The condemnation of war

Christopher Richard Wynne Nevinson, Study to 'Return to the Trenches', 1914-15
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By MANUEL DOMINGOS NETO*

Thousands of authors have sought to conceptualize “terrorism” by denying its primary causes. They condemned practices that deny the right to life of “innocent civilians”, but covered up the fact that these were commonplace procedures in the exercise of power.

The supreme warrior strategy is to subjugate the enemy without fighting. In this zeal, the display of unsurpassable strength is usual. The spread of terror was the practice of colonizers, autocratic states, monopolizers of wealth, interpreters of divinities and challengers of order.

The search for warrior supremacy guided the overcoming of technological limits and moral constraints. Life-and-death confrontations suspend rules and conventions that get in the way of victory. The modern warrior, wanting to differentiate himself from the “primitive”, invented “war crimes” typified by innocuous international laws, endorsed by a fanciful “international community”, but persisted in acting, in essence, like his ancestors.

In war, it has always been worth spreading diseases within the opponent, depriving him of water, food and medicine, fomenting internal discord, isolating him from possible allies, demoralizing his sacred beliefs, producing cognitive shocks that leave him confused, inducing social attitudes, selectively assassinate him, in short, deprive him of elan. Anything goes, except defeat.

Terrorism is a universally employed warfare method. The warrior dresses, speaks, sings and parades to intimidate. Prepared commanders know how to spread terror. They surprise, conceal and drive the opponent into paralyzing panic. It is impossible to distinguish the warrior from the terrorist. There is no “dirty war” because there is no “clean war”. The use of the airplane as an instrument of terror was established before its invention, as was the atomic bomb.

Bullying is part of the human experience. It is important in the relationships between individuals and societies. Are there States born and legitimized by social pacts in which everyone's will is satisfied? If not, the political authority cannot abdicate terrorist practices.

War is the phenomenon of the highest significance for humanity. It strictly involves everyone. It is impossible to establish lines that objectively separate the politician from the warrior, the religious and, above all, the “innocent civilian”, an expression intensively used when there is ongoing carnage.

The politician prevents or precipitates bloodshed; he is the mastermind of the terrorist act. The warrior carries out his deliberation.

The religious is an obligatory figure in war. Men who face each other invoke deities. If they are not religious believers, they fight in the name of sacred abstract entities, such as the nation or the homeland.

The sacralization of the slaughter of human beings occurs because man is not an insensitive beast. Except for pathological cases, he does not eliminate his fellow man without remorse: he deprives the victim of humanity before slaughtering him. He takes on the role of executor of divine determination to exempt himself from responsibility. By transferring authorship of your gesture, you appease your conscience. I dealt with this in the essay “The military and civilization”.[1]

The “innocent civilian” legitimizes the killing or not. Without its support, there is no political command or armies. It is the “civilian” who, forming ranks, becomes a warrior. It is the “civilian” who produces weapons, ammunition, food, clothing, medicine and equipment for the front line. Is it an “innocent civilian” who occupies other people’s land? The “innocent civilian” participates in war when he glorifies or repudiates those who are going to kill or die.

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Only children will be truly innocent, the “citizens in promise”, as Plato said. But, before being victimized by a foreign terrorist, they will be subjected to terror promoted by the State authority.

The condemnation of war indicates that human beings reject the slaughter of others and value harmonious coexistence. Altruism and solidarity have always been universally praised. It is not true that humanity is no good. What is useless is the exploitation of the majority for the benefit of minorities. This requires liberticidal political systems, leads to war and terrorist practices.

No religion openly preaches violence. Doctors of the Church squirmed as they theorized about “just war.” They justified carnage, blessed murderers, but did not eliminate the “thou shalt not kill” speech.

Modern political theorists, known as “contractualists,” have prescribed terrifying procedures for maintaining power. It is not possible to think about the human experience abstracting from practices of imposing minority wills through violence.

The most elementary form of violence is terrorizing. The public display of cruel punishments terrifies and induces obedience. In Brazil, the best-known case was the dismemberment of Tiradentes.

The State necessarily practices terror, but seeks to make it palatable or invisible to the majority. The Brazilian State terrorizes the disadvantaged with mass imprisonment: it maintains a large prison population, denying them human status. The invisibility of this population is a defensive resource: no one feels bad about what they cannot see. Minister Silvio Almeida tried to change this and was silenced.

Thousands of authors have sought to conceptualize “terrorism” by denying its primary causes. They condemned practices that deny the right to life of “innocent civilians”, but covered up the fact that these were commonplace procedures in the exercise of power. Terror was used by the French Revolution, which proclaimed the rights of man and citizen. It was endorsed by the racist theories that shaped the development of industry, the dispute for consumer markets and colonialism.

The “world order” established in 1945 was preceded by the greatest terrorist act ever seen. Washington treated the Japanese in Hiroshima and Nagasaki like bedbugs. This did not stop him from presenting himself as a glamorous universal model of civilization. The “world order” he implemented, like those that preceded it, was maintained by terror and there is no reason to imagine that it will disappear peacefully.

Today, the “West” intensifies the bestialization of “Orientals”. This process gained intensity with the “war on terror”, triggered after the collapse of the Twin Towers. The entire military complex led by the Pentagon was mobilized against an “Axis of Evil”, including the Brazilian Armed Forces, structured to say yes to the US command. In the name of “fighting terror”, several countries were destroyed.

The “war on terror” was a successful semantic device because it established an implausible distinction: there would be civilized warriors and uncivilized terrorists, frightened by wild beasts.

The “international order” led by “Westerners” for more than five centuries has demanded the stigmatization of Arabs, black Africans and indigenous peoples spread across the planet. It legitimized slavery and the genocide of indigenous people. Today, it legitimizes the extermination of Palestinians, assimilated as terrorists and, therefore, unworthy of living.

A formidable American naval air force was stationed in the Middle East to scare anyone who wanted to show solidarity with the convicts from the Gaza Strip. It is a device capable of destroying everything around it and triggering the final judgment. It is a terrorist force. It was not mobilized to contain the Palestinian reaction, but to assert power over those who challenge Washington. Who would dare face it by bringing humanitarian aid to those sentenced to death?

American-Israeli terrorism receives applause in the West, but expressions of rejection are growing, showing that humanity resists. Despite the propaganda that aims at the ethnic elimination planned by Israel, human beings do not accept brutality as defining their condition.

What is at stake in Gaza is not just the fate of two million people, but the “order” that will prevail in governing the world and the direction of what we call “civilization”.

* Manuel Domingos Neto He is a retired UFC professor and former president of the Brazilian Association of Defense Studies (ABED). Author, among other books What to do with the military – Notes for a new National Defense (Reading Cabinet).

Note

[1] https://revistas.uece.br/index.php/tensoesmundiais/article/view/757/668

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