Friday, July 9, 2010

Camillo "Mac" Bica: We Who Advocate Peace

We Who Advocate Peace
by Camillo "Mac" Bica article link
July 9, 2010 | OpEdNews

They wage preemptive war, occupy and bomb sovereign nations, utilize video-game technology and robotics to murder and then dehumanize hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children as collateral damage. We who advocate peace and justice say that such acts of war and occupation are illegal, immoral and a barbaric and paranoid response to contrived evil . . . and they say we are unpatriotic, treasonous, and unsupportive of the troops.

They chose to avoid military service themselves or had "other priorities" when their Country called, but yet cavalierly send our children, not theirs, to kill and to die in their war for oil and empire. We who advocate peace and justice say that if the threat is real and the peril immanent and grave, then our chickenhawk leaders and their privileged children should be the first to go. Only then will we follow . . . and they say we are unpatriotic, treasonous, and unsupportive of the troops.

They continue to use the fear of terrorism, prey upon the anxiety and distress of the American people post 9/11to "justify" continuing, even escalating, their wars and occupations, and to deny fundamental human liberties guaranteed by the Constitution. We who advocate peace and justice say that the exploitation of a vulnerable citizenry, and the disregard and abuse of basic human rights is Un-American, uncivilized, and a clear violation of the very values they allege to be championing and defending . . . and they say we are unpatriotic, treasonous, and unsupportive of the troops.

They send our military into harm's way to kill and be killed in pursuit of goals that are ambiguous and ill-defined in an endless war and occupation they sell to the American people and to the world as a response to terrorism. We who advocate peace and justice say that our troops are not cannon fodder; that terrorism is a tactic not an enemy or an ideology; that war, occupation, and the indiscriminate use of violence by the military promotes rather than abrogates the terrorist threat . . . and they say we are unpatriotic, treasonous, and unsupportive of the troops.

They fail to honor their commitment to our Servicemen and Women, "stop loss" deployment after deployment with insufficient dwell time, and provide inadequate resources to meet the medical and readjustment needs of our returning wounded and veterans. We who advocate peace and justice say that providing effective care and treatment for those physically, psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually wounded by war is a moral and legal obligation and should be our first priority. . . and they say we are unpatriotic, treasonous, and unsupportive of the troops.

They torture prisoners at Abu Graib, Guantanamo Bay and "black site" secret prisons around the world, denying "detainees" even the most basic right of Habeas Corpus. We who advocate peace and justice say that such heinous practices as water boarding and unlawful restraint are immoral, violates the U.S. Constitution and International Law, increases the risk that our troops will be ill-treated and tortured should they be captured, and that those who ordered, endorsed, sanctioned, or supported such methods of torture are hypocrites, deviants, and war criminals . . . and they say we are unpatriotic, treasonous, and unsupportive of the troops.

They refused to meet with and comfort the families of our soldiers wounded or killed in battle, denigrate their memory, sacrifice, and dignity by fabricating heroic fantasies of their death and suffering to increase recruitment and bolster support for their senseless war. We who advocate peace and justice say that exploiting the deaths of our soldiers and the grief and suffering of their families in order to mythologize war and lure other young men and women to slaughter is unconscionable and depraved . . . and they say we are unpatriotic, treasonous, and unsupportive of the troops.

They have and continue to award no-bid contracts to favored corporations for personal and political benefit. Contractors who kill without mercy or accountability, whose greed for profit influences decisions of foreign policy, promotes war, and prolongs quagmire. We who advocate peace and justice say that we must heed President Eisenhower's warning to beware of the military industrial complex, that such corporate cronyism, war profiteering, and political corruption, is criminal, fiscally unsound, and not in our national interest . . . and they say we are unpatriotic, treasonous, and unsupportive of the troops.

They sell America to foreign investors, waste billions of taxpayer dollars on an ever increasing military budget to wage illegal war and occupation and to furnish the weapons of genocide and oppression to dictators and rogue nations around the world. We who advocate peace and justice say that America must end its preoccupation with militarism and war, use its wealth and influence to protect life and property rather than to kill and to destroy, and become a sane and compassionate voice for peaceful coexistence in the world . . . and they say we are unpatriotic, treasonous, and unsupportive of the troops.

They continue to give tax breaks to the wealthy and tax incentives to the oil industry despite record profits. They bail out corrupt Wall Street bankers but remain apathetic to Main Street workers who lose their jobs and their homes. They "compromised" away meaningful healthcare reform and see fiscal responsibility as cutting social programs such as aid to education, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. We who advocate peace and justice say that benefiting the affluent at the expense of the poor and the middle class is inhumane, short sighted, a violation of trust, and of basic human decency. . . and they say we are unpatriotic, treasonous, and unsupportive of the troops.

On "National Holidays" such as Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, they parade, stage air shows, weapons displays, and celebrate the technology of death and destruction to commercialize patriotism and to glorify war and the military experience. We who advocate peace and justice say that these national holidays are not for celebration, commercial marketing, or deceptive recruitment practices. Rather they are for remembering and for grieving the loss of ALL who were sacrificed to the tragedy and insanity of war . . . and they say we are unpatriotic, treasonous, and unsupportive of the troops.

They refuse to "look back" and to investigate the crimes of those who violated the law and the trust of the American people by choosing war unnecessarily; crimes against humanity that cost billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of human lives. We who advocate peace and justice say that we are a nation of laws to which all are subject equally, that such crimes must be investigated and the guilty held accountable for their transgressions. Prosecute the war criminals! . . . and they say we are unpatriotic, treasonous, and unsupportive of the troops.

They sat idly by as the city of New Orleans and thousands of its inhabitants died; ignore global warming, choosing rhetoric rather than effective action while the gas and petroleum industry continues to profit from polluting the planet and destroying its fragile ecosystem. We who advocate peace and justice say that this indifference to human pain and suffering and failure to defend the planet and its diverse species against ecoterrorism is unconscionable, inexcusable, and ultimately suicidal . . . and they say we are unpatriotic, treasonous, and unsupportive of the troops.

They spout the meaningless rhetoric of shallow patriotism, arrogantly waving the flag of "freedom" or pasting it to the bumper of their gas guzzling humvees, and think it belongs solely to those who unquestioningly beat the drums of war, from a safe distance of course, while their leaders sacrifice lives and treasure and violate the laws of god and of humankind in mistaken wars of choice and greed. We who advocate peace say that all war is anathema and unnecessary war sacrilege and those leaders who dare unleash its horror upon humankind are criminals and those who blindly follow are sheep who fail to understand the moral and legal obligations of their religion, of humanism, and of citizenship in a democracy . . . and they say we are unpatriotic, treasonous, and unsupportive of the troops.


On the Duty to Conscientiously Object
by Camillo "Mac" Bica article link
March 27, 2010 | OpEdNews

Moral values and norms are the means through which we define ourselves as persons, structure our world, and render our relationship to it, and to other human beings, comprehensible. That is, moral values and norms provide the parameters of our being - - what I term our "moral identity." I submit that the moral principle of respect for persons is foundational to any reasonable normative ethical system. It is clear to me that if we do not respect and value persons, then respect for anything else we may hold "sacred," whether it is property, country, the flag, etc., loses all meaning. Morality requires, therefore, that we treat all persons as ends in themselves, not as a means to the ends of others; that all persons have intrinsic moral value, not instrumental value only. This principle is manifest as maintaining that all human beings have inalienable human rights, and correlative to these rights are the obligations of all moral agents to respect and not to violate them. It is clear to me as well that adhering to this rule, this principle, as foundational, will bring the greatest balance of good (benefit) over evil (detriment or harm) into the world for the greatest number of people. So in a sense, then, this principle is not only Kantian, but Rule Utilitarian as well.

Unless one is an anarchist, since we choose to live in community with others, we must recognize the prima facie authority of the political structure within the state to make decisions about policy and actions that must be taken in behalf of the body politic. Further, when such decisions have been made utilizing established political processes, citizens are legally, perhaps even morally, obligated to concede at least a preliminary measure of authority to these decisions; even should they find them disagreeable. We must begin, therefore with a presumption in favor of decisions of state. The authority of the state, however, is not absolute and contingent upon the legality and morality of the particular policy being instituted or course of action being required.

Decisions of state may, in some situations, precipitate a crisis of conscience. Consider for example, a state's decision to wage war. For the pacifist, inalienable human rights and the subsequent immunity afforded by such rights, are absolute and cannot be overridden or forfeited. As war inevitably entails violence and killing, war is never a moral option. Consequently, the pacifist refuses participation arguing that one's moral obligation is absolute and, therefore, trumps/overrides any obligation one may have to the state. While never conceding its power to wage war, nations, including our own, have recognized the significance and accepted the importance of individualism, freedom of conscience, and religious toleration. As such, governments have allowed pacifists a dispensation from having to serve in war by granting them General Conscientious Objector status.

For the non pacifist, however, of whom I am one, moral rules and rights, since they can conflict, are not absolute, but prima facie. That is, under some conditions, rights and immunity can be forfeited rendering the individual liable to be justifiably injured and/or killed in self-defense and war. For the non pacifist, then, should certain very specific criteria be met (henceforth referred to as just war criteria), a war may be just and killing moral. Since, for the non pacifist, some wars, wars that satisfy the just war criteria, may be morally justifiable, participation in such wars violates no moral principle and ought to provoke no objection of conscience.[i] Consequently, in the absence of a more stringent conflicting moral obligation, non pacifists ought abide by the morally and legally correct and duly arrived at decisions of government, even should they require service in war.

Unfortunately, not all wars that become the policy of governments are just and moral. Wars that fail to satisfy just war criteria; wars of aggression for example, violate the sanctity and inviolability of human life and the tenets of International Law, Treaties, United States Military law, and the principles of morality. Consequently, such wars are both illegal and immoral.

The order to participate in an unjust war and, hence, to kill non liable human beings (innocents) to commit murder is an illegal and immoral order. Consequently, the authority of government to require participation in such a war is forfeit, and citizens, whether they are civilians or members of the military, have no obligation to obey such an order, despite the war being a duly enacted decision of government. The Nuremburg Principles (pdf) makes this obligation clear.

"[T]he very essence of the [Nuremberg] Charter is that individuals have intentional duties which transcend the national obligations of obedience imposed by the individual state."

In fact, according to morality and law there is an obligation NOT to participate, a duty to refuse, an obligation of Selective Conscientious Objection. In addition, at the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal, it was further declared that there is a legal obligation to work towards ending unjust wars.

"Anyone with knowledge of illegal activity and an opportunity to do something about it is a potential criminal under International law unless the person takes affirmative measures to prevent commission of the crimes."

Selective Conscientious Objection, then, is the claim by non pacifists first, that a particular war fails to satisfy the just war criteria, second, that it is illegal and immoral, and third, that all moral agents are obligated not to abide by the decisions of government and to refuse to participate in or to support the prosecution of this particular war. Consequently, in an unjust war, since law and morality are in agreement, there is no conflict between a citizen's moral and legal obligation. Paradoxically, despite the clarity of International, Domestic, and Moral Law regarding illegal and immoral war, few governments, including our own, recognize Selective Conscious Objection.

Where the General Conscientious Objector, the pacifist, and the Selective Conscientious Objector, the just war theorist, differ is that with the former only sincerity of belief is relevant. But with the latter, in addition to sincerity of belief, correctness of conscience is not only relevant but required. That is, conscience is not infallible. There are those, members of the Westboro Baptist Church comes to mind, who believe sincerely that God hates homosexuals, as well as all members of the military, Catholics, Jews, etc. I will grant them the benefit of the doubt that they are sincere in their beliefs and acting in accordance with their conscience, outrageous and perverted though their behavior it may be. Consequently, since there is a prima facie obligation to abide by just and moral policy determined through accepted means of governance, non pacifists citizens must either participate in war or bear the burden of proof to demonstrate correctness of conscience, that is, establish how/why the war in question is illegal and immoral.

Transparency in government, that is, providing the information necessary to create an informed citizenry, is a requirement in a democracy if government by and for the people is to work successfully. Political leaders, then, must, before waging war, offer a coherent, rational, and valid argument that just war criteria have been satisfied, that is, despite the awfulness of war, killing and destruction is a necessary, just, and moral recourse in this particular situation.

In bringing attention to moral and legal concerns that should be of vital interest to all moral agents, especially to those charged with the responsibilities of governing, the Selective Conscientious Objector is a great asset to the state. That is, the Selective Conscientious Objector is telling us that, in his view, and for these reasons, a particular war has failed to satisfy just war criteria and hence is in violation of International, military, and moral law. Such objections may be correct or incorrect, but either way they ought to be taken seriously by government as they provide an important opportunity to review and re-evaluate the decision to wage war.

However the Supreme Court chooses to interpret, and political and military leaders choose to implement Conscientious Objection, the legal precedent and moral obligation is clear. Consequently, we do not need further legislation recognizing a right to Selective Conscientious Objection because it is already, not only recognized, but required both by law and morality. What is necessary, however, is that governments and the military begin taking these objections seriously. That is, our political and military leaders should welcome the observations and criticisms of the Selective Conscientious Objector as a means either to reaffirm their decision to wage war, or to correct and make retribution for their transgressions or tragic mistakes in policy. A nation that persists in waging unjust, immoral war is a pariah in the international community, a rogue nation, and its leaders, war criminals.

[i] Given the moral gravity of one's actions in war, however, it may well be the case that warriors may still suffer "moral injury." See my "The Moral Casualties of War: Understanding the Experience," International Journal of Applied Philosophy, v.13:1, Spring 1999, p 81.

Camillo "Mac" Bica, Ph.D., is a professor of philosophy at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, a long-time activist for peace and justice, a member of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and the coordinator of the Long Island Chapter of Veterans for Peace.

OpEdNews Articles by Camillo "Mac" Bica
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