On Holy War

Religion, Violence, and ‘Holy Wars’,” by Hans Kung, International Review of the Red Cross, 30 June 2005, vol 87, No 858, pg 253- 268, http://www.icrc.org/Web/Eng/siteeng0.nsf/iwpList598/A72B6F5B45A9771FC125705F004F9A0B.

Background material for future writing on 4GW Tactic, Caiaphas and Diocletion, and Panzer and Soldat.

Let us approach the problem of religion and war with the sober acknowledgement that ever since man came into being, there have been religions, and for as long as man has existed, there has also been violence. In the human world, which has evolved from the animal kingdom, there has never been a paradisiacal society in which violence plays no part. The image of the pure, peace-loving “noble savage” was long ago exposed as a myth created by the optimistic Enlightenment, to which even such a well-known cultural anthropologist as Margaret Mead fell victim when studying the supposedly entirely peaceful inhabitants of Samoa.

Yet wars have existed from time immemorial, above all to acquire the power (mana) and renown they were believed to endow, and to restore the allegedly disturbed divine order of things.

“Holy” wars are understood to be wars of aggression waged with a claimed missionizing purpose at the command of a given divinity

The Hebrew Bible is nevertheless characterized by the conviction that the violence of nature, like that of man, is the mark of earthly reality, and that the power of evil can only ever be temporarily held in check. It therefore gives unvarnished reports of acts of violence, whereas in other ancient cultures — Rene Girard has elaborated on this4 — violence was veiled in silence, referred to only indirectly, glossed over, or glorified in myths and legends.

The extent to which the heroic tales — likewise set down in writing only hundreds of years later — of the legendary prophet Elijah, who as the ruthless champion of the religion of Yahweh is said to have slain all the prophets of Baal and Aschera,11 are historically true can likewise no longer be established.

According to the admonitory story of Cain’s murder of his brother Abel, the climax of prehistory is the story of the Flood which, unlike any other account of it in the area around Israel, centres on the problem of violence: humanity [the earth] was “corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence” and was therefore doomed to destruction.

There is consequently no need today, in the transition to the post-modern period, for a mythologically garnished return to gods. What is needed, rather than the creation of artificial myths, is a return to the one true God, who, as the God of the Jews, Christians and Muslims, will not tolerate any false gods beside Him. Therein lies the foundation for tolerance amongst people: because God is the one God for all people, each and every person — even non-Jews, non-Christians and non-Muslims — is created in His image and as such merits respect for his or her dignity.

After Christianity was elevated to a State religion at the time of the old Roman Empire it was an almost inevitable development, both for the Greek area covering the provinces of East Rome and the Byzantine Empire and for the Latin area covering West Rome and the Holy Roman Empire which came into being with Charlemagne, that the State and church should use their respective powers to protect, support and promote each other, despite the rivalry that soon developed between them. As the domains of the sacred and the profane became intermeshed, the secular rulers saw themselves as protectors of the church, and members of the ecclesiastical hierarchy legitimized and inspired the secular authorities on many occasions. An expansion of secular domination always led to an expansion of the church, just as missionary work on the part of the church led to an expansion of secular domination. National law and canon law supplemented each other, ecclesiastical standards governed civil life and civil authorities punished violations of the moral and religious precepts. In this way “the secular arm and the spiritual arm” gave mutual assistance to each other.

In the High Middle Ages, one militant church waged “holy war.” Although the Orthodox churches of the East were also involved in the mostly politico-military conflicts of secular power and often conferred theological legitimacy on wars or even inspired them, it was only in the Latin Christianity of the west that the (Augustinian) theory of the legitimate use of force to achieve spiritual ends applied and ultimately also permitted the use of force to spread Christianity.

One thing is clear from the start: the followers of Christ are committed to non-violence in accordance with the teachings, the conduct and the fate of their Messiah, whereas the followers of the Prophet Muhammad are obliged from the outset to engage, if necessary, in militant dispute which does not stop short at violence. War as a political means is accepted, ventured and — in most cases — won. It

Indeed, it is hard to imagine a more effective motivation for a war than a struggle/battle (often expressed by the unmistakable term quital = armed “fight”) against the “unbelievers” for the cause of God Himself. A most worthy battle, which is declared to be a duty in the Koran itself. This duty was an incentive mainly for the committed tribal warriors and the leaders fighting with them in and around the Arabian Peninsula in the first wars of expansion,

During the large-scale Islamic conquests, the jihad doctrine almost became a sixth pillar of Islam. Other than in Christianity, it was possible in Islam to become a “witness” (Greek martys) — a concept also found in Arabic with the sense of martyr (sah/d, plural suhadåˆ) — not only passively by suffering for the faith, but also actively by fighting. Any persons who sacrifice their lives in this way go immediately to Paradise: “When you meet the unbelievers in the battlefield strike off their heads (…). As for those who are slain in the cause of God, He will not allow their works to perish …. He will vouchsafe them guidance and ennoble their state; He will admit them to the Paradise he has made known to them.”

The fact that Wahhabism encourages intolerance and xenophobia, both in Saudi Arabia itself and in the Islamic world as a whole, can no longer be overlooked.

The fact that Wahhabism encourages intolerance and xenophobia, both in Saudi Arabia itself and in the Islamic world as a whole, can no longer be overlooked.

To remedy the internal causes of the Islamic “disease” of fundamentalism, as manifested in particular in Wahhabism, the Tunisian writer Abdelwahab Meddeb suggests taking action at three levels: tradition, law and education. First, the numerous controversies and debates in the Islamic tradition should be recalled in order to create, with critical awareness, the freedom of a pluralistic discourse within Islam today. Secondly, when norms appear inhuman, defects should be sought in past tradition (principle of talq/f) in an effort to render the law more humane and adapt it to the present time. Thirdly, anything that is fundamentalist should be purged from school curricula: “Wahhabism, which is diffuse by nature, contaminates consciousness via the teaching in our schools, backed up by television.”

Secondly, the peace-promoting words and deeds in one’s own tradition should, however, be taken seriously as an inspiration for the present era. This should be easiest for the Christians, since they do not trace their origin back to warrior prophets and heroes such as Moses and Elijah or an aggressive king such as David, but to a preacher of non-violence and an early church which, at least initially in the old Roman Empire, expanded not through violence but through a message of justice, love and eternal life. In the beginning Christians were forbidden not only to do military service, but also to work as a butcher [?!? — tdaxp]. A Muslim who advocates violence and war will possibly invoke the Koran and the words and deeds of the Prophet. A Christian who has recourse to violence and wages war cannot cite Christ as his justification [?!? — tdaxp].

The Koran even contains a sort of golden rule: “Requite evil with good, and he who is your enemy will become your dearest friend.”

For a policy to be successful, it must have a “mode of action.” Ideological military policies without any ethical principles, representing only the economic and political elite’s interest in power and justifying all means for politicalends — including lies, deception, political assassination, war and torture — must be rejected outright, as must ideological peace policies relying solely on the purity of intentions and giving no thought to the balance of power, actual feasibility and possible negative consequences.

The art of formulating a responsible peace policy is shown in its combination of the admittedly inevitable political calculations with ethical judgement.

ICRC & UNHCR (Leviathan and SysAdmin?)

Humanitarian protection: The International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees,” by David Forsythe, International Review of the Red Cross, 30 September 2001, No. 843. p. 675-697, http://www.icrc.org/Web/Eng/siteeng0.nsf/iwpList184/853DBBED86D2E170C1256B6600608BCE.

Some excerpts from an article on a certain NGO and a certain IGO. Mostly for my use. Apologies.

Many actors can be involved in humanitarian protection.

Two organizations above all symbolize long-standing efforts to provide humanitarian protection on an international basis: the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The two exhibit several fundamental differences. As is well known, the former focused historically on victims of war, and the latter on refugees.Also, the ICRC is private at its core. It is legally incorporated as a private body under the laws of Switzerland, where it is headquartered. Its top policy-making body, the Assembly, which is all-Swiss and maintained by co-optation, formally answers to no other entity.1 UNHCR is clearly public, being part of the extended UN system. It was created bythe UN General Assembly, from which it takes instructions and to which it reports, and its head is approved by that same General Assembly upon nomination by the UN Secretary-General. A small portion of its budget is derived from the UN regular or administrative budget, but like the ICRC it operates mostly on the basis of voluntary contributions from (western) States.

Both the ICRC and UNHCR share a working understanding of humanitarian protection, although neither has explained it as well as analytical observers might wish

Both agencies lobby States to become parties to the relevant parts of international law (international humanitarian law and refugee law) and live up to their commitments. Both make diplomatic and legal representations to States and would-be States (e.g. non-State parties in the form of rebel armies, private militias, etc.) in order to obtain minimal human decency for persons within their mandates.

To do what they are supposed to do, the ICRC and UNHCR must be political in the sense of participating in the political process that determines who gets things of value.

The semantics of neutrality cannot obscure this fact… This effort to advance certain public policies rather than others cannot be, public relations aside, a non-political and value-free stance.

The ICRC and UNHCR without doubt engage in the political process to affect things of value.They primarily try to affect public policies determining individual freedom from: abuse, hunger, the elements, poor physical and mental health, lack of basic education, etc.This is the central meaning of “humanitarian politics.”

To be humanitarian is to be political in this fundamental sense: to engage in the political process to advance social liberalism.

They do not endorse even political liberalism (free and fair elections with protection of civil and political rights), much less other forms of rule, or other distributions of power, on an international or national basis.

To engage in humanitarian protection is to be “otheroriented” for the benefit of persons of concern.

It is quite clear that humanitarian protectors like the ICRC and UNHCR, who are oriented to the welfare of persons ofconcern, often inadvertently have an impact on the strategic or partisan goals of public authorities. The two types of politics sometimes intersect.When in the early 1990s the ICRC acted inside Bosnia and Herzegovina so as to move civilians out of harm’s way, it contributed to the ethnic cleansing then pursued by certain warring parties.

Thirdly, both agencies consider relief, or assistance, to be part of humanitarian protection. Why they have not been able to clearly and consistently explain this linkage is an interesting question.11 The fact that they both continue at times to speak of protection and assistance as if they were two different things raises questions about clear thinking.

The goods and services making up relief are but part of humanitarian protection, not something different from it.

In traditional-protection12 the ICRC and UNHCR are found observing the actions of public authorities toward persons of concern under the relevant international norms. On the basis of these norms the agencies make diplomatic or legal representation to the authorities to ensure that such persons are not abused or otherwise treated wrongly. In relief-protection, there can be an element of observation or supervision, along with the central effort to provide the goods and services necessary for minimal human dignity in exceptional circumstances

Over time a semantic custom has arisen, to which the humanitarian agencies themselves have intermittently contributed, of discussing relief as something apart from protection.

Protecting a person from death by starvation is just as important as protecting a person from death by summary execution.

After World War I, and more systematically some decades later, the ICRC undertook to protect political or security detainees in situations akin to war, namely in times of national unrest (sometimes also called internal disturbances and tensions). It also sought to trace persons missing as a result of armed conflict.Thus it progressively sought to protect victims of war and certain victims of politics, usually first through its own initiatives “on the ground” or “in the field” and then with the endorsement of the international community.

The ICRC lobbied for statements in meetings of the International Conference of the Red Cross and in international humanitarian law that would confirm and perhaps expand its field experience. It also lobbied to create other international law, such as treaties banning anti-personnel landmines or establishing a permanent international criminal court. These latter legal instruments might not
be part of international humanitarian law traditionally understood. But landmines and international criminal justice, among other issues such as the traffic in light weapons, affected victims of war, and so the ICRC lobbied (and was lobbied by others) in the international legislative process.

Like the ICRC, UNHCR found it difficult to confine its humanitarian protection to a well-established but clearly limited group of persons, when similar persons presented pressing humanitarian needs. Both agencies generalized their language, talking of “persons affected by conflict” or “persons of concern” so that various definitional distinctions could be blurred in the interests of providing expanded humanitarian protection.

It was not always easy, for either agency, to clearly curtail or limit its group of intended beneficiaries.The ICRC represented the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement in situations of conflict, while the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies coordinated international action in natural emergencies. The two “heads” of the Movement wound up negotiating the 1997 Seville Agreement, which, among other things, tried to define when the direct effects of a conflict were over, and thus when the Federation might replace the ICRC in dealing with certain persons.

.An independent report on UNHCR’s role in Kosovo in 1999 commented that the agency was “armed chiefly with the power of international refugee law and creative diplomacy…”.18 A classic memoir by an ICRC delegate spoke of his being a “warrior without weapons”.19

Relevant is the 1975 Tansley Report, which found thatthe penchant of the ICRC for secrecy was dysfunctional: it was so secretive that it cut itself off from supporting elements in international relations. Most members of National Red Cross Societies, for example, even in Europe, had little idea of what the ICRC was or what it did.

This policy, generally validated by extensive ICRC action across time, has been accepted by international criminal courts, which do not compel officials of the ICRC to testify in criminal cases, since such testimony might undermine its ability to operate in controversial situations.

The ICRC has not always handled well the related problem that silence can be interpreted as complicity in abuse of victims.It is now known that the ICRC did not protest publicly against the Holocaust, certainly in the fall of 1942, even after ICRC efforts to gain systematic and meaningful access to German concentration camps had come to naught.

Likewise, the agency did not hesitate to publicly castigate Indonesian authorities in West Timor for lack of security arrangements that led to the deaths of three UNHCR staff in 2000.

Whether it is the more correct policy is a more complicated question. This writer believes that ICRC reluctance to disengage from an abusive situation, with a public statement indicating why, allows Machiavellian parties to manipulate the ICRC

As for the ICRC, while it is no longer true to say that it seemed to be the humanitarian arm of the Swiss foreign ministry, it remains true that relations between the ICRC and Berne are special. The agency’s current president a officials in the Swiss foreign ministry, and Berne contributes more funds to the regular or administrative budget of the ICRC than any other State.

An independent report on the agency in Kosovo found that UNHCR did not fall under the control of NATO, but rather on occasion took a view on protection matters that was definitely not appreciated in NATO capitals.

Worse still for UNHCR, in that western governments dealt with unrest in the Balkans by adopting policies requiring UN agencies to keep those forcibly displaced within the Balkans and therefore distant from western State boundaries where they might lodge a claim for asylum, UNHCR was pushed into a position whereby it undermined the right to seek and enjoy asylum.

As a result of other policies established by thedonor States, for example forbidding UNPROFOR to transport civilians out of Bosnia, UNHCR became part of a new western policy of containment, namely to keep those uprooted by persecution and war in Bosnia by caring for them where they were, so as to minimize inconvenience to western governments concerned about unwanted migration

That concept of protection is paradoxical in that it is both political and non-political at the same time: political in that the two agencies lobby to advance social liberalism as public policy; non-political in that they eschew strategic and partisan advantage for States as much as the context allow

The history of both the ICRC and UNHCR shows international support in principle for what they attempt to do, as well as a widening, if overlapping, focus on persons in dire straits as a result of conflict.