Reasons for pacifism

Article published on Dec. 9, 2002
community published
Article published on Dec. 9, 2002

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

The reasons for opposing a war in Iraq are not ideological. On the contrary, the point is to understand why war is always a matter a choice.

The beginning of the third millennium's peace movements have been as active as they have been ignored by their governments. This is nothing new. It is not even a novelty to counter the reasons of those who oppose war - particularly these latest ones - by labelling them. Whoever defends a certain idea becomes a hypocritical utopian or a simpleton who understands nothing of world matters, and this label is applied quite apart from the merits of the actual question. Shunning the opposite error (that is labelling as superficial warmongers everyone who does not agree with the pacifist's point of view) let's try to understand the reasons why a considerable part of public opinion is against armed conflict.

First of all, you have to distinguish between reasons opposing every war (this is the basis for moral pacifism) and those opposing these latest wars, particularly the Iraqi one and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (this is 'political' pacifism). Discussing the former would be very interesting but extremely complex. Here it is worth recalling to mind only an essential point of pacifism: war begets war because it jeopardises those fundamental human and social balances which keep the peace among people.

Why not say 'no' to the Iraqi war and 'stop' to the Israeli invasion of Palestinian territory? The point is that a new war in Iraq cannot be justified by the presence of a dictator who is armed with weapons of mass destruction. On the other hand Saddam Hussein's regime is not a near danger, as UN ex-inspector Scott Ritter publicly affirmed. The US wants both to control Iraqi oil reserves and to create in the very heart of the Middle East a more sympathetic government to control and observe the political and economic affairs of this extremely strategic area.

Great Britain, Spain and Italy are running after the American dream; the first to maintain its 'special relationship' with the US (Tony Blair's dossier to the Chambers was a painful bluff), the others in order to jump into the triumphal chariot and impose themselves as an alternative to the French-German axis in Europe. On the other hand, oil reserves were even the cause in the war in Afghanistan. The overthrow of the Taliban regime permitted the creation of the notorious pipeline going from central Asia to Pakistan's friendlier ports, bypassing the untrustworthy Iraq and Iran. This had been America's real goal because Taliban emissaries had met with American high officials and politicians when he Taliban regime was still a friend and arms purchaser. Why don't we take a look at the consequences of the American attach in Afghanistan? A moderate government is now in Kabul but unfortunately it only controls the capital and its outskirts. Everyone knows that the rest of the country is in the hands of certain warlords who are sometimes supported by neighbouring governments. Moreover, it is worth highlighting that these chieftains have authority over some tribes who are no less cruel or fanatic than the Taliban in spite of a (dis)informative campaign according to which the North-Alliance soldiers were civil, cultivated and well drilled, respectful of both other people's opinions and of social mores secularism. Before Afghanistan was attacked many of those who are now labelled as 'hypocritical pacifists' had believed that a war with a larger number of innocent victims than September 11th would have been an absurd course of action. The reason was self-evident: the West had to show a high moral sense after such a cruel attack while admitting at the same time some of its insane and guilty policies. Above all, the Western countries had to reassert a self-evident and unquestionable human truth; the dead are equal. Some are not more valuable than others. This was neither self-evident nor important to the US and to those governments who supported them. They killed at least 4000 innocent people without even considering the millions of refugees who have now taken shelter in neighbouring countries facing inhuman conditions. The worst is that the US did not point out its own faults. American victims were praised while the others were only admitted to have been tragic fatalities.

The new republican imperialism with typical arrogance can cause some crises whose consequences will be paid by everyone. The doctrine of pre-emptive attack can be the reason for the outbreak of regional clashes in high-tension areas (think about India and Pakistan or China and Taiwan), besides being a praise of much too strong politics and arbitrariness. This is a well-known point. Wars undermine the possibility of civilisations living together and this is the greatest harm. Let's take a look at the Israeli issue. The Palestinian territory has been occupied arbitrarily for 35 years. The UN has carried out many resolutions; the US speaks in support of a free Palestinian state. The logical outcome should be a political and economic commitment to compel the war-criminal Sharon to withdraw and let an oppressed people live in peace (he was democratically elected but this is not enough to consider him a mass-murderer no matter what some politically correct experts in politics think). On the contrary, the UN is ignored and a fair peace deal has not been offered to the Palestinian people since iy has been shown that the Camp David proposal in 2000 had been a bluff (see Le Monde Diplomatique July). The efforts to delegitimise Arafat through the occupation, the destruction and humiliation of the Palestinian Authority have fuelled the Islamic fundamentalist terrorists. Israel is not a safe country and it never will be if it keeps on abusing its neighbours, no matter what Sharon promises them. More importantly, to demonise the Palestinian Authority now could have a surprising effect, which is sometimes forgotten: the election of a more radical leader than Arafat because a people without prospects are tempted into extremist solutions.

This is a summary of some self-evident reasons to oppose United States unilateral policy and the Israeli oppression of the Palestinian people. Finally, one more point: after the Twin Towers were attacked you tried to understand the reason why all this happened. Many understood that millions of Muslims were demonstrating in the streets praising Bin Laden because they hated the United States' arrogant and aggressive policy which gave weapons to autocratic governments and did not care about the civilian deaths in these countries. The same faults keep on being repeated in spite of the biggest terrorist attack in history. After September 11th nothing has changed no matter what has been said. The aim of these wars is still only political, economic and territorial supremacy and worse, they fuel other wars. Peace is the only possible way to achieve peace. Peace is a choice as is war.