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New Book: Gandhi’s Essential Writings

This is a new book from Richard Johnson, who tells me that his book is the first Gandhi reader in 50 years with writings by and about Mahatma Gandhi and the first ever with a biography. It looks quite good, and it seems likely that I will use it as a text the next time I teach the Philosophy of Gandhi. –Barry Gan

New from Lexington Books. Order online & save 15% at www.LexingtonBooks.com

Gandhi’s Experiments with Truth: Essential Writings by and about Mahatma Gandhi. Edited by Richard L. Johnson:

“Those looking for an introduction to Gandhi, seasoned nonviolent activists, and long time students of Gandhi will all find this to be a remarkable collection. Johnson has brought together key selections from Gandhi’s writings with insightful essays by a variety of Gandhian scholars on Gandhi’s nonviolence, views on religion, methods of political, economic, and cultural change and his continuing influence and relevance for today. I cannot think of a better book that unites Gandhi’s own words with very readable essays covering a breadth of topics on Gandhi’s life and thought. Johnson’s book makes clear again Gandhi’s importance as a resource for creating a more just and peaceful world.” –Peter R. Gathje, Christian Brothers University

“In a time ravaged by large-scale violence and unending ‘terror wars,’ nothing seems more urgent than to be reminded of another possibility: the path of non-violent struggle for justice exemplified by Gandhi. This volume assembles for the first time writings both by Gandhi and about Gandhi, the latter by some of the most distinguished experts in the field. Richard Johnson deserves credit for his judicious selections and for persuasively arguing that Gandhian satyagraha is ‘the only way to stop terrorism.'” –Fred Dallmayr, University of Notre Dame

This comprehensive Gandhi reader provides an essential new reference for scholars and students of his life and thought. It is the only text available that presents Gandhi’s own writings, including excerpts from three of his books-“An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth”, “Satyagraha
in South Africa”, “Hind Swaraj” (“Indian Home Rule”)-a major pamphlet, “Constructive Programme: Its Meaning and Place ‘, and many journal articles and letters along with a biographical sketch of his life in historical context and recent essays by highly regarded scholars. The writers of these essays-hailing from the United States, Canada, Great Britain and India, with academic credentials in several different disciplines-examine his nonviolent campaigns, his development of programs to unify India, and his impact on the world in the second half of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first.

“Gandh’s Experiments with Truth” provides an unparalleled range of scholarly material and perspectives on this enduring philosopher, peace activist, and spiritual guide.

About the Editor

*Richard L. Johnson* professor of Germanic languages and director of peace and conflict studies at Indiana University-Purdue University Ft. Wayne.

Contents:

Gandhi’s Experiments with Truth: Private Life, *Satyagraha*, and the Constructive Programme, Richard L. Johnson

*Part I: Gandhi’s Life and Thought*

From Childhood to *Satyagrahi *by Richard L. Johnson

Return to India by Richard L. Johnson

*Part II: Selections from Writings by Gandhi*

*An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth*

*Satyagraha in South Africa*

*Hind Swaraj (Indian Home Rule)* and Related Writings

*Constructive Programme: Its Meaning and Place* and Related Writings

Short Moral and Political Writings

*Part III: Writings about Gandhi*

Part A. Gandhi’s Practice and Theory of *Satyagraha*

The Birth of Gandhian *Satyagraha*: Nonviolent Resistance and Soul Force by Michael Sonnleitner

Gandhian Freedoms and Self-Rule by Anthony J. Parel

Gandhi’s Politics by Ronald J. Terchek

“*Satyagraha*, the Only Way to Stop Terrorism” by Richard L. Johnson

Gandhi and Human Rights: In Search of True Humanity by Judith M. Brown

Gandhi’s Constructive Programme by Michael Nagler

Part B. Gandhi’s Impact on the World

Gandhi in the Mind of America by Lloyd I. Rudolph

The Availability of Gandhi: Toward a Neo-Gandhian Praxis by Makarand Paranjape

Gandhi, Contemporary Political Thinking, and Self-Other Relations by Douglas Allen

Gandhi’s Legacy by Bhikhu Parekh

Gandhi’s Contribution to Global Nonviolent Awakening by Glenn Paige

Gandhi, Nonviolence, and the Struggle against War by Richard Falk

Studies in Comparative Philosophy and Religion series
November 2005, 408 pages
ISBN 0-7391-1143-4 $28.95 paper
ISBN 0-7391-1142-6 $90.00 cloth

*Considering this book for your course? Visit
www.RowmanLittlefield.com/CollegePublishing to order an exam copy today.*

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Peace and Justice Studies Association 2006 Conference

“Who Speaks for the Common Good?”

October 5-8, 2006, Manhattan College, New York City

CALL FOR PROPOSALS

Shortly after September 11th, peace groups throughout the US distributed world flags with a photo of the earth and a slogan, “We’re all in this together.” That sense of the common good – that we are all bound together, living on one earth, and that our wellbeing is interconnected – is crucial to the development of a more peaceful and just world. Has this notion fallen out of favor? How do we resolve the tension between the dual strivings we each feel, to be autonomous, and yet to be connected?

In an era in which pursuing one’s self-interest is commended, who speaks for the common good? Those who honestly attempt to do so are disempowered to act on it, and those who speak for the nations rarely even pretend to do so. How do we decide what really serves the common good, and how do we work for the common good? The rhetoric of a common good is sometimes misused to ride sacrifice the interests of some people, allegedly for the good of a greater number. How can we, as people committed to creating a peaceful, just world, promote a focus on the common good, properly understood?

The Peace and Justice Studies Association will explore these questions at our 4th annual conference, to be held October 5-8th, 2006, at Manhattan College, in the Bronx, New York City. We invite proposals for paper presentations, organized panels, roundtable discussions, workshops and other creative contributions on these and related questions.

As our mission statement says, “We are dedicated to bringing together academics, K-12 teachers and grassroots activists to explore alternatives to violence and share visions and strategies for peacebuilding, social justice, and social change.” Therefore, we seek contributions that explore the idea of the common good in research, teaching and action:

In Peace Studies, how can we encourage critical exploration of the idea of the common good? How can we prepare our students to work effectively for the common good?

K-12 education for the common good. How can the education of young people foster their appreciation of, and pursuit of, the common good? What can schools of education do to promote this focus in K-12 education? What successful practices can we share?

What does scholarly research, across the disciplines, have to offer on defining the common good? What political, social and economic structures best assist human communities in prioritizing the common good? What case studies, negative and positive, can help us work through these issues?

What strategies can activists share of ways in which they’ve struggled for the common good, or led communities in defining what is in their common interest?

Please send an abstract (no more than 200 words), to Margaret Groarke, Peace Studies, Manhattan College, Bronx NY 10471 or to pjsa2006@manhattan.edu. Please clearly state the preferred format of your proposal (paper, panel, workshop, roundtable discussion, etc.), and please include a brief biographical sketch. The deadline for proposal submission is May 1, 2006. Submissions will be acknowledged by email or by postcard. Late proposals will be reviewed, and may be accepted if there is space on the program.

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IPRA 2006 (Calgary)

This is only the second time in its 42 year history that the International Peace Research Association (IPRA) has held its biennial assembly in North America. In 1981, 25 years ago, IPRA met in Orillia, Ontario. It has never chanced to meet in the USA. The University of Calgary is thus honoured to host this the 21st Biennial Conference of IPRA.

IPRA2006 in Calgary is designed not only to play host to IPRA’s scholars or educators but to involve the Calgary community in the planning, execution and sharing of the conference. Opportunities will be provided for visitors to the city to explore local issues and to meet Calgary and Alberta citizens of all backgrounds. Thus, together, international and national guests as well as local residents will join in the opportunities to consider the wide diversity of Patterns of Conflict and Paths to Peace.

http://www.ipra2006.com/

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CPP Newsletter Online Notices Resources V26.1

New Computer Game: A Force More Powerful

Posted in Newsletter of the Concerned Philosophers for Peace Vol. 26 (Spring – Summer 2006)

Can a computer game teach how to fight real-world adversaries—dictators, military occupiers and corrupt rulers, using methods that have succeeded in actual conflicts—not with laser rays or AK47s, but with non-military strategies and nonviolent weapons?

Such a game, “A Force More Powerful (AFMP)”, is now available. A unique collaboration of experts on nonviolent conflict working with veteran game designers has developed a simulation game that teaches the strategy of nonviolent conflict. A dozen scenarios, inspired by recent history, include conflicts against dictators, occupiers, colonizers and corrupt regimes, as well as struggles to secure the political and human rights of ethnic and racial minorities and women.

“A Force More Powerful” is the first and only game to teach the waging of conflict using nonviolent methods. Destined for use by activists and leaders of nonviolent resistance and opposition movements, the game will also educate the media and general public on the potential of nonviolent action and serve as a simulation tool for academic studies of nonviolent resistance.

For more Info please visit the website at:
http://www.afmpgame.com/

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CPP Newsletter Online Notices Resources V26.1

The Acorn: Journal of the Gandhi-King Society

Newsletter of the Concerned Philosophers for Peace Vol. 26 (Spring – Summer 2006)

The Acorn: Journal of the Gandhi-King Society, is a biannual publication devoted to the examination of the theory and practice of nonviolence, especially as it relates to the philosophies of Gandhi and King. The Acorn was founded by Ha Poong Kim. Currently issues of The Acorn are published with the support of St. Bonaventure University.

Papers submitted for publication in The Acorn should be submitted both in hard copy and on disk or via e-mail, preferably in Microsoft Word format. Submissions may be up to 8,000 words in length (approximately 32 typed pages, double spaced). Shorter papers or essays are welcome. Papers should follow M.L.A. style. Papers about which there is some question regarding either quality or appropriateness are presented for blind review to members of our editorial board. Approximately half of all submissions are published.

The Acorn accepts no responsibility for unsolicited manuscripts. Unless accompanied by a self-addressed, stamped envelope, no manuscript will be returned. The Acorn welcomes letters to the editor. The Acorn reserves the right to edit or shorten all submissions.

Subscriptions to The Acorn (two issues per year) are $12.00 (U.S. funds) for all subscribers. Checks should be made payable to The Acorn or to The Gandhi-King Society.

Papers and queries may be directed to:
The Acorn
Box 13
St. Bonaventure University
St. Bonaventure, NY 14778 U.S.A
e-mail: bgan (at) sbu.edu
phone: 716-375-2275
website: http://acorn.sbu.edu

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CPP Newsletter Online Notices Resources V26.1

Journal for the Study of Peace and Conflict (Wisconsin Institute)

Posted in the Newsletter of the Concerned Philosophers for Peace Vol. 26 (Spring – Summer 2006)

The Journal for the Study of Peace and Conflict, the journal of the Wisconsin Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies (ISSN 1095-1962) publishes a variety of scholarly articles, essays, and poetry on topics such as war, peace, global cooperation, domestic violence, and interpersonal conflict resolution; including questions of military and political security, the global economy, and global environmental issues. We wish to promote discussion of both strategic and ethical questions surrounding issues of war, peace, the environment, and justice.

The Wisconsin Institute is committed to a balanced review of diverse perspectives. Submissions are welcome from all disciplines. Our intended audience includes scholars from a wide range of interests within the university community and educated members of the larger public. The format allows the publication of original previously-unpublished works of sufficient length to give authors the opportunity to discuss a particular topic in depth. Other forms of creative writing are invited. Contributors should avoid submissions accessible only to specialists in their field.

The Journal for the Study of Peace and Conflict may also include book reviews. Persons interested in reviewing should contact the editor.

Submissions should be a maximum of 25 pages, double-spaced. All manuscripts should be composed in MS Word using Bookman Old Style, 10-point font. Citations are to be in the body of the text, e.g., (Jones, p.35), with a full bibliography at the end of the article. Do not use footnotes. Content notes should be placed at the end of the manuscript. Include separately a brief bio statement with a note that includes your institution, your email and mailing addresses, and work phone number.

Submissions for 2006-2007 issue are due June 16, 2006. Five copies of each submission should be sent to the Wisconsin Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies, UWSP, LRC, 900 Reserve Street, Stevens Point, WI 54481. In addition, supply the manuscript electronically to wiinst@uwsp.edu.

Please visit the institute website for more information: www.wisconsin-institute.org.

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The Work of Vine Deloria, Jr.

American Philosophical Association Newsletter on American Indian Philosophy (Fall issue 2006: the life, work, and legacy of Vine Deloria)

“Western civilization, unfortunately, does not link knowledge and morality but rather, it connects knowledge and power and makes them equivalent.”
— Vine Deloria, Jr.

Political theorist, philosopher, legal scholar, activist, prolific writer – Vine Deloria transcended academic categories and fundamentally shaped our understandings of Native American life and thought. The Fall issue of the APA Newsletter on American Indian Philosophy will be devoted to pieces about Deloria’s work. Submissions might include:

* scholarly articles about Deloria’s theoretical work

* examinations of Deloria’s contributions to the advancement of Native life and thought

* personal reflections on the importance of Deloria to indigenous academics and Native theories

Deadline for submissions is June 1, 2006.

Please send submissions to both AIP editors:
Lorraine Mayer MayerL@BrandonU.CA
270 18th Street, 200 Clark Hall, Brandon Manitoba R7A 6A9 Canada
Katy Gray Brown kgbrown@umn.edu
2700 16th Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55407 USA

Electronic submissions are preferred. Submission guidelines can be found
online.

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GandhiSalt Website

Appeal circulated via email, Sunday, Aug. 7.

Dear Peacelovers,

On the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the Dandi Salt March, we, the Friends of the Gandhi Museum Pune, are launching a website called www.gandhisalt.org. SALT stands for Search for Alternative Lifestyles Together.

The Gandhisalt.org website will be a network for all Gandhians and Gandhian work in Pune city and its hinterland. It will be a forum to express ideas, post invitations to programmes, and give information on
peace matters. We invite guest articles, news, views and comments related directly or indirectly to our theme.

Do keep visiting our site regularly and give us your valuable feed-back.

In Peace and friendship

Ms.Delia Maria Knaebel Ph.D.
Web Co-ordinator, www.gandhisalt.org
For Friends of the Gandhi Museum Pune

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Urgent Appeal from Premier Peace Think Tank

In the decades since World War II, the United States has amassed the most sophisticated and expensive military in human history and employed its military, intelligence, diplomatic, and economic power to wage a costly arms race with the former Soviet Union, dominate the global arms trade, impose devastating sanctions and embargoes against regimes it despises, overthrow democratically-elected governments, and make unholy alliances with corrupt and repressive rulers who serve US national interests. Meanwhile, during those same years, an individual armed only with an inquiring mind, a great intellect, dogged determination, a small staff, a prolific pen, and a laughably minuscule budget has
provided millions of ordinary yet extraordinary people around the world with the ability to achieve
freedom and democracy through nonviolent action.

Gene Sharp, a major theorist and strategist of nonviolence since Gandhi, is the scholar whose name is synonymous with the politics of nonviolent action. His monographs, booklets, books and those of his colleagues at the Albert Einstein Institution have been translated into 30 languages. His writings, consultations, trainings, and underground workshops have contributed enormously to nonviolence
movements and nonviolent revolutions around the world — in The Philippines, Burma, Palestine, Serbia, Georgia, the Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan. From the 3-volume tome The Politics of Nonviolent Action to the 88-page booklet "From Dictatorship to Democracy" that explains how nonviolent resistance can be used to undermine repressive regimes, Gene and the Albert Einstein Institution have had a profound impact on the pedagogy of nonviolence as well as on events in the world’s public
squares.

Our lives have been touched, enriched and shaped by Gene Sharp and the work of the Albert Einstein Institution as they have guided, informed and gathered us in the growing nonviolent movements found on every continent. But we have just learned that the Institution faces an unsustainable financial shortfall and its board, in September, must seriously consider whether to close its doors. The staff has been cut back to two, including Gene. If the Institution is to continue, it needs a minimum of $250,000 for the coming year. Most of us had assumed that such influential work was well endowed and funded. We were wrong.

Absent government support or sufficient foundation grants, we must turn to that uniquely fitting and appropriate force that epitomizes nonviolence — people power. As surely as we believe in the power of nonviolence, we believe also that a simple, straight-forward appeal to you, to your networks and your institutions can generate the funds to sustain the work of Gene Sharp and the Albert Einstein Institution.

Please send in a check today. And circulate this appeal to others by e-mail or the postal service. With September soon upon us, the timeliness of this appeal cannot be stressed too strongly. As we have learned in our study and practice of nonviolence, we must be prepared and ready for that special moment in history. That moment is today.

In gratitude to Gene and the Albert Einstein Institution,
Elise Boulding
Carol Bragg
Dorothy F. Cotton
Richard Deats
Marjorie Swann Edwin
David Hartsough
Bernard LaFayette, Jr.
George Lakey
Mary Lord
Jim Lawson
Michael True

To: The Albert Einstein Institution
427 Newbury Street
Boston, MA 02115

Enclosed is:

__ $25 ___ #50 ___ $100 ___$500 ___ $1000 Other:___________

Name(s)_______________________________________________

Address________________________________________________

City________________________________________________

State_________ _________________Zip___________

Phone (optional)_____________________

E-mail (optional)_______________________________

For online credit card donations, go to www.aeinstein.org

Your gift is tax deductible.

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Real Lesson Of Abu Ghraib by Laurie Calhoun

Posted at New Partisan on 07.23.2004 by Laurie Calhoun in International Affairs. Reprinted here by permission of author.

The torture and humiliation inflicted by U.S. soldiers upon their Iraqi prisoners has been widely decried by the international community and the U.S. Administration alike. Although independent groups such as the Red Cross have reported that the type of abuse witnessed at Abu Ghraib has been “systematic” throughout Afghanistan and Iraq, President George W. Bush and his Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld insist that such behavior is restricted to a tiny percentage of all U.S. troops. Because it is precisely the responsibility of the Secretary of Defense to ensure that such misdeeds not occur under his watch, it was somewhat surprising to hear President Bush praising Rumsfeld’s performance as “superb” in direct response to the widespread media coverage provoked by the scandal. Those who call for Rumsfeld’s resignation have pointed out that either he is guilty of implementing policies of torture and humiliation, or he is guilty of negligence for not having prevented U.S. forces from employing criminal procedures, since he is the manager of their conduct. Indeed, the very fact that Rumsfeld should have apologized (on May 7, 2004) for what happened at Abu Ghraib indicates that he himself recognizes his responsibility for the procedures employed by U.S. forces while acting in their capacity as soldiers. However, Rumsfeld does not believe (nor does Bush) that he should suffer any negative consequences for what is manifestly a failure of leadership and, in fact, the imperilment of the very people by whom he is paid. Righteous ire is easy to inspire, and it is the business of the Secretary of Defense to defend, not to endanger the nation.

Setting the question of Rumsfeld’s culpability to one side, many have appealed to historical precedent in rejecting the notion that the implicated soldiers might be absolved for committing immoral and/or illegal acts if they had in fact been ordered to do so by higher ranking officers. Certainly this idea was rejected by the Nuremburg tribunal, and one may not unreasonably suppose that today’s soldiers are equally capable of distinguishing legal from illegal commands and refusing to follow the latter. As military spokesmen pointed out during the heat of the controversy, it does not take an indepth study of legal documents to recognize that what was done to human beings at Abu Ghraib was wrong. But rather than entering into the vexed questions of whether or not the soldiers accused of wrongdoing were acting under order, or whether they should have known the distinction between morally acceptable and unacceptable forms of “softening up”, we should reflect upon the deeper implications of Abu Ghraib. The real lesson of Abu Ghraib is not that a handful of U.S. soldiers are depraved. Rather, the case of Abu Ghraib reveals disturbing truths about the very structure of the military and how war is conducted by the United States today.

The peculiarity of what soldiers are asked to do during wartime can be fully appreciated only from the soldiers’ own perspective. A fighter pilot is ordered to bomb Baghdad, knowing full well that he will kill human beings in the process. He also knows that were he to bomb Boston instead, he would be committing mass murder. But why should the particular coordinates on his compass determine the morality of the bomber’s act? In either case, he is pushing a button to drop a massively destructive bomb upon other people’s property which will culminate in some, perhaps many, of their deaths. There is something equally bizarre about the idea that while intimidation and humiliation are impermissible, it would have been permissible to annihilate the very same Iraqis, had this been done during the “major combat phase” of the war. Bear in mind that not all casualties of war perish immediately, and violent deaths are not usually painless. Many soldiers killed in war suffer enormously for some period of time before they finally die. Accordingly, the guards who engaged in the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib may well have thought to themselves that the people from whom they were attempting to extract information should have been grateful to be alive, since thousands of others were not so fortunate.

The Abu Ghraib case is striking for having not transpired during the commission of a war widely considered to be “just”. In a war universally (or at least internationally) regarded as “just”, the misdeeds at Abu Ghraib would seem simple to dismiss as a tiny aberration in a larger and noble mission. Instead, the events at Abu Ghraib occurred during what many people all over the world continue to regard as the illegal invasion and occupation of a sovereign nation. Critics insist that George W. Bush waged the 2003 war on Iraq in violation of international law, for the 1945 Charter of the United Nations explicitly repudiates the initiation of war during peacetime, drawing a clear distinction between the defensive and the offensive use of force, and maintaining that acts of aggression by one nation against another are unacceptable. In those cases where war is being considered as a means to conflict resolution, the U.N. Security Council decides, in theory, whether and when war is appropriate. For example, in 1991 military action was supported by the United Nations on the grounds that Saddam Hussein had violated international law by invading and occupying Kuwait, to which the international community subsequently reacted defensively in response. Supporters of the 1991 Gulf War insisted that the war had been initiated by Saddam Hussein, when he ordered his troops to invade Kuwait.

Although the U.N. Security Council is considered the ultimate arbiter in matters of war and peace, the U.N. Charter does leave open the possibility of a nation defending itself unilaterally, provided that they are fighting in self-defense. In the end, the decisive interpretation of what constitutes a “threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression” derives from either the U.N. Security Council or the leader of a nation. Article 51, Chapter VII states that: “Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to maintain international peace and security.” By asserting a connection between Saddam Hussein (the tyrannical leader of a secular regime) and Al Qaeda (a fanatical religious faction), the Bush administration suggested that the 2003 Iraq war, too, had been initiated by someone else on September 11, 2001, and that Saddam Hussein, like the Taliban, had collaborated with the executors of that crime.

Given the commonsense distinction between the offensive and the defensive use of force (which is highlighted by cases of legitimate self-defense), many were alarmed in September 2002 when the U.S. Administration issued the National Security Strategy of the United States of America, which flatly states that “…we recognize that our best defense is a good offense…” * This is the assertion of the right to a form of “self-defense” which is roundly rejected within civil society, where suspects are presumed innocent until proven guilty, and people are not considered justified in killing other people because they seem as though they might commit crimes in the future.

Somewhat surprisingly, the U.S. policy of “preemption” or “offensive defense” gained a fair amount of support among members of the security community in the aftermath of 9/11.** The defensive use of containment, multilateral institution-building, and the rule of international law gave way during this period to a rather less-nuanced approach expressed by George W. Bush in his 2004 State of the Union Address: “America will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our country.” In this view, when the United States decides to violate international law and flout the conventions governing even those multilateral institutions established by the United States itself, this is supposed to constitute not an affront to the rule of law, but a refusal to docilely submit to the will of other nations.

Critics of the United States’ offensive approach to defense equate the “strategy” with unprovoked military action or “naked aggression” (to use the term employed by then President George H. W. Bush in decrying the 1990 invasion of Kuwait claimed to justify the 1991 Gulf War). A straightforward reductio ad absurdum of the current Bush administration’s offensive strategy of defense is that it implies that every war is permitted, provided that the commander regards himself as acting in self-defense. The inclusiveness of this criterion is so vast that even Saddam Hussein’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait would pass the test, for he claimed to be re-appropriating territory that truly belonged to Iraq. Moreover, to assert that a nation may wage war against another nation that may in the future develop weapons that it may in the future deploy, precludes absolutely nothing. For all we know, Costa Rica and the Åland Islands (both currently demilitarized zones) may in the future develop weapons that they may see fit to deploy. Who knows what the future will bring?

Nonetheless, the soldiers executing George W. Bush’s 2003 war on Iraq were expected to obey the orders of their commander-in-chief when he told them to invade. Applying Nuremburg logic here again, one might quite reasonably ask whether these soldiers should not have been aware of the 1945 Charter of the United Nations, which explicitly prohibits the waging of an offensive war against a sovereign nation during peacetime. Far from being an abstruse and recherché legal nicety, the commonsense distinction between offensive and defensive action is limpidly illustrated within society by legitimate cases of self-defense, which never involve trespassing upon other people’s property to harm them in advance of their having committed a crime. Even less do legitimate acts of self-defense involve the slaughter of innocent people in protecting oneself against someone who may, one day, commit a crime. If soldiers are culpable for following illegal orders to “soften up” their prisoners in ways that violate the Geneva Conventions, why should they be any less culpable for following orders to kill in a war illegally waged? If the 2003 war on Iraq was illegal, then the people killed during this war were the victims of crimes no less than were the prisoners tortured at Abu Ghraib. Yet few seem capable of processing this implication. Perhaps it is too disturbing to entertain.

Supporters of the invasion will retort that law and morality sometimes diverge, and that in this case the war was just, though ostensibly prohibited by international law. It is true that not everyone upholds international law as the ultimate arbiter in moral matters—some would be quick to point out that international law has been crafted by the fallible representatives of nations—but one arrives just as swiftly at the conclusion that this war was wrong by appealing to just war theory alone. Those such as Michael Walzer, who appear to regard just war theory as the only refuge from political realism, insist that the jus ad bellum criteria must first be satisfied before a “just war” is waged. No need to indulge in subtle exegesis of the “legitimate authority” or the “proportionality” clauses in this case, for according to just war theory, a justly waged war must be a “last resort,” and the 2003 invasion of Iraq was not a “last resort” by anyone’s estimation. It is extraordinarily difficult to see how the support of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which not only violated international law but also failed to fulfill the jus ad bellum criteria of just war theory, reveals anything more than the supporter’s own willingness to condone a war simply because it has been waged.

There are of course just war theorists who did support the war or, somewhat surprisingly, even changed their views once the war had been waged. But to modify just war theory to fit a war once waged is every bit as intellectually suspect as was redefining the purpose of the war when it emerged that WMDs were nowhere to be found, as the U.N. weapons inspectors had already reported and the United States’ own David Kay later confirmed. Some may have noticed that references to the idiom of just war theory were nowhere to be heard by the Bush administration in 2002, though it had played an important part of nearly every public address pronounced by then President George H.W. Bush in 1990 as he lobbied to garner domestic and international support for his 1991 Gulf War. The disproportionate invocation of just war theory in these two cases would seem to be grist for the mills of those who regard the theory as a purely rhetorical weapon wielded by leaders when it helps their case for war, and not when it does not.

Critics of just war theory have long maintained that its requirements are easily interpretable as fulfilled by any leader wishing to wage war, and the 2003 war on Iraq is perhaps only the most glaring illustration of this point. When British Premier Tony Blair suggested that Iraq might assemble WMDs ready for deployment in 45 minutes, he came very close to claiming that the war was a necessity, a last resort to prevent nuclear holocaust. For her part, U.S. National Security Advisor Condaleeza Rice observed on September 2, 2002 that “…there will always be some uncertainty about how quickly he [Saddam] can acquire nuclear weapons. But we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.” Even setting to one side this flagrant use of fear-mongering propaganda, the profound lack of epistemological humility on the part of the Bush administration is everywhere on display: in their execution without trial of suspects (at the very least in Yemen, on November 4, 2002), in their detainment of suspects without legal representation in Guantánamo Bay and elsewhere, and in their waging of a war that contradicted the findings of the U.N. weapons experts charged with assessing the danger of WMDs in Iraq. Rather than acknowledging the import of their mistakes, the administration either claims that the case in question is irrelevant (e.g., the forged documents regarding attempts to purchase uranium in Niger), or false (consider their response to the results of the 9/11 commission report with regard to the alleged connection between bin-Laden and Saddam Hussein).

Historians may realistically observe here that the jus in bello tenets of just war theory emerged as a part of an effort to limit the damage done during war. In this view, wars will be waged, and the jus in bello tenets serve as guidelines to limit the devastation and moral degradation inherent to war. Among other things, jus in bello requires that captured soldiers be respected as human beings. If they survive attempts at their annihilation during the major combat phase of the war, then they must be treated as human beings vested with rights, in accordance with what have been codified as the Geneva Conventions. The damage done by soldiers engaged in war must also be proportional to the military objective which they have been told to achieve. Vittoria and many others have argued that soldiers enjoy “invincible ignorance” for the acts of killing that they commit during a war unjustly waged by their commander-in-chief. But this does not mean that the thousands of innocent people killed in Iraq in 2003 were any less the victims of crimes than would have been the victims of a fighter pilot directed to bomb Boston instead of Baghdad. The thousands of innocent people killed by the order to bomb Baghdad in violation of international law and the jus ad bellum requirements of just war theory were the victims of a criminal war waged by a war criminal.

Accordingly, in terms of its practical political consequences, it emerges that Abu Ghraib is a red herring, diverting the populace’s attention from a question much more widely discussed abroad— what does it mean to have waged an illegal war? The case of Staff Sergeant Camilo Mejia, recently court martialed for desertion, reveals just how incoherent (or worse) the managers of this war appear to be. Mejia went AWOL on grounds of conscientious objection, effectively denying that either the jus ad bellum or jus in bello clauses of just war theory were satisfied by this war. Mejia opposed the “cause” of the war, claiming that it had been waged for oil, and the conduct of the war, claiming that civilians were wantonly slaughtered and prisoners mistreated. But prisoner mistreatment was precisely the basis for the courts-martial of soldiers at Abu Ghraib. It is an irony of no mean proportion that low-level soldiers should be prosecuted both for executing and for not executing a morally dubious war. “Grunts” are called “grunts” for a reason, I suppose.

Even more difficult to reconcile with the facts of torture at Abu Ghraib and the administration’s public repudiation of the practices is that until only recently a proposal was being drafted to extend a July 2000 U.N. Security Council resolution granting immunity to U.S. peacekeepers from prosecution for war crimes. The resolution was renewed last year through June 30, 2004, but will not be renewed again, most likely because of the scandal at Abu Ghraib. The salient point remains, however: the fact that the U.S. should ever have sought such immunity itself suggests that its troops use techniques that either are criminal or would be easy to interpret as criminal. Furthermore, the insistence of Rumsfeld that the Geneva Conventions do not apply to the members of terrorist organizations such as al-Qaeda would seem to imply that the soldiers at Abu Ghraib attempting to extract information from prisoners probably were not acting inconsistently with that policy, for the people most likely to have information about terrorist activities are terrorists themselves, and so any prisoner from whom information was being extracted was, almost by definition, a suspected terrorist. If Rumsfeld and Bush make no distinction between suspects and terrorists (recall the execution of six suspects in Yemen by predator drone on November 4, 2002), why should their troops? And what is the moral of Camila Mejia’s case supposed to be? Apparently that soldiers may, indeed should, act in accordance with their own conscience, but only so long as it coincides with that of their commander-in-chief. In other words, soldiers have an obligation to abide by morality, but they may not refrain from fighting a misguided war illegally waged by their commander-in-chief, though this would seem to be the gravest affront to morality that there could possibly be, resulting as it has in the slaughter of thousands of human beings.

In distinguishing permissible from impermissible action, just war theorists invoke the “Doctrine of Double Effect,” which allows one to evaluate the moral rightness or wrongness of an action by considering the actor’s intention. If a killer targets innocent life directly (either as an end in itself, or as a means to an end intentionally sought), then his act is murder. If, in contrast, a killer physically causes the deaths of innocent people as an unintended side effect of a legitimate military action, then those killings are not murder but “collateral damage”.

The problem with this approach to distinguishing permissible from impermissible killings of innocent people is that it is quite unclear that any soldier, whether ally or enemy, ever kills people with the aim of destroying innocent life. Rather, soldiers typically do what they are told out of a sense of duty and in obedience to authority. As misguided as the soldiers on the enemy side may be, they probably do not have evil intentions and their actions are without any doubt informed by a story told to them by their leader. Even when factional groups wreak havoc upon civilians, they are in all likelihood interpreting their victims as complicitors in the crimes of the government, through their ongoing support of what the faction takes to be the evil regime in power.

Nor does appealing to the Doctrine of Double Effect and the intentions of the actors help in the case at Abu Ghraib, for the beaming smiles upon the faces of the soldiers photographed is the surest possible sign that they were acting in good conscience at the time. Whether they suffered moments of guilt and regret after the fact is irrelevant to the morality of their act in the moment. These soldiers evidently believed either because they were acting under order, or because they believed themselves to be acting in a manner consistent with U.S. policy in Iraq, that they were contributing to a noble cause. Certainly if they thought that what they were doing was “evil”, they would not have posed for photographs. Just as those who bombed Baghdad did not intend to kill thousands of innocent people (though they did), the guards at Abu Ghraib intended only to extract information from their prisoners. In both cases, war supporters may point out, the evil consequences (civilian deaths and prisoner humiliation and suffering) could have been avoided if only Saddam Hussein had obeyed George W. Bush’s orders to leave Iraq. But why in the world should Saddam Hussein have done that?

Recall that on December 14, 2002 the Bush administration issued a “lethal force list” of suspected terrorists whom the CIA had been granted permission by the commander-in-chief to assassinate with impunity. In view of the vague terms of the U.S. administration’s “lethal force list,” Saddam Hussein had every reason in the world to avoid seeking refuge in, say, Yemen. No one appears ever to have doubted the practical rationality and the will to survive of Saddam Hussein. It therefore seemed quite clear at the time that the U.S. administration’s “offer” to permit Saddam Hussein to seek asylum abroad was empty. By making this the single acceptable condition for the avoidance of war, the Bush administration effectively precluded the possibility of stopping the invasion, and then blamed it upon Hussein for refusing to do what would have been patently irrational for him to do.

Yes, as peculiar as it may at first seem, Abu Ghraib is a red-herring, perfectly suited to the U.S. administration, for it focuses our attention not upon jus ad bellum and those responsible for the killing of thousands of innocent people in Iraq in 2003, but jus in bello, and the sorry soldiers sent to risk their lives to fight a deadly war during peacetime. Realistically speaking, should these soldiers have gleaned any other message from their commander’s own example than that “Everything is permitted”?

*The National Security Strategy of the United States of America, September 2002, p. 6. Available online at: http://usinfo.state.gov/topical/pol/terror/secstrat.htm

** See: Ikenberry, G. John. 2002. “America’s Imperial Ambition,” Foreign Affairs, Volume 81, no. 5, pp. 44-60.

Laurie Calhoun holds degrees in chemistry (University of Colorado) and philosophy (Princeton University). Her metaphilosophical critique of analytic philosophy was published in 1997 under the title, Philosophy Unmasked: a skeptic’s critique (a title conferred upon it by the press). Since entering her meta-metaphilosophical period, she has been writing on war and also on films (sometimes both at the same time).