“Just War” is Another Word for “Necessary Murder”
During his address to the 15-member U.N. Security Council earlier this week, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres commented that the Hamas attack on October 7 in which 1,400 people were killed “did not happen in a vacuum.” Guterres then explained why, “The Palestinian people have been subjected to 56 years of suffocating occupation” by Israelis.
The U.N. Secretary-General’s comments immediately drew immediate condemnation from the Israeli government calling Guterres “completely disconnected from reality in our region.” Israel’s reality, of course, is different from the Palestinian’s reality. Guterres condemned the Hamas atrocities, but he averred that such appalling attacks do not justify a collective punishment of the Palestinian people.
The U.N. Secretary -General’s is a lonesome voice in a sea of praises and justification for Israel’s “endless war” with Hamas. Israel’s unabated bombing of the City of Gaza is akin to carpet bombing that has killed more than 5,700 people. It is devoid of a true military strategy other than an emotional response to a population reeling from the terrorist attacks. U.S. President Joe Biden said that “America stands with Israel … and understands that Israel must defend itself.”
The West is calling it a just war. But is it really? The attacks on civilians and crucial infrastructures violate the “just war” moral principles of discrimination (versus indiscriminate bombing) and noncombatant immunity (Palestinians who are now refugees in their own land). Israel might have had a just cause but the resultant war is not. But then again, who is minding the store? Israel has done this before (Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009) but got away with it.
The hosannas of “justified war” is just another way of saying that the mass killing is necessary to avenge the deaths of 1,400 Israeli civilians. We’ve heard this before, time and time again whenever Western countries commit the killings, it must be a just war. The 9-11 terrorist attacks in the United States killed nearly 3,000. The resultant Middle East campaigns “War on Terror” in the hunt for the mastermind, Osama bin Laden and the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq has resulted directly or indirectly, in the deaths of nearly 5 million mostly civilians and children.
Many organized religions, despite the “thou shalt not kill” commandment, agree and believe that there is such a thing as a “just war” or the euphemism for “necessary killing.” Perhaps the most famous “necessary killing” is that of Jesus Christ. According to Matthew, Jesus predicted his own death which is part of a divine plan and so his death was necessary “to provide salvation to the sinful species of humanity.”
Since Jesus’ death, Christianity was born and over 500 million to one billion people have died because of it. Christians, Muslims, and Jews and even non-believers died because of religion. The Holy Wars in Europe during the Mongol Conquest, the Catholic/Protestant Schism, and the world wars. So, the idea of a just war or necessary killing is already baked in our psyche. Some states would even legally allow killing by electric chair, injection, or firing squad.
But I agree with Pope Francis that there is no morality in a just war. How can killing an innocent child or other civilians be ever just? Whether through the devastating effects of nuclear weapons or singly by injection. In Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis’ encyclical talks of the humanitarian consequences of a just war. Perhaps, this is what President Biden was alluding to when he said that U.S. made mistakes in trying to prosecute the wars to avenge 9-11.
“Why can’t people give peace a chance,” asked John Lennon. Lennon’s rhetorical statement is not saying that we must have peace. Rather, for everyone to give peace a chance. This is in essence what Pope Francis was saying. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s declaration of war was immediate and that he envisioned a “long war.”
It really goes back to what U.N. Secretary-General Guterres said about what brought us to this predicament. The Palestinian territories – West Bank and Gaza, and East Jerusalem are by all intents and purposes, are occupied by Israel. Netanyahu is not really interested in a two-state solution and the war gives him the needed impetus to write fini to a story that has been decades in the making.
Netanyahu is trying to finish what Joshua couldn’t as related in the Old Testament when the God of Israel ordered the armies of Joshua to invade Canaan and to kill every single Canaanite. Deuteronomy 20 called for the complete destruction of Canaan including man, woman, and child. Deuteronomy 7:1-2 was very clear that God will clear away the seven tribes (nations) ahead of them but the “chosen people” must “conquer and completely destroy them, make no treaties, and show them no mercy.”
The land known as biblical Canaan in the southern Levant encompasses Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, Jordan, and the southern portions of Syria and Lebanon. If the current siege of Gaza expands to Lebanon which has already started with minor skirmishes between Hezbollah militants and the Israeli Army, the conflagration can spread to the neighboring Arab countries including Iran.
Now we understand why the United States deployed two aircraft carrier battle groups to the Mediterranean Sea. One really doesn’t need this much firepower to rescue 10 American hostages. It is there to send an unmistakable message that the United States will not just sit it out to give peace a chance. This is ahead of Israel’s plan for a ground invasion.
Pope John Paul II said in the aftermath of 9-11: “peace is essential for development, but true peace is made possible only through forgiveness.” Albert Einstein was blunter, “Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding.” The reality of today, however, tells us that we see large expenditures on weapons, armaments, and nukes as “deterrence of war.” Yet, we see Russia invading Ukraine, China harassing Taiwan and the Philippines, and North Korea constantly striking the drums of war.
One would think that with the adoption of the Rome Statue which established the International Criminal Court, that a world leader would think twice about committing mass killing or genocide. Well, here is one reason why the bigger players are not worried about invading another country. The three world powers: the United States, Russia, and China are not signatories. Regional powers like Israel, Iran, Libya, Saudi Arabia, India, North Korea, and Iraq are not signatories either.
Maybe President Ronald Reagan was right when he said at the 42nd Session of the General Assembly that only an alien invasion from the outside world can make people forget about their differences. He added, “What could be more alien than war and the threat of war?”