By Jim McGinnis
For Gandhi, Truth was the ultimate Good, another name for God. Jesus said, "…the truth will set you free." We know that what we assert to be true can only be a portion of "The Truth" and that we need to be open to the portions of truth that others believe. But each of us has a responsibility to share that portion of the truth that is ours, especially when the stakes are high as they are in times of war. Our model is Dr. King in his "When Silence Is Betrayal" speech: "When the issues at hand seem as perplexing as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict, we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty. But we must move on… We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak."
Despite some successful wars of national liberation, violence alone does not set a people free or bring full human liberation. Violence, especially when it manifests a spirit of domination, brings resentment, breeds counter-violence, and perpetuates the spiral of violence.1 President Bush claimed the US-led war on Iraq – "Operation Iraqi Freedom" - was a war of liberation. And yes, some Iraqis were freed from prisons, torture chambers, and forced conscription. Millions of Shiite Muslims have begun to experience a religious freedom denied them under Saddam Hussein.
But the fuller truth of this war reveals a more dominant goal – the demonstration of US military and political power and resolve to remake the world in the service of our national interests. This war was the first step in carrying out the "National Security Strategy" President Bush proclaimed in September 2002, in which he announced a "distinctly American internationalism" where "the only path to safety is the path of [military] action," including pre-emptive war. As President Bush asserted three weeks before launching the war, despite overwhelming UN and global popular opposition: "We meet here during a critical period in the history of our nation and of the civilized world. Part of that history was written by others; the rest will be written by us."2
But President Bush’s assertion of US control over world history had its antecedents in the Monroe Doctrine and the doctrine of Manifest Destiny in the 19th Century and in the Cold War struggle after World War II. From Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 to Baghdad in 2003, US political decision-makers were determined to "shock and awe" the world with the overwhelming superiority of US military power.American military might brought down governments or movements whose economic/political philosophy were seen as threats to US dominance - Guatemala and Iran (1954), the Dominican Republic (1965), Chile (1973), El Salvador and Nicaragua (1970s-90s), Grenada (1983), Panama (1989), with Vietnam as the one failure.
Through these decades, the rationale for the use of overwhelming American power became increasingly expressed in religious language, as a struggle between good and evil. President Reagan escalated the arms race against the "Evil Empire" of the Soviet Union and armed his "freedom fighters" against the "Marxist Communists" of Nicaragua. President Bush launched a "crusade against evil" with the bombing of Afghanistan, followed by his war on Iraq as the most evil in his "Axis of Evil."
It’s hard for most of us to see the spirit of domination behind these policies and accept this interpretation of our own history. As one British historian characterized the US mindset at the end of the war on Iraq – "The problem is that this is an empire in denial. The majority of Americans find it almost inconceivable that they are already an empire. They don’t like this idea and so they pretend it isn’t real."3
So what is the "truthful" alternative? It is global solidarity. The Truth of Gandhi, Jesus, Buddha, and other prophets is that all is one. We are all children of God, equal members of the human family, despite differences of religion, national origin, or economic/political philosophy. If we in the US view ourselves as a nation "under God," then we must work as God intended, as an equal partner with all other nations on behalf of the common good of all. As a nation richly blessed by God with enormous resources, we should be the most generous. "To whom much is given, much is required." Instead of going it alone, the US government should use and strengthen the international mechanisms it helped to create, promoting genuine global solidarity.
1See Walter Wink in THE POWERS THAT BE for his analysis of "myth of redemptive violence" and the "domination system."
2 See James McGinnis, THE THINGS THAT MAKE FOR PEACE, for a more detailed "point-counterpoint" analysis of the "National Security Strategy Memorandum."
3Niall Ferguson, EMPIRE: THE RISE AND DEMISE OF THE BRITISH WORLD ORDER AND ITS LESSONS FOR GLOBAL POWER
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