Saturday, March 17, 2007

I am not a pacifist but...

In a little while, I am going over to the Bayview Park and Ride to join other war protesters in a day of anti-war events.

I am not a pacifist. I do believe there may be such a thing as a just war. But Iraq is not it. Nor was Vietnam. Nor Korea. Nor any of the many "turf wars" that occur constantly around the globe.

My faith tradition, Unitarian Universalism, is not specifically a peace tradition, though we have many pacifists and conscientious objectors within our congregations. What UUs generally believe is that Truth is important and that Honesty must be at the heart of politics, that human life is not casually expendable, and that both sides bleed when the shots are fired.

I believe that the Iraq war was started because of deliberate misrepresentations about WMDs and about 9/11, that Congress was misled into believing the misrepresentations, that a pre-emptive strike was immoral, that the thousands of Iraqi citizens who have died at our hands are not "collateral damage" but are our human brothers and sisters, that we have made a bad situation in Iraq worse with our insistence that our form of democracy be instituted there, and that American lives are being foolishly expended.

I believe that the war is an outgrowth of American hubris and privilege and that our military personnel, who are being required to shoot and kill other humans at our behest and are in grave danger of dying themselves, are, in many if not most cases, trapped by their loyalty to a system which is using them. They have no real choice but to serve the system, for their families, their sense of honor, and their personal moral code demand that they fulfill the service they signed up for. I do not condemn them; I understand what it means to be in such a position.

At the root of the hubris and privilege that have instigated the war is an addiction to the fruits of domination. That is, in this case, energy. Oil. In other wars it has been control of land masses and their natural resources.

Addictions have been described as an effort to fill up a spiritual vacuum, a self-medicating of the pain of being out of relationship with God. Traditional religion has not done the trick in filling up that vacuum; instead, it seems to have increased the compulsion to feed the addiction with ever more power and greedy consumption. Religion must shift its emphasis from dominion to cooperation.

Addictions kill human beings, whether it is an individual death from alcoholism or a national, even global, death from war.


Mile High Pixie said...

What an interesting way to describe the Iraq War, as an ourgrowth of addiction! It would certainly ring true that nothing good ever came out of a campaign based on addiction.

Jimmy Carter once said, "War is sometimes a necessary evil, but be advised that it is always evil."

Joel said...

Traditional religion has not done the trick in filling up that vacuum; instead, it seems to have increased the compulsion to feed the addiction with ever more power and greedy consumption.

Yeah, all those grasping hypocrites like Francis of Assisi and Fr. Damien of Molokai sure have made the world a grimmer place. :) Seriously, traditional religion has done a heap more good than harm, the occasional exception notwithstanding. I don't know what role any traditional religion except Islam has played in this scenario, but I do know that absent a Judeo-Christian tradition of defending the underdog, America wouldn't have the history it does of trying to protect the weak.

I'm not as convinced as I was at the time that the actual invasion of Iraq was a good idea, but I am certain that pulling out now would be the worst thing we could possibly do. We already walked away and abandoned the Kurds a decade ago, and the Vietnamese before that, tossing them to predatory enemies as a sacrifice to our domestic politics. If we do the same to the Iraqis now, we'll really deserve to be an object of mistrust in the world.

As for oil addiction, it's true that we're as hooked as the rest of the world. Siince, pragmiatically speaking, somebody's going to be in control of the oil economy, I'd rather it was a country with a tradition of generosity and fair dealing (even if it's not always been lived up to) than some of the other powers out there.

MHP, your Carter quote is a good one. Like it or not, I think this one has become a necessary evil.

LinguistFriend said...

I do not think that we differ very much in our assessment of the causes and effects of this war. If anything, you are more charitable than I would be about it, but that may be mainly a matter of how much or little you mentioned on this occasion.

On the other hand, I have rather mixed feelings about how much those opinions are part of church business. Jesus and Paul (or those who wrote in their names) encouraged submission to the Roman empire rather than suicidal rebellion against it. Nowadays we have the ballot box (ongoing efforts at subversion of democracy aside) as an alternative to a revolution every few years, and recently that has been effective. Given that, there is a difficult boundary between church business and the politics of human rights and wars of greed (because the major issue there is the misuse of government and armies to obtain profits from oil addiction, at least as much as the addiction itself). Somehow, however, the present world situation blurs those boundaries more than most have during my lifetime.

There are signs of hope, however, such as the progressive awakening of the evangelicals to the existence of wider and more pressing issues than those that have been manipulated to obtain their political support in the recent past.