A child’s curiosity and natural desire to learn are like a tiny flame, easily extinguished unless it’s protected and given fuel. This book will help you as a parent both protect that flame of curiosity and supply it with the fuel necessary to make it burn bright throughout your child’s life. Let’s ignite our children’s natural love of learning!
September 13th, 2009
Preventive War and the Book of Mormon
photo credit: Darshy
The doctrine of preventive war implies fighting your enemy on your terms, before they (may or may not) fight you on theirs. It is an extension of the idea that “the best defense is a good offense,” and requires a massive network of surveillance and spies to supply the necessary and credible intelligence upon which such operations can be successfully based. It is the pursuit of an alleged enemy to prevent a possible (though not imminent, as is the case with pre-emptive war) future attack.
This doctrine has, in recent decades, come to replace America’s adherence to its opposite, the Just War Theory. This theory of war holds that military action must meet certain moral criteria, such as being in true defense, being initiated by and waged under the proper authority, and being used as a true last resort after all diplomatic and other efforts have failed. The aggression of initiating an attack without meeting the aforementioned criteria is rejected, even when masked in the cloak of pseudo-defense.
There are plenty of statements from modern leaders rejecting preventive war. Two examples will suffice for illustration purposes. President Dwight D. Eisenhower once remarked that he “wouldn’t even listen to anyone seriously that came in and talked about such a thing,” also commenting that “there are all sorts of reasons, moral and political and everything else, against this theory, but it is so completely unthinkable in today’s conditions…” (source). Similarly, in a letter to the US Treasury in 1941, the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints wrote that “…we do not believe that aggression should be carried on in the name and under the false cloak of defense. We therefore look with sorrowing eyes at the present use to which a great part of the funds being raised by taxes and by borrowing is being put… We believe that our real threat comes from within and not from without…” (via Quoty).
Recent opposition to this war theory aside, it is beneficial for truth-seekers to explore the Book of Mormon for examples and patterns that have modern-day application. After all, President Hinckley said of this book that “in its descriptions of the problems of today’s society, it is as current as the morning newspaper and much more definitive, inspired, and inspiring concerning the solutions of those problems” (source).
Before citing examples that have relevant application to this method of warfare, it must be noted that there are several instances of war in the book that do not have direct application to the usual circumstances of geopolitical strife and global warfare. The so-called “war chapters”, comprising the latter part of the book of Alma, are well known and document one battle after another. But as is explained in more detail here, every war it describes is one in which Nephite traitors have defected and instigated the hostilities. Far from being uninvited, these conflicts stem from division and sedition, thus creating a narrow distinction for applying such battles to modern day hostilities. We cannot so broadly use these wars to scrutinize our own unless circumstances come close to matching.
With that caveat, there are a couple notable examples in the Book of Mormon in which preventive war is discussed by itself, as a tool to vanquish the enemy to avoid the possibility of a future attack. The first such instance occurs about two decades after the Savior’s birth, when society has become infested to the foundation with Gadianton robbers. The leader of this thuggish group, Giddianhi, demands the complete surrender of the Nephite kingdom—the people, the lands, and their possessions all being offered up as recompense for their having allegedly usurped the rightful rule of the government.
The military leader of the Nephites, Gidgiddoni, was a “great prophet” who “had the spirit of revelation and also prophecy”. In light of this security threat (one might easily label the Gadiantons as “terrorists”), the people feared for their safety and begged for a preventive assault on the group:
Now the people said unto Gidgiddoni: Pray unto the Lord, and let us go up upon the mountains and into the wilderness, that we may fall upon the robbers and destroy them in their own lands. (3 Nephi 3:20)
What Norman Vincent Peale said of Americans might equally apply to these Nephites: “[they] used to roar like lions for liberty. Now [they] bleat like sheep for security.” Writing of the previous standard of Nephite warfare, A. Brent Merrill has written:
…it was imprudent for the Nephites to initiate hostilities and to rely much on offensive operations. Instead, the Nephites became more adept at using fortifications to achieve local economy of forces and maintained a grand strategy of protecting the land north (of the narrow neck of land). Fortifications, which needed relatively few men to man, became force “multipliers,” by means of which the Nephites could extend a combat front, and served as a base of maneuver for mobile field forces. This was an effective use of one principle of war, the economy of forces. Even in situations where the Nephites may have faced an enemy of more equal numbers, they were counseled not to strike first.
Essentially, Nephite warfare fell under the Just War Theory, and offensive/aggressive war was rejected repeatedly. The situation with Gidgiddoni was no different, though he had to remind everybody of their tradition and the Lord’s preference. Being a great prophet and knowing God’s will, this general counseled his people as follows:
But Gidgiddoni saith unto them: The Lord forbid; for if we should go up against them the Lord would deliver us into their hands; therefore we will prepare ourselves in the center of our lands, and we will gather all our armies together, and we will not go against them, but we will wait till they shall come against us; therefore as the Lord liveth, if we do this he will deliver them into our hands. (3 Nephi 3:21)
Read carefully that verse, and you will see a complete rejection of preventive war by a man of God. Not only does he go so far as to say that they will not go on the offense, but he also mandates a policy of military non-interventionism (erroneously labeled isolationism all too often) by stating that their military might would be consolidated into one defensive force—not spreading them across various locations as spies, satellite operations, and clandestine subversives. Gidgiddoni’s policy is one of defense, not offense; peace, not faux prevention; and moral war, not the degenerated, aggressive type that through propaganda is passed off as being justified.
A second example comes from the namesake of the Book of Mormon, who was appointed as general of all the Nephite armies at the young age of fifteen, and who would later become a prophet. Mormon’s record documents an astounding 35 years of near-constant warfare—”one complete revolution”, as he calls it—before both sides signed a truce. Only a decade of relative peace passed before the Lamanites came down to battle again. The Nephites repelled the threat twice in legitimate defense, but after the second victory became vengeful and arrogant. They began to clamor for a complete extermination of the enemy:
And they did swear by the heavens, and also by the throne of God, that they would go up to battle against their enemies, and would cut them off from the face of the land. (Mormon 3:10)
“Going up” specifies an offensive campaign in the enemy’s territory. This is clearly a demand for preventive war, as the action is being justified through terminating a future (and in this case likely) threat in order to prevent another assault. Mormon’s reaction? He cites their “wickedness and abomination” of which their demands were a part, and “did utterly refuse from this time forth to be a commander and a leader of this people.” His refusal makes clear the depravity that is preventive war; a few verses later, the Lord confirms his reaction.
These examples make clear that ethics in war are not situational. As the Just War Theory asserts, there are certain moral underpinnings upon which the foundation of a war must be based if it is to be considered necessary and justified. The progress of time and technology do not and must not change these principles; short of an explicit commandment by God to the contrary (since it’s His law, He can change it), they remain effectual and applicable.
It is important to note that almost all Nephite battles took place within their own territory. Their military leaders were inspired men who sought the Lord’s guidance. They did not seek for power, and were quick to forgive their enemies and pursue peace. Diplomacy was always, always an option “on the table”. And the Nephites were continually reminded (when they were righteous) of the nobleness of their cause; their defensive struggles were in order to preserve their families and their entire society, both sanctioned and supported by God Himself.
The stories in these pages are included that we might learn from them. It seems, however, that we are repeating them and making them our own—consequences and all. Of this, Hugh Nibley comments:
Not many years ago all of this Book of Mormon extravaganza belonged even for Latter-day Saints to the world of pure fantasy, of things that could never happen in the modern civilized world—total extermination of a nation was utterly unthinkable in those days. But suddenly even within the past few years a very ancient order of things has emerged at the forefront of world affairs; who would have thought it—the Holy War! the ultimate showdown of the Good Guys with God on their side versus the Godless Enemy. It is the creed of the Ayatollah, the Jihad, Dar-al-Islam versus Dar-al-Harb, the Roman ager pacatus versus the ager hosticus. On the one side Deus vult, on the Bi’smi-llah; it is a replay of the twelfth century, the only way the “good people” can be free, that is, safe, is to exterminate the “bad people” or, as Mr. Lee counsels, to lock them up before they do any mischief—that alone will preserve the freedom of “us good people.” (Hugh Nibley, via Quoty)
Prior to this explanation, Nibley references the Jaredite case of Shiz and Coriantumr, “each obsessed with the necessity of ridding the world of his evil adversary.” Vengeful vanquish and preventive war alike have no place in the lives of those who have been commanded to renounce war and proclaim peace.
Contrary to some twisted interpretations, the Book of Mormon neither illustrates nor supports the position of preventive war. If we truly consider this book to be written for and applicable to our day, we would do well to heed its promptings—both personally and as a matter of foreign policy. Those who do not learn from the history of the Book of Mormon are condemned to repeat it.
56 Responses to “Preventive War and the Book of Mormon”
September 17, 2009
[…] & Preventative War Theories Filed under: Scripture — mahonri @ 8:00 am Connor’s Conundrums shares with us this study of what the Book of Mormon does and doesn’t teach about […]
June 30, 2014
[…] of conspiring warmongers in the very act of deceiving the American people to drum up support for an offensive military campaign. Truth may be treason in an empire of lies, but if we’re to follow […]
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Enjoyed your article. We certainly have gotten ourselves into a few problems being the world’s policeman. I’m starting to see (and agree with) a strong sentiment of pulling back and focusing on our internal affairs.
On the other hand, I see the United States of America as the greatest (secular) force for good in the world. I’m trying to imagine how we as a nation still effectively project our influence while not exercising undue influence via military power.
. I’m trying to imagine how we as a nation still effectively project our influence while not exercising undue influence via military power.
Do what Christ did: set an example and say “come, follow me.” If we “cleanse our inward vessel” and really improve things domestically, people will implement similar policies and programs in their own countries in an effort to enjoy similar results. This has already happened w/ several countries using our Constitution as a model for their own.
If tower defense games have taught me anything, it’s that you can meet any onslaught on your own turf as long as you upgrade your defenses. I want tesla towers across the entire coastline by Monday, got it!?!
Since every potential war situation is so different, I hesitate to use a blanket statement/idea for every situation with just a couple of examples from the BoM (ethics/morals are not situational but methods used to uphold them can be; e.g. I don’t know that gathering everyone into one group is always going to be the best thing to do), but I definitely agree with the basic principles you’ve outlined here.
I think the individual level is comparable with the societal/national level. If I think someone is going to attack me, my family, or my property, would I go to their house and destroy their weapons or kill them before they can get to me? No, that would be wrong because they haven’t done anything to harm me or even made an attempt to harm me. I would secure my home, build up a defense system, and contact local authorities. Though preventive war makes strategic and tactical sense, it definitely seems wrong when you brings things down to the level of the individual.
I don’t know that gathering everyone into one group is always going to be the best thing to do…
Yeah, I don’t think that the tactical decisions have to match to be equivalent. I think all this means is that the general was saying that in order to be protected by the military, people would have to come in where it was concentrated (in their homeland) to be able to defensively protected.
Or, taken in the reverse, I think he was saying “if you’re going to stay in the borders of the land, we won’t be able to help you.” If people want to stay in a risky environment, then it’s up to them—not their wise neighbors who fledto protect themselves.
A family member of mine used the Barbary Pirates example to talk about justified intervention. But I maintain that just because it’s been done before (even with Jefferson), that does not make it right. I oppose Jefferson’s decision to use military force. Why?
Because he was turning the government into a private security force. Merchants who voluntarily decided to navigate the risky, pirate-infested waters to sell their wares had an immediate interest in having protection. But while their profit was privatized, their losses were socialized. This was done by forcing the taxpayers to foot the security bill for a specific few individuals.
In essence, it was one of America’s first bailouts—by Jefferson, no less…
Throughout history, the perpetrators of wars of aggression have always tried to justify their actions as defensive. This argument was done away with at Nuremberg.
Until Congress passed the October 2002 Iraq AUMF, I never thought the USA would even consider waging aggressive war. Then I hoped the lack of a UN Security Council resolution would constrain the Bush administration’s invasion plans. History records what happened next — breach of the UN Charter, war crimes etc.
A classic statement by Nibley at the end of your commentary. As he also pointed out, many forget that the Nephites and Lamanites were both wiped out – see Polarization in the Book of Mormon.
I personally look at the war in Iraq as a war of liberation for the people of Iraq. Admittedly one that has been handled clumsily to say the least. However, I would assume that during the reign of Saddam Hussein, there were millions of prayers to Heaven from the Iraqi people asking God for deliverance, and see the invasion of Iraq through that lense? What are your thoughts as they relate to aggressive wars of liberation as outlined above, versus preventive, or for that matter, pre-emptive war strategies? Thanks, Anson
I’ve heard many an Iraqi say that life with Saddam was better than the life they have now. Our war was not about liberation of the Iraqi people. It was supposed to be about mythical WMD’s in the first place. Later, when WMD’s didn’t turn up, it became about bringing freedom to the Iraqi people. This was done by blowing up their hearts and minds and boy did they love that. They loved it so much that they made a hero out of a guy that threw his shoes at President Bush. I agree with the Iraqi people. If we get a leader here in the USA who we don’t like, let us take care of him by ourselves. We don’t need an outside power to come in and blow up hundreds of thousands of civilians to give us democracy. War for peace is not a good idea.
Curtis, you have a few things wrong. Life under Saddam included being gassed by your “president”, and disappearing into a mass grave in the desert. Also, spreading democracy was the stated reason for every post-9/11 engagement, including Iraq. It was a policy position stated mere days after 9/11. It was not invented after not finding any wmd’s, as you have stated here.
A final note. you state, “If we get a leader here in the USA who we don’t like, let us take care of him by ourselves.” Ignoring the fact that the US has had help from other nations in the past, there are obvious times when it isn’t possible to defend one’s nation on your own. The recent Iran election protester murders are one example. Hungary’s uprising and subsequent fall to the Soviet Union is another. In fact, Iraq itself is an example.
I think you got it all right.
Hey. You know about those people who were gassed by Saddam in the Dessert? Did you know that they were mostly Iranians who were killed as the US provided satellite imagery and the weapons and vehicles enabling Saddam to commit his atrocities? Did you know that the Kurds who were gassed were gassed with implicit US support as well? Did you know that Saddam himself was a creation of the CIA and was a point man in Iraq in attempting to take down the Iraqi government in the 60s? Did you know when he was the head of the intelligence services in Iraq, we provided him with a list of 5,000 names of suspected communists who were all executed or arrested? Did you know that we supported Saddam in the atrocities against his people until he became disobedient to us? His disobedience included switching from the dollar to another type of foreign currency in trading of oil. We tried to assasinate him for a while, but he used to work for the CIA so he employed doubles and we were unable to get him. We used Chalabi to set off bombs in Iraq, some which killed innocent school children… in an attempt to destabilize Iraq. Nothing worked, so we whooped up on them in Gulf war 1, in which the famous turkey shoot took place, which included our shooting fleeing Iraqi soldiers who were waving white flags. Then, after the war, when the Shiites rose up in rebellion against Saddam, we refused their request for captured weapons and hovered in helicopters overhead while Saddam brutally repressed the rebellion in the south. Then, we were all about weapons of mass destruction through the 90s. When an attempt was made on Bush 1’s life, we blamed Saddam with no evidence and bombed Bagdad, killing who knows how many in the process.
You are right that WMD were not the only excuse given for invasion of Iraq, but it was the WMD that manufactured the consent of the US populace to go to war. Saddam was in everyone’s closet. Saddam was gonna get your mama etc. He was the big boogie man and nothing could have been further from the truth. When WMD’s were found to be a hoax, we said that it was ok because we removed a bad guy anyway. Well, I don’t think the US populace would have supported going in there just to remove a bad guy though I may be wrong.
The problem with human rights wars is that they are rarely for the altruistic reasons touted. We did not go into Iraq to liberate an oppressed people. We have been at war with the Iraq people while protecting their precious pipelines. It shoud be instructive to note how much we support the atrocities against the people of Iraq until Saddam turned on us. Human rights are not a priority among the powerful in this nation.
I was referring to accounts from Saddam’s trial where Iraqis told of being taken out to the desert and shot. One man survived and told of running, wounded, for his life and falling into pits full of dead bodies. He said the desert was full of mounds with people buried underneath. He spent the next 15 years in hiding, until Saddam’s ouster. There was much horror and atrocity whose blame can only be placed squarely on Saddam Hussein. As bad as it was assumed to be pre-Iraq War, it was nonetheless shocking to have all of it and worse confirmed once Saddam was gone.
I’m aware of the US’s misdeeds during the Cold War. But to say that Iraq was peachy keen under Saddam, and that if they wanted him gone they should have/could have removed him is a rewriting of history. Your own description of the Iraq uprising confirms that.
There is much to dislike about US actions during the Cold War. But hindsight is 20/20. There were times when the US did nothing, arguably to the world’s detriment.
Noone said Iraq was peachy keen under Saddam. What the people of Iraq in general often say, with the exception of the Kurds, is that Iraq was better off under Saddam than they have things now.
The Iraqi people (at least the majority who are Shiite) wanted Saddam gone and would have had a fighting chance if the US had supported the Shia with weapons captured in the Iraq war. Instead, we openly supported Saddam right after we had defeated him in the Gulf War!! You see, the people in power in the US never wanted a free Iraq since that wouldn’t serve so called “US interests” in the region. Therefore, we couldn’t support the Iraqi people against Saddam. He was an SOB, but her was our SOB. It is not wise to discount a people’s determination to escape the bonds of oppression if they are given half a chance. Look at what the US did in revolting against Britain.
There is no hindsight 20/20 about the US actions thru the cold war which continue right up until the present. Pure and simple, the US government/big business/banking/military industrial complex is one massive secret combination of the really bad kind we are warned about in the Book of Mormon. We are not in this game to do good. As soon as you disabuse yourself of that notion, we can begin to see eye to eye.
Your dismissing of conditions under Saddam is saying things were peachy keen. In order to have an honest discussion we must recognize the type of leader Saddam Hussein was. And we must understand the differences in what is going on in Iraq now and how it really was then. Equating the two is rewriting history.
The US’s decision not to enter Iraq after the Gulf War was out of fear it would lead to a quagmire. Your criticism of it here is a perfect ‘damned if you do/don’t’ example. In your original comment you said we should just leave everyone alone and if they want leadership change they should do it themselves. And then you criticize the US for not helping them.
If you want to look at the Cold War, look at Hungary circa 1956. They did have an uprising and were able to briefly remove the Soviets from power. Knowing the Soviets would return, they then asked for help from the world community. And no one came. The Soviets rolled in with tanks and crushed the rebellion, with its leaders either executed or made to disappear. US intervention could have saved millions of lives not only during the rebellion but the 50 following years of communist rule. But it also could have become a huge disaster in terms of money spent, lives lost, and possible war with the USSR. There’s a lot of room for hindsight 20/20 there. Just as there is with the decision in 91 not to militarily depose Hussein and the decision in 03 to do so.
Sorry, I’m afraid I’m not very good at making a point. I seem to always have a good idea of how to say something conceptually, but when it comes to actually saying it, I don’t do as well.
I do not say that everything under Saddam was peachy keen. To the contrary, I think he was a pretty horrible guy who did bad things to his people. However, as bad as he was, he didn’t bomb wedding parties and kill hundreds of thousands of his own people and destroy entire cities. He didn’t force 4 million people to turn into refugees. Iraq actually had a health care system that was the envy of the Arab world. They had electricity that supplied the needs of the people without having the need of blackouts. They had clean water and reliable sewage treatment. They had babies that didn’t show the effects of depleted uranium weapons as birth defects. They had no sectarian violence except for Saddam’s brand, but nothing like what they experienced during 2004-07. And, it is not I who am trying to assert this point, but I am merely repeating what the Iraqi people have said from their own lips. I remember a few years ago there were polls that showed 61% of Iraqis approved of military attacks on US troops! Does that statistic show a population grateful for their “liberation?” There is no rewriting of history here… only the necessary clearing up of misconception.
Again, you misconstrue my comment in your second paragraph. Providing weapons and moral support to the Shiites instead of refusing their request and hovering overhead as they were brutally repressed by Saddam is different from bombing cities yourself. We always bomb innocent people when we get involved in foreign wars. Humanitarianism isn’t our goal under the surface. There is always an ulterior motive. That’s why we bombed South Vietnam 3 times heavier than North Vietnam during the war there. We needed to “protect” the vietnamese from themselves… or in other words, we needed to stop ideologies that would not serve US national interests in the region. US help needs to come sincerely in a form that has real meaning. The US had no good intentions or sincerity in Iraq. If so, we would have not terrorized their country via Saddam and various other means for so long.
You still seem to be thinking along the premise that the US is basically a good actor which makes bad decisions sometimes and hurts people through inaction or too much action. The premise is mistaken to begin with. The US is a self-interested entity (the “US” here meaning the powers that be in the US and not the general populace which needs to be swindled into supporting the atrocities carried out in their names), and acts accordingly. Until that pill is swallowed, the lens will continue to skew the viewpoint of Americans.
But hey Cameron,
Why take my word for it when you can take it from the Iraqi people themselves. Check out this poll from Angus Reid in which 90% of Iraqis said they had it better under Saddam than they do under the US occupation troops (in November 2006)!
But he did kill hundreds of thousands of people and destroy entire cities. That’s what he was tried and found guilty of. That’s what the testimony I wrote of was all about. Things might have been quiet under his watch, but that’s because he killed everyone who wasn’t quiet.
Furthermore, the US did not kill hundreds of thousands of people in Iraq. To equate men who served like my neighbor to Saddam Hussein is ludicrous.
Your third paragraph misunderstands my earlier point. What I’m saying is that you first argued that the US should butt out of other people’s business; that if Iraqis wanted a new leader they could do it themselves. But then you criticized the US for not actively supporting the Iraqis when they tried. Giving weapons and materials is not the same as soldiers, but it’s pretty dang close. And would be seen as the same by all using 20/20 hindsight.
“Furthermore, the US did not kill hundreds of thousands of people in Iraq. To equate men who served like my neighbor to Saddam Hussein is ludicrous.”
He’s right, the US has killed over a million, and displaced another couple of million.
Cameron has been listening to Hannity too much.
Kelly, in your zeal to flame me by invoking Hannity (which seems to work the same as if I were to call you Hitler) you’re missing the point. Saddam Hussein trucked innocent people into the desert, shot them, and buried them in mass graves. He did this to the tune of hundreds of thousands of people. Our military, people like my neighbor, are not doing this. Equating the two scenarios defies logic and respectability.
I guess you’ve been listening to too much Limbaugh, then. Sorry about the Hannity thing.
We have killed over a million and have displaced over 2 million from their homes.
So, according to Cameron, our method of killing is more noble, thereby acceptable.
“Our method of killing” is providing security to those who would lead a normal life, a life which includes self determination and a representative government. Saddam Hussein’s method of killing was to rape, torture, murder, and dump in the desert anyone at his whim. In his trial he stated he could execute anyone he wanted because it was his right as president.
What you’re doing here is taking death counts and pretending that US soldiers pulled the trigger on every one of them. That simply is not the case.
Would those numbers be that high since 2003 if we weren’t in Iraq?
“Our method of killing” is providing security to those who would lead a normal life, a life which includes self determination and a representative government.
Where else on the globe do you want to employ this tactic, Cameron?
If we’re going to play with hypotheticals, we could count up the number of genocidal and other deaths/rapes/tortures Saddam is directly responsible for and extrapolate that to the period 2003-present. Would you also hold the US responsible for those things? One would have to, since we’re being held accountable for not acting back in 92 when we didn’t help the Iraqi uprising.
Or we could assume that without US action Saddam would have become successful at bribing the rest of the security council into removing sanctions and serious WMD inspections. As the only person on the planet to ever use WMD’s on his own people, how many Iraqi lives would you hold the US responsible for then?
Or, we could hold responsible the people who are actually responsible for Iraqi deaths – the killers themselves. Remove US forces post-2003. Do those death toll numbers go to zero? Of course not. That should tell who is to blame for Iraqi deaths.
“Would those numbers be that high since 2003 if we weren’t in Iraq?”
To which I reply: Even if Saddam would have killed a million people if we hadn’t invaded, at least those million deaths would have been on his head. But since we were the ones to invade and occupy his country, those million deaths are on our heads instead.
I’m not sure how to even respond to that.
So you prefer a million more dead bodies in the Iraqi desert to the US acting to prevent it? All because you somehow see the act of prevention akin to actually pulling the trigger? You don’t see any difference there?
“As the only person on the planet to ever use WMD’s on his own people”
This comment of Cameron’s shows that he has not done adequate study. This line of “Saddam gassed his own people” has been debunked, but it still persists as urban legend. This originated from pictures of gassed Kurds that happened during the Iran/Iraq war.
Back during that time, Donald Rumsfeld was videoed while he struck deals with Saddam Hussein. These deals were that we supported Saddam because he was at war against Iran. This US support included intelligence of things like where the Iranian troops were from satellite images, and also things like the chemicals we were selling him so he could wage defense against Iran’s own chemical weapons.
Remember, we sold Saddam those chemicals and we turned a blind eye to what he was using them for.
But, the Iranians had one type of chemical weapon, and Saddam had another type of chemical weapon which we sold to him.
As the Iranians attacked Kurdish villages with their chemical weapons, Saddam counter-attacked the Iranians with our chemical weapons. The result was that a lot of Kurds died.
The photos show the results of these gassed Kurds. The photos show evidence that the cause of death came from the Iranian gas, not the gas that we provided Saddam.
But, in our zeal to create a pretext for our war against Saddam, we used these same photos to falsely claim that Saddam gassed his own people. This was pure propaganda, and has since been debunked.
But Cameron still believes the old urban legend.
I am not sure of where you are getting your information from, but what you are saying is just not true. You say that Saddam was tried and found guilty of killing hundreds of thousands of people and destroying entire cities. Where do you get that from? Do you know what he was actually tried and found guilty of? He was found guilty of the execution of 148 people in Dujail. Your facts are all messed up. There are no hundreds of thousands of people dead in the desert unless you are talking about the people killed in the Iran/Iraq war for which the US provided intelligence data and weapons to Saddam for as Kelly points out above.
You are saying that the US didn’t kill hundreds of thousands in of Iraqis in the war. Well, they killed at least 100,000 Iraqis. The numbers killed in the war, in excess of prewar mortality figures when Saddam was in power, range from 100,000 to 1.2 million, depending on who you believe. These statistics aren’t that hard to find. If you want to be knowledgeable about this topic, I suggest you research a bit.
As for your final assertion, empowering the Shiites, the majority of the Iraqi population, to rise up against Saddam by providing the weapons we had asked for is 100% different than going into Iraq with our armies and blowing up hundreds of thousands of people and raping their women and boys in prison. What I was trying to show you there (since you apparently missed that point and just about every other point made here for that matter) was that the US is disingenuous in its stated purpose of going to war with a desire to free the Iraqi people from Saddam’s iron grasp. We created Saddam and supported him to the hilt as we supported a dozen other brutal dictators during the same time period. If we gave a hoot about human rights at all we would not be going to war. Instead we would be withdrawing support from all of the regimes we had supported during that time which had led to the deaths of millions of peoples around the world.
George Kennan, a State Dept. planner in 1948 stated the US foreign policy best when we wrote the following:
“We [Americans] have 50% of the world’s wealth but only 6.3% of the population. This disparity is particularly great between ourselves and the peoples of Asia. In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security. To do so we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and daydreaming…. We should cease to talk about vague, and for the Far East, unreal objectives, such as human rights, the raising of living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are then hampered by idealistic slogans, the better.”
Hopefully you can see where I am coming from now.
Cameron: “Would you also hold the US responsible for those things? One would have to, since we’re being held accountable for not acting back in 92 when we didn’t help the Iraqi uprising.”
From Ron Paul:
“Another thing that war does is create anger with its indiscriminate violence and injustice. How many innocent civilians have been harmed from clumsy bombings and mistakes that end up costing lives? People die from simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time in a war zone, but the killers never face consequences. Imagine the resentment and anger survivors must feel when a family member is killed and nothing is done about it. When there are no other jobs available because all the businesses have fled, what else is there to do, but join ranks with the resistance where there is a paycheck and also an opportunity for revenge? This is no justification for our enemies over there, but we have to accept that when we push people, they will push back. “
Saying that Saddam ‘only’ tortured and killed 148 people rings a bit untrue, no? The 148 is what he was executed for, but it is not the only count brought against him and for which he is guilty.
I’ve read the testimonies given at his trial. I’ve read the stories told by people who were in Hussein’s prisons, in effect in concentration camps where they were raped, tortured, starved and beaten until eventually being trucked into the desert, shot, and buried in mass graves. Please do not try to whitewash what he did.
And what he did would have continued had the US not intervened. Those prisons would have remained, those mass graves never uncovered and instead added to. Kelly, you stated that you are ok with that reality. I find that reality appalling.
As for US actions to support Saddam during the Cold War, I again reiterate the fact that US foreign policy made a dramatic shift in response to 9/11. No longer was ‘containment’ considered feasible. No longer would the actions of dictators like Hussein be overlooked for the ‘greater good’ of a semblance of stability. The irony in your arguments and use of obscure ’40s era quotes is that the Iraq War signaled a major shift in policy. A policy in direct contrast to that which you decry here.
Tim, I’m not sure what the purpose is of linking that video. It was stated in these comments that the US should not help other countries depose dictators. Then, it was argued that the US wronged Iraq by not helping the uprising in 92. I’ve pointed out on more than one occasion the difficulty in holding both of those positions at the same time.
“I again reiterate the fact that US foreign policy made a dramatic shift in response to 9/11.”
Sorry Cameron, 9/11 was an inside job, and Saddam was our ally and asset until we decided to use him for our “dramatic shift in foreign policy.”
Cameron: “Please do not try to whitewash what he did.”
Like we did with Abu Ghraib?
Cameron (. . . and anybody else still trying to justify our military role in Iraq right now),
AP article in the DesNews discussing civilian deaths in the years following the U.S. invasion and occupation.
Good people in our nation volunteer for military service instituted to protect and defend U.S. liberty. They try their best in the missions assigned them overseas. I support our troops, but that is not the same thing as supporting a dishonest and misguided foreign policy. In fact, in this case, I believe supporting our troops means getting involved as a citizen to call for an end to sending them to Iraq, Afghnistan, . . . and now Pakistan, and maybe Iran . . . and so on.
President Hinckley commented in October conference 2001 that after meeting with the President and being told that we were going to hunt down *the terrorists* that:
I find that quote instructive because I feel that too many Americans (LDS or not) have, indeed, bought into the hateful invective spewed on many news programs wherein the already overly ambiguous “war on terror” is unambiguously defined as ‘re-shaping’ the midEast into a region that is more ‘westernized’ and ‘palatable’ to US interests. All Muslim thought is mis-represented and denounced as ‘incompatible’ with our worldview. We are told that ‘collateral damage’ is necessary and that it is in everyone’s best interest for the American Empire to ‘serve and protect’ that region even if only the puppet beaurucrats support that idea. Thus, the permanent bases in Iraq, and Afghanistan, and now huge permanent bases in Pakistan.
Later, upon the invasion of Iraq, — where he repeated that U.S. government officials were telling him the actions were directly related to hunting down the terrorist groups — he cautioned further against the evils of Empire.
Defense is just, Imperial rule is not.
We know now that we depended on ‘bad intelligence’ for the assertions that the Iraqi invasion had anything to do with hunting down “those responsible for the planning” of the 9/11 attacks. We deposed Saddam (after setting him in place), checked for WMD that we didn’t want in the hands of future terrorists (that either didn’t exist or got spirited away before the invasion) and *then we stayed with Imperial rule*
The “Project for a New American Century” believers that were the architects of our current foreign policy asked Congress for permission to attack *7 countries* when they entered Afghanistan. The idea was to “re-shape” the entire region. Soon, despite his contrary claims to religious leaders like President Hinckley, Bush claimed that *he didn’t even care if those responsible for 9/11 — ie Osama — were ever caught — he finally got the picture that the war effort wasn’t about true defense and justice. It was more like the expansionist, preventative revenge Hitler and Hirohito advocated. [Sorry for the blatant (and predictable) Hitler meme, but the card is already on the table . . . let’s call a spade, a spade]
Attacking and taking over other nations to prevent potential attacks on your own nation is Un-American. It is Un-Christian. If you’re LDS then it goes against both ancient doctrine (as Connor points out here) and current doctrine (as I understand President Hinckley’s, Faust’s and many other recent Conference talks.)
It behooves us to ‘clamor for peace’, true defense, and true justice. Let me repeat Hinckley’s plea:
“I ask particularly that our own people do not become a party in any way to the persecution of the innocent.”
[ 100,000+ dead civilians in Iraq alone since our foreign policy is so off-balance . . . this doesn’t take into account the [literally] millions of ‘persecuted innocents’ who have been injured, maimed, seen family members mistakenly killed, those living as refugees fleeing our various ‘theatres of war’, etc. ]
Here is Lincolns take on ‘pre-emptive war’ February 15, 1948 from a letter to his law partner, William H. Herndon:
The provision of the Constitution giving the war making power to Congress was dictated, as I understand it, by the following reasons: kings had always been involving and impoverishing their people in wars, pretending generally, if not always, that the good of the people was the object. This our convention understood to be the most oppressive of all kingly oppressions, and they resolved to so frame the Constitution that no one man should hold the power of bringing this oppression upon us. But your view destroys the whole matter, and places our President where kings have always stood. Write soon again.
From here: http://www.classic-literature.co.uk/american-authors/19th-century/abraham-lincoln/the-writings-of-abraham-lincoln-02/ebook-page-18.asp
Sounds like Lincoln knew what he was talking about, if you look at the position we are in today.
Here is Eisenhowers take on pre-emptive war, August 11, 1954:
“All of us have heard this term ‘preventive war’ since the earliest days of Hitler. I recall that is about the first time I heard it. In this day and time, if we believe for one second that nuclear fission and fusion, that type of weapon, would be used in such a war—what is a preventive war? I would say a preventive war, if the words mean anything, is to wage some sort of quick police action in order that you might avoid a terrific cataclysm of destruction later. A preventive war, to my mind, is an impossibility today. How could you have one if one of its features would be several cities lying in ruins, several cities where many, many thousands of people would be dead and injured and mangled, the transportation systems destroyed, sanitation implements and systems all gone? That isn’t preventive war; that is war. I don’t believe there is such a thing; and, frankly, I wouldn’t even listen to anyone seriously that came in and talked about such a thing.”
From here: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/print.php?pid=9977
There was pressure from certain groups while he was in office, specifically this one:
A little research into this ‘think tank’ will reveal alot of eventual high ranking ‘Bush’ appointees. ‘Architects’ of the current Iraq war one might say.
And, no doubt, this has been a messy, embarrassing part of the world for the U.S. for a long time now. Like, for example, the now famous video of Rumsfeild meeting with Saddam:
Our nation had alot to do with Iraq for a lomg time. I’m sure eveyone remembers the Iran/ Contra affair from Reagans administration. And alot more:
The West were supplying Iraq with chemicals:
Doug Bayless: “he didn’t even care if those responsible for 9/11 — ie Osama — were ever caught ”
Friend, you are misrepresenting what I have been saying here all along. I have not “whitewashed” anything Saddam did. To the contrary, I have agreed with you wholeheartedly that he was a pretty bad guy. There is no doubt about it. One cannot deny that he killed a whole lot of people in Iraq unjustly. As you admit, he was entirely supported in all of this by the USA. I freely recognize that he was one of the worst of the worst. No whitewashing here… unlike the way the US whitewashed all of his atrocities prior to 2003.
I don’t entirely agree with you there. Most of his atrocities were done in the early 90s or 80s and there was not much of that going on in the second half of the 90s and at the turn of the century. Surely he did not have a change of heart or anything, but it appears that most of the mass executions were done about a decade before we sent in the calvary.
So, you think that we shifted from bad to good? A major part our accusation against Saddam was his treatment of the Kurds. We seem to care very much about the fate of the Kurds right? That is something which changed after 9/11 you would say right? Try again. Since the 80s at least, the Turkish government has undertaken a systematic genocidal campaign against it’s Kurds, killing 37,000 Kurds and using Napalm to wipe out 3,000 Kurdish villages, completely wiping them off the map. As you recall they even attacked Iraqi Kurds in 2007 with the help of the US. Well, guess what? Did we invade Turkey to help the Kurds? No, we have supplied them with increased numbers of weapons so they can continue their repression of Kurds. We can’t invade them because they are our “strategic ally” in the region. Sounds sort of like the pre-9/11 strategy you claim we have disowned doesn’t it?
The only real change that has occurred since about the turn of the century is a cosmetic change. We supported iron-fisted dictators during the 20th century in support of “stability.” Actually, “stability” is what our secret combinations like to call the condition wherein they control events in other countries so that multi-national corporations can rob those nations without having to fear a popular uprising (which would be bad for the bottom line). We loved our dictators from Saddam to Somosa to Pinochet to Suharto to the Shah of Iran etc. They worked really good for “stability.” However, this model began to become unsustainable as information became more readily available and we began to be horrified here in the USA when we found out that babies were being bayonetted in Guatemala because the United Fruit Co. didn’t like the government there in the 50s and lobbied the US government to overthrow the Guatemalan government and replace it with a military dictatorship. No, the US populace wouldn’t sit still for this kind of stuff any more so a new approach was needed. That’s when we came up with this new idea of supporting a sort of top-down democracy where there is only the barest skeleton framework of democracy so that we can be thrilled about spreading freedom here in the west, but not have to deal with the effects of true democracy since that would hurt the bottom line of our beloved corporations. Therefore, we do what we do now through the National Endowment for Democracy and USAID and the International Republican Institute and the CIA in infusing cash into opposition groups and providing a favorable atmosphere in which our type of candidate could win.
Allende of Chile won in 1972 despite overwhelming cash flow from the USA to his opposition. The Sandinistas lost in the late 80s when the US threatened a complete shutdown of aid to Nicaragua unless our candidate. Having their walking instructions, the Nicaraguans voted the US backed candidate so they could survive and in the US we were ecstatic over the freedom to vote in Nicaragua. We upheld Haiti opposition to Aristide earlier this decade after 9/11. We send large amounts of money to Venezuelan and Bolivian opposition groups currently.
We were furious when Palestinians voted Hamas to power in 2006 and Hillary Clinton said we were foolish to push for democracy there at that time. We were as pissed as heck when Turkey voted to not let the US use it’s land for attacks on Iraq in 2003, saying that the government in Turkey was, “weak.” We supported the “democratically elected” Sakaashvili in his aggression against Georgian civilians after US money helped secure his victory in elections. Wouldn’t you be upset if other nations were infusing money into our elections and political debate? When China was caught doing that there was an uproar in the US.
No, I think the changes are purely cosmetic.
Agreed. I have no argument there. But when people say that our troops are doing the same thing that Saddam Hussein did, I don’t count that as supporting the troops.
All of these examples railing against US meddling ring hollow when the US is also held accountable for not acting to help the Iraqi uprising after the Gulf War. We cannot have it both ways.
I’ve brought up Hungary in 1956 as an example of what happened when the US chose not to intervene. Many have held us responsible for 50 years of brutal communist rule in that country. There are other examples which mirror this one.
So do we allow those things to happen, or we do act?
We shifted from a policy of containment to one of spreading democracy. The policy towards terrorism and terrorist-sponsoring states changed from expecting to keep them bottled up in far flung places through things like sanctions, to encouraging a change to democratic forms of government. The idea was that if it proved successful in Iraq and Afghanistan it would spread organically to other countries in the Middle East.
What I was trying to point out by noting that the US government didn’t help the Shiites at the end of the Gulf war, is the hypocrisy of the US. IF we really wanted to bring freedom and democracy to Iraq and wanted to topple Saddam, what better opportunity to do so than to help the Shiites at that time? Nonetheless, we did not help them because the US doesn’t want true democracy in Iraq. We wanted Saddam in there until we could get someone with a different face but he same policies as Saddam. True democracy would mess everything up for “US interests” in the region.
I was not advocating helping the Shiites at that time. My policy would have been to never have supported Saddam in the first place as I like to stay true to my morals in not supporting bloodthirsty dictators. The US government, on the other hand, does not adhere to any morals. That should be clear with a cursory study of who our friends have been.
Can you not see that virtually all of our military interventions have been motivated by greed and desire for leverage in making the world a safe place for our corporations to get gain at the expense of freedom and life?
I don’t want it both ways. I want it one way. I want the US to cease to do harm in the first place. Spreading democracy to those in power in the US means supporting groups that are in line with US objectives in their land. This is why we oppose men like Morales and Chavez while they enjoy remarkable popular support in their own countries. We don’t want true democracy in those countries when they won’t bow down to what we want them to do. As I said above, our efforts to promote democracy in foreign nations now is merely cosmetic as we only uphold rulers who will uphold our will in their land and if they don’t, we force them out. Hamas is a great example of that, elected in a fair election by the people of Palestine, and immediately rejected by the US in a flagrant insult to the democratic will of the Palestinian people.
You provided the answer to why we didn’t intervene then when you linked to the Cheney video.
Hamas is an example of the US supporting democratic elections. Which according to you we only do when it supports our interests. Yet Hamas doesn’t support our interests. So it doesn’t make sense for us to have supported those elections if we had some nefarious motive. A point which was made repeatedly at the time by opponents of President Bush.
So yes, Hamas was elected and started lobbing missiles at its neighbors. Under any normal circumstances there are diplomatic consequences for shooting missiles at neighboring countries.
So again I ask, are there any circumstances where US involvement is appropriate? Do we allow regimes like Iraq’s to continue unopposed? How about Hungary in 1956 or Czechoslovakia in 1938? Sudan? Rwanda?
That second part is a dubious argument that I try to avoid. I hope I didn’t intimate anything like that in my post. I take care *not* to string together sentences where “our troops” are “doing the same thing that Saddam Hussein did” because I don’t really think it is the most productive way to frame the problem.
It is certainly true that any modern warfare directives carried out by the trusting men and women in uniform — on either side of armed conflict — will generally result in senseless deaths, oppression of innocents, and needless, stomach-churning carnage — thus the modern instruction to ‘sue for peace’!
[As an aside, I once personally listened to Hugh Nibley talk about this using the cover-up operations entrusted to his unit during WWII as context. He pointed out that even in the so-called ‘Good War’ against Nazi conquerors that many, many battle plans went awry — bombings of innocent families far from the battle in a foreign countryside, for instance — and his unit was sometimes ordered to clean up ‘mistakes’ to avoid damaging PR. The point he wanted to drive home was that in war all morality goes out the window. That, historically, both sides will lie, cheat, murder, and steal. That he did *not* trust official declarations of U.S. officials when it came to war and armed conflict.]
To my understanding, any foreign policy that uses armed conflict *first* and *pre-emptively* can be directly compared to the horrific directives of any past or present ‘war criminal’ because that is the essence of the ‘criminal’ element of war. Non-defensive armed conflict is — in my view — about as evil as you can get.
Despite the best PR efforts of Gulf Wars I & II, we don’t *really* have ‘smart bombs’ that only kill ‘bad guys’. Despite astounding advances, we don’t really have ‘Mission Impossible III’ spy satellites with 24/7 live, zoomed video/audio feed of every inch of the planet. Despite the rapid language training provided, we haven’t yet developed actual ‘mind-readers’ to go kicking down neighborhood doors and interviewing potential ‘hostiles’ [who might harbor ‘oppositional feelings’ to the obviously gentle and helpful US occupation.] No, unfortunately, in our zeal to militarily ‘wipe out’ *all* US opposition from the face of the earth we are ordering our young men and women to do jobs that are by their very nature “messy”.
But I don’t blame the troops. My Dad says when he returned from Vietnam (where he still feels what he did was to ‘further the cause of democracy’) that there were many who would openly ‘spit on returned soldiers’ [and worse]. There were still those who quietly ‘supported the troops’ but they no longer felt comfortable throwing ticker tape parades due to national souring on the war. As for me personally, I may differ with him on the overall meaning of the war in which he served but I *know* that he served because he truly wanted to do the right thing. So I support and appreciate that a lot.
Ultimately though, as civilians, we can’t avoid the consequences of wrongful orders of armed conflict. As citizens — especially in a nation with free press, free elections, free speech, representative government, and all the blessings we enjoy — I feel that we bear some of the guilt and burden for what is ‘done in our name.’ As perhaps no other citizens on earth.
Our good men and women in Uniform are under orders once they volunteer. I suppose as citizens we are under a different set of orders — and most of us seem to be finding ways to shirk them.
Sorry, you got the wrong guy. I never linked to any video.
As for Hamas, we only supported the elections as we thought Hamas would lose. After it was clear that Hamas had won, we withdrew support immediately and instigated a sort of a coup in granting financial and military support to Fatah so they could fight Hamas. Hamas was actually a great partner for peace, contrary to what the US press and government would have you believe. They stifled rocket attacks and held to a truce in spite of Israeli atrocities. When Israel killed 6 Palestinians last year though, and had obviously broken the truce in every sense of the word, Hamas retaliated and that is what we like to call Hamas, “breaking the truce.” We can talk about that on another thread if you like, but Hamas’s actions were not the reason we disrespected democracy over there.
US intervention is always aimed at gaining power for it’s secret combinations. There may be rare situations worthy of the intervention of a benign power in this world, but “benign” does not fit with the description of US intentions in any of it’s military interventions.
Doug, well said.
Sorry about the attribution, I jumbled the various jousting partners together. Regardless of who posted it, as the poster intimated the video explains why the US didn’t depose Saddam at that time.
I’d love your input on Hamas. I’ve written about them here, here, and here.
Under what circumstances? And who would do the intervening?
“US intervention is always aimed at gaining power for it’s secret combinations. ”
Curtis, I’d like to help you out a little bit in that comment of yours! I would put it all in caps, and put some additional emphasis into it like this:
U.S. INTERVENTION IS ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS AIMED AT GAINING POWER FOR ITS SECRET COMBINATIONS, NO EXCEPTIONS.
Thanks for the help.
I haven’t given that question much thought. I am always concerned first that we as a country do no harm. If we merely withdraw support from the bad guys, we do a world of good to start with. When Clinton suggested that Suharto leave office after there was no shred of cover left for the man, he left immediately. Of course, he took 42 billion dollars with him and left in his wake greater than a million bodies… all of whom were massacred with US manufactured weapons, by US trained forces, with US media support and CIA provided targets… But, we finally withdrew support and Suharto left.
I think that we can do a world of bringing about real, meaningful change without doing violence to start with. I think that we should implement no sanctions that are against the will of the people in places like Burma for example. However, in that nation, the opposition leadership is begging the US to impose sanctions on the military dictatorship. We have implemented some sanctions, but the sanctions that would really hurt are on the oil industry over there and our oil corporations do business with the regime in Burma with impunity. In a place like Burma, we should not invade and force the military into submission as bad as they are. Pressure from all sides, including those that will hurt our own corporations, is the only way to go. If our government was an entity that adhered to some sort of moral code, this is the way we should go.
I don’t know enough about the situation in Hungary in 1956 to comment on whether or not we should have intervened or not. However, if we did not intervene, it was because it was not practical enough for our military at that time, or there was not enough value economically for our multinational corporations to intervene.
I guess that my position on intervention is that IF we were a nation guided by morals and cared for life instead of dollars, we could consider the question of when we should intervene and under what circumstances. However, right now, our attention should be focused on first doing no harm and then righting many of the wrongs we have done.
Here is another example of US Cold War type of tactics alive and well today. Great article by the New York Times about how the CIA pays a major drug traffic facilitator/paramilitary organizer/brother of Hamid Karzai for his services:
Our hand in the world continues to be the hand of secret combinations.
This article by Rock Waterman is a great read on this topic. A preview:
It’s all over religion, ever hear of a Holy War?