Taking life is a gruesome thing. When you consider the irrevocable consequences
of the act of taking life, it has an impact on you.
As the leader of a nation serving at any level, the primary mandate of the government
is to defend the lives of the people against enemies of the State. Without a secure
homeland, it is impossible to achieve the full potential of people and societies.
Imminent threats must certainly be dealt with immediately. But, part of the
responsibility of leadership is to assess the long-term impact of actions, particularly
military actions, on global stability and economic stability.
When faced with war, we citizens rely greatly on the wisdom and courage of our leaders
to make decisions and take actions. We respond to requests to place American lives
on the line to defend America and our allies. And we understand that in a just or
unavoidable conflict, that the burden of responsibility for causing death is a great one.
We understand and respect our leaders for having the courage to make the call.
The leaders of any nation must be prepared to use military force or any necessary means
to defend the nation. As much as I believe that there are many ways to avoid war,
and many opportunities to avoid war, it is not always successful. We most certainly can
not predict or control the acts of other groups or nations. We should never turn our backs
on any kind of threat, or fail to respond.
But, we should never take actions that generate a crisis where one does not exist.
We must respect the sovereignty of other nations. And we must continually seek to
empower the United Nations and assist in causing it to be an ever more effective means of
addressing the common interests of all nations and all people of this planet by promoting
mutually-beneficial global partnerships.
And, if we expect other nations to abide by treaties and agreements, the United States
must set the example to other nations by keeping our word to abide by the letter and
intent of those agreements we claim to endorse, otherwise, we have no right to expect more
from other nations and peoples.
When I look at various approaches to the issues of war and peace, I must say that I
like the idea of something like Dennis Kucinich's proposed "Department of
But, when I look at what it stands for and what is proposes to provide, I realize that
the agencies to do those things are already in place. We already have a State
Department and Diplomatic Corps., we have educational organizations willing to promote
conflict resolution training. What is lacking is leadership willing to commit to
goals of this nature which pro-actively promote justice.
When I say justice, be very clear that I am not talking about the enforcement of laws.
Justice, ultimately, has to do with establishing that which is the right thing to
do, regardless of partisan or bigoted advantage or disadvantage, regardless of personal
If you think of war in terms of practicing medicine, then war can only be seen as
something that treats the symptoms without treating the disease. Without treating
the disease, it will simply continue to spread, and generate continued need for treatment,
The idea, as promoted by Dick Cheney, that the only remedy to those who oppose our
policies is to kill them is ludicrous. It only invites challenge and confrontation.
Those who seek to lead through oppressive means will merely breed generation after
generation of those driven to irrational acts against us.
Consider the fact that when international relations are discussed, at the center of the
issues related to current conflicts and confrontations are events that occurred
generations, if not hundreds of years ago. What's more, the rippling effect of those
prior conflicts may well be relevant to the patterns of current events.
What I find most disturbing is how governments manipulate the public with rhetoric or
propaganda. That is the single most disturbing element of war in this era of
mass-communications and partisan media ownership.
It is easy to master the art of the 10 second sound bite to paint a picture of a
foreign leader or religion as something of a threat or deranged menace. If you do
not feel threatened, you will not be willing to commit to war. The question is, if
the citizens were informed of the real situation, void of political or economic
expediency, would they be willing to endorse it?
Unless war is required as an immediate response to an attack or as an intervention of
an imminent threat, it should never be entered into hastily. Input from all sides
should be sought and appreciated. Even though war often seems to be politically
driven, it should never be a political decision. It should always be sincerely
viewed as the tragedy it is, even if it is imperative.
Ultimately, that tragedy, the human tragedy, is what will be left to deal with even if
the war is won. It should not stop us from doing the right thing when we are called
to do so. It should never prevent us from taking the responsibility for the lives of
people who will carry the burden of the fight with them for the rest of their lives. That
includes their families, the wounds received, and in their emotions and psyches.
I have the greatest respect for soldiers. I am impressed by John Kerry's courage
in the Vietnam War, having to do very difficult things in the course of fighting on behalf
of his country, and then becoming a leader out of a sense of personal integrity to oppose
the continuation of the war.
I made sure I was home the day John McCain arrived home and touched American soil so I
could watch it on tv. And, despite the fact that I disagree with him on policy
issues on a semi-regular basis, I will never question his commitment to this country and
his willingness to speak honestly and openly about what he really thinks and believes.
I believe that's the kind of America he was fighting for all along.
At the heart of war is a tangled web of expectations and failures to communicate and
perform. No matter whose side you're on, after a while, you either have to clear the
air, or someone will get angry and say or do things they don't mean. But, once they
do them, they're committed to a course of action, because, after all, you can't let the
world see you back down, can you?
How many years did we hear Richard Nixon talk of Vietnam in terms of "Peace With
Honor"? And how many more people had to die? What justified OUR use of Sarin gas back
then? And, does anyone really doubt that the U.S. military could overpower any other
military force in the world if we in the U.S. had a real and imminent need to do so?
So, when I talk about war in terms of justice, it's because in my mind, when it comes
time for war, justice is expressed in the way other nations join us in coalitions and
agreements regarding the prosecution of war, not their capitulation to threats of economic
sanctions and economic war.
It is expressed by leaders informing citizens of the circumstances in responsible,
factual ways that honor and respect the seriousness of such an undertaking. It is
expressed by a clear and determined undertaking of diplomatic means to resolve a dispute.
There is something poignant, something we should all objectively assess regarding
modern war. Just before the bombs begin to drop in any war, governments always make
grandiose statements to the effect that "We have no argument or disagreement with the
people of <insert country name here>. The problem is with their
government and leaders."
Those statements were made before attacking Afghanistan. Those statements have
been made by both sides in our "generated crisis" in Iraq. It gives
creedence to the idea that the problems of the world are in one way or another being
caused, or at least perpetuated, by those people we call leaders. It is an
observation worthy of serious consideration.
What's truly worse, though, is the propagandist manipulation of the American people in
order to cause them to accept the proposition of war. It has been an accepted
practice for generations that when polls show a decrease in Presidential popularity, the
thing to do is to declare a crisis and go to war, to finally take on leading a peace
process, successful or not, or to go overseas on a world tour to present the image of
world acceptance and a greater global image.
These are part of the same political bag of tricks that rely on Presidents to cause a
brief economic upturn just before an election in order to garner political support for
party members who are running for office. The only thing being served by these
tricks is the perpetuation of political power, not national interests.
Not too long ago, an official in Germany made an off-handed statement to the effect
that George Bush was using a policy of war to disguise his failure to lead a successful
economy, just as Hitler had done. Her remark was not to identify George Bush as a
modern day Hitler, but to identify a political strategy which was employed and mastered by
Hitler. Any strategy can be replicated to accomplish a similar outcome.
She lost her job, of course. And it wasn't because of truth or lack of truth. It
was because of exposing the truth, which is not typically done in political circles.
It's like a game of promising not to expose "the tricks of the trade".
Magicians who reveal how magic is done are rarely respected by fellow magicians.
But, tricking the public is not what I would consider to be an honorable action by a
politician, nor would I consider it to be an ethical use of the power of office.
Such trickery unto itself should be considered a high crime against the people of this
nation. or any other nation, as a betrayal to national interests. If there is an
honest need for war, Americans will recognize it out of the truth, otherwise, we promote
it for political gain.
But, the bottom line for me is quite simple.
Every person, every nation has a right to self-determination and self-defense. No
person or nation has the right to dominate others for gain at the other's expense.
I would be negligent in my responsibilities as President to set a policy in stone
suggesting that I would never use military power to defend this country or our allies.
But I will assure you that it would never be used as an economic bargaining tool,
as an offensive tool toward global domination, or as a political tool to win votes and
manipulate the American people into a partisan agenda.
Peace by oppression is not peace. It is a challenge to our enemies to confront
us. If we choose to oppress, we will be challenged, and rightfully so. I say that
with a great deal of sadness, and with awareness of the ways history repeats itself.
The great challenge of America is not to identify ways to use our military power to
force other nations and peoples to conform. The challenge is to use our power in ways that
unite people because a better alternative is available.
War is hell. It is not a video game. And when it it used as the primary facet of
diplomacy or as a political tool to assist in the economic interests of companies such as
Halliburton, it is nothing more than treason and racketeering, at the expense of your
children now, and for generations to come.