International Conscientious Objector Day is commemorated around the world. It is to remember those who in the past followed their conscience and those today who are facing similar challenges to military conscription. Join us!
Anglican Pacifist Fellowship Conscientious Objector Day Prayers will be held on Saturday, 15 May at 3 pm Eastern Time. Rev. Donald Reece, Ven. David Selzer and Rev. Nathaniel C. Pierce will share their stories that lead to them becoming Conscientious Objectors. Prayer, readings and music will offer a 45 minute remembrance of so many past and present. To join please just use the zoom link below.
From Case Western Reserve University School of Law:
The Yemen Accountability Project's release of its white paper "Prosecuting Starvation Crimes in Yemen's Civil War" examines the use of deliberate attacks on food, water, and objects indispensable to survival as part of the Saudi-led Coalition's attacks on Houthi rebels in Yemen. The white paper outlines the evidence of these crimes and makes the case for bringing charges against perpetrators of starvation crimes in Yemen. The panelists will explore the challenges of bringing charges against perpetrators and the potential avenues of accountability.
A recent White Paper from Case Western School of Law-Cox International Law Center's Yemen Accountability Project (YSP):
A video of a recent webinar on this White Paper above by principals and experts.Resource Link
As people of faith, we regret the recent United States’ retaliatory aggression towards militant groups operating in Syria, using a “proportional response” approach that is not likely to yield positive results. Twenty-two militants were killed by the United States. The militants had killed a civilian contractor and injured nine others on February 15.
We see the absolute futility of war, and its power to dehumanize. We know that human flourishing entails breaking cycles of violence, being courageous peacemakers, and focusing on the root causes of conflict. Violent conflict is a path of mutual destruction.
Instead, all actors must move forward in a way that upholds our shared, sacred human dignity:
+ All parties, primary and proxies, must begin by re-humanizing each other without excusing unjust and violent actions.
+ The U.S. Administration must halt violent attacks and military escalations. It must return forcefully to intense diplomatic processes, recognizing that lasting peace requires a commitment to the shared well-being of every human, from Iran to Yemen, to Syria, Iraq, the United States and everywhere in between.
+ Our U.S. Congress must act to reassert its existing war powers by demanding pre-authorization for deadly attacks outside of a true national emergency.
+ U.S. actions and strategy in the region must thoroughly address the root causes of the conflicts in question, such as distrust, trauma, economic resources, and political influence.
+ All of us must support nonviolent creative actions of resistance to any unjust and violent actions.
As a community of faith, we renounce the continuation of violence as a bargaining tool and call on the United States to work aggressively towards lasting peace in the Middle East. Specifically, part of that would include the United States recommitting to the Iran Nuclear Deal, which in 2018, the Episcopal Church urged (see 2018-D051).
“No more of this!” Jesus exclaims after the high priest’s slave’s ear was cut off (see Luke 22: 47-53) at the moment of his betrayal and arrest. We too cry “No more fighting!” In Luke’s Gospel, at this moment, Jesus adamantly instructs the one who struck the slave to put the sword back in its place for “all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (see Luke 26: 47-56). God does not desire the death of anyone, may we turn towards life (see Ezekiel 18:32), reconcile and embrace the plowshare (see Isaiah 2:4). Amen.
The Just War Theory is a set of criteria used by some Christian churches (e.g., Roman Catholic and Episcopal) to determine whether or not it is morally appropriate for Christians to support and/or to directly participate in a particular war.
In the early Christian Church, the bishops forbade Christians from joining or staying in the Roman Army. Prior to 180 CE, there is no record of Christians being in the Roman Army. In 180 CE, records indicate that there were a few Christian soldiers. Their numbers increased considerably in subsequent years.
Until about 400 CE, Christian bishops appear to have focused their opposition to Christians being in the Roman Army on the paganism inherent in the life of Roman soldiers. Christians were not supposed to be offering incense to the pagan gods, which was required upon enlistment and usually on daily basis thereafter. These pagan rites appear to be linked to the absolute loyalty and obedience required of Roman soldiers.
It is not clear from the bishops’ writings whether or not the Roman Army’s wars were also a major factor in the bishop’s decision. However, a literal reading of the Sermon on the Mount, etc. imply that any killing of another human being is forbidden.
Around 400 CE, various foreign armies were seriously threatening to conquer all of the western part of the Roman Empire, including Italy. At that time, St. Augustine introduced the idea that it might be morally permissible for Christians to fight in some wars, though not in all wars.
In the Middle Ages, church leaders developed a theory whereby a war could be justified only if certain criteria were met. Initially, this provided a moral justification for Christians to remain true to their faith by not participating in a war. But over time, this became more of a justification for going to war, while still remaining true to their conscience.
In recent years, military officers and philosophers have entered the discussion. The military have their reasons for wanting a prohibition against the use of torture, poison gas, etc. However, they would want to be free to wage some wars, such as, World War II.
During World War II, the U.S. initially the obeyed the international prohibition of the bombardment of undefended cities. Unlike the British RAF, which routinely bombed entire German cities, the U.S. Army Air Force limited their bombing to industrial areas linked to war production. However, in the latter stages of that war, the Army Air Force switched from the daylight bombing of industrial areas of Germany to a general bombing of entire cities. In Japan, this resulted in the devastation of 67 Japanese cities, the firebombing of Tokyo, and the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
During the Vietnam War, some Air Force pilots were so appalled by orders to napalm and fragmentation bomb Vietnamese villages that they refused to fly these missions. They were punished by career ending re-assignments.
Some Basic Flaws with the Just War Theory
As I will show, the Just War Theory is seriously flawed. Even if major changes are made, it is hard to see how it can be legitimately adapted to the rapid changes in technology, the fighting methods of various war-making groups, and various other flaws.
First, the Just War criteria cannot be reliably evaluated before a war or even during the early stages of a war, because governments routinely conceal much of the truth. Even national leaders themselves are usually wrong about such matters as the outcome, duration and aftereffects of a war, as they are seldom assessable in advance. It has been said that “Truth is the first casualty of war.”
Second, war technology and the political aspects of war are rapidly changing. For example, the cost of developing drone weapons is dropping so fast that even relatively small nations are likely to soon be able manufacture and even supply them to insurrectionists in another nation.
Third, the massive level of slaughter in war is so large as to make it hard to reconcile with the good sought by a war. The Vietnam War was publicly estimated to have cost at least a million deaths in population of about 25 million people.
Fourth, it cannot deal with such basic moral issues as the Army’s conditioning of young recruits to have the absolute and instinctive obedience to military orders required for having an army rather than just a group of warriors (e.g., the U.S. Cavalry vs. native American Indians). This level of obedience means giving the military and/or nation a status that is equal to or even above that expected for God. This would be a violation of the First Commandment.
Fifth, Jesus’s teaching on love for one’s enemies. Israel was a client state of the Roman government and Roman soldiers were despised by the Jews. Jews were not subject to Roman military conscription and were not wanted for the military. Thus, military service was not an option for Jews. Hence, Jesus had no reason to explicitly deal with military service.
However, Jesus did teach that we should: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” Matthew 5:8. Jesus also demonstrated his love for the hated Romans by healing the son of a Roman centurion. Matthew 8:5. A literal reading of the Sermon on the Mount, etc. would not only rule out killing in self-defense, but even more surely the mass slaughter of war.
Sixth, the conduct of war presents such moral problems to the soldiers involved that some have described the experience as “soul injury.” Apart from religion, there seems to be an inherent taboo on killing one’s own species.
Specific Criticism of Just War Criteria
We have listed here: the titles for the criteria for a Just War; a very brief statement of what it means; and some of the problems encountered when attempting to use the criteria to determine whether a particular war can be considered justified or not.
The Just War theory is divided into three phases:
Just Cause; Just Conduct; and Just End of War.
Problems with the Just Cause Criteria
A national government or similar authority (e.g., U.N.) An internal revolution would not count. However, if the German Army had had a coup against the Hitler government in 1943, what should have happened then? Does the German military become the legitimate government? Who decides?
A war must be against a serious public wrong (e.g., to prevent annexation of one’s land; to stop a genocide against Jews; etc.). However, it is easy for a national government to invent a just cause to generate support for initiating a war.
Leaders must be motivated by a national goal that makes that makes the war just, and not by some other goal such as annexing land or installing a puppet government. However, it is often easy for a government to frighten its citizens with unwarranted fears. For example, propaganda by the Hitler government of Germany that Poland was greatly increasing its military power and that he had to protect Germany by invading Poland.
The war must be reasonably expected to do more good than harm. However, the high unpredictability of war, the power of modern weapons, and shifts in public support makes this very risky. With the Iraq War, our nation waged that war with overwhelming force. As cited by the New York, “What followed has been years of violence, countless deaths in the region and the hemorrhaging of funds to support the war effort.”
Probability of Success:
The war must have a reasonable chance for victory. In South Vietnam, the U.S. had a huge field army on the ground and complete control in the air. Short of using nuclear weapons, the U.S. was unable to win. As noted by the British historian, John Keegan, the course of a war is rarely what was predicted.
War must not be used until the other options have been have been found to be ineffective or impractical. The usual alternative has been economic sanctions. While these have a minor effect on the wealthy, they can have harsh consequences for the poor. Examples are North Korea and Gaza.
Problems with the Just Conduct Criteria
Military forces must not attack non-combatants. The bombing of cities, towns or residential areas is forbidden. The criterion is a good one. However, it is widely disregarded. In World War II, both Germany and Great Britain routine bombed entire cities. When it was bombing in Europe, our nation began by avoided the bombing of cities, except for those areas in a city that had war production industries. However, this ended when the U.S. joined the British Royal Air Force (RAF) in a very deadly bombing of the entire city of Dresden. With Japan, the U.S. bombers did a massive bombing of Tokyo with incendiary bombs with the intent of creating a fire storm that killed huge numbers of civilians. This was followed by nuclear bombs dropped on two Japanese cities.
The harm to be done must not exceed the goal sought and the military use of the force used must also be the minimum force needed. However, it is not possible to know in advance how large a force will be needed. For example, in the initial stages of the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, it was thought that U.S. military aid and military advisers might be enough. It was then thought that one or two army divisions would work. Eventually, a huge field army with massive air power was used. Eventually, the war had to be abandoned. The result was a de facto defeat.
A military attack must be focused entirely on defeating the enemy’s forces. It must not have other objectives, such as, genocide or land annexation. This may be blurred if military personnel are (or alleged to be) mixed in with civilians or if weapons are (or alleged to be) stored in schools or hospitals.
Fair Treatment of Prisoners:
Prisoners of war have basic human rights that must not be violated. These include housing, food, clean water, medical care, etc. There must be no waterboarding, sleep deprivation, solitary confinement or other types of torture. However, some authorities persist in the belief that torture produces useful military information. There have also been incidences of a nation re-defining torture to allow such techniques as waterboarding.
No Evil Methods Used:
There must be no use of biological weapons; no mass rape of women and girls; etc. Biological weapons and poison gas cannot be used without endangering both sides, so they are not normally used anyway.
Problems with the Just End of War Criteria
Status of rights before war:
The end of a war should be followed by a restoration of property rights and human rights as existed before the war. When World War II ended in Europe, the Marshall Plan was a positive exception to the usual rule of doing nothing.
Punishment for war crimes:
Political leaders and commanders on either side who were guilty of war crimes should be tried and punished for their crimes. However, when the winners run the trials, it is likely that only criminals on the losing side will be punished. The Nuremburg war crimes trials punished German war criminals, but did not punish allied war criminals. For example, the British leaders responsible for the firebombing of entire German cities were not punished.
A peace treaty must fair to both sides if it is to work. If either side believes that the treaty is grossly unfair, future conflicts are likely as occurred with Germany after World War I. (German perceptions may have been unrealistic, since the majority of the fighting occurred in France and retreating German forces destroyed French manufacturing facilities in their retreat.)
Compensation for Victims: Innocent victims of the war should be compensated to the extent that it is possible to do so. Germany provided some compensation to Jewish families who lost family members due to the Nazi Holocaust during World War Two. [These last four criteria are from the Ethics Center and the four examples are by the author.]
Center on Conscience and War (CCW), 1-800-379-2679. The CCW office is at 1830 Connecticut Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008. CCW assists members of the military who have become COs; young people who are considering joining the military (with information); and expert assistance for those making CO claims, etc.
The Episcopal Church’s resources are available on the Internet at www.episcopalchurch.org and include: the EPF pamphlet “Cross Before Flag” (as of 2005); the Church’s “Conscientious Objector Packet,” and, for those who wish to be listed with the Church as COs, the opportunity to be listed on the Church’s “Conscientious Objector Registry.” To get the above material on the Church’s website, select: “Young Adult and Campus Ministries.” Then select “Conscientious Objector Registry” for the above resources.
The Ethics Center – https://ethics.org.au, 2016. Secular.
The Face of Battle, John Keegan, 1976. What war is like and how war seldom produces the expected outcome.
The Just War Tradition – An Introduction, David D. Corey and J. Daryl Charles, 2018. A good book by secular scholars.
Morality and War, David Fisher, 2011. An excellent book by a military scholar.
The Morality of Killing in Self Defense: A Christian Perspective, Jonathon Spelman, 2008, Ashbrook Statesmanship Thesis. Based on the Old and New Testaments and St. Augustine’s writings (circa year 400 C.E.).
Thinking Faith – http://www.thinkingfaith.org/articles. Roman Catholic.
Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Just_war-theory
The shockingly under-reported war in Yemen has led to the death of 250,000 people and created the worst humanitarian crisis anywhere in the world according to the UN. They estimate that more than 24 million people in the country, which was already one of the poorest on the planet prior to the war, will need humanitarian assistance in 2021.
The war is led by Saudi Arabia, with the involvement of the UAE, but it is backed by some key Western powers – the US, the UK, France, Spain, Italy and Canada. In particular, the US and the UK have maintained unquestioning support for Saudi Arabia since the war began and are both participants in the war.
This protest is timed to take place just days after the inauguration of Joe Biden, who has promised to end US support for the war. This is our one central aim – to hold him to his word and force fellow governments to follow suit.
Over 230 organizations, including the Episcopal Church, from 17 countries have signed up for a call to action against the war on Yemen so far, making this the biggest international anti-war co-ordination since the campaign against the Iraq war. Unfortunately, due to the circumstances in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic many of the planned physical protests have had to be postponed but our global movement will not be silenced.
For the World Says No to War on Yemen Global Online Rally we have brought together a group of prominent voices from across the world to speak out against this utterly brutal war and call for its immediate end.
Amongst those joining us at 11am/PT/2pmET/7pm GMT on Mon 25th January will be…
Ahmed Al-Babati (British-Yemeni Soldier)
Dr. Shireen Aladeimi
Jeremy Corbyn MP
Danny Glover (Actor)
Daniele Obono (French National Assembly Member)
Yanis Varoufakis (MeRA25 Secretary-General)
More to be announced soon.
Register here: https://us02web.zoom.us/.../reg.../WN_a1UiRQgwS_Kk-sBG86bv-A
Outgoing Trump administration takes 11th hour action against the Houthi Movement, threatening even more dire civilian conditions for civilians in Yemen. Antipathy toward Iran by the United States appears to be a major factor. The terrorism designation “makes it harder to deliver lifesaving assistance in a country already experiencing the worst humanitarian crisis in the world,” according to Gregory Meeks, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
First in a Series of Reflections: Introduction to Just War
By Dana Grubb
Hundreds of years before the Christian era, several ancient societies (e.g., Egypt and India) considered what conditions should exist before a nation should enter a war and what limitations were needed on waging a war.
Early Christians were for a long time barred from joining the Roman Army. This was due in large part to pagan observances in the Army and the Church’s banning Christian participation in pagan rites. Jesus’ proclamation to his followers that they should love their enemies and his telling Peter to put away his sword may also have been factors.
However, by about year 180 CE some Christians were enlisting in the Army and larger numbers did so in following years. By the late fourth century, there were many Christians serving in the Roman Army. This raised the question whether Christians should participate in war and, if so, were there wars that they should refuse to participate in. (The Roman Army was noted for its brutality, including the slaughter of all the civilians and their children in conquered cities.)
The Christian concept of a Just War evolved from the writings of St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, around the year 400. In the 13th century, Thomas Aquinas developed three specific criteria: It must be waged by a lawful government; waged for a just cause; and waged with a right intention.
Through the centuries, Roman Catholic and secular scholars have greatly expanded and developed the criteria for determining if a war may be considered to be a Just War. The lists of criteria vary somewhat, even among Roman Catholic scholars. We have selected some of the most commonly used criteria for this paper, plus a few proposed End of War criteria by modern scholars.
Phases of a Just War
The Just War theory is usually divided into phases: Cause, Conduct and, perhaps, Ending a war.
1] Just Cause for a war is traditionally sub-divided into two situations:
a] An armed attack on a peaceful nation or one of their allies has occurred. The attack itself is considered to be a justification for going to war with the aggressor. (Skip to "Just Conduct Criteria.")
b] Other types of armed actions require that several criteria must all be met to initiate a just war.
2. Just Conduct in the waging of a war. Regardless of the cause for a war, several criteria all must be met for the conduct of the war to be considered just.
3. Just Ending for a war is needed to repair harm done by the war.
The Just War Criteria
Just Cause Criteria:
1] Legitimate Authority: A national government or similar authority (e.g., the United Nations Security Council). An internal revolution would not qualify.
2] Just Cause: The war must be against a serious public wrong. For example, a war to stop the genocide of Jews in another country would qualify. A war to annex land in another country would not qualify.
3] Right Intention: Leaders must be motivated by a national goal that makes the war just, and not by some illegitimate motive, such as annexing land or installing a puppet regime.
4] Proportionality: The war must be reasonably expected to do more good than harm. Given the great damage done in most wars, the harm done by not going to war must be very great.
5] Probability of Success: The war must have a reasonable chance for victory. This could be problematic in some cases. For example, even with a much stronger military, the U.S. could not defeat North Vietnam; even the mighty British Army could not defeat George Washington's small volunteer army.
6] Last Resort: War must not be used until the other options, such as negotiation, diplomatic pressure, etc. have been ineffective or impractical. (Economic sanctions can cause great harm to the public if it depends on imports for fuel or heat, etc. However if a rapidly moving genocide or ethnic cleansing is in progress, a drawn out use of other options would be of no value.
Just Conduct Criteria:
Discrimination: Military forces must not attack non-combatants. Bombing of entire cities, towns or residential areas is forbidden. Civilian areas that have some enemy assets must not be attacked with weapons of mass destruction or the use of unguided missiles. The World War II massive bombings of London, Dresden, Tokyo, Nagasaki and Hiroshima violated this criterion, as do Israeli bombings of schools, hospitals, sewage treatment facilities, etc. in Gaza.
2] Proportionality: The harm done must not exceed the good sought. Ideally, the military force used would be capable of a relatively quick victory with minimum harm to civilians. A long, drawn out war will usually result in extensive collateral damage, with high casualties and vast property damage.
3] Military Necessity: A military attack must be focused entirely on defeating enemy forces. It must not have any other objective, such as killing off their children. Allegations that weapons are being hidden in a hospital does not justify bombing the hospital.
4] Fair Treatment of Prisoners: Prisoners of war have basic human rights that must no be violated. These include housing, food, clean water, medical care, etc. There must be no waterboarding, sleep deprivation, solitary confinement or other type of torture.
5] No Evil Methods Used: There must be no use of biological weapons; no mass rape of women and girls, etc.
Just End of War Criteria:
1] Status of rights before war: The end of a war should be followed by a restoration of property rights and human rights as existed before the war.
2] Punishment for war crimes: Political leaders and military commanders on either side who were guilty of war crimes should be tried and punished for their crimes. The Nuremberg war crimes trials did this for German war criminals, but did not punish allied war criminals.
3] Peace treaties: A peace treaty must be fair to both sides. No excessive war reparation penalties, as were applied to Germany after World War One.
4] Settlements: The military occupation of a nation must not involve the eviction of its residents from their homes or razing of their homes for the purpose of moving in settlers from the winning nation. Israel has done this in the Palestinian West Bank over a period of several decades and now has over 400,000 people living in Israeli settlements in Palestine.
5] Compensation for Victims: Innocent victims of the war should be compensated to the extent that it is possible to do so. Germany provided some compensation to Jewish families who lost family members due to the Nazi Holocaust during World War Two.
Current Factors Being Considered:
The effect of non-state groups (e.g., ISIS) and rapidly developing military technology. Examples of the latter include: inexpensive automated drones that can be used by minor powers, humans controlling weapons at very remote distances from their targets, and methods for destroying crops, poisoning water supplies, and damaging electric power grids.
The next Just War reflection: A Critique of the Just War
While the Just War theory is a topic of interest to the military, there are numerous critics, who doubt that any contemporary war can be considered “just.” Some doubt that it ever was a valid theory.
For example: The good sought by contemporary wars, with their increasingly powerful weapons, compares poorly with the massive number of casualties caused by a war.
For example: It is hard to reconcile Jesus’s teaching us to love our enemies with the waging war against our enemies.
The next Reflection is titled “Critique of the Just War.” It considers these and several other problems with the Just War theory. Each of the Just War Criteria is examined per these problems.
Morality and War, David Fisher, 2011. A very useful book on the Just War by a scholar who has served in senior positions at the British Ministry of Defense
The Just War Tradition – An Introduction, David D. Corey and J. Daryl Charles, 2018. A good, useful book by secular scholars.
The Ethics Center https://ethics.org.au
Thinking Faith http://www.thinkingfaith.org/articles Catholic