Over the Years I have made some Muslim friends.
Some of them like spicy food. Some don’t. Some of them listen to rap, others to classical music. Some of them are good at the times tables. Some of them suck. Some of them are skinny, others are a bit meatier. Some of them cover their heads, others don’t. Some are well educated; some don’t know how to read. Some sing in a choir, others play soccer.
The Muslim friends I have are as different as wild flowers in a field during summer.
Of course they have some things in common as well: They feel hunger. They get cold. They can feel lonely. They are afraid. Many laugh when they get tickled. They want to live in peace. They are happy when people say nice things to them.
There are exceptions to this rule. A few people in the world don’t appreciate it when they are complemented. But that is usually not because of their religion, but because of some issue in the past that they haven’t dealt with. There are some that don’t desire peace. But I haven’t met any of them. I have, however, met Muslims who have had to flee from the kind of people who desire to hurt and destroy.
Some Muslims decapitate their so-called enemies. Some practice other brutal forms of punishments for minor or major offenses. Some treat women despicably. They have no respect for human rights. The blow themselves and others up. These people are not my friends. I don’t know anybody who would want to be the friends of people who commit such monstrous acts.
Over the years, so-called Christians have also committed atrocities too terrible for words. I don’t consider these people followers of Christ, and their actions are as deplorable as crimes committed by other criminals.
You've noticed that we're living in very violent times. At home, abroad ... to the point of exhaustion, hopelessness and/or numbness. I see no reprieve in sight and every reason to expect further escalation. I find myself in daily need of prayers that guard my heart and mind from both despair and the vengeance fantasies of repressed rage.
It seems to me that if we want to find any passion and determination inside of ourselves (collectively or individually), we need to have some clear and shared sense of which enemy we are really wanting to fight. If we can find a common enemy that crosses political (or theological) lines, so much the better.
What many politicians throw at us is these days is that the enemy is “terrorism” – a ridiculous, if not laughably pathetic, answer given that a) the statistical odds of being directly affected by terrorism in North America (and most countries) is minuscule and b) when we want to identify the enemy we would be better off identifying the disease (which is present everywhere) and not the symptom (which is mostly present in the places already devastated by the real enemy). Terrorist acts are the predictable effects of a much greater enemy, and that is the enemy we should be trying to track down – the enemy that has proven itself capable of continually generating fresh pockets of terrorism.
Of course it is political opportunism that has deliberately offered up “terrorism” as the replacement for “communism-as-master-enemy,” a very useful enemy that had the misfortune of falling apart after nearly a century of justifying nearly every evil imaginable. What after all (the powers-that-be seem to think) is a little genocide, assassination or economic enslavement here and there if it helped the West to protect itself from the spread of communism?
I’ll grant that communism was certainly a better suggestion as an enemy than terrorism in that it goes a couple of levels closer toward what I will soon suggest is the actual enemy. The problem, however, isn’t so much that communism was an “effect” of the real enemy (though that case could also be made), but that it was only “one example” of the real enemy. The crucial thing to remember is that all the violence and exploitation that was used to defend the “freedom” of corporate business interests reveal another example of the enemy closer to home.
In a brilliant but sobering moment, President Eisenhower in his farewell speech warned Americans about the dangers of both the “military-industrial complex” as well as the “scientific-technological elite.” This was now getting even closer to the naming of a true enemy; one sign that this is true is that his language named the enemy at work both at home and among opposing power blocs. (Never trust the naming of an enemy that is not at work at home as much as abroad.)
It’s quite possible that Eisenhower’s terms still have a great deal of currency, and I wouldn’t argue against anyone who still focused on those terms. However, when I think of today’s global corporate world, which is increasingly entangled through huge trade pacts that always sacrifice human scale (the small, local and personal) for the sake of mass global competition (and thereby always sacrificing the weak in favour of the powerful), then I think new language is now required.
So here is my suggestion, which I confess from the outset is, unfortunately, not nearly as catchy as “military-industrial complex” or the “war on terror.” I believe the enemy that we face is the “global system* of dehumanization based on exploitation, fear and violence that co-opts the participation** of masses of good people.” When it doesn’t occur directly through the exploitation, fear and violence, this co-opting takes place by cloaking itself either in inevitability or invisibility (i.e. layers of mass bureaucracy or laws and agreements that are indecipherable at any human level). There is a clear subliminal message that we are powerless to change any of this – so just submit, obey, and hope for the best. This is the enemy we need to fight, and I believe that it is an enemy regarding which we can join together across many of the arguments which divide us. (And it’s ok with me if you want to call this enemy Satan – though more accurately that probably refers to the “spirit behind the system.”)
Memorial to the Victims of Communism (Prague)
*I hesitated about making this plural or singular – certainly there are many systems, but increasingly these systems are all becoming entangled with one another and it may be fair to consider it as one mass network of systems. Of course, Walter Wink’s writings on “domination systems” are part of the inspiration for this perspective.
**The co-opting of the masses is a crucial aspect (in spite of the complication this adds) because no enemy is frightening and powerful enough if it doesn’t make us all participants in the evil.
Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori
"It is sweet and fitting to die for your country."
Horace, Odes (III.2.13)
Vivid memories of words, pictures and emotions haunt me over thirty years later. High school English, my senior year and Mr. Howell is perched on the front corner of his desk. He’s using poetry to paint traumatizing portraits of the ironically mislabeled ‘war to end all wars.’ Words become pictures—teenage soldiers ‘floundering’ and ‘fumbling’ in the muddy, bloody trenches of the Second Battle of Ypres. They’re devising makeshift masks of urine-soaked rags against the apocalyptic horror of mustard gas attacks. Mr. Howell, now weeping, recites an excerpt from William Owen’s poem, Dulce et Decorum Est:
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.
Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning ...
Dulce et Decorum Est? Sweet and fitting? Owen goes on to bitterly describe the convulsive gargling of ‘froth-corrupted lungs’ and says NO! Participants in ‘the Great War’ would never recount such a lie to children who dream of doing or being something glorious.
The Greek poet, Horace, who coined the phrase, had never seen chemical warfare. Neither had we until network news brought us images from Syria last year—hundreds of civilians, including children, wrapped in death shrouds awaiting burial. Barbaric. Inhuman. But remember who it was that first invented and employed gas attacks: supposedly ‘Christian’ nations at the height of industrial civilization, mutually destroying one another in the greatest human disaster since the Black Death (1348-50). Nine million dead before all is said and done.
Wilfred Owen knew the futility of war. Like Mr. Howell, an English teacher by profession, Owen enlisted after visiting wounded soldiers in a hospital. He fought for two years, was injured, but then returned to the front. Three months later, on Nov. 4, 1918, he died in a machine gun attack, exactly one week before the war ended.
by Jim Forest
Domine ut videam. This Latin prayer was used in Merton’s remarks at the opening session of the peacemaking retreat held at the Abbey of Gethsemani in November 1964. Lord, that I might see. The Latin words come from St Jerome’s Vulgate translation of St Mark’s Gospel. It’s Bartimaeus’s appeal to Jesus to heal his blind eyes: Domine ut videam — Lord, that I might see.
Looking back on that small gathering fifty years later, it strikes me that these few words were at the heart of our retreat. Peacemaking begins with seeing, seeing what is really going on around us, seeing ourselves in relation to the world we are part of, and seeing the image of God not only in friends but in enemies.
Blindness and its healing is a major topic in the New Testament, not only concerning those, like Bartimaeus, whose blind eyes cannot tell the difference between noon and midnight. I am thinking of those with eagle-like eyes who can read the small print on an insurance contract but fail to notice that we live in a maze of miracles in which God is, as declared in an Orthodox prayer, “everywhere present, filling all things.” What we see and what we fail to see defines who we are and how we live our lives. Our constant challenge is to be aware of the divine presence — and at the same time be alert to the demonic, to be able to tell the difference between that which safeguards life and that which destroys.
At the retreat the theme of seeing was dramatized by the presence among us of A.J. Muste. A.J., then 79, was one of the true sages of the American peace movement. For many years he had been secretary of the Fellowship of Reconciliation and was now chairman of the Committee for Nonviolent Action. He had devoted years of his life to working for nuclear disarmament and, before his death in 1967, would play a pivotal role in efforts to end the Vietnam War, then in the early stages of U.S. involvement.
News of jihadist brutalities in establishing an Islamic State (Isis) in Iraq and Syria has impacted me deeply. Beheadings of American and British prisoners, reports of violence against Kurds, Christians and even fellow Muslims with differing views is appalling and invites response. How do we respond to the current climate of terror and unrest in the Middle East that is in alignment with Jesus’ teaching and example of suffering, saving love?
Retired US Marine Corps General John R. Allen’s recent call to arms must be recognized as incompatible with Jesus’ way:
“The execution of James Foley is an act we should not forgive nor should we forget. It embodies and brings home to us all what this group represents. The Islamic State is an entity beyond the pale of humanity and it must be eradicated. If we delay now we will pay later.”
Many who value tolerance and peacemaking are at a loss as non-violent approaches appear impotent before those imposing a fundamentalist theocracy in the Middle East, and their military opponents led by the United States.
President Obama’s strategy to build a broad alliance to destroy the Islamic State enjoys broad support—especially since drones and bombing campaigns rather than ground troops are killing with reputed accuracy.
Yet these airstrikes are taking the lives of growing numbers of young men and women from many countries drawn to Islamic State in the prime of their lives—each one a beloved child of the God. This growing “human sacrifice” is empowering an escalation of hatred that will lead to far more death and destruction in the Middle East, Europe and beyond. Might we be on the verge of a Third World War? What might those who follow Jesus offer as an alternative approach to resisting violence on all sides?
Editor's Note: Derek Vreeland serves at Word of Life Church in St. Joseph, Missouri and is the author of Primal Creedo. Herein, Derek responds to Trevin Wax's critique of Richard Hays' book, The Moral Vision of the New Testament. Wax's critique can be viewed HERE.
Three responses to your three-point critique of Hays’ view on violence.
First, the application of Romans 13 into our modern American context is indeed complex. I agree with Hays that the church (since Constantine) has struggled with the sin of nationalism. American Christians (in general) have to acknowledge the idolatry of nationalism, repent of it, and begin to form an identity in Christ separate from our national identity. Once we define ourselves by Christ first and foremost, then we subordinate our love for the nation below our love for Christ. Some will see this as hate, but it is just a subordinate kind of love (see Matthew 14:26). Only within this critical distance of identity can we clearly apply 1 Corinthians 13. Yes God has given the sword to the State, but how would Jesus speak to the US Government, the pentagon, or the industrial military complex (the masters of war)? Would he not preach to them enemy love? Should the ruling authorities who are represented by the citizens they govern defeat the weak and innocent by thwarting evil-doers? Yes, of course. The question is how? How would Jesus instruct them? Would he instruct them in the ways of war or would he instruct them in ways of making peace using the utmost consideration for the loss of life including the life of the enemy? It seems to me he would instruct them in the latter or perhaps he would instruct them in some other way?
Second, where do we see the “righteous anger” of Jesus resulting in violent killing? We don’t. Jesus had the option of zealotry, the Maccabean-approach to embodying the kingdom of God, but he rejected it. When James and John asked Jesus if they could call down fire from heaven to consume a Samaritan (enemy) village, Jesus rebuked them. Indeed anytime Jesus was tempted by violence he refused it. The just war theory is based more in reason and experience, than a synthesis of New Testament ethics. A theological question that I find helpful in synthesizing NT ethics on the matter of violence is this: “Will there be war in the age to come?” Answer: no. Granted we live in the overlap of ages, but aren’t we (the church freed from nationalism) called to embody the values of the age to come? In this overlap of ages we understand that SOME acts of violent force will be necessary to thwart “evil-doers,” but shouldn’t the church be the voice of moral constraint, when the state wants use war-like tactics to thwart “evil-doers?” If God has given the sword into the hands of the State, then the church should be the voice of Jesus to Peter saying put away the sword? Yes the State has the metaphorical sword, but wouldn’t Jesus lead the State towards constraint? After all, according to Isaiah, in the rule of Messiah we will beat our swords into plowshares and learn war no more. The fullness of the kingdom of God is no sword, no war. So is Jesus leading humanity towards this kingdom-come, teaching us the ways of peace, or is Jesus teaching humanity how to use the weapons of war in order to kill?
Third, the self-giving love of God is in no way contrary to the justice of God, but what we mean by justice is to be interpreted by what we mean by love. God’s love is not the co-dependent kind of love allowing human beings to do whatever they want to do and saying, “It’s all ok.” God’s acts of judgment (both present and eschatological) flow from his love. God is not a mixture of 50% love and 50% anger/wrath/hate. God is 100% love. Indeed God cannot be perfectly loving and not hate evil, but does this hate of evil mean his judgment includes the violent killing of God’s enemies? Jesus didn’t say “Love your enemies *wink* *wink* because I am coming back to kill them.” He said “Love your enemies because in doing so you will be sons of God who is kind to evil-doers” (Luke 6:35-36). Kindness to evil-doers does not mean we allow them to perpetrate acts of violence. We do everything we can to stop them, using force when necessary, but not trying to kill them. Revelation shows us the reigning Christ who rules and judges not by slaying his enemies but by being slain. He judges by the words of his mouth not the violence of his hands. The sword in Revelation 19 is in his mouth; not in his hand. Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead and there will be those who go into eternal punishment and those who go into eternal life, but again this act of judgment flows out of God’s love not the petty human emotion of anger we too often want to thrust upon him.
I realize these comments do not answer the heart of the question: “Is it ever God’s will for Christians to employ violence in defense of justice?” I suppose my answer would be far too complicated because “God’s will” and “violence” are too broad of categories for a concise answer.
I am an unworthy man, unworthy to be called an Orthodox Christian, not to speak of the priesthood, and I write, admittedly, from the comfort of my Mount Pleasant, SC, home. There is no Mount nearby, but it is, indeed, a pleasant seaside community on the East Coast of the United States.
As such, I ask myself: how to deal with ruthless, pitiless, pitiful souls who are so darkened that their life is spent taking the life of others—and worse, thinking that they are doing this at the direction of and with the blessing of God himself, with eternal reward?
Perhaps I will be criticized for my suggestion, sitting in my pleasant, mountless town, but we read recently that we must receive the Gospel as a child; and even a child will ask how could murder be returned by murder. Is violence—individual or large-scale—a possible Orthodox response?
What were the apostolic and post-apostolic, and later saint’s reactions to such vicious, vile, demonic actions?
How did the disciples respond to the beheading of John the Baptist, which we commemorated on August 29?
On the precipice of martyrdom, St Stephen, the Proto-martyr begged God to forgive his killers. Was there an apostolic uprising following that?
Hieromartyr Eutychius, disciple of St John the Theologian, was beheaded after starvation in prison, an attempt to burn him alive, and cruel beatings with iron rods…which were made to cease by his prayers. There is no account of retribution.
One day Jesus asked the question, “Do people gather figs from thistles?” The answer is of course no — you harvest what you plant. Plant thistles and thistles take root and thistles they become. If you want to grow figs, you need to start with fig seeds. With this question, Jesus implicitly ridicules the idea that good can be brought about by evil means. Violence is not the means of creating a peaceful society. Vengeance does not pave the road to forgiveness. Spousal abuse does not lay the foundation for a lasting marriage. Rage is not a tool of reconciliation.
Yet, while figs do not grow from thistles, in the world of human choice and action, a positive change of attitude and direction is always a possibility. Sinners are the raw material of saints. The New Testament is crowded with accounts of transformations.In the Church of the Savior in the Chora district of Istanbul, there is a fourteenth-century Byzantine mosaic that, in a single image, tells a story of an unlikely transformation: the conversion of water into wine for guests at a wedding feast in the village of Cana. In the background Jesus — his right hand extended in a gesture of blessing — stands side by side with his mother. In the foreground we see a servant pouring water from a smaller jug into a larger one. The water leaves the first jug a pale blue and tile-by-tile becomes a deep purple as it reaches the lip of the lower jug. “This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana, in Galilee, and manifested his glory; and his disciples believed in him.”
This “first sign” that Jesus gave is a key to understanding everything in the Gospel. Jesus is constantly bringing about transformations: blind eyes to seeing eyes, withered limbs to working limbs, sickness into wellbeing, guilt into forgiveness, strangers into neighbors, enemies into friends, slaves into free people, armed men into disarmed men, crucifixion into resurrection, sorrow into joy, bread and wine into himself. Nature cannot produce figs from thistles, but God is doing this in our lives all the time. God’s constant business in creation is making something out of nothing. As a Portuguese proverb declares, “God writes straight with crooked lines.”
By Jim Forest
One of the stories told about St Columba has to do with a custom still familiar to Orthodox Christians. How often we bring an object that has special significance in one’s life, for example an icon, and ask a priest to give it a special blessing. Blessing an entire home, room by room, is common. Columba was so highly regarded that a great many people came to him for such blessings. For Columba this must at times have been a distraction, something done when his thoughts were elsewhere. Thus it isn’t surprising that one day he gave a blessing to a warrior’s sword. In a flash he realized he had made a mistake. The very last thing he wanted to do was bless a deadly weapon. It was because of his complicity in war earlier in his life that he had left Ireland and sought penitential exile on the island of Iona. The question now was what to do with this freshly blessed sword? Columba decided to give a second, more restrictive blessing. He called on God to keep the blade sharp only so long as the sword were used in the kitchen. It would henceforth be a baker’s sword, perfect for slicing bread.
Not all legends told of the saints are true in the sense the word “true” would be used by a contemporary journalist or historian, but this story has the ring of unornamented truth about it.
Having witnessed the horror and fever of war, Columba had renounced swords and warfare. Once he arrived on Iona, he dedicated himself and his small brotherhood to a vocation of conversion and peacemaking. He sought a life modeled on the earthly ministry of Jesus and shaped by his words in the Gospel. Christ is a threat to no one. He blesses neither executions nor war. Instead he says, “I have come to give life and give it more abundantly.”
Christ told Peter to put aside his sword, but Christ’s attitude to enmity and conflict is not simply negative. It involves more than refusing to possess or use deadly weapons. Jesus builds on the commandment not to kill by adding a new commandment, the commandment to love, and to love not only friends but enemies.
History is important. And I don't think it's just my bias as a historian that compels me to affirm this. The past -- history -- is, however, little more than a collection of memories, of myths and stories. Everything is in the past. Everything. And yet, oddly enough, all we really have is the present, while our actions today are motivated by our recollection of the many yesterdays behind us. These memories, stories, and myths matter. We need to learn about them.
I'm frequently asked for my opinion on the crisis in Gaza and am asked a lot of questions about the mind-boggling escalation of violence in the past couple weeks. And although I probably shouldn't, I also read the cacophony of infuriating public comments at the bottom of news reports on the ongoing violence, many of which are woefully ignorant of the historical backdrop to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict generally and the recent Israeli bombing and ground incursion in Gaza by extension. Except they don't know that it's by extension. And that's the problem.
The past, present, and future converge in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict like no other on earth -- the past, because of the history that animates this conflict; the future, because of the predictive apocalyptic impulses especially in conservative Evangelical Christianity that myopically affirms and emboldens Israel's every move; and the present, because the decisions and actions today rest on both trajectories simultaneously.
French anthropological philosopher and originator of the Mimetic Theory, René Girard, wrote the following in his book, Battling to the End (2009):
An excerpt from the opening speech at Oasis conference for Christian-Muslim Dialogue
Breaking with Violence
The event of Christ appears as a super-abundant response to this hope that the religious history of man expresses. It constitutes an objective overcoming of the logic of violence and as such measures the past and the future of human history (‘I came into this world to judge’ (Jn 9:39). And thus it is that the commonest objection that from that moment onwards would be made did not concern so much the goodness of the new principle introduced by Christ as its practicability, which was said to be denied, first of all, by the numerous examples of unfaithfulness of Christians themselves. Without underestimating the importance of this appeal to a consistent personal and community life, Christian tradition saw the non-practicability of this idea at a purely human level as supreme witness (‘martyrdom’) to the divine at work in the world. It thus remained convinced that, with the grace of God, it is truly possible to ‘follow in the footsteps’ (1Pt 2:21) of the Crucified Christ who rose again. We are here truly at the heart of faith.
The definitive dismissal of the logic of violence that the paschal event brought with it is also the principal contribution which we as Christian believe that we can offer today to inter-religious dialogue.This was the great insight of Assisi and the message that Pope Francis has just repeated in the Holy Land, launching from the esplanades of mosques ‘make a heartfelt plea to all people and to all communities who look to Abraham: may we respect and love one another as brothers and sisters! May we learn to understand the sufferings of others! May no one abuse the name of God through violence! May we work together for justice and peace!’.(1)
CLICK HERE for the rest of the excerpt
(1) Pope Francis, Visit to the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, 26 April 2014.
When we consider depictions of divine behaviour in the Old and New testaments, quoting a string of verses to support our favoured portrayal of God typically reveals more about the person who enlists these passages than it does about what the Bible actually says. We can all engage in cafeteria hermeneutics—choosing only those verses that appeal to our theological taste buds—but this is missing the forest for the trees. What’s absent, then, is a cohesive interpretive framework for providing at least a bit of consistency.
And yet, neatly packaged solutions to the inconsistency of divine behaviour in the two testaments fail to enter the struggle and remain there if need be. Why, for example, does God seem to authorize genocide (1 Sam. 15), while also preaching peace, love, mercy, and 70x7-fold forgiveness (Mt. 5)? What is the take-away here, and what are we called to imitate and obey? When we ponder Old Testament prescripts through a Christlike lens, is it ever a happy occasion to smash a baby’s head against the rocks (Ps. 137:9)? Do any of us stone fortunetellers (Lev. 20:27) or think that God has an evil spirit (1 Sam. 18:10)? Was it that “Satan stood up against Israel, and incited David to count the people of Israel” (1 Chr. 21:1) or was “the anger of the LORD … kindled against Israel, [so that] he incited David against them, saying, ‘Go, count the people of Israel and Judah’” (2 Sam. 24:1)? If I’m in a tussle with someone and my wife tries to defend me by grabbing my opponent’s nether regions, should I cut off her hand (Dt. 25:11-12)? Or, am I supposed to gradually learn how to love my enemies, pray for those who persecute me, bless those who curse me, forgive my transgressors 70x7-fold, and refuse to fight back—even heal those who are harmed by others who come to my defense—when I face suffering and the prospect of death, all without a weapon in my hands (Mt. 5:43-48)? None of this is meant to discount Scripture or disrespect it, but it does reveal the need for a more consistent hermeneutical framework to make sense of it.
Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in Washington, DC. During his career as a CIA analyst, he prepared and briefed the President's Daily Brief and chaired National Intelligence Estimates. He is a member of the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).
August 08, 2011 "Information Clearing House" -- Many of those preaching at American church services Sunday extolled as “heroes” the 30 American and 8 Afghan troops killed Saturday west of Kabul, when a helicopter on a night mission crashed, apparently after taking fire from Taliban forces. This week, the Fawning Corporate Media (FCM) can be expected to beat a steady drumbeat of “they shall not have died in vain.”
But they did. I know it is a hard truth, but they did die in vain.
As in the past, churches across the country will keep praising the fallen troops for protecting “our way of life,” and few can demur, given the tragic circumstances.
But, sadly, such accolades are, at best, misguided — at worst, dishonest. Most preachers do not have a clue as to what U.S. forces are doing in Afghanistan and why. Many prefer not to think about it. There are some who do know better, but virtually all in that category eventually opt to punt.
Should we fault the preachers as they reach for words designed to give comfort to those in their congregations mourning the deaths of so many young troops? As hard as it might seem, I believe we can do no other than fault — and confront — them. However well meaning their intentions, their negligence and timidity in confronting basic war issues merely help to perpetuate unnecessary killing. It is high time to hold preachers accountable.
Ben Ferencz website: http://www.benferencz.org/
Ben Ferencz Interview: http://www.cbc.ca/video/news/audioplayer.html?clipid=1921021571
Benjamin Ferencz is a 92-year-old U.S. citizen and American combat soldier during World War II. He served as prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials, where he tried many Nazi war criminals. The above link directs readers to a controversial 13-minute interview on CBC Radio Canada on Bin Laden's death, the Nuremberg principles, and the role of America. An excerpt from the interview:
Q: What should we have learned from Nuremberg that we still haven't learned"? His answer:
A: I'm afraid most of the lessons of Nuremberg have passed, unfortunately. The world has accepted them, but the U.S. seems reluctant to do so. The principal lesson we learned from Nuremberg is that a war of aggression -- that means, a war in violation of international law, in violation of the UN charter, and not in self-defense -- is the supreme international crime, because all the other crimes happen in war. And every leader who is responsible for planning and perpetrating that crime should be held to account in a court of law, and the law applies equally to everyone.
These lessons were hailed throughout the world -- I hailed them, I was involved in them -- and it saddens me to no end when Americans are asked: why don't you support the Nuremberg principles on aggression? And the response is: Nuremberg? That was then, this is now. Forget it.
The year begins with war.
Our bombs fall day and night,
Hour after hour, by death
Abroad appeasing wrath,
Folly, and greed at home.
Upon our giddy tower
We’d oversway the world.
Our hate comes down to kill
Those whom we do not see,
For we have given up
Our sight to those in power
And to machines, and now
Are blind to all the world.
This is a nation where
No lovely thing can last.
We trample, gouge, and blast;
The people leave the land;
The land flows to the sea.
Fine men and women die,
The fine old houses fall,
The fine old trees come down:
Highway and shopping mall
Still guarantee the right
And liberty to be
A peaceful murderer,
A murderous worshipper,
A slender glutton, or
A healthy whore. Forgiving
No enemy, forgiven
By none, we live the death
Of liberty become
What we have feared to be.
-Wendell Berry, 1991