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Martin LeFevre: We Are Not At War

Meditations - From Martin LeFevre in California

We Are Not At War

Let’s step back for a minute during this first month of the New Year, and examine the Bush Administration’s ‘evolving’ rationale for the invasion of Iraq, as well as the crumbling ideology supporting “the war against terror.” What makes them a war, and why does the idea of war still hold sway anyway?

As many have pointed out, the very concept of war used in the same breath with terrorism is fatally flawed. If we define war as the marshaling of a population to violently oppose, through military conflict, the people of another country, then we are not at war at all. War is just the supreme ideological and rhetorical device employed by the Bush Administration to justify and uphold its policies, which of course extend far beyond bringing the terrorists who brought down the Twin Towers to justice.

One of the most coherent and farsighted pronouncements about fighting terrorism with the ideology of war came from the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) in Washington. In 2001 they said, “terrorism is not a person, place, or thing. You cannot blast it out of this world. Violent retaliation by the U.S. will sow more seeds of hatred and reap a new harvest of terror.”

Echoing what I have said a number of times in this column, FCNL declared in October 2005, “The ‘war on terrorism’ has failed. The president has handed Osama bin Laden and other violent extremists their victory. They wanted to stand face to face with world leaders; President Bush elevated them from their status as international criminals to the status of equals in war.”

When the illegal wiretapping of American citizens by the NSA was brought to light by the New York Times recently, the scoundrel Bush intoned that the newspaper was aiding and abetting the enemy. “We are at war,” he said over and over again, apparently afraid that if he didn’t remind the American public of what should be an obvious fact, they would forget.

Even people that should know better, such as Joe Klein, who writes for Time magazine, have fallen for the false syllogism. In a piece absurdly entitled, “When Hollywood gets terrorism right,” Klein says, “this [is] a new form of warfare, imposed by Islamist fanatics, and utilized by Iraqi extremists in response to the U.S. invasion.”

Just how did they “impose” this supposed war on us? Was it simply by the scale of the attacks on New York and the Pentagon? Did that give us no other choice but to bomb Afghanistan and invade Iraq? That is irresponsible, disgusting logic.

Al Qeda didn’t “impose” this war on America; the Bush Administration seized upon the ideology and rhetoric of war to further policies it already wanted to pursue, such as invading Iraq and overthrowing Saddam Hussein.

When did America go from a country that did everything in its power to avoid war, to a country for which war is the cornerstone of the national character and foreign policy? When did the words of Thomas Paine, the voice of the besieged colonists opposing the British oppressor in the 18th century, become a bad joke—“God will not leave a people to unsupportedly perish, who have so earnestly and so repeatedly sought to avoid the calamities of war.”

Certainly the spirit and intent of the Founders was alive in Abraham Lincoln, who so sought to avoid war with the South, and who so suffered from the extreme casualties on both sides of the Civil War.

Probably warmongering as a feature of American character and foreign policy began with Teddy Roosevelt, that strutting rooster of a president who lived out his aggressive fantasies by forming an army just so he could charge up San Juan Hill in Cuba during the war with Spain in 1898. He called that conflict “a splendid little war,” and said, “The charge itself was great fun.”

It comes down to whether a people, and a government, believe that war is a legitimate means to achieve their ends. It comes down to whether a people, and a government, believe that war is ennobling, an arena for 'heroes.' Complicit so-called journalists echo the same line: ‘If things in Iraq turn out well, then the Bush Administration will have been justified in invading.’

No, that won’t wash. It was wrong to invade, no matter how things turn out. We occupy Iraq, but we are not at war, not with Iraq, nor with Al Qeda. War is just another meaningless word in the Bush Administration's lexicon of lies, spoon-fed to a nation that has lost its soul.


- Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He has been publishing in North America, Latin America, Africa, and Europe (and now New Zealand) for 20 years. Email: The author welcomes comments.

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