Levellers

Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Thinking Blogger Award

Kerry of Subversive Christianity  has tagged me with a “Thinking Blogger” award.  I will proudly display the award logo as soon as someone gives me directions for doing that on WordPress. It is not as easy to add html code to WordPress as to Blogger (although WordPress is MUCH more stable and less “buggy” than Blogger).  In the meantime, thanks very much, Kerry, for saying that I write a blog that makes you think.  Blogging is time consuming (I have books to write!), but I think the practice of blogging has sharpened my own thinking. When you are about to put your views out for all the world to see and folks are going to take you to task for sloppy thinking (and much faster than with published books), you tend to work harder. Especially if, as in my case, you don’t blog just to vent or “rant” (though I’m guilty of some of that) or to post pictures of your beautiful spouse and children (which I have) or of your pets (which I HAVEN’T and don’t plan on doing), but are actually trying to have serious conversations about issues that matter.  That even one person, Kerry, thinks I have had a modicum of success in that regard is very gratifying.

Okay, here are the rules which go with the award:

  1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to five blogs that make you think.
  2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme.
  3. Optional: Proudly display the ‘Thinking Blogger Award’ with a link to
    the post that you wrote (here is an alternative silver version if gold
    doesn’t fit your blog).

As I said, I’ll display that award just as soon as I figure out how. I am not the biggest techno-geek in the blogosphere by a LOOONG shot!

Now, for five blogs (out of SOO many more!) that regularly make me think. I will try to choose different types of blogs, rather than all my favorite theology blogs, biblio-blogs, etc. If you get left off, it doesn’t mean your blog doesn’t ALSO make me think.:

  • Faith and Theology run by Ben Myers of the University of Queensland in Australia. I have said this several times: This is the best theology blog out there, both for Ben’s own stuff, the always provocative guest posts (especially those by Kim Fabricius), and the links to other theology blogs and very important theology resources on the web. Before I found Ben’s blog, I didn’t know that theology blogs existed and finding his also opened up many others to me. This served as the catalyst for transforming my blog from just “religious social criticism” (though I still have much of that) to also blogging on biblical and theological topics.
  • Euangelion . I don’t always agree with either Michael Bird or Joel Willetts, but I almost always learn something important every time I visit their blog. And when I disagree, I have to think hard about why.  They have a great New Testament blog from a center-left evangelical perspective.
  • Melissa Rogers’ blog. She is attorney who used to work for the Baptist Joint Committee on Religious Liberty. Her blog focuses on church-state/religious liberty issues in the U.S. context.  As a Baptist (we were born fighting for religious liberty–though many in one particular Baptist denomination, the SBC, seem to have forgotten this), an anti-Constantinian pacifist, and a U.S. citizen, these issues are never far from my thoughts.  Melissa keeps me abreast of what is happening and her own perspective is always worth reading, too–even when we disagree, such as about religious chaplains in the military which I believe both violates the First Amendment and the integrity of Christian ministry. She raises good challenges to that perspective in terms of outreach to military personnel.
  • Nothing New Under the Sun  by Byron Smith.  Another extremely thoughtful theology blog from an Aussie.  Byron’s posts on why the Rule of God and the new/renewed heavens and earth are the point of salvation (not “heaven when you die”) should be mandatory for most churches. His posts on peak oil and the end of suburbia are not only informed by excellent environmental science, but a firm theological environmental ethic and a deep Christian care.  Plus, he puts these cool pictures up from all over the world and asks folk to guess where the pics are from. It gives his blog a really different look and feel.
  • Dr. Platypus the blog of my old friend, Darrell Pursifal. Darrell is a New Testament scholar and an editor in a publishing house, but his blog covers not only biblical studies, but patristics, thoughts on theology and liturgy, pastoral insights, and even the occasional political comment.  It’s also usually quite a bit of fun.

Okay, it killed me to only list 5. Those are the five tagged. But other blogs that make me think include these from my blogroll, A Paynehollow Visit by my friend, Dan Trabue, who got me into blogging; The Fire and the Rose by David (D.W.) Congdon; the Quakers’ Colonel; Mined Splatterings; Jim West’s blog with the changing name and constantly changing look; Chris Tilling (Chrisendom) and, heck, all the ones listed on my blogroll, really.  Most of the bloggers from the Christian Peace Bloggers make me think constantly and so do many from the Baptist Bloggers.  I need to give special mention to those who challenge me from more conservative positions theologically than mine, including Guy Davies (the Exiled Preacher), Peter Lumpkins (SBC Tomorrow–which keeps me from giving up altogether on my former denomination), Bryan Peters (the Young Evangelical), Jonathan Marlowe (the Ivy Bush), etc.  They keep me in touch with the evangelical dimension to my identity.  The numbers of folks who are more theologically liberal than I am who challenge me would be far too numerous to mention.

I try not to waste my time with blogs that DON’T make think, I guess. I visit blogs across the theological and political spectra, but if I don’t find much of substance, I don’t read them regularly. Life is too short.  So, whether or not I deserve to be called a “thinking blogger,” everyone on my blogroll, whether or not I mentioned or tagged them, are bloggers who help me to think.

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April 29, 2007 Posted by | blogs | 7 Comments

The “Clarity” of U. S. Voters?

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April 29, 2007 Posted by | humor, U.S. politics | 1 Comment

“Handing the Terrorists a Victory”

Recognize the phrase? It is a stock phrase used by the Bush admin. whenever they want to explain why we cannot end the occupation of Iraq.  It has captured the minds of many ordinary citizens because, of course, no one wants to “hand the terrorists a victory.”  But I am not impressed with the phrase as meaning anything other than an emotional propaganda tool to keep support for a the biggest foreign policy disaster in this country since we took over the Vietnam war from the French!

1) Which terrorists would we be “handing a victory” if we stopped occupying Iraq?  The Iraqi insurgents? It’s their country.  No matter if we send 400,000 troops (which would take a draft) and stay 10 years, they will NEVER give up trying to rid their country of occupiers–even if they stop the killing between Sunni and Shi’ia.  A guerilla war against an occupying army ALWAYS wins eventually, because eventually the occupiers lose enough money and soldiers that they just get fed up and go home.  Hello? That’s how the United States became independent, remember? It wasn’t because George Washington was a military genius (his own diaries show his knowledge that this wasn’t true), folks. The Continental Army lost most of the battles.  But England was also in a war with France (that’s why the French supplied us arms and some “military advisors”) and was about to have one with Spain. We “terrorists” (that’s how the British saw the rebel colonists) simply made it too expensive for the occupying British to keep it up when they had other fights, too.  In Vietnam, the U.S. won nearly every battle, but could not win the war after 10 years any more than the French could after 5. Algeria drove out France the same way.  Guerilla war is ugly, but effective for the home team, especially when the opposing team doesn’t speak the language, know the culture, and has other matters to deal with–all of which is true about Iraq and the U.S.  If the “terrorists” to which we are referring are the insurgent Iraqis who don’t feel “liberated” by our presence, then the question isn’t whether they will be victorious, but when.  Because we will leave, eventually.  And there is zero evidence that we will leave behind a modern democracy and a flourishing country.  How many more refugees will we create in Iraq, first? How many more dead civilians–killed by insurgents and us?

2) If we mean that we will be “handing a victory” to al-Qaeda, if we leave Iraq, then we did that the moment we invaded Iraq. Al-Qaeda has been trying to convince Muslims to join its “jihad” (mainstream Muslims disagree that a true jihad can be called in these circumstances) against the West, especially the U.S. because, among other things, they claim we occupy Muslim countries.  It seems reasonable to believe that one of their purposes in the horrible 9/11 attacks was to make us react in ways that would seem to back up their claims about the wicked Americans.  Helping Afghans overthrow the Taliban and remove Afghanistan as an Al Qaeda stronghold was a logical response. Most Muslims who were not already in Al Qaeda’s ideological camp did not object.  But invading a nation which had nothing to do with 9/11, when every nation in the Middle East (except Israel) was against it, played right into Al Qaeda’s hands.  Iraq has now become a training ground for Al Qaeda terrorists: they sneak into the porous borders, learn to kill Americans with guerilla tactics, and then disappear into the scattered Al Qaeda network to plan terrorist attacks on the West.

3) Claiming that ending the Iraqi occupation will “hand the terrorists a victory” is much like the claim that if we left Vietnam there would be a domino effect and Communism would spread throughout Asia.  It’s a scare tactic used so that we don’t examine the logic of the policy and whether the policy is working–and we have been in Iraq now longer than the U.S. involvement in World War II!

4)The Bush administration claims that the invasion/occupation of Iraq is one front in a generations long “war on terror.” Now, I think this is just a slogan and a metaphor and not a coherent policy. But forget that for a moment. Suppose they are right? Well, in any real shooting war there are victories for either side, but the key is who wins the war. So, if Iraq is draining treasure and lives and resources needed to fight terrorism elsewhere (and it undeniably is), then maybe it would be smarter tactics to let “the terrorists” (all of them? in all their disparate groups? including the ones in Latin America we train at the School of the Americas in Ft. Benning, GA? including the notorious terrorist we just released from prison in Miami because we wouldn’t extradite him to either Venezuela or Cuba where he is accused of terrorist crimes?) claim victory for Iraq (they will anyhow) and leave so that we can fall back, regroup, and use our resources more widely in this “war against terrorism?”

5) Some citizens in the U.S. have been especially sucked into this “hand the terrorists a victory” mantra after it was used by Australian Prime Minister John Howard in his attempt to influence U.S. elections and claim that electing Barack Obama would be a “victory for the terrorists” because Obama has promised to end the Iraq war (as have all the Democratic candidates). I haven’t decided whether or not to vote for Obama, but I notice that Howard didn’t back up his words by sending more Australian troops to Iraq! Howard’s stand on the war is not popular in Australia. He became the first sitting PM to be censured by Parliament when he joined the “coalition of the willing,” but the number of troops sent is small. 

In all, it seems to me that this phrase “hand the terrorists a victory,” like “support the troops,” is not really an argument for the “surge” or any foreign policy strategy (much less military strategy), but simply a slogan to keep people from asking tough questions about how long we will be in Iraq, why we are building permanent bases there, why we are supporting a new law in Iraq that will give most of its oil profits to international oil companies (when it needs all the money it can get for its own reconstruction), etc.  Let’s ask the hard questions and not have minds clouded by mantras like “handing the terrorists a victory.” In my view, our current policy is like a flood of lemmings running over a cliff–and anyone shouting “there’s a cliff ahead” gets told to shut up so we don’t “hand the terrorists a victory.” So, we keep running over the cliff until we’re all dead.  I hope the American public is smarter than that.

April 28, 2007 Posted by | Iraq | 15 Comments

A Just War Case Against the Iraq War, p. 2

Remember, in its strict form, the form which has most thoroughly informed post-WWII international law, Just War Theory begins with a strong presumption against war.  Meeting the criteria is expected to be difficult, so that nations which value the rule of law are pressured to find alternatives to war as often as possible. (The U.S. is in the habit of calling nations which do NOT value the rule of international law “rogue nations,”–until it’s our turn to want to violate international law. Then, we talk about said law being a violation of our national sovereignty, or even of being “quaint” in a post-9/11 world.)

I. Ius ad bellum–criteria of justice in deciding whether or not to go to war.

1. Legitimate authority.  Since there is a presumption against war, only those with the legal authority to declare war, authority tied to responsibility for the public good, may authorize war.  In the U.S., the right to declare war is reserved in the U.S. Constitution for Congress, not the president. Article I, sec. 8 of the U.S. Constitution enumerates the powers of Congress and includes the power to declare war.  A major legal question of the war with Iraq is whether the “authorization to use military force” given by Congress to Pres. Bush in late 2002 meets this criterion or whether only a formal declaration of war will do it. I am not a constitutional lawyer, but I think the latter because the Framers of the Constitution believed that the Executive Branch was more likely to want to go to war for frivolous reasons. They vested the power to declare war in the Legislative Branch in order to make it more difficult for presidents to go to war.  I do not see anything in the Constitution which allows Congress to pass the buck–as Sen. Byrd (D-WVA) pointed out at the time. (Note: Lest my contention seem partisan here, I should point out that presidents of both parties have violated this.  Bill Clinton’s ordering NATO bombing of Kosovo in the ’90s violated this just as much as did Bush’s invasion of Iraq. At the time, I argued that while the Lewinsky affair was probably not really impeachable, this constitutional breach really was a “high crime” for which Clinton deserved to be impeached. But, since he was in the midst of the impeachment trial over his sexual habits at the time, the more serious matter–from a global perspective–of his military adventurism was ignored.) 

There is a second element in “legitimate authority” since the founding of the United Nations.  Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution says that any international treaties to which the U.S. is a signatory share Constitution’s status as “supreme law of the land” in the U.S.  Article 51 of the United Nations Charter allows individual member states to use military force only in self-defense and then only until the Security Council can take measures to restore peace.  Since the U.S. is a member state, and since Iraq neither attacked nor threatened the U.S., it needed the approval of the U.N. Security Council to invade Iraq. There is no provision for a member state to unilaterally undertake to enforce Security Council resolutions by military force.  So, even if the Congressional “authorization” was legitimate, the U.S. did not have UN approval to invade and therefore, the criterion of “legitimate authorization” was not met. If you hear some opponents of this war call it “illegal,” this is probably what they have in mind.  But the purpose of a formal declaration of war by appropriate authority is not legalistic nit-picking, but it becomes the last chance for the enemy to sue for terms of peace.

2. Just Cause. This has always ruled out going to war to expand territory (as Germany and Japan did during WWII or the U.S. did in wars with Native Americans and with Mexico, etc.) or for revenge (e.g., “this is the guy that tried to kill my dad”) or to control another nation’s resources, etc.  But as international law has developed, especially since WWII, the causes that have been considered severe enough to justify the horrors of war have narrowed to two:  A1. If attacked by another nation, there is the inherent right to self-defense.  This is the reason that the Bush administration constantly tried to link the government of Iraq to the 9/11 attacks, either directly or through links to al-Qaeda.  These were repeatedly disproved, but the refrain was repeated so often that even as late as 2004, polls showed that most U.S. citizens believed there were direct links between Saddam Hussein and 9/11. The propaganda was effective, aided by a cooperative “news” media, as Bill Moyers’ shows in “Buying the War.”  A2. If a nation is in immediate danger of attack (not fear of attack at some vague later date), it may launch a preemptive attack as Israel did in the Six Days War. This is why the administration tried to say that Saddam Hussein had biological and chemical weapons and was in the process of obtaining nuclear weapons. This claim was also false and was known to be false in 2002.  B. Humanitarian intervention. One may engage in cross-border warfare to stop genocidal actions.  Apologists for this war often point to Saddam Hussein’s brutal tyranny and his genocidal attacks on the Kurds and his use of chemical weapons against Shi’ites during the war with Iran.  But this would have been a just cause for war AT THE TIME, not years later.  When Hussein did his horrible chemical weapons attacks, the U.S. was selling him the weapons and blaming the attacks on Iran. Remember Donald Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam?  In 2002, when the Bush administration was urging invasion of Iraq, the Kurds had long been protected by a “No Fly Zone” of U.S. and British air patrols that prevented the government of Iraq from even entering Kurdistan, never mind harming Kurds.

Some say that the bar for just cause is lower in the case of Iraq because Saddam spent 10 years trying to violate terms of the cease fire at the end of the Gulf War.  But many nations do this. The U.S. also violated those terms in placing CIA spies among the UN weapons inspectors–which led to the end of the weapons inspections in 1998.  Only the UN Security Council could decide if violations justified renewed military action. No member state can decide to enforce UN resolutions on its own or with a “coalition of the willing.”  The U.S. has never decided to enforce all the UN resolutions against Israel’s occupation of Palestine, nor did we ever decide to invade South Africa to stop apartheid. Nor are we invading Sudan to stop the genocide of Darfur, although this would meet just cause.    The Just Cause criterion was not met in the case of Iraq and the case given to Congress and the U.S. public was based on deceptions.

3.  Right Intention or Aims.  The intention or goals of the war must be just and limited–to secure the common peace of nations.  Here, it is difficult to judge because the Bush admin.’s stated war aims changed constantly during 2002 and even since.  IF there had been a legitimate threat from Iraq, the aim of “disarming Saddam” militarily would have fit this criterion, but not the aim of “regime change.”  If Saddam had been still committing genocidal actions, then the aim of “regime change” would have been justified, but this was not the case.  Wanting regime change so that Iraq would lead the way to Arab democracy (social engineering on a global scale) is not a justified aim.  Of course, control of Iraqi oil fields (the latest law  being forced through the Iraq parliament gives massive profits from its oil fields to foreign, especially U.S., companies!) is definitely not a valid war aim.  If oil was the true motive for the war, then the criterion of right aims is clearly not met.

4.Probability of Success.  Because the horrors of war are so great, JWT has always judged that it is unjust to ask either the people of the enemy nation or one’s own people to go through them unless there is a high probability of success.  “Success” must be judged in likelihood not just of military victory over the enemy forces (few doubted the ability of the U.S. forces, even alone, in defeating the Iraqi forces of the Hussein government), but in terms of meeting the aims of the war and its aftermath.  For this reason, the Bush admin. in 2002 constantly said that Iraq would welcome us as liberators, denied that there would be much chance of Sunni vs. Shi’ia fighting, denied that the chaos of occupation would serve as a recruiting tool for terrorist groups, denied that there would be a long occupation afterward, and denied that the war would cost much.  All these things were warned about, but were ignored by the Bush administration.  It was clear even in 2002 that the probability of success was low–and the constantly shifting war aims (“mission creep”), made this lower.

5. Proportionality The conflict must not do more harm than the good it can reasonably expect to achieve.  This is closely related to the criterion of reasonable chance of success. How much environmental damage? How much suffering to the civilian population? How much is the conflict, however justified, likely to destabilize the region? Will long-simmering hatreds rise to the surface?  Will this war make other wars more likely? What damage will this do to the social fabric of the country/ region?  Will engaging in this war make it easier or harder for the nation to achieve other or even related aims (such as international cooperation in reducing terrorism)?  This is cost/benefit analysis. Is it likely that the costs (monetary, human, spiritual, social) will be less than the gains that can reasonably be expected from the war aims?  Although not everything can be predicted beforehand, it is clear that the Bush administration did not calculate proportionality very well. (Remember Rumsfeld saying that Iraq could fund 90% of its own reconstruction through oil sales? Remember the general fired for giving an estimate $200 billion–which we have now long passed?) It ignored repeated warnings about the likelihood of negative consequences. Instead, it projected a Neo-Con pipedream of a brief, almost harmless, war which would quickly result in a democratic Iraq leading the way in spreading democracy throughout the Middle East.  Administration officials who raised questions were demoted or fired.  Others who raised questions were subject to various forms of intimidation.  Patriotic fervor replaced any calculation of proportionality.

6.Last Resort.  Because the horrors of war are so great, war must be the last resort.  All other means for achieving the right aims of the war must be tried first and have been demonstrated to fail.  In this case, UN weapons inspectors were finding that Saddam was already disarmed from WMDs and would have been able to achieve any legitimate security aims through the most intrusive inspections regime the world had ever seen.  The Kurds were protected by a no fly zone.  Even if we admit “regime change” as a legitimate war aim, this could have been achieved without war.  There were high-level negotiations between the European Union and Saddam Hussein that would have resulted in his going into exile and abdicating the presidency of Iraq, but to make this work, the U.S. had to agree that if he did go into exile we would not invade.  We would not make such an agreement and this removed the incentive for Saddam to abdicate.  In my posts on just peacemaking, I show some of the “resorts” that are being developed that can be expected to be tried before war is the last resort.

II. Ius in bello–Conducting a War Justly.

1. Discrimination: One must distinguish between civilians and soldiers, between combatants and non-combatants.  No weapon or tactic which deliberately targets civilians is legitimate. (This rules out all terrorist tactics.)  In war, civilians and non-combatants will be killed. In modern war, they become the largest percentage of casualties.  JWT allows for this, although it presses for the development of weapons and tactics that will reduce civilian casualties.  JWT also recognizes that in some situations, such as insurgencies and guerilla warfare, it is VERY difficult for soldiers to distinguish combatants from non-combatants. JWT, for instance, is why so many generals worldwide joined the campaign to abolish and outlaw landmines–a campaign the U.S. has resisted.  But any tactic or weapon which makes civilian deaths likely, is forbidden. In my view, the “shock and awe” city bombing of Baghdad, hoping for a quick surrender, violated this criterion.  I also believe that the 2nd battle of Fallujah violated this criterion. In general, U.S. forces were not good about protecting hospitals, etc.  British troops, having years of training (sadly) in Northern Ireland, were generally better, at least in the initial invasion and early occupation.

Discrimination also means that enemies who have surrendered are no longer fair game for attack. They must not be tortured or treated in any way inhumanely, whatever they have done, notwithstanding. The Abu Ghraib scandal, and other examples show that this was not taken seriously by the U.S.  When Alberto Gonzales (now the U.S. Attorney General, but then the White House Chief Counsel) generated a memo claiming that the Geneva Conventions in this regard were “quaint and outmoded,” he set up conditions in which discrimination would be violated.  Nor, is it the case that waterboarding is not classified as torture:  After WWII, the U.S. tried several Japanese soldiers for waterboarding and we tried some of our own for the same thing during the Vietnam War.  All forms of degrading treatment are forbidden by both U.S. and international law. No exceptions–including exceptions for “harsh interrogation,” or because the latter is not a signatory to the Geneva Conventions.  We have, in the past, penalized other nations for using these kinds of excuses.

2. Proportionality.  This principle returns in the conduct of the war, which we already saw in judging whether or not to go to war.  There cannot be any “destroying the village to save the village” (Gen. William Westmoreland claimed this in Vietnam.) Any weapon or tactic used must do the minimum amount of damage possible.  Again, I believe “shock and awe” violated this.

For these reasons, I believe that the invasion and occupation of Iraq clearly violated the standards of Just War Theory–not to mention the higher demands of gospel nonviolence.  There is a correlary to JWT:  selective conscientious objection. It is the moral duty to refuse to serve in an unjust war (even at risk of prison or death) and, in a war fought for just reasons, to refuse any order that would violate ius in bello rules of war (even at the risk of a field court martial and imprisonment or execution).  But few churches which endorse JWT prepare their members for such possibilities. People who follow their consciences in this regard (e.g., Lt. Watada in the current conflict) are vilified rather than honored.  This undermines the ability of JWT to actually function as a curb on the conduct of wars.  I hope this exposition helps Brent of Colossians 3:16 and others.

April 27, 2007 Posted by | Iraq, just war theory | 10 Comments

A Just War Case Against the Iraq War, p. 1

No, gentle readers (all 3 of you), I haven’t abandoned my commitment to gospel nonviolence. Not at all. Like John Howard Yoder, I consider interacting with JWT a necessary ecumenical discipline of conversation with fellow Christians. Brent, over at Colossians 3:16, has started a thread on this topic.  I commented on it, but just as I don’t like hugely long comments in my blog posts (sometimes longer than the original post), I try to abide by that on other folks’ blogs. So, I am making the positive case against the Iraq War on JWT grounds here and linking back to the discussion there.  So, for the purposes of this post, I am bracketing all my exegetical and theological objections to Just War Theory as a Christian doctrine. Brent asked for wide-open comment, but respectful, of course.

Now, one reason that two people, equally committed to JWT, can look at the same war and draw different conclusions is because JWT comes in at least 2 forms which I have boringly labeled “loose” and “strict” forms for lack of more creativity in labeling.  The “loose” form, arguably the older form of the tradition, sees war as just one evil among many, but not particularly bad. It expects wars as a matter of course and, seeing Christian ethics as being done for the ruler (emperor, prince, president as “decider,” etc.), expects most wars–at least most wars desired by the nation or leaders the ethicist supports–to pass JWT muster.  The “strict” form sees war, especially modern war, as an incredible evil and sees the purpose of JWT to make it difficult (if not quite impossible) for nations to wage war legally.

As JWT has informed the development of international law, that body of law has tended to go with the stricter form. Especially since WWII, the majority of JWT thinkers have tended to enunciate a strict form of JWT, even if nations have not acted accordingly.  For instance, the Nuremberg Principles arising out of the trials of Nazi leaders at Nuremberg call any initiation of war except under threat of imminent attack, a Crime Against Peace. Many Nazi generals who had no part in atrocities (and so were not guilty of war crimes) or in the Holocaust (and so were not guilty of crimes against humanity) were nevertheless found guilty of crimes against peace for leading troops in the invasions of Czechoslovakia, Poland, etc. instead of refusing orders to do so even at cost of their lives. (For one application of the Nuremberg Principles to Iraq, click here.

Just War Theory developed slowly over time, beginning with St. Augustine’s adaptation of Stoic philosophy to the Christian norm of agape love (in a Constantinian arrangement that assumed that the Sermon on the Mount couldn’t be practiced except in private life).  I won’t go into all that here. For those interested in seeing that development, I recommend the following: 

Cahill, Lisa Sowle. Love Your Enemies: Discipleship, Pacifism, and Just War Theory (Fortress Press, 1994). Also excellent for tracing the development of Christian pacifism from the 1st C. to the 20th C., too.

Johnson, James Turner. Ideology, Reason, and the Limitation of War: Religious and Secular Concepts, 1200-1740. (Princeton University Press, 1975).

_____. The Just War Tradition and the Restraint of War. (Princeton University Press, 1981).

_____. The Quest for Peace:  Three Moral Traditions in Western Cultural History. (Princeton University Press, 1987).

Russell, Frederick H. The Just War in the Middle Ages. (Cambridge University Press, 1975).

Walters, LeRoy Brandt. Five Classic Just War Theories: A Study in the Thought of Thomas Aquinas,Vitoria, Suarez,  Gentili, and Grotius. (Yale University Press, 1973).

For the modern tradition of Just War Theory, see:

Brough, Michael, et al., eds., Rethinking the Just War Tradition (SUNY Press, 2007).

Elshtain, Jean Bethke, ed. , Just War Theory: Readings in Social and Political Theory.  (New York University Press, 1992).

Friedman, Leon, ed., The Law of War:  A Documentary History. (Random House, 1972).

Johnston, James Turner. Can Modern War Be Just? (Yale University Press, 1985).

Miller, Richard B., ed., War in the Twentieth Century:  Sources in Theological Ethics (Westminster/John Knox Press, 1992).

Walzer, Michael. Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations. 4th ed. (Basic Books, 2006).

To compare the development of JWT to various Islamic concepts of jihad, see;

Johnson, James Turner and John H. Kelsey, Just War and Jihad:  Historical and Theoretical Perspectives on War and Peace in Western and Islamic Traditions. (Greenwood Press, 1991).

I have previously spelled out the principles of just war theory here. Tomorrow, I will revisit that post with more pointed application to the U.S./U.K. invasion of Iraq.

April 26, 2007 Posted by | Iraq, just war theory | 4 Comments

Peace Quote

A church which cannot take a firm stand against war is a church which does not deserve to be believed.” Harvey Cox (1929-), American Baptist minister and Hollis Professor of Divinity at Harvard University Divinity School.

April 25, 2007 Posted by | Baptists, heroes, peace, sexism | 2 Comments

The Sky’s the Limit?

David Sky is a pastor with a blog called Sky’s the Limit.  It’s a nice example of a conservative theology blog that is written in a mostly calm, cool, manner without the hysterics of most conservatives.  No matter where you fall on the theological spectrum, give him a read–despite the fact that he refers to me as “stroppy-bearded.” Since he uses some kind of froggy-looking stuffed toy as his blog icon, I figure he must be jealous of my good looks and hiding his hideous  looks behind the toy. How ugly is he? Well, I’ve never seen “behind the curtain” as a resident of Oz once put it, but I figure a jealousy so petty that he calls me “stroppy-bearded” (anyone from the U.K. want to translate that for us “yanks”?), must be REALLY ugly. How ugly? I’m thinking that if Maggie Thatcher and Ernest Borgnine had a male love-child, he would be David Skye ugly.  Also, he must be one of those wimpy “men” that can’t grow a real beard.  But read his blog, anyway. After all, with all those jealousy and insecurity issues, it’s no wonder he needs so much of his theology corrected. 🙂

April 25, 2007 Posted by | blogs | Comments Off on The Sky’s the Limit?

Irish Christian & Nobel Peace Laureate Shot by Israelis

Mairead Corrigan Maguire, an Irish Catholic and co-winner of the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize for her part in starting the Irish peace movement (and The Peace People), was among a number of people, mostly Palestinian, who were shot by Israeli troops while in a nonviolent protest last Friday at the so-called “security wall” in the Palestinian village of Ben’in near Ramallah, the West Bank of the Occupied Territories.  The Israeli Defense Forces were using rubber covered bullets purchased from the U.S.  Robert Naiman, of Just Foreign Policy, points out that that most of the U.S. media have not reported this news–part of the scandalous way that our tame media is controlled by the Right, especially where Israel is.  The U.S. public cannot make informed decisions about the kind of foreign policy they want, if the “free press” is failing in its job of keeping them informed.  See also this article by Bill Moyers.

Ms. Maguire does not appear to have suffered permanent harm, but 8 Palestinians were killed.  We need to pray for the people of Palestine and Israel. If Israel discourages nonviolent protest with violent responses, it is likely to play into the hands of violent extremists on both sides.  We also need to let the media know that we don’t appreciate their self-censorship and our elected officials know that we expect the U.S. to be an honest broker for peace, not using our taxes to continue to fund occupation, oppression, and state-terrorism.

April 25, 2007 Posted by | human rights., Israel-Palestine, just peacemaking, nonviolence, politics | Comments Off on Irish Christian & Nobel Peace Laureate Shot by Israelis

Kucinich Impeaches Cheney

U.S. Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), a candidate for the Democratic nomination for U.S. President in ’08, has introduced H.R. 333, “Articles of Impeachment Against U.S. Vice President Richard (Dick) Cheney.”  Kucinich believes the House of Representative should impeach Cheney(and the Senate try him for impeachment) because he:

1. Manipulated intelligence to fabricate a threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction
2. Manipulated intelligence to fabricate a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda
3. Openly threatened aggression against Iran absent any real threat to the the United States

If you are a U.S. citizen and want your Representative to support this impeachment (it takes only a simple majority of the House), contact her or him here.  Write letters to the editor of your local paper supporting this effort. Contact Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) and urge her support.  Learn more here

April 24, 2007 Posted by | economic justice, human rights., politics, U.S. politics | 4 Comments

Peace Quote

“Twelve men went out from Jerusalem into the world, and they were unlearned men, unable to speak [i.e., unable to speak eloquently because not trained in Greek rhetoric]; but by the power of God they told every race of humanity that they were sent by Christ to teach all people the word of God.  And we who formerly slew one another not only now refuse to make war against our enemies, but for the sake of not telling lies or deceiving those who examine us [i.e., investigators charged with getting them to confess to the crime of being Christian], gladly die confessing Christ.”–Justin Martyr (c. 100-165).

In a description of the early Christian movement to the Roman Emperor about the year 150.

April 22, 2007 Posted by | evangelism, heroes, love of enemies, nonviolence, Obituaries, peace, sexism | 1 Comment