Is there a cause for which you are prepared to kill? Ghandi vs. Henry V

Stephen WellingtonMormon, politics, thought 47 Comments

In the 1st video (sorry about the music in the background) the actor, Ben Kingsley, representing Gandhi answers the entitled question in the negative. Both Sartre and Shakespeare’s Henry V answer it in the affirmative.

Excuse me if I cause offense, but from a LDS British perspective it appears that, generally, American Mormons are supportive of a Republican party that has a haphazard and to me, a violent, foreign policy.

Here are some questions that I was hoping we could discuss as a Mormon community that may be for the benefit of all:

1) If we are to literally move to Nauvoo for The New Jerusalem, then there is bound to be some resistance from the community. If we were to be persecuted again as a Mormon community similar to the Mormons of Joseph’s day…what would you advocate…violent self defense or non-violence?

2) 2 quotes from Noam Chomsky come to mind:“Non-violent resistance activities cannot succeed against an enemy that is able freely to use violence. That’s pretty obvious. You can’t have non-violent resistance against the Nazis in a concentration camp, to take an extreme case…” Source: Chronicles of Dissent, December 13, 1989

“States are violent institutions. The government of any country, including ours, represents some sort of domestic power structure, and it’s usually violent. States are violent to the extent that they’re powerful, that’s roughly accurate.”
Source: In Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media, 1992

i)Do you advocate non-violence or violence against powerful (and thus violent) States whether it be in the form of another country or your own country that are opressive? (e.g. if you lived in Germany during Nazi rule or were a Japanese American being detained during WW2)
ii) And in what conditions would you, as Mormons, become violent against your own state?

3)Generally…is there a cause for which you are prepared to become violent? Please detail and explain.

Comments 47

  1. Does anyone else agree with me that the Book of Mormon answers this question completely… by not answering it at all. If I read the Book of Mormon correctly, there were good people that used non-violence (anti-nephi-lehies) and good people that defeneded themselves (nephites) and defended the pacifists. And the pacifists (Anti-Nephi-Lehies) sent out their own children to defend them because they hated to let the Nephites do it alone. All of these seem to be allowed and even sanctioned by God as “correct” under the circumstances.

    There are no easy answers to this question in the Book of Mormon. There are no easy answers to this question in real life. Everyone takes the facts as they understand them and does the best they can to apply correct principles to what they perceive as reality. God must understand this and work with us at that level.

  2. Brilliant post! I find Gandhi’s example supremely inspiring. I heard his grandson speak at BYU in my earlier life.

    Having just attended a Martin Luther King commemorative speech by Dr. Cornel West , an African-American civil rights activist, I have to say that the successes of Gandhi and King were rooted in their ability to move public opinion among the decision-makers in democratic states like Britain and the U.S.

    Chomsky’s example of non-violent resistance to Nazism in a concentration camp illustrates the limits of this non-violent approach. All apologies to you as a Brit, but collusion between Loyalist death squads and the British state security apparatus could not be resisted non-violently by a persecuted minority in Northern Ireland pre-1998 Good Friday agreement either. Now there are political alternatives and violence has far fewer excuses.

    Moving to Missouri, not Nauvoo, as I have heard it in the old folk tales, would entail who knows what level of conflict with our neighbors. I think we have to know our enemy to know which kind of resistance will preserve the Latter-day Saints. If our enemy is undemocratic, violence may have to be used to bring them to the negotiating table. If the enemy is democratic, public opinion can be swayed by noble sacrifice on television cameras.

    My wife and I have read a lot of Holocaust narratives and talked about what we would do in occupied Europe in terms of resistance. She has fallen more on the “let’s hide the Jews in our house” side of resistance and I agree with her, but I also feel some forms of sabotage and violence against the occupier would be necessary.

  3. Interesting, that God told Joseph Smith that they either had to buy land or shed blood for it, and as they were forbidden to shed blood …

    I think that circumstances make a great deal of difference. Sometimes violence only provokes greater violence in return that you can not overcome, sometimes non-violence is not sufficient.

  4. Post
  5. I guess so, Stephen. Can we try to define self-defense, though? Is that resisting invasion only? What if you’re already occupied by the invader? For instance, Hamas is fighting Israeli occupiers. Self-defense or terrorism?

  6. I think the following scriptures from D&C are on point:

    “We believe that no government can exist in peace, except such laws are framed and held inviolate as will secure to each individual the free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the PROTECTION OF LIFE.” (D&C 134:2.)

    “We believe that all men are BOUND TO SUSTAIN and uphold the respective governments in which they reside, WHILE PROTECTED in their inherent and inalienable rights by the laws of such governments . . . .” (D&C 134:5.)

    “We believe that men should appeal to the civil law for redress of all wrongs and grievances, where personal abuse is inflicted or the right of property or character infringed, where such laws exist as will protect the same; but we believe that ALL MEN ARE JUSTIFIED IN DEFENDING THEMSELVES, their friends, and property, and the government, from the unlawful assaults and encroachments of all persons in times of exigency, where immediate appeal cannot be made to the laws, and relief afforded.” (D&C 134:11.)

  7. As a follow-up to my above comment and to directly answer Stephen’s question:

    I’d advocate a non-violent approach to resolving problems until the lives of my family or others were imminently threatened–by either individuals or by a state.

    In my opinion, that moral justification was not triggered before the U.S. went into Iraq, and so I withdrew my registration from the Republican party shortly after the invasion in 2003.

  8. Post

    Andrew, Great scriptures. I will have to mark those and keep them for reference. I admire you Andrew for your stance on the Iraq war. But everyone please feel free to express your opinions. I dont think there are any real wrong or right answers so I would like to hear how you all feel.

    John Nilsson…I took the definition of self defense from wikipedia…not the best source but I thought it would do:

    “Self-defense refers to actions taken by a person to prevent another person from causing harm to one’s self, one’s property or one’s home.”

    I digress…I want to keep this as open as possible to hear everyone’s views. Lets stick to the original thread.

  9. >>> Do we all agree that wars of self defense are the only moral wars?

    There is actually a president (or in the presidency anyhow) of the church that spoke on this subject once. Unfortunatley I can’t remember who. I’ll try to summarize from memory and see if anyone remembers this and can find the actual statement.

    What I remember is that there are 3 possible justifications for war:
    1. Self defense
    2. Defending the helpless
    3. God commands it

    Given those three, I can see that Iraq is not #1 or #3. But one could make the debatable case for #2.

    Again, does anyone else remember this statement so that we can see the actual quote and not rely on my memory?

    Also, Andrew, I have a question for you on your stance on Iraq. This is just an honest question as I’m fairly moderate on the war in Iraq. Would enforcing a surrender treaty qualify as a justification for war? If not, how do you have any cease fire ever? If so, would it not be arguable that this was what Bush and the US was trying to do and thus it might be justified? (Again, there are multiple points of view possible here and I am not trying to take a side, I’m trying to feel out other people’s points of view on what I see as a very complex issue that I have no idea how to answer myself. But since you have a definitive stance and I don’t, I feel like I might be able to see your point of view a bit clearer if you can explain this.)

  10. Put me with the Anti-Nephi-Lehis. If you could succeed at taking a truly eternal view, then the ability of the enemy, or the Nazis, or whoever to kill your mortal body pales compared to the danger in which you place your soul when taking the life of others. Of course I would use whatever means possible short of violence to prevent evil from happening. But if it failed, I would like to be prepared to trust in the promises of the Lord concerning the preservation of the righteous.

  11. As I understand it from prophecies, we wont be going back to the New Jerusalem until the current system collapses, and a lot of the country will be cleared of its inhabitants before we go anyway. And we won’t go until we get a revelation from the prophet to go.

    Secondly, I find that a lot of LDS like myself who are not in lock step with the republican party find that the Republican party has gone a way that we are not in agreement with. I am no longer republican after seeing wars fought for corporate/miltary/industrial complex interests.

    I believe in just wars, not wars for corporate interests. I believe in protectionism, not globalism. Protectionism worked just fine for us in the 50’s where we had true productivity where this country was putting out real goods and producing.

    I am not a democrat because I’m not a socialist/communist. I’m a man without a party. I wont vote for Ron Paul because I don’t believe in libertarianism that teaches social liberalism. Ron Paul is good on everything foreign policy wise, and contstitutionally in most cases, but he is not a social conservative. Libertarians are for free love, free sex and legalization of drugs, and I will never support that, and I cant support them because those issues are too important. Heber J. Grant was against legalization of drugs because he supported prohibition, and I believe in the same principle, that laws against drugs simply need to be enforced, and we need to clean up the corrupt CIA who lets all the drugs in.

  12. Bruce, I know what quote you are talking about, but I have it saved on my computer at home; I’ll have to put it up later tonight.

    As for whether enforcing a treaty would justify a war, I’d go back to the guiding rule that non-violent approaches should be used until there is a clear and imminent threat to the lives of others. Under the circumstances of enforcing international agreements regarding Iraq, I did not believe the administration had demonstrated that a clear and imminent threat to the U.S. that would justify a war that would likely result in the deaths of tens or hundreds of thousands of people.

    I think one of the most evil things we can do as Americans (and Mormons) is to consider the lives of civilians in other countries to be of inferior value, and therefore be expendable or acceptable as “collateral damage.”

  13. >>> As for whether enforcing a treaty would justify a war, I’d go back to the guiding rule that non-violent approaches should be used until there is a clear and imminent threat to the lives of others. Under the circumstances of enforcing international agreements regarding Iraq, I did not believe the administration had demonstrated that a clear and imminent threat to the U.S. that would justify a war that would likely result in the deaths of tens or hundreds of thousands of people.

    Andrew, I am not trying to be difficult with this follow up question. It is being asked with complete sincerity.

    Is this a rule you apply uniformly?

    What I mean is, would you *really* believe that once a cease fire treaty is made with an enemy that you would not be in favor of restarting agression again until there is a clear and imminent danger?

    If you only mean this for Iraq, I think I could understand (whether I agree or not, I’m not sure), though this would mean I have more follow questions to try to understand why you feel Iraq is different from the general case.

    If you mean what you are saying uniformly, i.e. you ALWAYS mean this, then I’m not sure how you can justify it at all. It seems a bit weird to make cease fire treaties so meaningless. A smart enemy would simply continually enter into cease fires while advancing their cause until ready to start agression again on their own terms. It’s the threat of continued violence that makes a cease fire treaty effective. (Or so I believe in any case. Feel free to disagree and explain.) Could you explain yourself a bit futher?

    Please understand, I am really just trying to understand other people’s point of view. I have a hard time relating to either the pro or anti-war camp. I am simply at a loss to understand either point of view. I’m not trying to be disparging here. I don’t mean “both camps are nuts” or something like that. I mean literally, I don’t understand them. i.e. they literally don’t make sense to me.

    Both camps speak in simplicities (and perhaps a better word here would be “clarity”) that don’t seem to match the complex reality I perceive (or maybe am failing to perceive). It’s like I’m missing out on a joke that everyone else understands.

    And both sides see their stance as “moral” when frankly I can’t tell what the moral thing to do was. I’m literally reserving judgement because for the life of me I can’t tell.

  14. I see a great deal of danger in the #3: God commands it. To me, that signals any number of fanatics and fundalmentalist to justfy all sorts of violence–as it does already.

  15. NM Tony,

    I hope we can find what it is I think I’m paraphrasing because frankly I might be wrong. But it does make sense to me. If I believe the Old Testament (and I do) than I see that #3 is a necessity to make sense of the good old OT.

    The problem is that #3 will be perceived as a “catch all” by those that fear fanaticism. But in the end, we always must take accountability for our action. #3 does not change that or affect it in the slightest. Fanatical fear of fanaticism is one of the biggest causes of violence in history.

  16. Yes, Bruce, one would have to see some sort of justification for the brutality in the Old Testament if one is to believe it as the unerring Word of God. Nevertheless, #3 is still a dangerous notion, regardless of personal responsibility, especially if the individual honestly believes that they are recieving the personal revelation to kill someone. Suicide bombers honestly believe they will be rewarded by Allah for killing infidels. Some could even justify the War in Iraq as a commandment from God by saying it is setting up the End of Days. Worse yet, some religious-devout (crazed) leader could intentionally start a war for the very purpose of encouraging or even forcing Armageddon. The justification would simply be that it was the will of God (#3). I find it ironic that a omnibenevolent, self-proclaimed Prince of Peace must rely on war to advance his cause. I have to question this line of thinking and still proclaim it dangerous. In fact, couldn’t the participants in the Mountain Meadows Massacre claim they thought they were doing what was commanded of God?

  17. NM Tony,

    Pardon me, but I’m not sure I’m with you on this. #3 is either true or it isn’t, first of all. God either can command a war in rare circumstances (such as in the OT) or He can’t. You don’t seem to be taking a stance on this, you seem to be saying “that line of thinking is dangerous because people can abuse it.” Paradon me, but of course that is true. Are you saying #3 isn’t true? Or are you just saying we should not mention it, even though it’s true, because people will abuse it? Please clarify.

    >>> Suicide bombers honestly believe they will be rewarded by Allah for killing infidels.
    I think people should get this out of their head that suicide bombings are primarily caused by religious fanaticism. There is certainly no evidence to back this at this point in time. The vast majority of suicide bombings were performed by non-religion and in fact atheitic groups. The main cause it wanting to remove a foreign power from their soil. In other words, I have no reason to believe the suicide bombings performed by radical Islam are anything but political with religion used to justify what they were going to do anyhow — religion or not. I’m not saying that is the case, I’m saying I have no reason to believe on way or the other. Do you have some way of proving this is actually caused by their religion and isn’t primarily political? I’ve certainly seen no evidence proving one way or the other at this point in time. This sort of cause and effect thinking worries me for many reasons. It’s the very justification used to run the Mormons out of everywhere. The Mormons are fanatics so we KNOW they were going to do terrible things. So we burn their houses down and run them out of the state. Becareful with this line of logic. It is just as likely to be dangerous as the one you were trying to counter.

    >>> I have to question this line of thinking and still proclaim it dangerous.
    I am certainly not disagreeing with you on this. I don’t think anyone is. I believe we were only talking theoretically. Obviously this justification can be abused.

    But isn’t that true of all 3? Can’t someone justify their own agression by claiming they are just defending themselves? Can’t someone justify their own agression by claiming to be helping out someone else that couldn’t defend themselves?

    That’s what I meant by person accountability. One can ALWAYS justify themselves using the language of virtue. But that doesn’t remove the underlying possiblity of there being a virtuous reason for war as per those three points.

  18. Bruce,

    I see a difference between God telling the prophet of the church to tell the members to kill, and individual members deciding for themselves (like Nephi) that God wants them to kill someone.

    Do you have a position on that? If God tells me to kill someone, is that ok?

  19. >>> see a difference between God telling the prophet of the church to tell the members to kill, and individual members deciding for themselves (like Nephi) that God wants them to kill someone.

    >>> Do you have a position on that? If God tells me to kill someone, is that ok?

    Good question. I wish I had this talk that I’m paraphrase from memory and probably wrongly. Truth be told, my memory is that we’re talking ordained prophets only that are heads of state. In other words, #3 does not apply modernly at all.

    So to answer your question, I can foresee no circumstance where a person could legitimately claim God told them to kill because that would always be at odds with the revelation from the top, and thus (as per standard Mormon doctrine) always be considered a false revelation because personal revelation is never understood as being true if at odds with general revelation which trumps it.

    However, John, I am not sure I agree with your example. Nephi is a prophet of the Church. Do you believe Nephi was correct to slay Laban after commanded by God to do so? To be honest, I’m not so sure Nephi wasn’t correct to slay Laban even if not commanded as per the laws of his time — after Laban robbed him. (I’m no expert here.)

  20. “God either can command a war in rare circumstances (such as in the OT) or He can’t.”

    I have to interject the heretical viewpoint here. I don’t see that as only two choices, that God can or cannot command violence with scriptures as proof. The third option, when considering historical legends like the OT, is that the author believed that God commanded the violence as a way to make sense of the contradiction. I use the term legend only to refer to the methods that OT books were preserved. Mostly by oral inheritance. Our faith invokes a deep value of human life, and especially if we believe that the LDS plan of salvation was a belief of ancient prophets as well, it becomes very hard to understand how God would command such brutality.

    I know, I’m suggesting that the scriptures are more so a record of people trying to communicate with and understand God and less so a verbatim dictation of God’s word to humans. That is my position, and I understand its not orthodox, but for me personally, orthodox interpretation of scripture is extremely conflicting.

    Also, this is just a snippet, but maybe this is the talk you were thinking about. (see below)

    Spencer W. Kimball, from The False Gods We Worship:

    We are a warlike people, easily distracted from our assignment of preparing for the coming of the Lord. When enemies rise up, we commit vast resources to the fabrication of gods of stone and steel—ships, planes, missiles, fortifications—and depend on them for protection and deliverance. When threatened, we align ourselves against the enemy instead of aligning ourselves with the kingdom of God; we train a man in the art of war and call him a patriot, thus, in the manner of Satan’s counterfeit of true patriotism, perverting the Savior’s teaching:

    “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

    “That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.”

  21. Post

    Did George W. Bush claim #3 at one point for Iraq? Blair claimed that he had prayed about the Iraq War and God told him that it was right….ludicrous when you actually start to study the Military Industrial Complex.

    A Quote from London’s Financial Times Yesterday….and this can go for John Hamer aswell because it has to do with the conversation we had about Democrats.

    “The US Government spends between 3.5% and 4% of its GDP on defence.[and Romney wants to increase this] Overall, the total US defence budget this year should reach a massive $696 billion, a 14% year on year groth – and British companies are competing for a slice of the pie…Some analysts have recently raised the prospect that US defence spending could be slashed if the Democrats regain power in the White House later this year…Mr Cook[CEO of Cobham], who was in Washington last week during the recent New Hampshire primary, said, all the signals he was picking up showed that this was not a great concern for defence contractors.”

    The article goes on to say that Mr Cook believes, from meeting with Democrats, that there will be a growth in the defense budget under the Democrats but not as high as 14% each year. And on a side note…lets not forget that the Pentagon cannot account for $2.3 TRILLION of expenses each year!

    The movie, “Why We Fight” is absolutely incredible for detailing what goes on behind the scenes of the Military Industrial Complex. Really helped me see the motivation for warmongering in the last 50 years.


    I have heard those 3 options before, but before the Iraq war started it was estimated that there could be casualties of around 500,000 civilians. Over a million children died under sanctions between both Gulf Wars…
    Condeleeza Rice and Colin Powell both, before 9/11, said that Iraq was not a threat on a number of occasions. This would negate #1 and #2
    The only viable option here is #3. Tony Blair did…and I am pretty sure GW did….both receive signal from Deity that they were to remove Saddam…But I wonder if this deity is David Rockefeller or Elohim? So I think this answers everyones questions. Yes, #3 is still viable in modernity and YES, only madmen use it as an excuse.

    Please keep responding as I am interested in answers to the entitled question and what each one of us would do under the scenarios of the questions? John Dehlin…I am interested in what you think…you are being awfully quiet.

  22. I haven’t read all the comments here, but this statement: “If the enemy is democratic, public opinion can be swayed by noble sacrifice on television cameras” isn’t completely true as the ‘Abuelas de Playa de Mayo’ proved in the late 70s/early 80s Argentina. Their peaceful activism plus the economic problems of the day almost ended the generals dictatorship by ’81 (then they regained some power and popularity with the Falklands invasion but lost it again very quickly). Those ‘Abuelas’, who where all leftist/socialist, showed that peaceful protests brings about results in the long term, just like Ghandi showed several decades before; ie peaceful resistance will produce change in the long term under brutal dictators like Argentina’s or under democracy as Martin Luther King & Nelson Mandela showed.

    As to your question on Mormons, I wonder if there ever was a justification for armed/violent uprising against our oppressors in the Kirkland-to-Utah territory period; I think not, since we are still today asking forgiveness for Mountain Meadows, and like that case we would probably be expressing ‘regret’ for the other lesser known incidents against Indians near Park City, or any war in Nauvoo. I always thought that the Lord used the wicked against the wicked to bring about justice [which today, for me at least, means that he used Bush against Saddam since I can only see Bush as trying to finish daddy’s war, something they were planning from day one!].

    The individuals’ question is different. If God tells me to kill someone and I do so, then I’m still responsible for the act of killing but can assume that God won’t pass a murderers sentence on me giving that he commands me to kill -just like Moses or Nephi.

  23. To be honest, I’m not so sure Nephi wasn’t correct to slay Laban even if not commanded as per the laws of his time — after Laban robbed him. (I’m no expert here.)

    I don’t see how ancient Hebrew law informs whether Nephi was “correct” to kill Laban.

  24. When someone of influence uses the words (“God”, “commanded” and “kill”) in the same sentence, society should quickly assess the source and determine risk.

    Jonestown, Waco and Hale-Bopp come to mind.

  25. Chris W: Good point. I know very little about ancient Hebrew law. Obviously what Nephi did would technically be murder by the Law of Moses. However, I’ve heard there were exceptions, etc, in real life and don’t know if this would count or not. That’s all I was saying. I really have no idea.

    Clay said: “The third option, when considering historical legends like the OT, is that the author believed that God commanded the violence as a way to make sense of the contradiction”

    Clay, this is just one of the two options I listed. You believe God can’t or won’t command such a thing. This is not a third option as you are suggesting.

    Stephen Wellington,
    What I am suggesting is that there could be a legitimate point of view that the Iraq war was actually just a continuation of the Persian Gulf war as a way of enforcing that cease fire. In which case the Iraq war (if understood in this light I’m saying) is in fact #2 because the war was started to defend Kuwait.

    After reading “Plan of Attack” it is clear that this was Colin Powell’s point of view and that is why he ended up supporting the war effort. I wasn’t just misguided loyalty as some believe. He honestly thought it a moral war because it was an enforcing of the cease fire on a war to defend the helpless. He even became quite convinced that France had started this war by refusing to let diplomacy take place. I agree with Powell that a cease fire treaty with no threat of violence has no use at all. France let their back room deals with Iraq cloud their judgment and nullified the peace processes. There really were two options at that point: 1) walk away, 2) go to war.

    I completely respect the point of view that it wasn’t worth it and we should have walked away. I think this point of view, in 20/20 hindsight, was obviously correct.

    But I also respect the point of view that we needed to enforce the treaty because we honestly believed there were WMDs. (Or at least had no other way of being sure there wasn’t.)

    For me, the question will always be “what if there had been WMDs.” If a person call tell me honestly “we still shouldn’t have gone. I thought there were WMDs but I was still against the war” I have respect for their point of view. I can’t say they were wrong.

    As it turns out, it was a huge mistake because there were no weapons of mass destruction, though Husein was in fact in violation of his treaty. But that’s using my 20/20 hindsight. Those that decided to go to war didn’t get to know that at the time. They had to make a judgment call on the partial information they had. It was, in my honest opinion, a tough call. They made the wrong call.

    But I honestly don’t get where the anti-Bushies are coming from. How can they not see the moral ambiguity here that Bush and Blair had to face with partial information? How can the anti-Bushies possibly not see the difficulty of this call that had to be made?

    But then again, how can the pro-Bushies possibly not see that this was in fact a mistake? I just don’t get it.

    Both sides seem to me to fail to understand what actually took place. Instead we get a lot of conspiracy theories. Anti-Bushies dream up that it was all about Cheney wanting to get rich on oil stocks and pro-Bushies dream up some conspiracy where Sadaam tricked us into attacking while hiding his weapons. It’s so infuriating I could scream. Like I said, it’s almost like everyone is in on a joke that I can’t understand.

    Even just looking over posts here, I’m very concerned with what some people are saying which I feel the fact simply do not support:

    “I can only see Bush as trying to finish daddy’s war, something they were planning from day one!”

    This statement really concerns me as it is likely a non-factual rumor used to justify a certain point of view. If you mean the US government has had a policy of regime change from the beginning, dating back to Clinton actually, then I agree with you. In my opinion, this was a correct policy. I’m not sure how you could argue otherwise.

    If you mean that Bush, from the beginning, had doubts that diplomacy would work, I can still agree with you. But I had doubts too, so I can hardly blame Bush. And, oh yeah, it didn’t work. So I guess he was right. (Feel free to feel like someone else could have been more effective. It’s just an unprovable opinion.)

    But if you mean Bush didn’t make an honest attempt at diplomacy, this is provably false. Please read “Plan of Attack” to blow this theory out of the water. (This is NOT a pro-Bush book at all. Bob Woodward is hardly a conservative or pro-Bush type. He’s just a good reporter.)

    “Did George W. Bush claim #3 at one point for Iraq?”
    This is another concerning statement for me. We *must* understand the difference between a person making up their own mind and going to God for confirmation — what Bush and Blair did — and claiming a revelation from God as the sole basis for a war. Bush and Blair, actually really Blair, did a really good job of explaining the rationale for war as enforcement of the cease fire treaty and thus #2.

    Please understand, I feel the war was a mistake. That much is clear. But that doesn’t give me an excuse to dream up conspiracies or misrepresent the facts as so many I talk to about the war (on both sides) do.

  26. Sales Pitch: “Buy our product it will make your life better” (maybe true, maybe not)
    Motive: Make lots of money.

    Sales Pitch: “Iraq has WMD’s” (maybe true, maybe not)
    Motive: Flow of oil – (this has nothing to do with Cheney’s stocks)

    Result: Enormous human cost, huge financial cost, less oil flow.

  27. TJM, this is exactly what I’m talking about. It is concerning to see such a complex issue boiled down to such an obvious over simplification. While what you are saying is not necessarily “untrue” it’s certainly not representative of the real decision process that the administration went through nor of their real intent.

    I know I can’t convince people simply by asserting an alternative view. Also, I know from having gone down this road a million times now with anti-Bushies that no matter what I say, I will be categorized as “pro-War” because when it comes to the anti-Bush camp, those that are not with them are against them.

    Here is what I propose, TJM. Please please go read “Plan of Attack.” This is not a book that will change your mind about the war. When you are done, you will still be very anti-Bush and anti-War, I promise. (Go on to read State of Denial, the sequel, and it will confirm your existing view of Bush’s incompetence.) Hillary Clinton loved the book and Kerry had it on his recommended reading list during his campaign.

    But reading this book will correct false or oversimplified information you currently carry around, as your post above proves. You may still hate Bush and the war, but it will be for the right reasons.

    And my hope is that it will moderate your opinion a bit. You’ll be ready to really have dialog with the pro-Bush camp instead of talking past each other as is currently so common.

    I don’t want to see anyone change their mind on this issue. There are very good reasons to be anti-war. There are very good reasons to be pro-war. It’s time for both sides to strive for some real dialog and understanding.

    Incidently, I recommend “Plan of Attack” to pro-Bushies too. I promise reading this book will not cause you to stop being pro-Bush or pro-War. But it will help you straighten out a lot of the false facts the pro-Bush camp throws around. You’ll now believe in the war for the right reasons. And I hope it will moderate your view a bit and prepare you for dialog with the anti-war camp. (And you can read the book before it, “Bush at War” to confirm your view that Bush is a competent leader.) Bush had this book on his recommended reading list during his last campaign.

    My concern is honest dialog. I don’t see much of it. It’s all hatred, polemics, emotion, and anger right now.

    I’ve been tempted to try to write up a blog post and make the case for moderation on the war: that is to say, to keep your current view, whatever it is, but try to allow yourself to understand the other view so that you can have a bit more respect for it. I don’t know that this is really relevant to Mormonism, so I won’t do it. But I’d really like to go through some of the facts presented in “Plan of Attack” and tackle some of the false rumors I hear over and over again from both sides and try to get some real dialog going. It is so needed.

  28. Post


    The Iraq war, for myself, is one of certainties. The United Nations voted it to be an illegal occupation under international law. The British population were very much against it. When the Dixie Chicks said, “I am ashamed the president is from Texas”, she was in the UK at the time. Our news media was not spinning at so fast a rate as the US…and is usually more balanced in any case.

    There were many benefits to fighting and occupying Iraq and these are not made at Bush’s level. He just says what they tell him to say.

    According to Secretary of the Treasury, Paul O’Neil, Bush’s NSC cabinet had planned this war from 10 days of getting into the White House which shows that the Neocons must have planned on breaking their “no policing the world” election promises.

    Now personally, and from the many hours of study I have done I believe the motivations were multiplicitous but all illegal, but the primary reason was petrodollar warfare. I dont think the French are guilty for the war, and I know about their trading during sanctins, nevertheless I think this is again just Pentagon spin because the French President knew what it was about.

    Countries carefully align themselves with John Nash’s Game Theory which theorizes that the world is a safer place when we are all selfish. I really dont believe that this decision for war was made out of altruism. If that was the case…why didnt they attack North Korea, or Zimbabwe, or Pakistan…or for goodness sakes the country where the highjackers came from…Saudi Arabia? It is sad to realize that our countries are not as pure and selfless as we once belived. Thank Joe Strauss again for the inseminating ideology. But one does not have to look at the Iraq War to realize that our countries will only be too happy to get us into war. Look at the Gulf of Tonkin, the USS Maine, the USS Liberty, The Nye Committee findings and WW1, the Lusitania…and as General Smedley Butler has said, “remove the profits from war and there will be no more wars.”

    I have on my reading list Plan of Attack…perhaps on your viewing list you could put the link I showed above for the film, “Why We Fight.”

    I commend you for reading Bob Woodwards book, he is fantastic but I would also strongly recommend that you avoid mainstream media in the US for sources of information. As Stephen Colbert on his satirical show immitating Bill O’Reily, “The problem with Truth is that it has a liberal bias.”

  29. >>> “The problem with Truth is that it has a liberal bias.”

    I was trying to moderate by views by reading a more liberal point of view. I was shocked how much it disproved many of the views you espouse while simultaneously giving plenty of reason to be against the war. Reading the book will not change your point of view, it will just moderate some of the false views you have, like the assumption that their plan from the beginning for regime change somehow equated to no honest diplomacy.

  30. Stephen, one more question. In your post you made a big deal that this war wouldn’t have been fought if not for the “profit.” I.e. this war has an economic justification.

    This may suprise you, but I agree with you. Completely. But I don’t understand about the position you are taking is how could you ever be in favor of any war with a stance like that? WWII? It had an economic justification. It was about “profit.” Persian Gulf war? Oh yeah! Kosovo? Better believe it was about stablizing our trading partners.

    What I’m trying to say is that I agree with you but fail to understand your logic on why this wouuld, by itself at least, be a basis for opposing a war. Wars are not fought if the economics don’t justify it. But it’s moral basis will always come from elsewhere. WW II, even though it was economically justified, was also morally justified. So was (in my view at least) the Persian Gulf War.

    Iraq definitely had an economic justification. I would not argue that. But where I want to see dialog in on whether or not it had a moral justification. I see moral abiguity here and I just don’t know. My current view is that it was a huge but understandable mistake. Thus I find myself in a sense pro-war and in a sense anti-war. I see no clear cut answers and I see your clear cut answers as having gaps that I can’t jump across.

    I would love to meet someone that was anti-war from the beginning that said “You know, it just wasn’t worth it. We should have walked away from the treaty and let Sadaam alone. I understand why Bush felt the need to enforce it since Sadaam was in non-compliance and it was common belief at the time that he had WMDs, but it was still not worth it!” I could really get behind such a view.

  31. In response to:

    TJM, this is exactly what I’m talking about. It is concerning to see such a complex issue boiled down to such an obvious over simplification. While what you are saying is not necessarily “untrue” it’s certainly not representative of the real decision process that the administration went through nor of their real intent.

    My point is simply this: If you take oil out of the equation, it takes America out of the middle east. Why don’t we have such military presence in Africa?

    Energy independence is the only solution.

    I understand the motive. Freight trains and semi-trucks need to roll for our survival. No one wants to go without food and heat. But, we are using our resources in the wrong area to resolve our ultimate needs.

  32. “You believe God can’t or won’t command such a thing. This is not a third option as you are suggesting.”

    I don’t believe “won’t” and “can’t” are the same thing. God could command violence, and the scriptural narrative could even claim that God commanded the violence that took place. That does not automatically mean that God did command it.

  33. Clay, it seems like you are saying exactly what I am. I don’t know how to communicate it any better than you are. You agree with me, so good job! 😉 It seems to me that you are suggesting that God could command war, but you don’t believe He did, or at least aren’t convinced He did.

    But this is still the same was what I am saying. There is still no third option. God can command war, He just didn’t. But if He did, it would be right. Thus you are accepting the Church’s position as true: it is right to go to war if God commands it. End of story. The fact that you disbelieve the old testament record in this regard doesn’t make it a third option.

    >>> Energy independence is the only solution.

    TJM, this is a statement I can get behind. I agree that if we take oil out of the equation a huge part of the conflict is resolved. I’m not as convinced as you that it’s 100%. But even if I were to accept that the war was really about rooting out terrorism and safe havens (a questionable position to be sure, though one I honestly believe Bush’s administration believed in at the time) I would have to realistically accept that oil was still an indirect issue, and a viable one at that, as it’s the source of funding Saddam and others. In other words I can agree with you but I can’t compartmentalize like you can.

    Removing a non-compliant dictator who is in violation of his cease fire treaty is a worthy reason to consider war in my opinion, though not necessarily one that demands war. But ware must be an option. The oil is added motitvation but not necessarily the primary motivation. In this case, it was a huge factor on how the origial Persian Gulf war was justified, so it would be impossible to decouple that issue now. I wish someone in the anti-war camp would at least admit this to themselves.

    Let me just say this. I believe the real question here is not “was it about oil?” It was in part. That neither makes it moral or amoral. Do you all believe the Persian Gulf war was amoral? It was far more about oil than the Iraq war is.

    What would make it amoral is if it primarily or solely about oil. If this is true, then it’s amoral. But please note that not one of you has tackled this question yet. Do you even have evidence to suggest one point of view over the other? If so, why didn’t that come out first as that is clearly the issue here.

    There is a simplicity to the arguements being made here that skips over the real issues needing consideration. This is what worries me. You may all be dead right and I’m just cynical enough to believe it could be true. But as of yet, I have seen no evidence that Bush did this “primarily for the oil.” Considering how this basically destroyed his political career, he would have to be mighty stupid to have done it only for the oil. It would be one of the most monumentally stupid moves of a politician ever since it benefited him nothing at all.

    I think a much better explanation that fits the facts beter is that Bush honestly thought he was liberating people, protecting the world from WMD, while removing a tyrant that had a real source of power in his oil. There is also no doubt that Bush was very sensitive to how distruptions to oil supply (either intentional or unintentional) could disrupt the American economy. So, yes, it was in part about the oil. How could I believe otherwise?

    I feel there is a lot of room for varied points of view that all fit the facts. I do not believe there is an obvious answer here and I’m distrustful of supposed easy answers here.

    I believe this is what ultimately separates me from all the rest of you. It is not that I am pro or anti war, I’m really neither. What really separates me from the rest of you is that I believe both sides have a valid point of view worthy of discussion. Look inside your hearts and ask yourself this troubling question: “Am I so emotionally close to the situation that I can’t even listen to the other side’s valid points?” Then ask yourself this: “what type of damage am I doing by closing off dialog?”

    How will we ever deal with a situation like this in the future if we don’t honestly ask ourselves the hard questions we are avoiding? We can’t just make a rule like “we won’t go to war if oil is involved” or even “we won’t go to war if there is an economic reason involved.” Rules like this just don’t work. They nullify every worthy war we’ve fought. We can’t make a rule like “we will never enforce a cease fire unless there is imminent threat of lives.” How could this ever work in real life? I don’t even believe we can make a rule like “we will only go to war with the UN backs it.” This puts us at the mercy of every country with veto power even if they are acting corruptly. We can’t even make a rule like “we won’t go to war if it’s against international law” as there is no judiciary body that can determine if it is or isn’t against the law and thus it’s just a matter of popular opinion. (Which meant we would go to war because at the time popular opinion in the America was that it was legal.)

    It’s time to do some real soul searching here.

  34. Honest counter point: *Can* we make any of the above rules and I’m just being stuborn? (i.e. I am emotionally close to it and I’m not seeing it?) I would encourage open discussion if one of you felt one of the above rules could actually be turned into a hard fast rule that we can uniformly apply.

    I think that is what I’m looking for: rules that we can apply. A sort of “test” that allows us to determine when we should or shouldn’t go to war. I know it’s naive for me to believe it’s possible, but perhaps the quest is itself worth it.

  35. It’s time to do some real soul searching here.

    I agree with this.

    We have a long history with the middle east and oil. Our leaders have let many years pass without addressing our energy needs from a forward looking stance. The cycle can’t continue as is.

    What’s done is done. It is a civilized societies moral responsibility to look for intelligent alternatives.

    War should be the absolute and completely unavoidable last result.

  36. Post


    When every other country in the world says that the war in Iraq is illegal…dont you think they are trying to tell us something? It is just the same when every country in the year votes for Israel to give back the occupied terroritories of Palestinian land back to the palestinians except for Israel, the US and the Marshall Islands who vote no. The simple 50 year historical explanation is that America’s foreign policy has been and is oppresive and often more violent then other countries. Having the UN vote on war may not be the ultimate answer to a complex problem, but we have seen from the example of the Iraq war that it is probably the best one we have.

    As for meeting people who were always against the Iraq war…come to the UK or to any other country in the world that was not disseminated with the same pro-war propaganda that the US was and you will find many people who were always against it. Dont forget that the largest anti-war demonstration ever was in the UK and the French population were much more anti-war then we were.

    Taking the profit out of war was the suggested solution of General Smedley Butler…one of the best generals your country has ever had and a general that prevented a banking fascist coup from taking over the white house in 1933. He has a lot of experience.

    Smedley says in 1935, “war is a racket…it always has been. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small “inside” group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes…At least 21,000 new millionaires and billionaires were made in the United States during WW1…it is dressed into speeches about patriotism, love of country, and “we must all put our shoulders to the wheel,” but the profits jump and leap and skyrocket-and are safely pocketed…In the World War we used propaganda to make the boys accept conscription. They were made to feel ashamed if they didnt join the army…Beautiful ideals were painted for our boys who were sent out to die. This was the “war to end all wars.” This was the “war to make the world safe for democracy.” No one mentioned to them, as they marched away, that their going and their dying would mean huge profits. No one told these American soldiers that they might be shot down by bullets made by their own brothers here.”

    He gives 3 ways of making wars just:
    1) Take the profit out
    2) Let the soldiers vote on whether they want to fight.
    3) Make military forces for defense purposes only

    To illustrates General Butler’s points about dressing wars up with “democratic reason” lets look at some examples. The war in Iraq was called, “Operation Iraqi Liberty (OIL) but changed liberty to freedom when they realized the irony. Operation Enduring Freedom is the pathetic title given to the duplicitous actions the US of trying to cure the world of “global terrorism” whilst also excacerabting it and participating in it! The war in Panama was called “Operation Just Cause”…another pointless war where International Law voted it to be illegal. (Watch the Panama Deception) History repeats itself over and over again.

    With all this, we need to learn to apply to ourselves what we apply to others and treat those in the world with the same respect we do our own citizens. This would make the war on terrorism farcical and the US the biggest terrorist country over the last 50 years where it has bombed 22 countries since WW2 and every president, if judged by the Nuremberg principles, would be hung. Think about it…but again we as a population have been conditioned not to see this.

    And next time when this situation arises again…stop looking through the eyes of the powerful and think about what has happened in the past…the motivations remain the same. There is no clear cut answer to the posed question which is why I asked it, but in terms of the context of the Iraq war it was clear cut for me personally. And it is still clear cut at the moment as the West postures 50 miles off the coast of Iran, itching for it to retalliate because of “suspected” WMD’s.

  37. TJM Says: “War should be the absolute and completely unavoidable last result.”

    TJM, you said it. I guess this is the bottom line isn’t it? If you think Bush and Blair didn’t exaust all reasonable alternatives first, then of course you’d be against the war. This makes sense to me. It’s much better than the other reasons given so far. Thank you for putting it that way. Of course the next question is “what else could he have done?” if one is anti-war or “did he really do everything?” if one is pro-war.

    You suggested a completely different set of criteria for whether or not a war is moral. It think this would open up an interesting discussion by itself.

    However, I can’t help but notice that by this standard every war ever fought has been amoral, including WW 2 and the revolutionary war. Did George Washington let people leave the army if they wanted to? Nope. Fails #2. Did people make profit off the war? Yup. Fails #1. Same with WW 2 of course.

    So as a judgment for morality of war, I don’t think it’s much of a litmus test as it always fails in real life. But I think the underlying point is valid: war can’t be *because* of the profit, and should *always* be in defense of self or others. (i.e. the original 3 points about the Church’s view minus the idea of God commanding it which I agree can’t happen modernly.)

    >>> When every other country in the world says that the war in Iraq is illegal…dont you think they are trying to tell us something?

    If you are asking me, no, I’m not convinced that the rest of the world isn’t receiving propoganda and doing this out of self interest just like you feel the Americans are. If you are explaining your position, yes, I see where you are coming from. There is a certain safety in numbers, or at least a strong perception of it.

    >>> It is just the same when every country in the year votes for Israel to give back the occupied terroritories of Palestinian land back to the palestinians except for Israel, the US and the Marshall Islands who vote no.

    Way off topic, but good example. But is it really true that this is as simple as Israel giving back land taken during a war?

    I’m not up on this issue, so I’m going to read this wikipedia article and see what I find:

    Wow! This is a really morally murky issue. Can’t say I’m suprised. Real life rarely has moral simplicity that people pretend it does. I wouldn’t just give the land back to the Palestinians without a lot of promises first either. I can’t say Israel is handling this right, but I can’t say it’s anywhere near as easy as you seem to think.

    Update: Okay, I’m still reading. I just got the section called “The question of Palestinian refugees.” Wow! This is morally difficult. I can see both sides here. The Palestinians apparently left of their own accord during the war (this is debatable, it would seem, in some cases) and the countries that brought them in refused to keep them. But I can see the other side too. They have stats that (to them at least) suggest that Arab call to leave wasn’t a huge factor. Who to believe? Both seem like reasonable points to me.

    But this is really not clear cut to me. I think the UN should be condemned for simply voting to have Israel give the land back without brokering a peace first. (As you suggested, but I have no knowledge if you were accurate or not.) That is just awful. What in the world are they thinking? It’s very offensive.

    If this is the example you want to hold up, fine, but to me it suggests that popular opinion in the world doesn’t mean much morally.

    Update: Holy cow! From

    In 1957, the Refugee Conference at Homs, Syria, passed a resolution stating that “Any discussion aimed at a solution of the Palestine problem which will not be based on ensuring the refugees’ right to annihilate Israel will be regarded as a desecration of the Arab people and an act of treason (Beirut al Massa, July 15, 1957).”[15]

    The Arab League issued instructions barring the Arab states from granting citizenship to Palestinian Arab refugees (or their descendants) “to avoid dissolution of their identity and protect their right to return to their homeland”.[16]


    Update again: Ah, it sounded really bad. Looks like the neutrality of that article is disputed. I won’t assume it was true. If it is, that is really really bad.

  38. In response to:
    ”TJM Says: “War should be the absolute and completely unavoidable last result.”

    I’m happy my comment appeased, but I think we may be talking past each other here. 🙂

    Clarification: War should never, ever, even be considered unless absolutely every other option has been exhausted, and there is no other alternative, making it completely and unavoidably the last result, and only option we have left.

  39. Post

    Ultimately Bruce, you are right about this issue. War is not clear cut and is morally murky. It is fascinating having these discussions because there are always a number of different ways of approaching these issues. I completely agree with you about George Washington and WW2. I think we stand on a very similar ground in terms of war in general. The idea of killing for a moral cause is impossible because war is, in my mind never 100% moral, though it may be necessary in the era of realpolitik.

    The Israeli-palestinian conflict, you are right, is a difficult issue. But what we are seeing is a group of people claiming God gave them that land. Is this a recurrence of our nutty #3 again? With the conflict I agree that I want Hamas to stop bombing civilians but I also want Israel too aswell. I want peace…but it is a case of which comes first, peace our land? Israel’s actions have demonstrated very well that they do not want peace despite the political rhetoric coming from the farcical meeting at Anapolis. The bombing of Syria just 3 months ago when North Korean scientists came over to talk about Nuclear Power/weapons is a sign of preemptive and illegal strikes. The conflict is, in my mind, blowback from previous atrocious policies on the part of the British, US and Israel. It is also covered in smoke when a group of militant islamists will want to absolutely kill on Jews in the area. I promote self defence in this case but not by being duplicitous and annexing all quality land/drinking water. Lets not forget aswell that in 2006 the US pushed the Israelis into withdrawing from the ROAD Map For Peace talks when the democratically elected government of Hamas came to power.

    On this issue you and I agree…we want peace…however I do not want subordination, which is ultimately what Israel demand.

    Bruce, for you personally…is there a cause for which you would be willing to kill? If you were conscripted to fight in the Iraq War, would you feel it was ok to do so morally or would you take the stance of Lieutenant Ehren Watada?

    The Iraq war is, for me however…clear cut. Living in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia during the First Gulf War where scuds came down around us has given me experience in the region and the threat Saddam posed at that time. So I speak somewhat from involvement in the first gulf war and from lots of research. But that does not mean that I am right.

  40. Okay, one more post and then I’m done here. I can’t imagine having anything else to say on this point without actually sitting down with someone and discussing actual details.

    >>> There is no clear cut answer to the posed question which is why I asked it, but in terms of the context of the Iraq war it was clear cut for me personally.

    I can certainly respect your opinion here. If it’s clear cut to you, you need to oppose the war as much as you can.

    I wish I had your clarity and simplicity, but only if it represents reality. I am still in doubt on that second part, but open to it.

    Someday let’s go to lunch (all you have to do is come to the States :P) and talk actual details and you can help me understand where you are coming from without all the generalities and emotional banter which is unavoidable in posts like these. I can only really understand where someone is coming from by going through details and having them explain how they understand those details. I know of no other way.

    Oh, and I will look at that video you posted. I thought it was the WW 2 proganda film of the same name, but just say that it wasn’t.

    Update: Drat! It won’t download for me. Sorry. I’ll keep trying. It gets to just under 2 minutes and then stops for good.

  41. On energy independence, the coming geothermal experiments are going to have dramatic results if the costs work out as projected.

  42. Post

    Try these links Bruce:

    I have enjoyed it. I would love to sit down and have lunch with you. Look me up if you are in the UK. If you ever have a chance to watch or read Noam Chomsky…He is the modern day Jeremiah warning us all of what we are doing but no one listens.

  43. I added Noam to my reading list. I’ll try the other links. Sorry to post again. Thought you deserved a reply. Listen, I’m not sure what you are refering to when you talk about the coming geothermal experiments, but if this is related to what I see a a massive oil crunch coming and the need to move massively to alternative sources (perhaps following a world wide depression), then we might actually agree on this point.

    Update: other link (first one anyhow) seems to be working.

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