Planetary Humanism and War and Peace

By Seidman, Barry | Free Inquiry, Summer 2003 | Go to article overview

Planetary Humanism and War and Peace


Seidman, Barry, Free Inquiry


Some secular humanists do not consider the war on Iraq a "core issue" for the humanist movement to address. To them the foundation of secular humanism is atheism, with no political convictions implied. True, a healthy humanist movement should never become so politically partisan as to ignore or denounce conflicting points of view. Ethical nonbelievers can and do disagree on a wide range of political issues. It's also true that the Iraq crisis does not go to the core of what we would call "secularism"--unless we see Bush's mission in the "holy lands" as his personal mission for God, but that's a different matter. To me, at the core of secular humanism lies the hope of planetwide peace and cooperation. In pursuing this we must overcome not only the obstacles of religion but those posed by unjust warfare too.

A humanist response to "Operation Iraqi Freedom" must draw on humanist ethics and morality which offer far more than mere atheism. While atheism as such carries no specific moral or ethical content, secular humanism stretches further, providing a powerful, affirmative, evidence-based life stance that unquestionably addresses the ethics of human behavior. I think that strongly implies a need to oppose the war on Iraq. Some secular humanists believe otherwise, but the ones I've had the opportunity to hear out tend to hold what I see as common misconceptions. Perhaps by addressing these misconceptions I can help to clarify the moral issues in play here.

One such misconception is the belief that George W Bush desires a government in postwar Iraq that will control its own destiny--which its oil fields will have a role in shaping. This simply flies in the face of what he and his predecessors have done in Iraq over the past twenty years. (1) Any idea that Bush is primarily concerned with the welfare of the Iraqi people is refuted by the very war itself, and further ignores the plan for a postwar U.S. occupation of Iraq led by Lieutenant General Jay Garner (who, by the way, has close links to hawkish Jewish groups in Israel)--an occupation the Iraqi people have since taken to the streets in the hundreds of thousands to protest.

Concerning Iraq's oil fields, Bush has said he will keep them functioning for the Iraqi people. Yet they will be rehabilitated primarily by Halliburton, Dick Cheney's former company, from which the vice president receives one million dollars a year. NBC anchor Tom Brokaw may have captured the truth during April's heavy fighting when he suggested--accurately, if arrogantly-that the Iraqis mustn't blow up their oil fields because the United States "will own that country in a few days."

Then there is the conveniently neglected rationale for going to war in the first place: those infamous weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). Strangely enough, no such weapons were used against U.S. or British forces, nor were any found in Iraq as of this writing in late April. Indeed, Bush's prewar claims that Iraq possessed WMDs were forcefully refuted by the United Nations inspection team--Hans Blix said that, if the war had been delayed just two months longer, he might have been able to have given Iraq a clean bill of health. Additionally, we now know that much of the administration's case for Iraqi WMDs hinged on a plagiarized eighteen-year-old report on Iraq's weaponry written by a college student! …

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