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SPRING 2007  · DECEMBER 2006 · JULY-AUG 2006 · APRIL--MAY 2006 · FEBRUARY 2006
In the Shadows · The Brute · The War on Terror · Black Beaches · War · Images from Lebanon · The Neocons · Iran and Lebanon · Regime of Injustice · Where's Osama? · GATS · Lamont v Lieberman · Words of Hope · Open Letter to Bush

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The War on Terror is an Evil War


Mankind has had an obsession with the concept of evil, we find it in history,  in literature, we find the description of evil as a central theme in every religion.  The precept of good versus evil is also endemic across most recorded civilizations.  Evil has also been characterized as having an essence of  ‘ens a se’ (a being from itself).  I would refute the idea that evil is an entity existent based on its own.  Perhaps because I would extend the veracity that man (as well as woman) is ‘ens rationis’ (a being of reason).  I reject supernatural, or religious explanations for evil because if man is indeed sui generis a rational being, then he can understand nature, and as an extension his own nature, and therefore will recognize that it is in his own nature where evil lies.  Indeed I still see man as a being of reason even though we see him as a progenitor of wars and destruction. 

We could spend hours and write tomes on the question of evil; from the positions of ecclesiastical thinking down through the ages to more recent philosophers like J.S. Mill, however my aim with this essay is to be less philosophical and actually more practical.

In this vein I would like to just ask two questions which are open to your own thoughts and consideration—yes you the reader!  Think about this:

  1. Is human life important? Of course you would say yes, considering your own life, but how about the life of your brother, aunt, cousin?  Are their lives as important as your own?  The vast majority of readers would answer this question also in the affirmative. But then there are a few amongst you, perhaps 1 or 3%, who knows maybe more, who would say; ‘well their lives are important, but not as important as mine own.” Ah, and there lies the gist of the problem you see.  If life is important, if life is precious, if life is on the order of sanctity, then it follows that ALL life is important.  There should not be, CANNOT be, a differentiation of importance between your life and someone else’s.  Morally, ethically we could therefore classify those readers who imply their own life above the lives of others, as essentially unethical, perverse, in a word-- EVIL.
  2. Is war an acceptable means of human conduct? Well, those of you who believe that human life is important, and its preservation an essential and moral good, and who reject the establishment of a pyramid of hierarchy of more and less important lives, would of course answer that war is NOT an acceptable means of human conduct.  To those of you, war is a nullification of life, its attributes, and its essential value.  If so, then war is inherently an EVIL.  In fact, war has always been seen as an evil.  However, across the ages, war’s evilness has been an ethical variant; for example during the Roman Empire, according to the historian Plutarch: Julius Caesar “took by storm more than 800 cities, subdued 300 nations and fought pitched battles at various times with three million men, of whom he destroyed one million in actual fighting and took another million prisoners.” (Quoted in Crowds and Power, by Elias Canetti,, NY, Straus & Giroux, 1984, p. 230).  The Romans practiced total warfare (akin to what modern soldiers call ‘scorched earth’), Caesar for example would often kill every man, woman and child, just to teach others the lesson that to resist meant death (Caesar, Conquest of Gaul, Penguin Books).  As human civilization developed, warfare became an accepted method of settling disputes among nations. However the exercise of warfare developed rules, indeed in the 18th and 19th centuries wars were seen by societies as giant games of chess.  Accords, agreements, were developed between nations to strengthen the unwritten rules of warfare; you don’t kill civilians, you don’t brutalize the wounded, you don’t brutalize prisoners by torturing them, and so on and so forth.  The Geneva Conventions were such agreements.  At its heart these agreements accept the fact that man has not always been a rational being, that warfare is bound to break out among nations at some time; however it protects the central idea that we have expounded in this essay-- that human life is important, that it is precious, and that it is in fact holy (apart from any religious connotation).  Inherent in such agreements are concepts that have been elaborated across the ages that respect the inherent good of civilization and the greater values of preserving societies and their peoples.

If the above thoughts are true, and I think that you would agree with me that they are, then what is one to think about the current practice of ‘scorched earth’ campaigns being waged by the U.S. military in Iraq, as we saw happen in the city of Fallujah?  What are we to think about the campaigns being waged by Israel on the country of Lebanon? It is apparent that both the U.S. and Israel have shown utter contempt for the Geneva Conventions; civilians, the wounded, children, are all targeted without remorse.  In Iraq journalists have been killed amid repeated allegations that the U.S. military is intentionally killing them.  Hospitals, ambulances, independent observers have all been targeted by both the U.S. and Israel.  Indeed a week ago UN observers in southern Lebanon were killed after repeated barrages of bombs and mortar fire during a six hour period, this despite repeated UN notification to Israel that they were targeting UN personnel. Foreign correspondents continue to document for us the fact that an entire defenseless nation is currently being bombarded to smithereens, and the world does nothing.


In such warfare, as waged by the aggressor, there is no sense of honor, there is no respect for the sanctity of human life, there is no respect for the inherent values of civilization.  Such warriors follow the lead of brutes of old; such is the philosophy of scorched earth campaigns; we have seen them before; they were waged by the Romans, recently by the Nazis, and now by America and Israel. Such is the new face of evil, because as we have demonstrated, evil is that which ignores the supreme value of human life. Evil is the indiscriminate use of power waged for the obliteration of a people, and if the armies of Israel and the U.S. wage a war on terrorism in this fashion, then their armies become instruments of evil.


Let us not mince words; this war is evil, as are the men who wage it.


by Leonard Manfred


Leonard Manfred is a contributing correspondent. 

He can be reached by email

Posted  August 05, 2006

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