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John Simkin

Just War

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I'm sorry if I'm being obtuse, but what does any of this have to do with "just wars"?

I agree. Gregory has done the same thing in the Abortion and Nazi Germany thread. He is beginning to sound like Tim Gratz with his constant hijacking of threads to argue that Castro killed JFK. Gregory seems to have a fixation about sex criminals. If you continue with this strategy I will start deleting your posts. By all means start your own threads concerning your sexual problems, we are very tolerant on this forum and we realise that people need an outlet for their dark thoughts, however, do not try to take over those of other members.

Gregory, you still have not posted a photograph as your avatar. You are receiving your final warning, do it or your membership will be suspended.

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I'm sorry if I'm being obtuse, but what does any of this have to do with "just wars"?

The issue

The standing of Democracy Now within the context of anti-war feminism. It was argued that the broadcasters were popular amongst feminists.

I work with feminists from all shades of political opinion and DN are widely thought to be going tabloid and to have climbed into bed with the porn people.

End of issue

Edited by Gregory Carlin

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I'm sorry if I'm being obtuse, but what does any of this have to do with "just wars"?

I agree. Gregory has done the same thing in the Abortion and Nazi Germany thread. He is beginning to sound like Tim Gratz with his constant hijacking of threads to argue that Castro killed JFK. Gregory seems to have a fixation about sex criminals. If you continue with this strategy I will start deleting your posts. By all means start your own threads concerning your sexual problems, we are very tolerant on this forum and we realise that people need an outlet for their dark thoughts, however, do not try to take over those of other members.

Gregory, you still have not posted a photograph as your avatar. You are receiving your final warning, do it or your membership will be suspended.

The Green Party do the darkest thoughts. They are the party of slavery in more or less every part of the world they have an office. In Germany they are connected to the biggest outbreak of forced labour since Organization Todt.

The thread issue for this particular discussion related to the diminishing feminist bona fides of the broadcaster Democracy Now and the conversation was therefore likely to focus on the legitimate feminist complaints about DN.

Respectfully submitted

Gregory Carlin

Edited by Gregory Carlin

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The US, UK and West have a long history of 'intervention' throughout the world and the reasons given for intervention almost never turn out to be accurate. We have toppled legitimate democratically elected governments, installed brutal dictators, created monsters, assassinated leaders, financed coups, spread lies, provoked wars, told lies(often through manufactured or 'sexed-up' intelligence) to start wars, trained, financed and protected terorists all to preserve or enhance our economic and geo-strategic interests. The idea that Iraq is or Iran will be any different is ridiculous.

Oil is just one reason amongst many for the invasion of Iraq. The others include Israeli foreign policy objectives, liberalisation of the Iraqi markets, the return in oil trading to the petrodollar, strategic military control of the middle east and US world hegemony. The introduction of 'bringing democracy' was only a diversion following the collapse of the fabricated WMD ploy.

The invasion of Afghanistan was to construct oil and gas pipelines from the Caspian Sea area.

Every time we carry out one of these interventions we justify our actions with fabricated propaganda about our good intentions and the proposed benefits to the innocent people we are slaughtering.

We have always done this and will continue to do so out of pure self-interest.

It amazes me that people are still more than willing to view these atrocities within the fabricated pretexts which spew from the mouths of successive administrations. Viewing each 'intervention' in isolation is the only way to maintain this (d)illusion.

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The following letter was sent by Conservative Christians to President Bush ………‘We believe that your policies concerning the ongoing international terrorist campaign against America are both right and just. Specifically, we believe that your stated policies concerning Saddam Hussein and his headlong pursuit and development of biochemical and nuclear weapons of mass destruction are prudent and fall well within the time-honored criteria of just war theory as developed by Christian theologians in the late fourth and early fifth centuries A.D.’

I have read with interest the arguments in this thread for considering the Iraq War a Just War, so I hope it will not be considered disrespectful towards any of the opinions expressed already if I question one of the premisses right at the beginning of the quoted letter. I’m not questioning the importance of discussing the idea of the Just War. But I would like to challenge the way the conservative christians who signed the letter introduced the argument.

The letter begins by implying that the Just War is a time-honoured christian principle ‘developed by christian theologians in the late fourth and early fifth centuries A.D.’ In fact it was developed by St Thomas Aquinas in the 13th Century. One of my college tutors always said it was O.K. to be 10 years out – but this is really pushing it! The fifth century christian theologian the letter writers presumably had in mind was St Augustine of Hippo. So I looked for his ‘developed’ theory of the Just War in ‘The City of God’. This is it:

"But the wise man, they say, will wage just wars. Surely, if he remembers that he is a human being, he will much rather lament the need to wage even just wars. For if they were not just he would not have to fight them and there would be no wars for him. The injustice of the opposing side is what imposes the duty of waging wars." (City of God 19.7)

Apparently this particular extract is the most developed argument Augustine ever wrote on the subject (and the paperback version of ‘The City of God’ is about the width of five normal paperbacks). What this is usually interpreted as meaning is that it will always be quite clear to the christian which side is right!

What is clear is that the ‘Just War’ is not quite such a time-honoured principle that the letter from conservative christians suggests. The principle probably took over a thousand years to develop, not the 400 implied in the letter.

There is actually another christian principle apart from ‘the Just War’ that is relevant, and one that should at least be considered.. In his lifetime Jesus Christ pointedly rejected the idea that his kingdom could be advanced or defended by the sword. He also said ‘love your enemies’. (This meant, among other things, not killing them, a point often glossed over, or rejected as impractical.)

St Augustine did offer the opinion that it was O.K. to kill your enemy provided you loved him. Incidentally, he also thought it was a good idea to use force to sort out christians who believed the wrong doctrines – I assume that the christian writers of the letter would not go along with this!

We may, of course, reject Jesus’ condemnation of murder, including the state murder we refer to as war, as impractical. But Jesus’ followers certainly took this aspect of his teachings seriously, without apparently suggesting a career change to the soldiers that became christians.

As the christian faith grew in the 1st and 2nd Centuries, the need for a christian policy on war became urgent. The result was that christian bishops declared military service incompatible with the faith. Christians were not to join the army. Or if they did – wait for it – they were not to kill anybody! Although christian responses varied all over the Empire at this stage, they were all broadly what we would describe as pacifist.

The christians who were members of the Roman Army had a real problem. The imperial cult was at the heart of its discipline and morale. It required a soldier to offer sacrifice to the emperor as a god, something forbidden to a christian. Secondly, and a slightly different issue, it presented a christian soldier with (to him) two incompatible ‘lordships’ – ’that of Rome i.e. ‘throw your javelins now and unsheath swords!! and that of Jesus Christ i.e. ‘my kingdom is not of this world’.

Another reaction, typical of the 3rd Century, was for christian soldiers to be happy in their role of internal peace-keeping, but to resign from the army when ordered to take part in (vainglorious?) attacks on places such as Iraq in the neighbouring Persian Empire. (No, I’m not making this up.)

During the late Empire christian soldiers appear as a constant embarrassment to the Roman army. Some soldiers, on becoming christians, immediately resigned, for example St. Martin of Tours. Another typical example was the first British martyr, St Alban. A soldier stationed at Verulamium (near Londinium), he hid a christian fugitive during a period of religious persecution, and was so impressed by the man’s life and conduct that when the soldiers came for him he disguised himself by taking the fugitive’s cloak and was executed in his place.

There was a reappraisal of christian pacifism when the Emperor Constantine pronounced himself a christian, and eventually christianity became the official state religion. The state ‘took over’ the church. A good emperor’s wars would of course be ‘right’, and therefore would be supported by the church.

In the following centuries there were other important shifts in christian thinking, and the nature of christian influence. In 455 A.D. the Vandals thoroughly sacked Rome, having taken control of North Africa and the Western Mediterranean. This marked a further stage in the collapse of the Western Roman Empire and its political, military and financial system. By this time the Roman Empire was, so to speak, history, and the lights went out all over Europe.

Except, that is, for the church. Having been ‘taken over’ by the state at the time of Constantine, it now found itself the only institution of the Roman Empire left standing. The only people who were literate, for example, were now churchmen. In practice it was probably this unique position the church found itself at this time that led to a shift in christian thinking about war (and for that matter Life, the Universe and Everything), and led eventually to the idea of the Just War.

For example in 429 A.D. the bishop of Auxerre visited the former Roman province of Britannia, since 406 A.D. under the authority of the civitates (or county councils as it were) – no wonder they called on God to help them!

The bishop, perhaps exercising his skills as a Roman administrator, organised the Britons into defeating a coalition of invading Picts and Saxons. Some deft tactical thinking, coupled with the British battle cry of ‘Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!’, were apparently enough to put the enemy into full flight.

All over the former Western Roman Empire bishops were faced with the same dilemma. In a situation of total collapse were they to stick with the traditional christian stance of non-involvement and non-violence? Most now came to the same conclusion Augustine had reached, that in order to curb the wickedness of man it was sometimes a duty to engage in war.

From there it’s a short step to Bishop Odo, on the Bayeux Tapestry, wielding a club rather than a lance - because bishops were not supposed to draw blood – and knocking hell, so to speak, out of the Anglo-Saxons.

The concept of a Just War was developed by St Thomas Aquinas in the 13th Century. The versions we are familiar with today were developed much later. However, it was never, by any means, the only christian view on the subject of war. Conservative christians, on both sides of the Atlantic, need to take a critical look at our respective societies’ apparently endless capacity to justify a war and then pick a fight - and not necessarily in that order.

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