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Articles CPP Newsletter Online V11.1

Ignored Injustices in the U.S. Led War on Iraq

“Ignored Injustices in the U.S. Led War on Iraq,” Newsletter of the Concerned Philosophers for Peace, Vol. 11, No. 1 (Spring 1991).

Many of the U.S. injustices in the U.S.-led War on Iraq have been ignored. The American public has almost universally regarded this war as a triumph of the U.S. over the brutal Iraqi aggression of Saddam Hussein on Kuwait. While many of Hussein’s actions can in no way be morally justified, the matter is not as black-or-white as it is perceived by the American public. Many of the injustices of this war were simply ignored.

The main ignored injustice that was ignored is the motivation behind Hussein’s aggression. (Motives are often ignored in complex issues.) The prime provocation of this aggression concerns the unjust government and policies of Kuwait. This country was artificially created by Britain to keep the Arabs and other countries from controlling the Persian Gulf. The Al-Salah family which was friendly to favors from the West even though they had more money than they could ever spend was set up as the rulers of Kuwait. This family has systematically kept oil prices low. They have thus cut deeply into the economy of Iraq. To reinstate this family in Kuwait is clearly to perpetrate a huge injustice, even though Hussein and other Iraqi’s failed to articulate this. The U.S. energy policy is obviously unsustainable over a long period of time. It, too, is another ignored injustice.

The Kuwaities are considered by the Iraqis to be traitors to them and other Arab nations. This hatred can help to understand a little–although it can by no means whatsoever morally justify–the abhorrent torture of the Kuwaities and the setting on fire of all their oil wells. These were prices the Allies had to pay for ignoring the prime injustice against Iraq. This country can scarcely even speak in its own behalf because it has been kept for 1000 years by colonial powers in an uneducated and primitive condition until recently when the West has ironically made Arab nations wealthy. The hustler (as opposed to capitalist) economy of the U.S. is literally hostage to oil. The massive American suburbs (where all the efforts of the federal government seem directed these days) would come to a complete standstill without gasoline for their extremely wasteful and polluting cars. Injustices are here compounded on injustices. We ignore all of them in favor of a display of military might and propaganda against the true issues.

Arab nations are well aware of the economic injustices regarding oil prices that are literally being forced on them through Kuwait, while Americans are oblivious to them. We ignore them not so much because of a governmental conspiracy, but because as a nation we lack the ability to think critically. Our schools are woefully underfunded while we spend enormous sums on arms and the military. As David Halberstan has point out in The Next Century, the U.S. has lost much manufacturing, high technology and international business to Japan and Germany because their priorities are in those areas rather than wars. Unsustainable energy policies, forced oil prices, poor education and weakened economy that causes much hardship to all–the U.S. has leaped injustice upon injustice all over the world but especially on ourselves to the point that we are too oppressed to notice. We ignore the injustices instead.

U.S. diplomatic incompetence and poor understanding of the Iraqi language is another ignored injustice in this war. This occurred when Iraq informed the U.S. ambassador to Kuwait of its intentions to settle its dispute with Kuwait. This ambassador replied that the U.S. would not meddle in these affairs. Although she probably did not expect Hussein to conquer all of Kuwait, he is perhaps still wondering whether he was told initially that the U.S. would not interfere with his actions. The U.S. has not meddled in other recent aggressions such as China on Tibet, Turkey on Cyprius, the multi-ethnic strife in Lebanon and the 30-40 civil wars waging mostly in third-world countries. The U.S.-led War on Iraq was not a war of self-defense of our country. It does not satisfy any of the other moral conditions of a just war: Intention not to gain power, proportion of good over evil, just means and last resort (these last two conditions will be discussed below).

Another ignored injustice in the U.S.-led War on Iraq is the long-standing grievance of Israel’s occupation of Arab lands seized in 1967. Israel will be less likely to negotiate this issue now that it has been bombed by Iraq. Moslem fundamentalism and fanaticism will escalate as a result of this injustice.

The biggest ignored injustice of the U.S.-led War on Iraq is that it was totally preventable. Economic sanctions could have worked if they were given enough time. They have worked in the past if they have been used long enough. The virtual starvation of Iraqi soldiers when they surrendered testifies to the effectiveness of sanctions. The U.S. violated Geneva accords at the very outset when it embargoed food and medicine from the innocent and helpless civilians of Iraq including the sick, elderly, women and children. This violation gave Iraq permission to violate other Geneva accords regarding rules of a just war such as not bombing civilian targets in Israel and not torturing captured Allied prisoners of war–although neither of these actions can be morally justified in any way.

Another just alternative to the U.S.-led War on Iraq is negotiations. Petulant President Bush undercut all attempts to negotiate a peaceful settlement, whether they were by the United Nations, France or the Soviet Union. Perhaps President Bush had reliable information that the pathetic condition of the Iraqi military would mean an easy victory. The hundreds of thousands of unwilling Iraqi soldiers and civilians who were killed in this war is a huge ignored injustice. Radio writer and performer Garrison Keillor has recently satirized “this wonderful war” in which no many people on our side were killed. This injustice was of massive proportions because it could have been prevented by sanctions and negotiations. Winning a war by a slaughter of the enemy does not make it just.

Hussein’s injustices were deservedly well-publicized. To defend his injustices would be worse than even he is. However, to ignore all the other injustices of the U.S.-led War on Iraq will prove even worse than that.

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Articles CPP Newsletter Online V11.1

The Injustice of the U.S. War Against Iraq by Robert Lichtenbert

Lichtenbert, Robert, “The Injustice of the U.S. War Against Iraq,” Newsletter of the Concerned Philosophers for Peace, Vol. 11, No. 1 (Spring 1991).

The U.S.-led war on Iraq raises many troubling questions. Chief among these is the moral question of whether this war was just or good. The moral dimension or ethics can alone answer this question from which all the other questions about it follow. In this article, I will apply this dimension, in the form of the conditions of a just war, to the U.S. war on Iraq. I will argue that this war was unjust because it did not meet any of the major conditions of a just war.

The notion of a just war comes from many sources such as Plato, the theory of natural law, the Catholic Church and international conferences, especially Geneva, on peace. Most of all the notion of a just war represents common sense. If there were no such thing as a just war, then any war would be just. This is insane in view of how many unjust or aggressive wars have been waged throughout history. In order for a war to be just, it must satisfy all of the conditions of a just war. In this article I will apply the four most important of these conditions from the moral viewpoint.

The first condition or principle of a just war is that it be a war of self-defense only. Military aggression or starting a war for territorial expansion is clearly immoral. Such wars have been frequent throughout history. Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait on August 2, 1990 is a clear example of an unjust war. This is the strongest justification of the U.S. war on Iraq. President Bush repeatedly stated that Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait was an act of “naked aggression.” (The U.S. invasion of Panama on December 20, 1989, in which over 2,000 Panamanians were killed in order to seize Gen. Noreiga, can also be called “naked aggression,” but this is not the topic of this article.)

Although Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait definitely was not just, we are still left with the question of whether the U.S. counteraggression on January 16, 1991 was just. The U.S. was certainly not defending the lives of its own citizens–as surreptitiously claimed in the Panamanian invasion–or even its own land. The U.S. may claim that it was defending its “vital interests.” “Vital,” however, refers only to “life.” The U.S., therefore, was really defending its own economic interests, especially oil. However, this is the very justification that Japan gave after they attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

A just response to an unjust aggression requires that we stop it with the minimum violence needed to do the job. This was done shortly after Iraq’s invasion. A war is not required after an aggressor has been stopped.

The second condition of a just war is intentionality. This formidable word merely means that a just war is motivated by the intention of righting the wrong and restoring the peace. Intentionality means to seek harmony and common ground between disputing parties. It is based solely on concern for the people of a conquered territory.

Unjust intentionality consists of the intention to obtain power or gain for oneself. While the U.S. war on Iraq was stated by Bush to be for “the liberation of Kuwait,” it is very hard to understand how the purpose of this liberation was other than the desire to have military power over Iraq, especially by destroying its power to wage chemical and nuclear warfare (fears that were greatly distorted). The U.S., thus, was seeking power over the Arab world and over the price of oil. This use of power shows that the second condition of intentionality was not met.

The third condition of a just war is proportionality. This means that the good that a war does outweighs the evil. Deaths due to war can be justified only if they are less than what would have occurred without the war.

The U.S. war on Iraq may have saved the lives of many innocent citizens of Kuwait from the brutal invasion.and subsequent atrocities by Iraq. Clearly, many lives were taken in forcing the Iraqi soldiers in Kuwait to leave. Bombing these soldiers was very inhumane. Other great evils that resulted from this war include, among others,.the future hatred from the Arab world and the loss of archaeological treasures. The war cost the U.S. at least one billion dollars a day, but this is secondary morally to the loss of lives. The only good that can result is the restoration of a legitimate and less brutal dictatorship in Kuwait

The final moral condition of a just war is that it be a last resort. Hussein firmly refused to negotiate on this issue. The U.S., likewise, was not willing to negotiate on the Palestinian question. Bush seems to have waited only long enough to have his troops ready. Four months may look as if it were sufficiently long, but it is relatively brief in times of war, as a cursory look at history, especially the Vietnam peace talks, will reveal. Setting short limits, using name-calling epithets like “Hitler” and the “Great Satan” in public and military buildups all indicate escalation of hostilities rather than patiently working for a peaceful settlement. The condition of last resort means that all options other than war must be totally exhausted, not just tried half-heartedly.

Another option that was not exhausted was sanctions or an economic embargo against Iraq. Again, a cursory study of history reveals that these have worked, but they too require a long period of time.

To sum up, the U.S. war on Iraq fails in a major way all four of the main conditions of a just war. The strongest justification of the U.S. war was Iraq’s totally unjust aggression in Kuwait. Yet, the U.S. war cannot be justified as a war of self-defense of either our lives or country. The condition of intentionality was violated because U.S. intentions were clearly more to gain power for itself than to restore peace between Iraq and Kuwait. Almost incalculable are the huge number of deaths and the financial expenses to all involved, particularly for Iraqi non-combatants. Thus, the condition of proportionality of good over evil quite conspiciously was not met.. Finally, the condition of last resort was not satisfied because of the disregard for the amount of time needed for war negotiations and embargo to work. The U.S. war against Iraq, thus, was unjust on all four conditions.

Justice and morality played a very small role in the decisions that led to the bombing of Baghdad on January 16, 1991. The primary considerations seem to have been hatred, revenge and fear.

The start of the last decade of the twentieth century looked very promising as finally one of peace. Hopes of this have been tragically dashed already. The peace dividend will be spent many times over on swords and shields. When will we ever beat them into plowshares to feed the millions of hungry people on earth? Is the answer “blowing in the wind?” No, it rests only in taking goodness (or morality) and justice seriously. Only ethics and justice can answer the troubling questions which we constantly raise for ourselves. War is very rarely the correct answer.

An active pursuit of peace is the only way to live a good human life. Mostly we must try to love our enemies and resist any evil they do by active nonviolent resistence as Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi–perhaps the only two thinkers who have made full sense of love–have taught us. When we learn this lesson, we may at last fulfill the prophetic concept of the destruction of all weapons as expressed by Micah: “nations shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more; but they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree, and none shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken.” (Micah 4:45). This is spiritual peace through true strength, rather than force which is based on fear. In this regard, the concept of a just war is a tool that can help us.

What we need most to unite all nations under peace is a creative vision of a just peace based on the strength, not of force, but of the constructive power of human thinking which is nurtured by funding education, not war or even defense. Only then will be get positive answers to the question of war that now trouble us.

Robert Lichtenbert is a professional philosopher who lives and teaches in the Chicago area.

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Articles CPP Newsletter Online V11.1

War with Iraq: Just Another Unjust War by James P. Sterba

Sterba, James, “War with Iraq: Just Another Unjust War,” Newsletter of the Concerned Philosophers for Peace, Vol. 11, No. 1 (Spring 1991).

The U.S. led war against Iraq has resulted in a popular victory for President Bush and his administration. For many in the U.S., the President’s ability to cope with a myriad of social problems, such as a deepening budget crunch, trade deficits, a $3 trillion national debt, inadequate health care, drug problems, homelessness, deteriorating highways and bridges and a $500 billion savings and loan bailout, seems less important than his ability to triumph over the military forces of Saddam Hussein.

The morality of a war, however, is never determined by whether it produces victory or whether it distracts people from the social problems they face. The morality of the war against Iraq is determined by whether it satisfies the requirements of just war theory, specifically the requirement of just cause that nonbelligerent correctives must be neither hopeless nor too costly, and the requirement of just means that the harm resulting from the use of belligerent means must be neither directly inflicted on innocents nor disproportionate to the military objectives to be attained. Unfortunately, neither of these basic requirements of just war theory were met in the U.S. led war against Iraq.

First, going to war against Iraq was not the last resort because there was strong evidence that the economic sanctions would have worked. In a comparative study of 115 cases where economic sanctions were employed since the beginning of World War I, economic sanctions were effective 34% of the time. In the case of Iraq, the estimated cost of the economic sanctions was 48% of its gross national product, which was three times higher than the cost imposed on any country where sanctions had been successful. So the likelihood that economic sanctions would be successful in the case of Iraq was near 100% if the sanctions were kept in place for about a year. The results of this study were also clearly available to the Bush administration as they were reported in The New York Times two days before Desert Storm began.

Second, war with Iraq also violated the proportionality requirement of just means. Intelligence sources estimated that as many as 150,000 Iraqi soldiers were killed during the war, and the number of civilian deaths could equal that number. A recent United Nations survey of civilian damage caused by allied bombing of Iraq calls the results “near apocalyptic” and claims that the bombing has relegated Iraq to “a pre-industrial age,” warning that the nation could face “epidemic and famine if massive life-supporting needs are not rapidly met.”

During the war, we were shown precision attacks with smart bombs. But after the war was over, we were told that only 7% of the explosives dropped on Iraq and Kuwait were smart bombs and that 70% of the 88,500 tons of bombs dropped on Iraq and Kuwait actually missed their targets, thereby causing extensive collateral damage. There were also a number of opportunities during the war when military action could have been halted or slowed down to allow for a diplomatic solution to develop, which would have meant less damage and fewer casualties, but these opportunities were ignored in the rush to achieve a military victory.

But why do so many people approve of the U.S. led war against Iraq? Is it that they reject the moral requirements of just war theory? Not necessarily. First of all, it may be that they are simply misinformed about the likelihood that an economic blockade would have been successful, although the close vote in the U.S. Senate suggests that many U.S. political leaders were well aware of that likelihood.

Note also that those who favored staying with the economic blockade included such well known moderates and conservatives as Sam Nunn, Lloyd Bensen, Casper Weinberger, and two former Chairs of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral William Crowe and General David Jones. Secondly, so much attention was devoted to the limited damage and the small number of casualties suffered by the U.S. and its allies, that many people failed to appreciate the widespread damage and the large number of casualties suffered by Iraq.

But the proportionality requirements of both just cause and just means demand that we take both types of harm into account. Thirdly, once it appeared that the casualties to the U.S. and its allies could be minimized, many people were attracted to the idea of winning this war with Iraq as though it were like winning a game. After the debacle of Vietnam, many in the U.S. wanted to show the world that their military forces could be victorious again in a large scale war. All of these simply lost sight of the fact that the only justifiable goal of any war is peace with justice.

The irony of it all is that once the full costs of this war for the U.S. and its allies are known, it may turn out that even this war with Iraq, like so many other unjust wars in the past, has only losers.

University of Notre Dame

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Articles CPP Newsletter Online V11.1

The Middle East War by Anselm K. Min

Min, Anselm K., “The Middle East War: The Triumph of Propaganda and Tribalism,” Newsletter of the Concerned Philosophers for Peace, Vol. 11, No. 1 (Spring 1991).

To be honest, these are days of misery and despair for most of us in the peace movement. The Gulf War has ended, in such a surprisingly short time, in less than one hundred hours of the ground battle, in exactly six weeks since the beginning of the air campaign. The “elite” Republican Guard has been decimated without, so it seems, putting up a single meaningful fight, some eighty thousand Iraqi soldiers have been captured, while the U.S. has suffered less than one hundred casualties. The much talked-about wrath of the Arab world against the United States and the pro-Western Arab regimes, while noisy and visible in some countries, has not amounted to much. Saddam Hussein is finally humilated, and his power base pulverized.

The war has been short, clean, and technologically wondrous. The prayers of many Christians for “our” troops have been heard tenfold. No wonder “patriotic” Americans are gloating all over, the establishment experts enjoying the satisfaction of “I told you so.” The Vietnam syndrome has been kicked once and for all. America has just proven that it is good at something. It can walk tall like America from now on. God bless America!

Amid such misery and despair it is comforting to know that at least the senseless massacre and destruction are not continuing. Even if the war should have been averted in the first place, and even if the war may have sown seeds of greater disasters to come, still it is better that the shooting should stop now than that it should continue to add to the story of suffering whose dimensions are as yet untold.

Again, it hurts, but honesty demands that we congratulate George Bush for his brilliant management of the war and the U.S. public opinion. As a loyal opponent I can only say, “simply brilliant!”.

All this, of course, is not to deny what has happened during the war or what is likely to happen after it is formally ended. A deep anger lingers on at the brilliance with which the war-hungry have successfully manipulated public opinion, the complacency with which the media simply capitulated to the generals, the utter self-righteousness with which both “leaders” and “experts” turned the enemy into an apocalyptic evil, the gullibility with which the public bought the words of the Pentagon and the media, lock, stock, and barrel, the absolute scandal with which the followers of the “prince of peace” turned instant jingoistic nationalists, gloating over the paucity of “friendly” casualties while self-righteously silent over “enemy” casualties and the “collateral damage” done to enemy civilians.

The first casualty of war, as Senator Hiram Johnson said way back in 1917, is truth, but he should have added that the first winner of war is tribalism.

Emerging only now, in small prints, hidden among the massive foreign news dispatches in big prints with catchy titles, is the truth that the administration had known about the mobilization of the Iraqi troops long before their actual invasion of Kuwait in early August. In fact, when approached by the Hussein government about possible U.S. reactions, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, April Gilaspie, under instruction from the state department, explicitly told the Iraqis that the U.S. had no intention of getting involved in the intra-Arab quarrels between Iraq and Kuwait. It is no wonder that the state department has been trying to keep her quiet ever since. It is also reported that in the early months after the invasion the Arab League nations were close to a negotiated settlement but that the negotiations fell through under U.S. pressure. Even the appearance of the state department’s last minute attempt to talk to Hussein turned out to be not so much a negotiation in good faith as a blunt request of abject surrender. All the indications are that Uncle Sam has been dying and working all along for an opportunity and an excuse to get involved.

Equally hidden from the public all these months but emerging only now, after appropriate preparation of the public, is the Bush administration’s ultimate motive for going to war. At first, it said the defense of Saudi Arabia was the purpose of sending some 200,000 troops to the Persian Gulf, a move that was considered only defensive against Iraq’s sudden, unexpected aggression. Then, only a week after the Congressional election, lo and behold, the purpose was to “liberate” Kuwait and restore its sovereignty, for which an offensive force of another 300,000 was required. Since January 16, however, another purpose has been added: to eliminate Saddam Hussein and so to devastate Iraq that it could no longer threaten the balance of power in the Persian Gulf. A war, it is said, has its own dynamnics; new purposes, not heard of before, tend to emerge in the process.

At this point, after weeks of bombing, it became only “natural” for the public to ask, “then, what?” The administration’s answer sounded even more natural and harmless, a regional arrangement to secure “peace and stability.” But peace and stability for whom and from whose point of view? For the poor Arab masses? For the Palestinians? For third world nations? Not likely. But certainly for the United States, the European Community, and the ruling classes of the region, a chilly echo of the 1920s when Great Britain and France divided up and conquered the region under the League of Nations “mandate.” Strategically and economically, and therefore politically, the Gulf would be the right place at the right time for the sole superpower in the post-Cold-War era to be and to station its troops which it no longer has any rationale to keep in Western Europe.

After all, at stake here is the control of 70% of the world’s known oil reserves. “Our way of life” is indeed hanging in the balance. Who knows what new threats to our national interest will emerge in the region in this “dangerous” world? Another Hussein, angry Islamic fundamentalism, even a conflict of interest with Japan, the United States of Europe, or a resurgent Soviet Union: any one of these would do.

The ultimate imperialist intentions of the administration are slowly but finally coming to the fore in appropriate ideological garb. There is no more need to make the naive protest that we should not fight a war whose rationale is not clear. It has not been clear only to the gullible public; it has been clear enough to the occupants of the White House and the Pentagon and their friends in business and academe.

It is not only the timing of the announcement of the “apparent” and the “real” intention of the administration that has led the public to accept by now a “new order” in the region to be imposed by the United States as something as natural as the sun rising in the morning. The administration must share its propaganda victory with the media that have been so willing to cooperate with it like hungry dogs going after the bones thrown in their way. With all the commentators and experts, military analysts and retired generals, the media have lent color, intensity, passion, and drama to the administration’s version of the war, sending a whole nation on a frenzy of jingoistic nationalism.

The media and the administration have spared no tactics in this propaganda war. For the legitimacy of the war they made vociferous appears to the U.N. resolutions, although the U.S. has never hesitated to ignore them whenever convenient. For the universal justice of their action they did not mind invoking the name of the “multinational” forces, even though these were put together by manipulation. For divine vindication they pictured the war as a “just” war, a cosmic struggle between “good” and “evil,” a Manichean, apocalyptic struggle with a primal demon, Saddam Hussein, even though the U.S. armed and hailed him as an ally only a few short years ago. For the humanity of the war they evoked the frightful specter of chemical and nuclar bombs that must be destroyed for the sake of world peace, as though Iraq were the only country to have them and the only country without the right to produce them. For the harmlessness of the war they were eager to cover up the real magnitude of enemy casualties and the “collateral damage” to enemy civilians, picturing the war as a “clean” and “tidy” operation proceeding on schedule, with surprisingly low and therefore readily acceptable losses of our own troops.

For all its cynicism and nauseating self-righteousness the performance of the media was simply brilliant. In justifying every step taken by the administration as it was taken, preparing the public to accept it as natural and reasonable, and diverting national attention from the real issue of war, the imperialist intention of the lone superpower in the region, the media certainly deserve more medals of honor than do all the generals and navy pilots in the Gulf put together.

The logical fallacies committed by the media in this process are so numerous that future writers of logic textbooks may have to invent new labels to the despair of future logic students, in addition to the exiting ones: red herring, false dilemma, equivocation, undistributed middle terms, ad hominem, good intention, strawman, slippery slope, begging the question, questionable analogy, false generalization, etc., etc.

After this brilliant performance of the media it seems no wonder at all that the gullible public support George Bush with a 91% approval rating. The war has vindicated all the usual “ideals” of American ideology, freedom, sovereignty, law, justice, and humanity, and has done so by also making an unmistakable demonstration of an almighty America to boot, something no nation should ever forget in the future. America is always right, and it is also powerful, with an international responsibility assumed only reluctantly, only as a burden for the sake of world peace.

Thus Christians in America sang “God Bless America,” Sunday after Sunday, loudly and happily, from Vermont to Texas, praying for their own victory, thanking God for not being like the Iraqis, with petitions for the speedy and safe return of their own loved ones, sure that God was on their side, as though Iraqis were not human beings or children of the same God. The spectacle of Christian America was the picture of triumphant tribalism at its most cynical and pathetic.

An equally deep horror remains at the prospect of what is likely to happen in the months and years ahead. What will prevent America, now delirious in its military and technological victory, from being an international bully, terrorizing the rest of the world, especially the third world nations, now that its power seems challenged by no countervailing power as in the days of the cold war? What will prevent America, now that it has tasted the bliss of technological perfection in the art of destruction, from demanding more such weapons at the expense of basic human needs, or from inducing other wars when domestic issues become too pressing and diversion becomes necessary?

These are despairing, sobering thoughts. Those committed to justice and peace in the world have been chastened, compelled to shed their complacency and wishful thinking. In all realistic honesty we have to face up to the real dimensions of the obstacles we have to overcome. It is better to realize once and for all how useless and powerless all the schooling in grade schools and colleges is when it comes to unmasking the massive propaganda of a well organized, long-sustained media campaign. It is only honesty to recognize the impotence of established churches before the temptations of tribalism and imperialism. Innocent as we should try to be, it is also incumbent on us to try to be as wise as serpents. In the meantime let’s not lose our patience and hope. The war may be over, but our struggle is not.

Belmont Abbey College

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Articles CPP Newsletter Online V11.1

An Objection to Conscientious Objection by Maureen C. Kelley

Kelley, Maureen C., “An Objection to Conscientious Objection: Conscience on Trial,” Responses to the War by Philosophy Majors, Newsletter of the Concerned Philosophers for Peace, Vol. 11, No. 1 (Spring 1991).

Tragically, it has taken the violent overtures of the Gulf War to bring important issues of peace to the public attention. Of particular concern to students was the threat of a renewed draft, and with these worries of conscription came pleas of conscientious objection. As an undergraduate, I found myself questioning not the merit of conscientious objection per se, but rather, the legal system by which conscientious objector status must be obtained.

I was at first concerned with the limiting definition of pacifism inherent in requirements for conscientious objectors. Federal law defines conscientious objectors as those who object to participating in war in any form. The meaning of ‘any form’ remains ambiguous. Does it refer to forms of participation, or to types of warfare? Given that the federal government has created a second category for those who object to war, but who do not object to performing noncombatant duties in the armed forces, it has been commonly accepted that ‘form’ refers to violent combat. Those seeking status as conscientious objectors then, must refuse to serve in any combatant role.

Accepting Duane Cady’s notion of the ‘pacifist continuum,’ this narrowed definition restricts objector status to the most extreme forms of pacifism. Individuals must espouse, at the very least, non-lethal force pacifism. Federal law does not recognize nuclear, or ecological pacifists, and it certainly does not recognize selective objectors, or persons whose consciences permit them to participate only in “just” wars. In fact, all consequentialist forms of pacifism are ruled out on the grounds that such views are deemed ‘inconsistent’ or ‘insincere,’ as compared to the deontic, or ‘principled’ forms of pacifism. In practice, most federal boards cater only to absolute pacifists, welcoming the Mennonites and Quakers, while shunning those who may find the use of force justified in limited cases. As a result, federal law has been allowed to demarcate the parameters of pacifism.

Unfortunately, government authorities have not stopped at the boundaries of pacifism, but have ventured to measure the ‘sincerity’ of pacifist claims as well. A registrant’s opposition to war must be unequivocal in the eyes of the board members, in order to achieve objector status. Several problems arise with such a measurement. First, the forum in which the sincerity of claim is determined is essentially a legal court. And while courts of law are commonly known to be decisive in matters of fact, they are infrequently known to be competent in probing matters of conscience. A vigorous cross-examination can bring out the most stubbornly held facts, but can rarely shed light on a person’s deepest convictions. In such cases, the person seeking conscientious objector status may be severely hampered by verbal limitations and thus subjected to arbitrary criteria. As one court stated, “the best evidence [on a registrant’s sincerity] may well be, not his statements or those of other witnesses, but his credibility and demeanor, in a personal appearance.” A registrant’s claim may thus be rejected if he or she gives evasive answers or appears anxious. Such an examination may reveal that the individual is inarticulate, confused, or nervous; none of which are grounds for proving insincerity.

The objectivity of the judges may also be called into question. Board members have been referred to as, “community influentials,” “extensions of the local control structure,” and “managers of the national government’s function.” In all cases, they are agents of the state, employed to protect the interests of government and subsequently, entrusted with the rights of registrants. A survey conducted during Vietnam, found that the majority of board members were ‘never active’ in politics, and two-thirds surveyed held some form of public office during their lives. Members are not typically known for holding unorthodox beliefs or divergent views, but rather for embracing a traditional system of values and ideas. That traditional set of values may very well be one which condones the act of war in the name of ‘national duty,’ and sheds disfavorable light on anyone who shrugs such a ‘duty.’

As indicated by these procedural and structural shortcomings, the system through which conscientious objector status is obtained merits serious reevaluation. In the most extreme judgment, it seems only to be a governmental artifice, designed for the purpose of thwarting those who seek its refuge. Perhaps then, we should be wary of seeking refuge from violence with those who have been the historical perpetrators of violence. As ultimately, it is not the private conscience which should bear the onus of proof, but the act of war.

Maureen C. Kelly is a senior philosophy major at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

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Articles CPP Newsletter Online V11.1

Just War: Strategy and Tactics by David J. Ulbrich

Ulbrich, David J., “Just War: Strategy and Tactics,” Responses to the War by Philosophy Majors, Newsletter of the Concerned Philosophers for Peace, Vol. 11, No. 1 (Spring 1991).

The concept of ethics being applied to warfare may perhaps seem in some views to be an immoral contradiction in terms. Other contrary views may presume that there is a very questionable place for any ethical criticism on an amoral battlefield. These viewpoints are recognizable as pacifism and warism. According to Duane Cady’s book, From Warism to Pacifism A Moral Continuum, viewing ethics of warfare in these two relative extremes is too simplistic. One must also comprehend that the potential danger of massive destruction in warfare is especially poignant in the twentieth century with nuclear, chemical, and biological capabilities.

I am in the Augustinian just-war tradition. I believe that there are certain instances in which war can be morally justified. For example, a war, either in defense of one’s own country or in defense of another defenseless country, could be morally fought. I feel that the Persian Gulf conflict would be an example of the latter case. Hussein’s Iraq had valid claims against Kuwait. But Iraq had no justification for invasion. In fact, I would venture to state that the commonly-used phrase “No War For Oil” was more applicable to Iraq than to the U.S. When told to leave or else face the consequences, Hussein stubbornly stood his ground. Being left with no legitimate recourse, the United States with allies set about to liberate Kuwait and neutralize Hussein’s forces.

A good way to discuss warfare is to differentiate between jus ad bellum (“when to fight”) and jus in bello (“how to fight”). In examining the Persian Gulf conflict, one can see relative separation between the “when” and “how” to fight. It is clear that President Bush was directing the overall strategy of the war or the jus ad bellum, but he clearly also left the tactics to the military leadership. In For the Common Defense by military historians Millet and Mazlowski, strategy is the general concept for using military force in obtaining the goals of war (xiii).

Leaving tactics–the jus in bello–to the military and its own qualified leadership makes good sense. Again, from Millet and Mazlowski, tactics differs from strategy in that “[t]actics is the actual conduct battle, the application of fire and maneuver by fighting units in order to destroy the physical ability and will of the enemy’s Armed Forces (xiii, emphasis added). The Persian Gulf conflict’s tactics involved a massive air assault which not only broke the Iraqi army’s material ability to fight but also their psychlogical ability to fight. Only when the Iraqi army had been thoroughly suppressed from the air was there a ground assault. It is also important to note that the United States made an intentional effort, when possible, not to kill innocents or noncombatants.

All-in-all, I feel the Persian Gulf conflict was a “just” war.

David J. Ulbrich is a sophomore history and philosophy major at the University of Dayton.

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CPP News CPP Newsletter Online V11.1

1991 Announcements

Gay, William, “1991 Announcements,” Newsletter of the Concerned Philosophers for Peace, Vol. 11, No. 1 (Spring 1991).

CPP President. Duane Cady has been elected CPP President for 1991. He succeeds James Sterba, who served in 1990.

Papers for October Conference. The fourth annual conference of CPP will be held in Knoxville October 25-27, 1991. Our host is the Univ. of Tennessee, with Sheldon Cohen in charge of local arrangements. For the first time we have a theme, namely, Nationalism and Militarism in Regional Conflicts. Henry Shue of Cornell University’s Prog. on Ethics and Public Life, and tentatively Michael Klare, Assoc. Prof. of Peace and World Security Studies at Hampshire College, will be our invited speakers. Papers on aspects of the conf. theme are preferred, but other war and peace issues are not excluded. Papers, limited to 20 minutes reading time, can be submitted in duplicate to Laurence Bove (Walsh College, 2020 Easton St., N.E., N. Canton, OH 44720) by July 1st.

Call for Papers. William Gay is seeking papers for a joint American-Soviet volume on philosophical reflections for the 21st century. The perspective is social political philosophy, with an emphasis upon issues of war and peace. Seven North American essays will be included along with seven Soviet essays. The coeditors are William Gay for Concerned Philosophers for Peace and Tatjana Alekseeva for the Institute of Philosophy in Moscow. Both an English (Rowman & Littlefield) and a Russian (Politizdat) edition will be published by 1993.

Essays may be submitted on any of the following topics: Post-Perestroika Ethical Views of Nuclear War and Deterrence; Political Realism, Morality, and the Future of the Nation-State; Nonviolent Alternatives to War; Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy in the 21st Century; Feminist Views on Conflict and International Relations; Peace and Justice from a North-South Perspective; and Ethics and Environmental Concerns. All American essays will be selected by blind review. The text should not exceed 25 double-spaced pages. Papers are to be sent in duplicate to William Gay (Department of Philosophy, UNC at Charlotte, Charlotte, NC 28223).

Longwood Series. You should have received an announcement of the publication of the papers of CPP’s second annual conference in 1989. The book was issued in October by Longwood Academic in Wakefield, NH under the title of In the Interest of Peace: A Spectrum of Philosophical Views, eds., K. Klein and J. Kunkel. Longwood has recently agreed to publish a series of volumes consisting of selections from future CPP conferences. Kenneth Klein has been named the General Editor for this series. The next volume will be the 1990 Notre Dame papers which are currently being selected and edited by Duane Cady and Richard Werner. This volume is expected to be out in the fall.

Nominations for CPP Officers. If you know someone who might like to serve as a CPP officer during the coming years please submit her or his name to Joseph Kunkel. The office of President is an annual position. The Executive Secretary is a three-year term beginning in 1992. And the two representatives from each of the three APA divisions overlap with two-year terms. Concerned Philosophers for Peace can only be vibrant with your continued support.

CPP Meeting at Central Division of APA. CPP will conduct two sessions in Private Dining Room no. 6 of the Palmer House in Chicago on April 24, 1991. From 7:15 to 8:15, John J. Mearsheimer (University of Chicago) will speak on the topic “Why We Will Miss the Cold War” and from 8:30 to 9:30, a panel composed of Tomis Kapitan (Eastern Carolina University),Robert Holmes (University of Rochester), and R. Paul Churchill (George Washington University) will address the topic “War and Peace Issues in the Middle East.” A CPP business meeting will follow from 9:45 to 10:15.