Had a lengthy "discussion" with Phil last night about the Iraq war. This was good fun, and also reminded me how torn I still am on this issue. I don't know what I think, but I do know what I don't think. As Phil reminded me, I am a Christian, in other words someone who claims to follow Jesus Christ, who quite clearly preached and practised non-violence. Yet at the same time I am repelled or disgusted by many of the arguments currently used by the anti-war lobby, which would make it very difficult for me to throw my lot in with them without sacrificing some self-respect.
Some of the anti-war arguments in circulation at the moment which I find repellent, wilfully ignorant, or just silly:
1) All the ills of the world can be blamed on George W Bush. If we could only get rid of this man, we would immediately enter an era of international peace and justice.
2) As above, but substitute "the Americans".
3) Suicide-bombers are not held to be responsible for their own actions, if they have been "forced" into violence as the only way of expressing their political frustration.
4) Especially if the victims are Jews.
5) The ongoing threat to British or American civilians from Islamic terrorism has been exaggerated.
6) The Americans are overreacting to September 11 2001.
7) The Iraqis were better off under Saddam Hussein.
8) There is moral equivalence between terrorist acts targeting civilians, and war waged by democratic governments against military targets.
9) Our Western civilization is sick to the core, we deserve everything we get.
10) There would be no cost to renouncing the use of violence against our enemies. Everyone, including us, would be better off.
On the other hand a pacifism that I could sign up to would sound more like this:
1) Non-violence will cost us. In the short-term it may well encourage the terrorists. The price might include large-scale civilian casualties in attacks against major cities in Britain and America. Nevertheless, non-violence is a core value of Christianity and our only hope for a peaceful future, so we are willing to pay the price.
2) Justice will cost us too. Giving terror suspects a fair trial will almost certainly mean that some very dangerous men are set free to kill again. Nevertheless, justice and freedom are core values of our civilization, and we are willing to pay the price to safeguard them.
3) We will not put security above freedom. We will not sacrifice our hard-won democratic values in a search for an illusory physical safety.
4) We will find other, non-violent ways to resist those who are working to overthrow our civilization and bring in a world-wide theocratic tyranny. That search may be difficult and costly, but we will not lie down and surrender our freedoms.
5) We don't impute malicious or evil motives to our leaders who took us into the Iraq and Afghan wars. But we honestly think they were honestly mistaken.
6) The moral requirement of Jesus to act non-violently applies to all humans, including the terrorists. There is no justification for violence. The ends never justify the means.
Is there a peace movement which talks like this? I'd like to hear about it.