Criminality of War
by Laurence M. Vance: Our
Men and Women in Uniform
the WikiLeaks revelations that U.S. helicopter pilots gunned
down twelve Iraqi civilians, that U.S. soldiers ignored
brutal torture carried out by Iraqi security forces, that the
U.S. military withheld
from the public information about 15,000 Iraqi civilian deaths,
that U.S. special forces have been secretly
embedded with Pakistani military, that the U.S. government massacred
children and was complicit in the Yemeni government taking the
blame for the deed, and that U.S. troops carelessly
killed civilians and then covered it up, there were numerous
criminal acts perpetrated by the United States military under the
guise of the war on terror.
Here are just
a few representative examples:
to charging documents, the unprovoked, fatal attack on Jan. 15
was the start of a months-long shooting spree against Afghan civilians
that resulted in some of the grisliest allegations against American
soldiers since the U.S. invasion in 2001. Members of the platoon
have been charged with dismembering and photographing corpses,
as well as hoarding a skull and other human bones.
21 people were killed last night and 83 wounded after a massive
bomb ripped through a wedding party in a village in Kandahar where
US special forces have pioneered a controversial militia programme
to encourage people to defend themselves in return for development
A group of
US soldiers murdered a number of Afghan civilians and took body
parts as trophies, documents released by military officials allege.
A dozen US
soldiers have been charged with a series of crimes committed in
Afghanistan, including the murder of three Afghan civilians and
the subsequent cover-up, according to documents the US Army released
Wednesday. CNN reports that the soldiers from the 5th Brigade,
2nd Infantry Division out of Washington state have been charged
in connection with the attempted cover-up of the murder and assault
of Afghan civilians, as well as the mutilation of dead Afghans,
and drug use.
done in the field now is, they tell the troops, you have to make
a determination within a day or two or so whether or not the prisoners
you have, the detainees, are Taliban. You must extract whatever
tactical intelligence you can get, as opposed to strategic, long-range
intelligence, immediately. And if you cannot conclude they’re
Taliban, you must turn them free. What it means is, and I’ve been
told this anecdotally by five or six different people, battlefield
executions are taking place. Well, if they can’t prove they’re
Taliban, bam. If we don’t do it ourselves, we turn them over to
the nearby Afghan troops and by the time we walk three feet the
bullets are flying. And that's going on now.
forces soldiers dug bullets out of their victims’ bodies in the
bloody aftermath of a botched night raid, then washed the wounds
with alcohol before lying to their superiors about what happened.
of civilians were killed by Coalition cluster bombs and air strikes
designed to decapitate the Iraqi leadership, according to a new
report by New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW), which said
the high cost in civilian casualties caused by the two tactics
may have violated the laws of war.
in Afghanistan are bracing themselves for possible riots and public
fury triggered by the publication of "trophy" photographs
of US soldiers posing with the dead bodies of defenceless Afghan
civilians they killed.
sources, U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan kill ten civilians for every
"militant" killed. And according to U.S. General Stanley
McChrystal, of the more than thirty people who have been killed
and the eighty who have been wounded in convoy and checkpoint shootings
in Afghanistan since the summer of 2009, not one was found to have
been a threat: "We have shot an amazing number of people, but
to my knowledge, none has ever proven to be a threat," said
But as bad
as these war crimes are, it should never be forgotten that the wars
in Iraq and Afghanistan are themselves criminal. It doesn’t matter
if these crimes were carried out by a few bad apples or rogue outfits,
or if they are merely isolated instances or if a majority of U.S.
soldiers did not participate. The danger in focusing on the above
war crimes – and even terming them crimes – masks the real crime
that has been perpetrated against Iraq and Afghanistan.
and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, the destruction of infrastructure
in countries that were not a threat to the United States, and the
killing and wounding of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Afghans
who hadn’t lifted a finger against any Americans until their countries
were targeted by the United States is the real crime.
are crimes against not only the Iraq and Afghan peoples, but against
the thousands of U.S. soldiers who died in
vain and for
a lie, against the thousands of U.S. soldiers who needlessly
injuries that were not worth it, against the thousands of family
members of U.S. soldiers who must unnecessarily endure mental
anguish over lost loved ones, and against the American taxpayers
who are on the hook for trillions
And yet, conservatives
gave one of the chief war criminals, Donald Rumsfeld, the "Defender
of the Constitution Award" at their annual CPAC. Fittingly,
the award was presented by another one of the chief war criminals,
Dick Cheney. I stand by what I have said several times about conservatives:
The very heart and soul of conservatism is war. Patriotism, Americanism,
and being a real conservative are now equated with support for war,
torture, and militarism.
It is unfortunate
that many conservative Christians are also conservative warmongers.
To them I offer, and to all other conservative warmongers, the compelling
insight of Howard Malcom (1799-1879), former president of Georgetown
College, Kentucky. What it especially important about Malcom’s treatise
on the "Criminality of War" is that it was reprinted in
of Peace: A Collection of Essays on War and Peace – published
by the American Peace Society in 1845, long before the horrors of
twentieth-century wars were chronicled, and even before images
of war were captured on photographs.
Malcom, D. D.
of Georgetown College, KY
That man is
a fallen and depraved creature, is every where apparent in the ferocious
dispositions of his nature. Hence, to speak of him as in "a
state of nature," has been to speak of him as "a savage."
A savage finds in war and bloodshed his only means of honor and
fame, and he becomes, both in the chase and the camp, a beast
as war prevails among civilized nations, it banishes whatever tends
to refine and elevate, suspends the pursuits of industry, destroys
the works of art, and sets them back towards barbarism. Wherever
it comes, cities smoke in ruins, and fields are trodden under foot.
The husband is torn from his wife, the father from his children,
the aged lose their prop, and woman is consigned to unwonted toils
and perpetual alarms. As it passes, the halls of science grow lonely,
improvements pause, benevolence is fettered, violence supersedes
law, and even the sanctuary of God is deserted, or becomes a manger,
a hospital, or a fortress. In its actual encounters, every movement
is immeasurably horrid, with wounds, anguish, and death; while amid
the din of wrath and strife, a stream of immortal souls is hurried,
unprepared, to their final audit.
should lead men into wars of pride and conquest, is not strange.
But that the people, in governments comparatively free, should
so readily lend themselves to a business in which they bear all
the sufferings, can gain nothing, and may lose all, is matter of
But the chief
wonder is that CHRISTIANS, followers of the Prince of Peace, should
have concurred in this mad idolatry of strife, and thus been inconsistent
not only with themselves, but with the very genius of their system.
Behold a man going from the Lord’s Supper, fantastically robed and
plumed, drilling himself into skilful modes of butchery, and studying
the tactics of death! Behold him murdering his fellow Christians,
and praying to his Divine Master for success in the endeavor! Behold
processions marching to the house of God to celebrate bloody victories,
and give thanks for having been able to send thousands and tens
of thousands to their last account with all their sins upon their
heads! Stupendous inconsistency!
matter should remain no longer unexamined. It cannot.
In this age of light, when every form of vice and error is discussed
and resisted, this great evil, the prolific parent of unnumbered
abominations, must be attacked also. Christians are waking up to
see and do their duty to one another, to their neighbors, and to
the distant heathen. They cannot continue to overlook war. I
persuade myself that there are few, even now, who object to its
I propose not
to discuss the whole subject of war; – a vast theme. I shall abstain
from presenting it in the light of philosophy, politics, or patriotism;
in each of which points of light I have studied it, and feel that
it demands most serious attention. In the following observations,
war will be discussed only as it concerns a Christian.
are few who would oppose the prevalence and perpetuity of peace.
The need of discussion lies not in the bloodthirsty character of
our countrymen, nor in the existence of active efforts to propagate
and prolong the miseries of war; but in the apathy that prevails
on this subject, and the almost total want of reflection in regard
to it. A military spirit is so wrought into the habits of national
thinking, and into all our patriotic pomps and festivals, that the
occasional occurrence of war is deemed a matter of course. Even
the fervent friends of man’s highest welfare seem to regard a general
pacification of the world, and the disuse of fleets and armies,
as a mere Utopian scheme, and chose to give their money and prayers
to objects which seem of more probable attainment. This apathy and
incredulity are to be overcome only by discussion.
observations will be confined to two points.
I. War is
criminal because inconsistent with Christianity.
criminality is enormous.
I. ITS INCONSISTENCY
1. It contradicts
the entire genius and intention of Christianity.
requires us to seek to amend the condition of man. War always deteriorates
and destroys. The world is at this moment not one whit better, in
any respect, for all the wars of five thousand years. If here and
there some good may be traced to war, the amount of evil, on the
whole, is immeasurably greater. Christianity, if it prevailed, would
make earth once more a paradise. War makes it a slaughter house,
a desert, a den of thieves and murderers, a hell. Christianity cancels
and condemns the law of retaliation. War is based upon that very
principle. Christianity remedies all human woes. War makes them.
of war are as inconsistent with Christianity as its effects.
It originates in the worst passions, and the worst crimes, James
iv., 1, 2. We may always trace it to the thirst of revenge,
the acquisition of territory, the monopoly of commerce, the quarrels
of kings, the coercion of religious opinions, or some such unholy
source. There never was a war, devised by man, founded on
holy tempers, and Christian principles.
All the features,
all the concomitants, all the results of war, are opposed to the
features, the concomitants, the results of Christianity. The two
systems conflict in every point, irreconcilably and forever.
2. War sets
at naught the entire example of Jesus.
of me," says the Divine Examplar. And can we learn fighting
from him? His conduct was always pacific. He became invisible when
the Nazarites sought to cast him from their precipice. The troops
that came to arrest him in the garden, he struck down, but not dead.
His constant declaration was, that he "came not to destroy
men’s lives, but to save."
once instructed his disciples to buy swords, telling them that
they were going forth as sheep among wolves. But the whole passage
shows he was speaking by parable, as he generally did. The disciples
answered, "here are two swords." He instantly replies,
"it is enough." If he had spoken literally, how could
two swords suffice for twelve Apostles? Nay, when Peter used one
of these, it was too much. Christ reproved him, and healed the wound.
He rneant to teach them their danger, not their refuge. His metaphor
was misunderstood, just as it was when he said, "beware of
the leaven of the Pharisees," and they thought he meant bread.
Once he drove
men from the temple. But it was with "a whip of small cords."
Moral influence drove them. A crowd of such fellows was not
to be overcome by one man with a whip. He expressly declared that
his servants should not fight, for his kingdom was not of
this world. His whole life was the sublime personification of benevolence.
He was the PRINCE OF PEACE.
Do we forget
that Christ is our example? Whatever is right for us to do, would
in general have been right for him to do. Imagine the Savior robed
in the trappings of a man of blood, leading columns to slaughter,
setting fire to cities, laying waste the country, storming fortresses,
and consigning thousands to wounds, anguish and death, just to define
a boundary, settle a point of policy, or decide some kingly quarrel.
Could "meekness and lowliness of heart" be learned from
him thus engaged?
There is no
rank or station in an army that would become the character of Christ.
Nor can any man who makes arms a profession find a pattern in Christ
our Lord. But he ought to be every man’s pattern.
I need not
enlarge on this point. It is conceded; for no warrior thinks of
making Christ his pattern. How then can a genuine imitator of Christ,
consistently be a warrior?
3. War is
inconsistent not only with the NATURE of Christianity, and
the EXAMPLE OF JESUS, but it violates all the EXPRESS
PRECEPTS of Scripture.
Even the Old
Testament does not sanction war as a Custom. In each case,
there mentioned, of lawful war, it was entered upon by the express
command of God. If such authority were now given, we might
worthily resort to arms. But without such authority, how dare we
violate the genius of Christianity, and set at naught the example
of Christ? The wars mentioned in olden times were not appointed
to decide doubtful questions, or to settle quarrels. They were to
inflict national punishment, and were intended, as are pestilence
and famine, to chastise guilty nations.
As to the New
Testament, a multitude of its precepts might be quoted, expressly
against all fighting. "Ye have heard, &c., an eye for an
eye, but I say unto you resist not evil." "Follow
peace with all men." "Love one another." "Do
justice, love mercy." "Love your enemies." "Follow
righteousness, faith, charity, peace." "Return good for
evil." "Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and
clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, and ye kind one
to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another as God for Christ’s
sake hath forgiven you." "If my kingdom were of this world,
then would my servants fight," etc. "If ye forgive not
men their trespasses, neither," &c. "Be ye not overcome
of evil, but overcome evil with good." "If thine enemy
hunger, feed him, if he thirst, give him drink." "Render
not evil for evil, but contrariwise blessing." Such passages
might be indefinitely multiplied. They abound in the New Testament.
How shall they be disposed of? No interpretation can nullify their
force, or change their application. Take any sense the words
will bear, and they forbid war. They especially forbid retaliation,
which is always advanced as the best pretext for war.
as have been just quoted, relate to the single matter of retaliation
and fighting. But belligerent nations violate every precept
of the gospel. It enjoins every man to be meek, lowly, peaceable,
easy to be entreated, gentle, thinking no evil, merciful, slow to
anger, quiet, studious, patient, temperate, &c. Let a man rehearse,
one by one, the whole catalogue of Christian graces, and he will
see that war repudiates them all.
superlative epitome of Christianity, our Lord’s sermon on the mount.
Its nine benedictions are upon so many classes of persons; the poor
in spirit, mourners, the meek, the merciful, the peace-makers, the
persecuted, the reviled, those who hunger after righteousness, and
the pure in heart. In which of these classes can the professed warrior
place himself? Alas, he shuts himself out from all the benedictions
proceeds to teach, not only killing, but anger is murder. It expressly
rebukes the law of retaliation; and exploding the traditionary rule
of loving our neighbor, and hating our enemy, it requires us to
love our enemies, and do good to those that despitefully use us.
Afterward, in presenting a form of prayer, it not only teaches us
to say, "Forgive our trespasses as we forgive those
that trespass against us," but adds, "If ye forgive not
men their trespasses, neither will your Heavenly Father forgive
you." What a peace sermon is here! What modern peace society
goes further, or could be more explicit?
But let us
take a few of the Christian graces more in detail. The Christian
is required to cherish a sense of direct and supreme responsibility
to God. The irresponsible feelings of a soldier are a necessary
part of his profession, as Lord Wellington said recently, ‘A man
who has a nice sense of religion, should not be a soldier.’ The
soldier makes war a profession, and must be ready to fight
any nation, or any part of his own nation, as he is ordered. He
must have no mind of his own. He must march, wheel, load, fire,
charge, or retreat, as he is bidden, and because he is bidden. In
the language of THOMAS JEFFERSON, "The breaking of men to military
discipline, is breaking their spirits to principles of passive obedience."
The nearer a soldier comes to a mere machine, the better soldier
he makes. Is this right for a Christian? Is it compatible with his
duty to "examine all things, and hold fast that which is good?"
of life which is so necessary in a soldier, is a sin. He must
walk up to the deadly breach, and maintain ground before the cannon’s
mouth. But life is inestimable, and belongs to God. He who masters
the fear of death, does it either by religious influence, or quenching
the fear of God, and all concern about a future state. There is
not a gospel precept, which he who makes arms a profession, is not
at times compelled to violate.
Nor is there
a Christian grace which does not tend to diminish the value of a
professed soldier. Some graces are, it is true, useful in camp;
where a man may be called to act as a servant, or laborer. It is
then desirable that he be honest, meek, faithful, that he may properly
attend to a horse, or a wardrobe. But such qualities spoil him for
the field. He must there cast away meekness, and fight; he must
cast away honesty, and forage; he must cast away forgiveness, and
revenge his country; he must not return good for evil, but two blows
Survey an army
prepared for battle; see a throng, busy with cannons, muskets, mortars,
swords, drums, trumpets, and banners. Do these men look like Christians?
Do they talk like followers of the meek and lowly Jesus? Do they
act like friends and benefactors of the whole human race? Are the
lessons they learn in daily drill, such as will help them in a life
Mark this army
in the hour of battle. See attacks and retreats, battalions annihilated,
commanders falling, shouts of onset, groans of death, horses trampling
the fallen, limbs flying in the air, suffocating smoke, and thousands
smarting in the agony of death, without a cup of water to quench
their intolerable thirst! Do the principles of Christianity authorize
such a scene? Are such horrors its fruits?
field when all is over. The fair harvest trampled and destroyed,
houses and batteries smoking in ruin, the mangled and suffering
strewed among dead comrades, and dead horses, and broken gun-carriages.
Prowlers strip the booty even from the warm bodies of the dying,
jackals howl around, and disgusting birds are wheeling in the air;
while the miserable wife seeks her loved one among the general carnage.
Does all this look as if Christians had been there, serving the
God of mercy? Could such works grow out of the system, heralded
as bringing "Peace on earth"?
Turn your eyes
to the ocean. A huge ship, bristling with implements of death, glides
quietly along. Presently "a sail!" is called from sentinel
to sentinel. All on board catch the sound, and gaze on the dim and
distant outline. At length she is discovered to be a ship of war,
and all strain their eyes to see her flag. On that little token
hangs the important issue; for no feud, no jealousy exists between
the crews. They do not even know each other. At length the signal
is discerned to be that of a foe. Immediately what a scene ensues!
Decks cleared and sanded, ports opened, guns run out, matches lighted,
and every preparation made for bloody work. While waiting for the
moment to engage, the worst passions of the men are appealed to
to make them fight with fury; and they are inspired with all possible
pride, hatred, revenge or ambition.
The fight begins!
Death flies with every shot. Blood and carnage cover the decks.
The rigging is cut to pieces; the hull bored with hot shot. The
smoke, the confusion, the orders of officers, the yells of the wounded,
the crash of timbers, the horrors of the cockpit, make a scene at
which infernal fiends feel their malignity sated. At length one
party strikes, and the strife is stayed. The conquered ship, ere
her wounded can be removed, sinks into the deep. The victor, herself
almost a wreck, throws overboard the slain, washes her decks, and
turns toward her port, carrying the crippled, the agonized, and
the dying of both ships! What anguish is there in that ship! What
empty berths, late filled with the gay-hearted and the profane!
What tidings does she carry, to spread lamentation and misery over
hundreds of families!
Yet in all
this, there was no personal feud or malice, no private wrong or
offence. All was the mere result of some cabinet council, some kingly
caprice. Could any enormity be more cold blooded and diabolical?
But no where
does war wear such horrors as in a siege. The inhabitants are shut
up; business, pleasure, education, intercourse are all checked;
sorrow, terror, and distress prevail. Bombs fall and explode in
the streets; citizens are killed in their houses, and soldiers on
the ramparts. Women and children retreat to the cellars, and live
there cold, dark, comfortless, terrified. Day after day, and month
after month, roll tediously on, while the gloom constantly thickens,
and the only news is of houses crushed, acquaintances killed, prices
raised, and scarcity increased. Gladly would the citizens surrender,
but the governor is inexorable. At 1ength, to all the horrors famine
is added. The poor man, out of employ, cannot purchase customary
comforts at the increased prices. His poverty becomes deeper, his
sacrifices greater. But the siege continues. The middle classes
sink to beggary, the poorer class to starvation. Anon, breaches
are made in the wall; and all must work amid galling fire to repair
them. Mines are sprung, blowing houses and occupants into the air.
Still no relief comes. Dead animals, offal, skins, the very carcass
of the slain, are eaten. The lone widow, the bereft mother, the
disappointed bride, the despairing father, and the tender babe,
mourn continually. Then comes pestilence, the necessary consequence
of unburied dead, and unwonted hardships, and intolerable wo. At
length, the city yields; or is taken by storm, and scenes even more
horrid ensue. A brutal soldiery give loose to lust, and rapine,
and destruction; and the indescribable scene closes with deserted
streets, general ruin, and lasting lamentation.
is far from being overwrought. The history of sieges furnish realities
of deeper horror. Take for instance the second siege of Saragossa
in 1814, or almost any other.
Now is this
Christianity? Is it like it? Christianity cannot alter. If
it will necessarily abolish all war, when the millennium
shall give it universal influence, then it will abolish war
now, so far as it has influence; and every man who
receives it fully will be a man of peace. If religious persons
may make fighting a trade on earth, they may fight in heaven. If
we may lawfully cherish a war spirit here, we may cherish it there!
I close by
quoting the words of the great Jeremy Taylor. "As contrary
as cruelty is to mercy, and tyranny to charity, so contrary is war
to the meekness and gentleness of the Christian religion."
II. WAR IS
ONE OF THE MOST AWFUL AND COMPREHENSIVE FORMS OF WICKEDNESS.
What has been
said, has gone to show how inconsistent, in principle, are
war and Christianity. A few considerations will now be offered,
illustrative of the practices of war. We shall be thus led
to see, not only that it contradicts the genius, and violates the
precepts of Christianity, but that it does so in the most gross
and gigantic manner.
1. It is
the worst form of robbery.
are induced by want: but war commits them by choice, and often robs
only to ravage. A man who rushes to the highway to rob, maddened
by the sight of a famished family, may plead powerful temptation.
But armies rob, burn, and destroy, in the coolest malice. See a
file of men, well fed and well clothed by a great and powerful nation,
proceed on a foraging party. They enter a retired vale, where a
peaceful old man by hard handed toil supports his humble family.
The officer points with his sword to the few stacks of hay and grain,
laid up for winter. Remonstrances are vain – tears are vain. They
bear off his only supply, take his cow, his pet lamb; add insult
to oppression, and leave the ruined family to an almshouse or starvation.
Aye, but the poor old man was an enemy, as the war phrase
is, and the haughty soldiery claim merit for forbearance, because
they did not conclude with burning down his house.
or destruction of public stores, is not less robbery. A nation has
no more right to steal from a nation, than an individual has to
steal from an individual. In principle, the act is the same; in
magnitude, the sin is greater. All the private robberies in a thousand
years, are not a tithe of the robberies of one war. Next to killing,
it is the very object of each party to burn and destroy by sea,
and ravage and lay waste on land. It is a malign and inexcusable
barbarity, and constitutes a stupendous mass of theft.
In one of the
Punic wars, Carthage, with 100,000 houses, was burnt and destroyed,
so that not a house remained. The plunder carried away by the Romans,
in precious metals and jewels alone, is reported to have been equal
to five millions of pounds of silver. Who can compute the
number of similar events, from the destruction of Jerusalem to that
of Moscow? Arson, that is, the setting fire to an inhabited dwelling,
is, in most countries, punishable by death. But more of this has
been done in some single wars, than has been committed privately,
since the world began. When some villain sets fire to a house and
consumes it, what public indignation! What zeal to bring to justice!
If, for a succession of nights, buildings are fired, what general
panic! Yet how small the distress, compared to that which follows
the burning of an entire city. In one case, the houseless still
find shelter, the laborer obtains work, the children have food.
But oh, the horrors of a general ruin! Earthquake is no worse.
It should not
be overlooked, that a great part of the private robberies in Christendom,
may be traced to the deterioration of morals, caused by war. Thousands
of pirates, received their infamous education in national ships.
Thousands of thieves, were disbanded soldiers. War taught these
men to disregard the rights of property, to trample upon justice,
and refuse mercy. Even if disposed to honest labor, which a militarv
life always tends to render unpalatable, the disbanded soldier often
finds himself unable to obtain employment. The industry of his country
has been paralysed by the war; and the demand for labor slowly recurs.
The discharged veteran therefore is often compelled to steal or
starve. Thus war, by its own operations, involves continual and
stupendous thefts, and by its unavoidable tendencies, multiplies
offenders, who in time of peace prey upon community.
2. It involves
the most enormous Sabbath breaking.
cannot be observed by armies. Common camp duty forbids it.
Extra duties are assigned to Sunday – such as parades, drill, inspections,
and reviews. Seldom is any effort made to avoid marches, or even
battles, on Sunday. I have been able to find, in all history, but
one battle postponed on account of the Sabbath. In thousands
of instances, as in the case of Waterloo, it has been the chosen
day for conflict.
War tends to
abolish the Sabbath, even when the army is not present. The heavy
trains of the commissary must move on. The arsenal and the ship
yard must maintain their activity. Innumerable mechanics, watermen,
and laborers, must be kept busy. During our late war with England,
who did not witness on all our frontiers, even in the States of
New England, the general desecration of the holy day? Men swarmed
like ants on a mole hill, to throw up entrenchments; the wharves
resounded with din of business; and idlers forsook the house of
God to gaze upon the scenes of preparation.
consider these unavoidable results, when they give their voice for
war? No. The calm consideration of such concomitants, would make
it impossible for them to advise or sanction the profane and abominable
3. War produces
a wicked waste of national wealth.
of a belligerent government, drawn of course by taxation from the
laboring community, form an incalculable amount. Our last war with
England cost us more than a hundred millions of dollars per annum.
During the last 175 years, ENGLAND has had twenty-four wars
with France, twelve with Scotland, eight with Spain,
and two with America, besides all her other wars in India
and elsewhere. These have cost her government, according to official
returns, three thousand millions of pounds sterling, or FIFTEEN
THOUSAND MILLIONS OF DOLLARS! The war which ended at Waterloo, cost
France £700,000,000, and Austria £300,000,000, or five thousand
millions of dollars! How much it cost Spain, Sweden, Holland, Germany,
Prussia and Russia, I have no means of knowing, but at least an
equal sum. Thus one long war cost Europe at least forty thousand
millions! The annual interest of this sum, at five per cent., is
two thousand millions of dol1ars, – enough almost to banish suffering
poverty from Europe! For all this, NOTHING has been gained. Nay,
the spending of it thus has produced an aggregate of vice and poverty,
pain and bereavement, more than, without war, would have come upon
the whole human family since the flood! Who then can begin to compute
the cost of all the wars even in Europe alone?
We often hear
much railing against useless expenditure, and proposals for economy
in dress, furniture, &c., and it is well. But those who insist
on these modes of frugality should be consistent. Let them remember
that all the retrenchments they recommend are but as the dust of
the balance compared to the expenditures of a war. But vast as are
the expenses of belligerent governments, they do not constitute
a tenth of the true expenses of war! We must reckon the destruction
of property, private and public – the ruin of trade and commerce
– the suspension of manufactories – the loss of the productive labor
of soldiers and camp followers. But who can reckon such amounts?
it be considered that all these items must be doubled and trebled
in cases of civil wars, and that such form a large part of
war causes the great bulk of taxation even in time of peace! Witness
the annual appropriations for fleets and standing armies, forts,
arsenal, weapons, pensions, &c. Even since our last war with
England, we have been paying annually, for the above objects,
about ten times us much as for the support of our civil government!!
"The war spirit" is taxing our people to the amount of
unnumbered millions, now in time of profound peace. A single
74 gun ship, beside all her cost of construction and equipment,
costs in time of peace, while afloat, $200,000 per annum – eight
times the salary of the President of the United States. Nearly
all the taxes paid by civilized nations, go in some form or other
to the support of war! All the British debt which is grinding
her people into the dust, was created by war. The cost of the wars
of Europe alone, in only the last century, would have built all
the canals, railroads, and churches, and established all the schools,
colleges, and hospitals, wanted on the whole globe!
4. War is
the grossest form of murder.
are atrocious – those of war far more so. But the contrary opinion
prevails; and we adduce proofs. War enhances the crime of murder
on the following accounts:
(1.) It is
more cold-blooded and cruel.
private murder, and the proof of it is necessary to conviction by
a jury; and the more cool and calculating, the more guilt. But murder
in war is more cool and calculating, than even in a duel. The question
of war or peace is calmly debated, deliberately resolved upon, and
proclaimed in form. Armies are raised, and drilled, and marched,
and engaged, with all coolness and calculation. The contending hosts
know not each other, cherish no personal hate, and seldom know the
true grounds of the contest. All is done with whatever of aggravation
attends deliberate homicide.
(2.) It is
more vast in amount.
falters when we estimate the numbers slain in war or by reason of
it. Three hundred thousand men fell in one battle, when Attila,
king of the Huns, was defeated at Chalons. Nearly the entire army
of Xerxes, consisting of four millions of persons, perished. Julius
Caesar, in one campaign in Germany, destroyed half a million. More
than half a million perished in one campaign of Napoleon, averaging
3000 men a day. Paying no attention to the innumerable wars among
Pagans before and since the birth of Christ, nor to all the wasting
wars of the past seventeen centuries, it is matter of distinct calculation
that about five millions of nominal Christians have been butchered
by nominal Christians, within the last half century! What
then has been the total of war-murders since creation?
Nor is the
number of the slain the real total. Multitudes of "the
wounded and missing" die; multitudes perish out of armies and
fleets without battle, by hardships, exposure, vice, contagion,
and climate. We ought, therefore, at least to double the number
slain in engagements, to arrive at true sum; and make ten millions
of men destroyed within half a century by Christian nations’
caused by war, arc accompanied by horrid aggravations of suffering.
die, not on beds of down, surrounded by all that can relieve or
palliate suffering. No soft hand smooths the couch, or wipes the
brow. No skilful physician stands watching every symptom. The silence,
the quiet, the cleanliness, the sympathy, the love, the skill, that
divest the chamber of death of all its horror, and half its anguish,
are not for the poor soldier. Private murder is always done in haste,
and the sufferer is often dismissed from life in a moment. Not so
in war. Few are killed outright. The victim dies slowly of unmedicated
wounds. Prostrate amid the trampling of columns and of horses which
have lost their riders, or in a trench, amid heaps of killed and
wounded, he dies a hundred deaths. If, mangled and miserable, he
finds himself still alive, when the tide of battle has passed, how
forlorn his condition! Unable to drag himself from the ghastly scene,
his gory limbs chilled with the damps of night, tortured with thirst,
and quivering with pain, his heart siekened with the remembrance
of home, and his soul dismayed at the approach of eternal retributions,
he meets death with all that can make it terrific.
(4.) The multitudes
murdered in war, are generally sent to hell.
is too horrible for steady contemplation; but we are bound to consider
it. "No murderer hath eternal life." Soldiers are murderers
in intent and profession, and die in the act of killing others,
and with imp1ements of murder in their hands. Without space for
repentance, they are hurried to the bar of God. On what grounds
may we affirm their sa1vation? O that those that know the worth
of souls, would dwell on this feature of the dreadful custom!
(5.) War first
corrupts those whom it destroys, and thus aggravates damnation itself.
Bad as are
most men who enlist in standing armies, war makes them worse. They
might at any rate be lost, but their vocation sends them to a more
dreadful doom. The recruit begins his degradation, even in the rendezvous,
ere he has lodged a week within its walls. He grows still worse
In the army,
vice becomes his occupation. His worst passions are fostered. His
Sabbaths are necessarily profaned. He becomes ashamed of tender
feelings, and conscientious scrup1es. Thus an old soldier
is generally a hardened offender; and the shot that terminates his
life, consigns him to a death rendered more terrible by his profession.
Had the money and time, which has been lavished to equip and drill
and support him as a soldier, been spent for his intellectual and
moral improvement, he might have been an ornament to society, and
a pillar in the church.
Mark his grim
corpse as men bear it to the gaping pit into which whole cart-loads
of bodies are thrown. The property, nay the liberty of a whole nation
is not a price for his soul! How then can Christians with one hand
give to the support of missions, and with the other uphold a custom
which counteracts every good enterprise?
how awful, that to such a trade as war, mankind has, in all ages,
lifted up its admiration! Poetry lends its fascinations, and philosophy
its inventions. Eloquence, in forum and field, has wrought up the
war spirit to fanaticism and frenzy. Even the pulpit, whose legitimate
and glorious theme is "PEACE ON EARTH," has not withheld
its solemn sanctions. The tender sex, with strange infatuation,
have admired the tinselled trappings of him whose trade is to make
widows and orphans. Their hands have been withdrawn from the distaff,
to embroider warrior’s ensigns. T'he young mother has arrayed her
proud boy with cap and feather, toyed him with drum and sword, and
trained him, unconsciously, to love and admire the profession of
maxim has been, "in peace prepare for war;" and men are
all their days contributing and taxing themselves to defray the
expenses of killing each other. Scarcely has a voice been lifted
up to spread the principles of peace. Every other principle of Christianity
has had its apostles. Howard reformed prisons; Sharp, and Clarkson,
and Wilberforce arrested the s1ave-trade. Carey carried the gospel
to India. Every form of vice has its antagonists, and every class
of sufferers find philanthropists. But who stands forth to urge
the law of love? Who attacks this monster WAR? We have not waited
for the millennium to abolish intemperance, or Sabbath breaking;
but we wait for it to abolish war. It is certain that the millennium
cannot come, till war expires.
Shall it so
remain? Shall this gorgon of pride, corruption, destructiveness,
misery and murder, be still admired and fed, while it is turning
men’s hearts to stone, and the garden of the Lord into the desolation
of death? Let every heart say no. Let Christians shine before
men as sons of peace, not less than as sons of justice and truth.
If wars and rumors of wars continue, let the church stand aloof.
It is time she was purged of this stain. Her brotherhood embraces
all nations. Earth1y rulers may tell us we have enemies; but our
heavenly King commands us to return them good for evil; if they
hunger, to feed them; if they thirst, to give them drink.
Christians, to noble resolution and vigorous endeavors! Retire from
military trainings, and spurn the thought of being hired by the
month to rob and kill. Refuse to study the tactics, or practice
the handicraft of death; and with "a hope that maketh not ashamed,"
proclaim the principles of universal peace, as part and parcel
of eternal truth.
A portion of
our missionary spirit should be expended in this department. Shall
we pour out our money and our prayers, when we hear of a widow burnt
on her husband’s funeral pile, or deluded wretches crushed beneath
the wheels of Juggernaut, but do nothing to dethrone this Moloch
to whom hundreds of millions of Christians have been sacrificed?
Among the fifty millions of the Presidency of Bengal, the average
number of suttees (widows burned, &c.) has for twenty years
been less than 500, or in the proportion of one death in a year
for such a population as Philadelphia. What is this to war? Every
day of some campaigns has cost more lives!
We must not
abstain from effort, because of apparent obstacles. What great reform
does not meet obstructions? The overthrow of Papal supremacy by
Luther, the temperance movement, and a host of similar historic
facts, show that truth is mighty, and when fairly and perseveringly
exhibited, will prevail. It can be shown, that in attempting to
abolish all war, we encounter fewer impediments than have attended
various other great changes. Even if it were not so, we have a duty
to discharge whether we prevail or not. Moral obligation does not
rest on the chance of success.
are neither numerous nor formidable. No classes of men love war
for its own sake. If it were abolished, those who now make it a
profession, could all find profitable and pleasanter employment
in peaceful pursuits. Men’s interests are not against us;
but the contrary. The people are not blood-thirsty. What
serious impediment is there to obstruct the diffusion of peace principles?
None more than beset even the most popular enterprise of literature
or benevolence. Our only obstruction is apathy, and the unfortunate
sentiment that the millennium is to do it away, we know not how.
But we might as well do nothing against intemperance, or Sabbath-breaking,
or heresy; and wait for the millennium to do them away. Nothing
will be done in this world without means, even when the millennium
shall have come.
Do you ask
what you can do? Much, very much, whoever you are. Cherish
in yourself the true peace-spirit. Try to diffuse it. Assist in
enlightening your neighbors. Talk of the horrors of war, its impolicy,
its cost, its depravity, its utter uselessness in adjusting national
disputes. Teach children correctly on this point, and show them
the true character of war, stripped of its music and mock splendor.
Banish drums and swords from among their toys. Proclaim aloud the
Divine government, and teach men how vain it is, even in a righteous
cause, to trust an arm of flesh. Insist that patriotism, in its
common acceptation, is not a virtue; for it limits us to love our
country, and allows us to hate and injure other nations. Thus
if Canada were annexed to our Union, we must, on that
account, love Canadians. But if South Carolina should secede,
we must withdraw part of our love, or perhaps go to war and kill
as many as possible. O how absurd to act thus, as though God’s immutable
law of love was to be obeyed or not as our boundaries may be.
intersected by a narrow sea,
each other. Mountains interposed,
enemies of nations who had else,
kindred drops, been mingled into one."
Let us feel
and disseminate the sentiment that true patriotism is shown
only by the good. A man may claim to be a patriot, and love
"his country," whose feelings are so vague and worthless
that he loves no one in it! He loves a mere name! or rather, his
patriotism is a mere name. Whole classes of his fellow-citizens
may remain in vice, ignorance, slavery, poverty, and yet he feels
no sympathy, offers no aid. Sodom would have been saved, had there
been in it ten righteous. These then would have been patriots. These
would have saved their country. We have in our land many righteous.
These are our security. These save the land from a curse. These
therefore are the only true patriots.
Let us unite
in "showing up" military glory. What is it? Grant that
it is all that it has ever passed for, and it still seems superlatively
worthless. The wreaths of conquerors fade daily. We give their names
to dogs and slaves. The smallest useful volume guides its author
a better and more lasting name. And how absurd, too, is it to talk
to common soldiers and under officers about military glory! Among
the many millions who have toiled and died for love of glory, scarce1y
a score are remembered among men! Who of our revolutionary heroes
but Washington and Lafayette are known in the opposite hemisphere?
Who of our own citizens can tell over a half dozen distinguished
soldiers in our struggle for independence? Yet that war is of late
date. Of the men of former wars we know almost nothing. Essential1y
stupid then is the love of military renown in petty officers and
the common private. They stake their lives in a lottery where there
is hardly a prize in five hundred years!
Let us print
and propagate peace principles. Public opinion has been changed
on many points by a few resolute men. Let us keep the subject before
the people till every man forms a deliberate opinion, whether Christianity
allows or forbids war. Let us at least do so much that if ever our
country engages in another war, we shall feel no share of the guilt.
Let us each do so much that if we should ever walk over a battle-field,
stunned with the groans and curses of the wounded, and horror-struck
at the infernal spectacle, we can feel that we aid all we could
to avert such an evil. Let us clear ourselves of blame.
No one of us can put a stop to war. But we can help stop
it – and combined and persevering effort will stop it.
M. Vance [send him mail]
writes from central Florida. He is the author of Christianity
and War and Other Essays Against the Warfare State, The
Revolution that Wasn't, and Rethinking
the Good War. His latest book is The
Quatercentenary of the King James Bible. Visit his
© 2011 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in
part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.
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