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Guest Column: Pro-war column, administration out of line

July 1, 1993

Editor’s Note: Due to space limitations this guest column did not run when submitted in April.

Columnist of the right Michael Kelly threw at us an anti-peace demonstrator, pro-war column (Feb. 19) that was full of Limbaughian absurdities. In a classic of double-speak, he explained, “To march against the war is not to give peace a chance.” I guess we should thank Kelly for showing us how it is that night is day, and day is night.

Throughout, Kelly uses the word “moral” many times, but never actually reveals any of the specifics of the historic tradition of the “just war” ethic, or of the body of international law and treaties—the protocols of the Geneva Conventions, the Hague, and so on. Well, he wouldn’t, because when you actually study this body of moral guidance, you begin to see how completely the Bush administration’s behavior trashes it and wishes it away. The administration’s “high morality” is quite easy to describe: “What Empire wants to do, Empire should do, and we will call it ‘democracy’ and we will call it ‘morality’.” (Never mind that anyone who’s “with us” on this has been bullied or bribed into place!) This is the “true morality,” according to Kelly. His update is so helpful—Jesus really said (or meant to say), “Blessed are the war-boosters,” and “Hate your enemy, and bomb his people and country to smithereens.” In reward for such good works, we may religiously and morally await our anointing with oil.

What the specifics of the tradition do reveal—disinterred from heaps of claims as to how “moral” this latest iteration of mechanized slaughter will be—is this: war can be “justified” (assuming just cause) only if and after all other reasonable means for defending someone or setting things right have been exhausted. The people of the world believe that inspections in Iraq have at least a reasonable chance. To proceed to war without making a valiant effort to see inspections work—in the tenets of historic morality—is itself a crime against peace and a crime against humanity. Kelly prefers to ignore this and simply shout the word “moral” very loudly instead.

It amazes and puzzles me to see so many fellow citizens shedding tears one day at the tragic loss of the seven human beings aboard the shuttle Columbia, none of whom they knew personally, and then, on the very next day, with a tunnel-vision that is fixed upon the brutal Hussein (guided to such a focus by our leaders’ rhetoric), looking completely past the prosecuted destruction of 70,000 lives. What can this mean? Does it mean that because these human beings are distant, or because they’re Arabs, they don’t matter relative to the nebulous “future fear” that we have? Is that what such dissonance means?

There is a much better way than the ugly and merciless jackals of war, there is a compassionate way with integrity—for the Iraqi people, for America, and for the future of the world. Pursue the inspections with extreme vigor. Pursue them without end, if necessary. Ask all voices of the international community to call continuously for Saddam Hussein to resign. In addition, and as advocated by Iraqis in Exile Against the War and Sanctions, introduce into Iraq teams of human rights monitors, whose presence will strengthen the lives of the people and help keep tyranny in check. This is a scenario that could give people everywhere in the world hope and confidence.

The Rev. Dan R. Johnson is from Davis, Ill.

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