouldn't have
their parents incinerated in front of their eyes or
their stillnew arms torn off
by their bullets and bombs
or my bullets and bombs...
it's really hard to say which,

'cause this is not a perfect world, Lord.

And so I pray:
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done...somewhere.
In a perfect world.


Sky Niangua said...

Aumen, Amen, So Mote It Be...

Peace to you my friend

voixdange said...

Beautiful poem Dan. Do we understand that as Christains it is our obligation to try to build that perfect world?

I am reminded of something Archbishop Desmond Tutu said the last time he visited our church. "You will never find peace at the end of a gun."

Dan Trabue said...

whoooaaa, dude! Tutu's been to your church! Way cool!

And as to your question, Ange:
"Do we understand that as Christians it is our obligation to try to build that perfect world?"

I'd say, as Christians it's our obligation to be faithful. And in my mind, that results in Kingdom of God-building actions. Which I reckon is about the same thing...

Is there a Direct Action group there in Chicago (I'm sure there is) and are you all part of it?

voixdange said...

Weeeell, we are kind of our own direct action group. And if you knew the history of our congregation, then you would know that is no small thing.
As I posted on Fr. Neo's blog, Senator Jackie Collins, with the help of our congregation was the author of the first state bill for sanctions against investing state pension funds in Sudan. You can check out more about our church by clicking on the link on my blog.

voixdange said...

Also Bishop Tutu has been to our church twice in the past couple of years. He is actually doing something in collaboration with us and the University of Chicago. I can't remeber what the focus of it is at the moment.
It was pretty awesome both times I'll have to admit.

Anonymous said...

Hi - You have a great blog. I have a webpage about self defense tactic I'd like you to visit. Here's the link