Episode 4 The Big Questions

Episode 4

Nicky Campbell presents a special edition of The Big Questions, asking whether war can ever be just. Contributors include historians and former army personnel.

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Today on The Big Questions: War - is it ever just?


Good morning. I'm Nicky Campbell, welcome to The Big Questions. We're


back at Oasis Academy in Media City UK, Salford, to debate one very big


question. Is war ever just? Now, this year, it will be 100 years


since the start of World War One, dubbed "the war to end all wars".


Well, it proved to be anything but. Over the past century, British


troops have fought across Europe, the Far East, the Middle East, on


former British territories and in Northern Ireland and the Falklands.


They are still fighting in Afghanistan. Military methods may


have changed from trench warfare to aerial bombing and now to drone


attacks, but the ethical basis should have remained the same - just


warfare. It is a principle first established by St Augustine in 400


AD and now enshrined in the UN Charter and the four Geneva


Conventions. But is war ever just? To debate that question, we have


assembled a very distinguished front row of military men, philosophers,


historians, people of faith, anti-war campaigners and political


commentators. You can have your say via Twitter or online, just log on


to bbc.co.uk/thebigquestions, where you'll find links to continue the


discussion online. And there'll be lots of encouragement and


contributions from our very lively Salford audience.


Bruce Kent, from the Movement for the Abolition of War. You've been an


anti-war campaigner for so long now, and so passionately. And you were a


soldier as well. Are there any circumstances in which war can be


just? Today, war is meant to be the absolute last resort before anything


can be called "just". We have so many mechanisms, negotiation,


settlement, United Nations, European Union. So many means of settling


matters, I don't think a war today can ever be just within the terms of


just war. What about wars of the 20th century? The Second World War


and the fight against German tyranny, Nazi tyranny? Well, yes


indeed, the history... But what were we doing with Germany before the


war? We were selling arms material to Hitler up to July 1939. We never


opposed his moving into the Rhineland in 1936, I think it was.


We did our best to ruin the United Nations, the League of Nations


disarmament conference in 1932. There were so many opportunities to


actually stop Hitler in his tracks long before. We didn't do it for


Mussolini when he invaded Ethiopia, we didn't do that, we didn't do


anything about Germany supporting Franco of Spain. We let Hitler in


and then at the last minute we say, "Oh, what can we do?" And that's too


late at that stage. Is this not hindsight? We were where we were in


1939, our country was threatened. This was a heinous regime doing acts


so despicable, they're almost beyond comprehension. If we had not gone to


war, surely that would have given them even more licence. 50 million


people at least died in that war. Was that balance equal to whatever


we were supposed to be defending? We weren't defending the Jews, we were


actually stopping the Jews from coming here. We kind of invented


reasons for the war as the war went on. And I think we could have


negotiated and we should have negotiated a settlement in that


conflict. General Tim Cross, before I ask you questions about your own


Christianity and your own position, respond to Bruce Kent. Well, I know


Bruce well and I know his views. I just don't happen to agree with


them. I think, you know, we live in an unjust world, warfare is not new.


It's been around since Adam was a lad. Nobody's in favour of war, I


think his organisation to abolish war is absolutely a great ambition,


but it's like deciding you want to do away with sin. It's like


declaring war on terror. It's a great idea but it isn't going to


succeed. So we live in the world we live in, we live in an unjust world


and a fallen world, from a Christian perspective, and I think there are


times when force is necessary. I think there are times when force is


necessary inside a nation through the actions to police forces,


sometimes they need to use force and sometimes on the international scene


we need to use force. So ultimately, although it should always be


reluctant and a just war criteria should always be a very key part of


what goes on, at the end of the day, I think there are times when war is


justified. I invite you to come back if you like. Well, nobody is saying


that at some stage we maybe need physical strength against other


people. That's why we have a police force. Thank God we do have one.


When we set up the United Nations, the first aim to save succeeding


generations from the scourge of war, and a mechanism was set up about how


to deal with conflict. And we have ignored those mechanisms - whether


it's in Iraq or potentially in Iran or in Afghanistan, we've ignored


those mechanisms and we have war. It's no good saying to your police


force,"Do what you like, shoot anybody you want to." Police forces


are meant to act under the law, and so are nation states, and that's


what we're not doing. You became a Christian when you were a soldier.


Part of, as some would put it, "a war machine". Did you feel in any


way that your Christianity was compromised? Well, I became a


Christian when I was 30, I was a Captain at the time serving with the


United Nations in Cyprus. And for about two or three years, I thought


through the issue about whether I should stay or whether I should


leave. I can talk you through the process, but in simple terms, a


couple of sort of bullet points. One is I think the British Army without


any Christians in it would be a worse place, not a better place. I


think The Bible tell us that people who become Christians should not


immediately leave their professions, they should work their way through.


The Biblical examples of centurions, there are four examples in the New


Testament of interactions with centurions, including one by Jesus


Himself. And He says, "I've never met faith like this anywhere in


Israel." The soldiers going to John the Baptist to be baptised - he


doesn't tell them to leave, he tells them, I always think rather sadly,


to be content with their pay. But what he's actually saying is don't


misuse your power and your force. So over time, studying the Scriptures,


talking to people I respected and indeed through my own prayer life


and the circumstances of being promoted, getting to the Staff


College at that time, convinced me I should stay. And I would say that in


staying, I've then been in positions where my Christian faith, I think,


has been very important, crucially important indeed, in the way I've


reacted to events in the Balkans, in Kosovo and Iraq and other places.


You're still, obviously, by definition, willing to kill. Yep.


Thou Shalt not Kill. Thou Shalt not Murder. That's what the Commandments


actually say. State-authorised, Sovereign State. You read the


Commandments in the Old Testament, the follow-on verses from the Ten


Commandments have all sorts of instructions about killing. So I


think the Ten Commandments is about not murdering, I don't do this on my


own bat, it's under the authority of the nation, the state, the


democratically elected government, in a democratic country. I don't


decide whether I'm going to go to Macedonia or Kosovo or Iraq, it's


the nation that sends me, and I operate under the authority of the


nation state or, indeed, under the United Nations authority, as Bruce


quite rightly, says in today's world. Symon Hill. I just saw you


reacting to the "thou salt not kill" point. Well, Tim's point about the


nation state, as a Christian, I became a Christian after reading


Jesus's teaching. Very radical stuff all about the Kingdom of God. As


Christians, we're called to follow the Kingdom of God. Jesus proclaimed


a different power, a higher and subtler power than the powers of


violence and greed which dominate our world. And to give up my own


conscience and say, "Well, it's not my decision, it's the nation state,"


I find that - not just for a Christian but for anyone - a sort of


abrogation of your own conscience. There are no circumstances under


which you think it is necessary not to murder, but to kill for your


country or indeed to protect your brothers and sisters globally? For


example, UN troops in Bosnia felt that their hands were tied when they


saw people before their eyes being massacred and they were not able to


respond. There are certainly situations in which I think


responding with violence is entirely understandable. I think that's


different to being just. I certainly don't condemn someone for resorting


to violence in extreme circumstances I don't face. But the reality is, in


war, often the people who are hit are not the aggressors, they're not


the oppressors, they're ordinary civilians. The Holocaust didn't


justify the mass bombing of German civilians. The atrocities committed


by Japan in World War Two don't justify the atomic bombs on


Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The people who die as a result of war are not


the aggressors, they're not the oppressors. They're ordinary people


who happen, through no fault of their own, to be born the wrong


nationality. Peter Lee. Yes, when it comes to this argument about can war


be just, we've seen here what often happens, we see a caricature of just


war where on one side you have claims that you have a simple


decision to make between doing good and doing evil. And if you're doing


violence, you're doing evil and if you choose the non-violent way,


you're doing good. That is an over-simplification of the Augustian


or anyone else's argument. It is always, in a just war tradition, or


it should be seen as, choosing between a greater evil and a lesser


evil. Because there is no simple choice between choosing pacifism. I


deeply respect the pacifist tradition, but to be able to stand


back and watch someone innocent being massacred, someone mugged in


the High Street, terrible things done, and say, "I choose a


non-violent way, that's the right way," I think that's a heinous moral


choice. Bruce Kent. That's deeply unfair. No-one has put forward the


pacifist position in the way you're saying it. Of course I'd protect


anybody who is being beaten up on the street. So you're wrong to use


violence then? You're wrong to use force Of course I'd use force.


That's what the police force is about. Under what rule does that


force apply? And in nation states, they're bound by certain rules which


they constantly ignore. Tony Blair for one. We'll get on to that later.


This is a game of tennis and there's referee in the middle saying,


"Right, gentlemen, let's play nicely," what if one of them doesn't


want to play nicely? What if Hitler doesn't want to sit down and talk to


you? What if Gadaffi doesn't want to talk to you? German civilians are


not Hitler. It's like saying somebody comes to attack me and you


say what would I do? I wouldn't go and attack his children. Hitler came


to power in a democracy. The German people had something to do with him


gaining his position. So you think that justifies killing German


civilians? I've not said anything about killing German civilians.


Let's stick with German civilians, if I may, Nicky. We bombed Germany


in World War Two and we committed heinous, heinous crimes as a


country. I think we did terrible things. What was the option? We


could not do all the things that you'd love to do? I get what you're


saying, it's a lesser evil? We embrace a lesser evil to a greater


evil. It boils down to the lesser of two evils, that's what it boils down


to. Yes. It's still evil though, it was still evil, but it was the


lesser of two evils. General Tim, I'll come to you in a second. I can


see you're wanting to come back. But I want to speak to the Reverend


Doctor Andrew Francis from the Mennonite Trust, a peace church. Now


you believe there are never any circumstances whatsoever for


violence. We believe that as part of a historic peace church movement, we


follow the way of Jesus, who told us to turn the other cheek. He went to


suffering to death on a cross at the hands of a very cruel punishment. We


follow that way of Jesus. We're not seeking martyrdom ourselves. But we


aren't prepared, as a movement, to be part of something that sanctions


the bombing of civilians. We're not prepared to enter into violence as


the way forward. Andrew, what if that were to save lives? As, it is


argued, was the case in Kosovo, when those civilians were being


terrorised? Or, indeed, shamefully, we did not intervene in Rwanda as


millions were killed in a holocaust. Now, had there been military


intervention and had hundreds of thousands of lives been saved, would


that not have been justified? For us, we would not have got that far


because we actually believe there are alternative means that Bruce


Kent has already outlined, that Symon Hill has referred to. How


would you have stopped the tribal conflict? I think tribal conflict is


something different to the kind of questions about just war that you


are proposing. I'm not trying to split hairs here, you have referred


in your introduction to what is going on under the terms of the


Geneva Convention, which enshrines just war, that goes back through


Aquinas to Augustine. The whole principle is that it's legitimate


authorities waging war. Now, we have to accept that there are


circumstances where violence will occur in this world. One thing that


we would need to say as Mennonites is that often, the Mennonite Relief


Agency were some of the first people on the scene after the bombing at


9/11. They took the role in North America that the Salvation Army


often takes in this country. You would have been able to get the


Tutsis and the Hutus, the two tribes, around the table and get


them to work it all out? I said you wanted to come back to this. Yes,


the start of that point was about Jesus and I love the scriptures. I


know the Bible very well. But that would be the same pacifist Jesus who


trashed the temple, who turned over tables, who resorted to force and


violence. That violence can actually be non-violence. He wasn't hurting


people. And you know that? All right, so if I go into a shop and


trash the place, that's non-violent? I believe it is violent, You're just


disputing whether someone may or may not have been involved in it. It was


definite use of force at that time to put a political point. Force but


not violence. Pacifism isn't about being passive, it's about actively


being non-violent. Resisting injustice, like Jesus did, actively,


but a table doesn't have feelings. Overturning a table is not a violent


action. What about...? Tim, I promise I will come to you. Let's


take it to the personal. What if you were at home and a violent man got


into your house and was threatening your wife and children, and the only


way that you could counter that would be an extreme act of violence?


Active resistance, as Symon's referred to, can mean restraint


under the due process of the law. It doesn't mean actually hitting


somebody. When we talk about just war, it is about the amount of


force. Proportionately. Resisting with an appropriate level, so if


somebody breaks into my house and he intends to commit violence to me and


my loved ones, I am going to stand in the way of that person. Would you


hit that person? No, I wouldn't. I wouldn't. I like to think that I


wouldn't. Nicky, I've never been faced with that. Tested, yes. And


it's about that moment, and I have to believe that I will have the


courage, in that moment, and the grace to act in the way that my


belief demands that I should. Helen, I want to talk to you, actually, on


the whole concept of a just war and how it came about, but make your


point first. I find it hard to see why that would be considered the


moral choice, to let someone come in and, say, murder your children and


to do nothing. I find it hard to see why you think of that as being a


graceful response. And also I think it's a mistake to say proportionate


force is only resistance. That's just not true. Proportionate force


is judged in terms of what this person's proposing to do to your


wife and children and if they're going to kill your wife and children


then proportionate force is lethal? -- lethal defence. And I find it


really hard to reconcile your duties as a parent, for example, in the


special duty you have to protect your child with this refusal to


prevent them from being murdered if it's within your power to do so. I


can protect my child from being bullied, I can protect my child from


people in particular ways by using active resistance, by using not


violent means, by actually just standing with a chair at the top of


a set of stairs you can actually stop somebody getting... You can


think of one scenario in which that's sufficient, but we can easily


think of others in which the guy's got a gun and that's not sufficient.


Or a knife. I have to say that our position would lead us naturally to


the acceptance that it is better to kill - better to be killed than to


kill. That would be where our historic peace church witnesses. And


the Quakers as well. We do a tremendous amount of work with the


Quakers, we share so many common platforms, and what we would have to


say is that if that takes us unto death in terms of our wives and our


children as well, which is part of our history, which has been tragic


at the hands of others, we may have to accept that. You may have to


accept that. I want to ask Helen here, because I think we should make


clear, clarify this whole concept of just war, and why and how it came


about under the aegis of Christianity. It does begin, as you


said in the introduction, with Augustine. Augustine is tackling


this question of, how do we reconcile the general Christian


belief that it's wrong to kill people with Augustine's belief that


there could be just wars? And he decides that the way in which we can


do this is by conceiving of wars as a way of punishing aggression,


because if aggression is a sin, the punishment is a loving act. Was this


because as Christians we're thinking about the salvation of our souls?


But there was a dilemma that we were discussing with Tim earlier on. They


had this "thou shalt not kill" in the back of their minds. How are we


going to get round this one? Is that what it was? It's partly that. It's


also partly the question of Christian teachings about, for


example, people getting what they deserve. A lot of Christianity is to


do with getting into Heaven if you behave Well, and if you behave badly


then you will end up somewhere rather less pleasant, and yet war,


inevitably, involves inflicting, as we've heard, massive harm on people


that we would ordinarily think of as being innocent people. If you're


Augustine and you're faced with this question, well, how could it be just


that we engage in activities knowing that they're going to perpetrate


these massive harms on people? And the way in which Augustine tried to


solve this problem is by positing this notion of kind of collective


guilt. And thinking that when a nation aggresses, you can view each


member of that nation as in some way responsible, and so it's a very


early just war theory, quite far removed from what we think of as


just war theory these days. That has a very strong commitment to the


principle of community. So Augustine starts out with the notion of just


cause, but it's not until later that we start to get the broader just war


theories which we divide up into principles that were suggested prior


to the war. -- that judge justness. Tom Holland, while we are in the


mists of history. Well, I think the origins of the notions of war are


actually way back beyond Christianity because I think that


the entire sweep of human history you see two contradictory human


impulses embodied. One is instinctive recourse to violence.


The oldest remains of homo sapiens show signs of having been scalped


but on the other side there has always been a sense of anxiety about


recourse to violence. Even in the early civilisations, you do not want


to go to war if there is the risk of offending the gods, and essentially,


to begin with, the gods were there as a kind of insurance policy. If


they are happy with you, then it is safe to go to war. But gradually


over the course of time, that concept is moralised and so the


great Persian king Dorias I in the fifth century BC, he tells his


soldiers it is legitimate to go and attack this enemy because they have


offended the great god and those of you who die in battle will go to


Heaven. In the Roman Empire, the Romans had the conviction, and


Cicero, this great inspiration to Augustine - he had this conviction


that the Romans had never gone to war unjustly, that they had always


gone to war either because they had been insulted or because they were


defending their allies. And so you have this sort of wonderful notion


that in fact the Romans conquered the world in self-defence.


LAUGHTER So to take this from a just war,


this is a self-justification war. The Romans wouldn't say so. The


Romans would say... They're not here to answer. They would say the gods


had blessed them and it was for the good of the conquered to be


conquered. And that, of course, is a notion that has then fed into


Christian and Muslim nations of imperialism as well. We will come


onto that because you have written about it extensively, and, some


would say, contentiously! So, can there be a just war? I'm glad that


point's just been made because the tradition of just war is not just a


Christian one but common to all major religions and non-religious


traditions. And I think, yes, there clearly can be just wars and I think


part of the problem with the discussion we've been having is the


setting-up of full-on pacifism, people who don't believe in violence


in any circumstances, against people supporting war in a multitude of


circumstances. And I would say that war in genuine self-defence, in


defence of your own territory, as Britain fought in 1914, that is a


just war. I think it's a just war when people rise up against tyranny


and foreign occupation and use arms against foreign occupation. That can


be a just war although it's not always the right thing to do. And in


certain circumstances, as in the case where under international law


and the United Nations are fully endorsing a military campaign, that


can be just. I think the problem is that the large majority of wars that


are being fought today, particularly those that are involving Britain and


the United States and their allies, have not been just wars. They have


been disproportionate, they have been wars of aggression and wars of


domination. I think that's what we need to... To discuss. Stephen. You


twitched. I just want to pick up the point that has been made about some


of the wars that are going on at the moment. What is not being addressed


very often when we're engaging the war is the postbellum. What happens


after the war. And the way in which the societies which have been


victims, in a sense, of the wars that we've waged have actually been


left, almost, to their own devices. That is a very good point and I want


to explore that more in just a few minutes. But I think just while


we're here, I'd like to look at the religious justifications, and I want


to speak about the Muslim empire expansions in the Caliphate in a


second, Tom. Usama, there are in all scriptures you can find, if you want


to, justification for violence, justification for war, and I suppose


the jihadist would point to the verses of the sword in the Koran.


The idea of jihad is classically very similar to just war, actually.


A holy war with a strong sense of ethics for that are. In fact,


contemporary Muslim theologians agree with things like the Geneva


Convention, international treaties etc. The problem with the jihadists


is they are stuck in medieval concepts where it's very old school.


It's "us versus them", it's "obliterate the enemy", it's "behead


prisoners", etc. So they violate all kinds of modern international


conventions. We saw the 7/7 terrorist on that video saying, "we


are at war with you", and we had similar messages from the two men at


Woolwich. They feel they have Koranic justification, don't they?


Yes, of course they do, like all religious fundamentalists and


extremists do. But the overwhelming mainstream Muslim theology on this


is very clear that jihad must be underpinned by ethics and it's a


necessary evil. The Prophet himself went to war as a last resort. This


was always understood in classical Islam. War is sometimes,


unfortunately, a necessary evil. But if we can eliminate war, Muslims


would wholeheartedly welcome the abolition of war. One of the


practical issues is, like the police force, you need and impartial police


force to demilitarise society. If you want to demilitarise the world


you need an international police force which is impartial, and we


don't have that. The United States or Britain - one power cannot do


that. As an honest broker? Exactly. And I think that's one of the issues


for the next century for us to work to. When did martyrdom come into


play? Tom Holland? It's very difficult to fight against an enemy


who is willing to die. "We love death", all that stuff. Martyrdom is


crucial to the evolution of the Christian Church and the famous


phrase "the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church". What is


distinctive about the Christian conception of martyrdom is that it's


essentially passive. You do not resist it. You go to Heaven


willingly. Once the Roman Empire has become Christian, there then becomes


a need to demonstrate your devotion to God in another way, and so you


get the concept of monasticism, of aestheticism, and the monks who go


out into the desert and mortify their flesh, cast themselves as


soldiers of God. They see themselves engaged in spiritual warfare with


the demons. What then very interestingly happens with Islam is


that the Muslims look at the examples of the monks and they


declare that jihad is the monasticism of Islam but they


literalise what, in monasticism is a metaphor, so the soldiers of God, in


early Islam, become literal soldiers of God and they go off to the


frontier in Syria with the Byzantine Empire and they literally fight.


What is the Koranic justification for martyrdom and for rewards for


dying in battle? What is in that? The idea of martyrdom is about dying


a noble death. Living a noble life and dying for a greater cause. Has


that, in a sense, been misinterpreted? Oh, yes, absolutely.


The suicide bombers and the crazy jihadists who kill civilians, mainly


Muslim in the world, totally don't get this. And earlier on, in


addition to what Tom said, the spiritual aspect of jihad, the


greater jihad, was always understood as the struggle within your own soul


against evil and the outer jihad again was a last resort of necessary


evil. And Muslims especially, and others, have to recover the idea of


an inner jihad, the greater jihad, which is bringing out the goodness


of our humanity and resisting the evil within.


APPLAUSE Go on, Tom, yes? There's a


fascinating moment in the tenth century where the Byzantine Empire


and the Caliphate are at war and the Byzantine emperor, who is a seasoned


Saracen fighter, recognises that the teachings of Islam, that if you die


justifiably in battle in the cause of Islam you will go to Heaven. This


is tremendous in inspiring a sense of enthusiasm in battle for the


soldiers that he's fighting against. And so he goes to the patriarch in


Constantinople and essentially says, could you possibly rustle me up a


doctrine that would enable me to tell my soldiers that if they die in


battle... Because of a just war, could you rustle this up? "Could you


rustle one up, please, so that my soldiers will then feel that


fighting for our Christian empire, they will go to Heaven". And the


patriarch turns round and says, "no, afraid not. And not only that, but


if any of your soldiers kill people in battle, they'll have to do three


years' penance". Were they not even offered absolution? They have to do


the penance and then they get the absolution. And so the Byzantine


model of Christianity, Imperial Christianity, was always very, very


pacifist. Of course, at the same time in the Latin West, a different


notion was evolving. And so that explains why the Crusades come from


the Latin West and not from the Byzantine Greek Orthodox world. How


fascinating. Let's speak, if we may, and, Tim, you want to make a point,


but I want to move it on to discussion, if we can, about World


War I. But Tim, you want a minute to make a point? Reasons for war, and


how war is conducted. I think it is important to say, the Times put out


an article in the 1930s asking what was wrong with the world and GK


Chesterton said, "I am". We are all involved in this, we are all sinners


and we need to keep that firmly in focus, this is not an ideological


issue, this is about reality. My point about the distinction between


killing and murdering is that individual people should not be


going off and doing their own thing, and part of the just war criteria is


do you go to war in the first place, under the authority, the sovereign


authority of the United Nations. Bow sovereign states have sanctioned a


terrible things. The other thing then is how you conduct warfare, and


one of the point is that it was quite rightly is how you can --


conduct war. One of the responsibilities of the United


Nations is quite rightly saying we cannot stand by while people are


massacred but that does not give you the authority to do bad things in an


indiscriminate way. Let's get a couple of audience contributions. I


would like to say to this gentleman that if somebody came into my house


and started to attack my children and my wife and my dog, I would lie


down and die for them and I think that is what everybody would do, but


going on to what you just said, I am against war but if people are


getting massacred in places like Syria and what has been going on in,


say, Zimbabwe, surely there is justification for the United Nations


to go in and stop that sort of thing? I am not saying that his walk


I'm just saying that has to a dividing line -- that is war. And it


may involve the use of force, inevitably. I think so and I


disagree, those who say we should not be involved in these things have


to answer the question, in simple terms. I built refugee camps in


Kosovo, go and visit those in Turkey and other places around Syria and


ask yourself, is this right? My answer is it isn't. Another


gentleman. I would like to say to this gentleman, he mentioned that


his religious sector has a very tragic history. Don't you think it


will continue to be tragic if you just lay back and do not fight for


your family in the case of a murderer coming into your home? You


have a bit debate going here, you? Will move on to World War One in a


moment, thank you for the opportunity to respond. I don't seek


martyrdom, I don't seek... I love my partner dearly and I would die for


her today, without being ever able to say I love you to her as she


watches this live, I would die for her and I would die for her


daughter, but my principles and I know my principles and I know hers,


is that we do not want to inflict violence on anyone else and we have


to accept that the way we live and work with our friends and moving


groups and do community work, each of us, and the way we operate


professionally in my writing and teaching live, I have to say I want


people to engage more and more in dialogue to lift this issue are just


well. I'm not aiming this at you and your producers and the bar has to be


raised much higher. Bruce said at the outset of the programme, the


reasons that went on with Hitler, the root causes, we didn't get on


soon enough into that discussion. If you want to go to the First World


War, you can say similar things about that. Does it's not remain the


fact that there have always been bad people doing bad things. Or do we,


collectively, you said we are all in this together, do we create these


tyrants. I think we do to a large degree. If you look at the


beginnings of that, there were not many people around here who do not


think it was a just war. You have to see how people at the time saw this


and reacted to it, so the decision to go to war with Germany over their


invasion, there had been plenty of conversations beforehand, but none


of the things that Bruce mentions about crisis management, but there


were no people in this country who did not think it was not try to stop


Germany after they invaded Poland and the whole Western Sobran system


was in ways tied up in this, that it somebody invaded someone's sovereign


state, we had to do something about it, hence we got involved in Iraq


when they invaded Kuwait. So I don't think anyone saw anything other than


World War One being just. Now, the numbers are people who died, how it


was conducted 60 million deaths. Shore, and is it justified? I don't


know, but I don't know if I am going to sit here and say we should have


done nothing about Germany invading Belgium. I find that breathtaking,


the First World War was in no way a just war fought for the rights


of... It was a savage imperial slaughter, which was, in fact,


opposed by many people when it began, despite the jingoistic


fervour at the time, which quickly dissipated. It was a war to carve up


markets and resources and territories by Imperial College


around the world. They all shared responsibility for the way that


began -- imperial powers. Belgian sovereignty was just one factor in a


process of inexorable drive to war, which of course


Does this mean women and children, civilians should be shot out of hand


by invading German armies? I don't think two wrongs justify a right.


But the rights of small nations all over the world were not just


violated but were ripped up, and we are living with the consequences


today. Sticky yellow well, look, I'm sorry, I don't think this is a


football match where somebody scores a goal. We are trying to get at


something important here. Just look at the history of the Middle East.


It is more complicated... Can I just finished? Can I finish what I'm


saying? What I am trying to say is history is not a simple process,


that there are many explanations and one of the reasons we're talking so


much about the First World War and its origins is because there is so


much fear about it. The important thing is the discussion. The


problems in the Middle East, in part, date back to the settlements


made at the end of the First World War but they also date and due to


the fact that the Middle East is a very complicated part of the world


with many religions and ethnicities. There is a certain arrogance when we


assume the West is responsible for everything going wrong in the world.


Let us at least try to understand that people have agency as well. But


ask them what they feel about it today and the carving up of their


country between imperial powers? It has happened all over the world.


Certainty is usually the enemy of truth. Thank you. If your country


gets handed to foreign powers it has nothing to do with the rights of


small nations. Actually, it was something called self-determination.


Not only for Europeans. For India... But what about 20 years later? I do


think 20 years later is very long, actually. You get something called


self-determination that was not perfect. If we are looking for


perfection we are not going to get it. But we were looking through the


introduction where European powers had certain responsibilities...


Mandates were colonies. Like Syria, like Palestine. It is fascinating


listening to both of you, but the point made by Bruce early on about


the roots of war, it is coming into my mind, a famous cartoon after the


Treaty of Versailles with politicians having signed the


treaty, and there is a double boy crying, weeping because of the


unresolved issues and the dangerous road ahead, so it is almost as if


there was acknowledgement of that, as Bruce was saying, that they were


already planting the seeds of the next conflict. You can always go


back and see the seeds of conflict. In 1919 they were dealing with a


shattered world. I'd expect the circumstances were not very good and


you have nationalism running ramp -- rampant. This was not a peaceful


world. You had a whole lot of wars breaking out. The First World War


did not solve all the problems, it opened the door to other ones. But


to say that what happened in 1919, and my view, again, is that it was a


dangerous oversimplification. Why was Hitler rising in Germany? What


will people doing for 20 years? We'll have to allow agency interest


-- in history. There were choices and moments where Europe did not


have to go to war and it could have gone in another direction. And the


rampant anti-Semitism. Let's hear from some who have their hands up.


Good morning. Was listening to the gentleman on the front row who is


taking a very strong pacifist position. Andrew, you have everybody


talking! I think he is quite controversial and it has caused a


lot of debate, what he has said. One of the things he said is as a


pacifist you could never justify the targeting of civilians in warfare.


Everybody agrees with that, even if you support the notion of warfare.


Nobody wants the targeting of civilians. And what you have to take


into account is that the military technology we have today allows us


to target much more accurately those people who seek to do evil in the


world, and I accept there is a degree of some collateral damage, as


it is sometimes called, at it is nothing like the bombing of Dresden


during the war, where there is wholesale slaughter of people. So,


you know, you have to be a bit careful in the words you choose,


suggesting people who support the notion of a just war somehow justify


the killing of civilians. I am glad you raise the issue of weaponry,


because, of course, in the First World War, we saw an extraordinary


and frightening exoneration of this sort of technology of war. I mean,


you know, the poem of Wilfred Owen. "The white eyes writhing in his


face, his hanging face like a devil's sick of sin," the shock of


seeing the gas. Did it not move war to a new level where justification


and the idea of a just war was far more difficult because of the way it


was carried out? Yes, but I come back to my earlier point which is


still, I think, important which is the justification hyphen-macro is


this the right thing to be doing? And if it is, how do we conduct


this? But if they're using gas, you've got to use gas. Not


necessarily If they use machine guns... No? Not necessarily. How you


use technology, how you use weapon systems is, you know, dependent on


what you're trying to achieve. We don't use the same weapon systems


today that maybe we would have used then. And, quite rightly, people


regale against the use of gas, hence the position in Syria. So technology


moves on, counter technology and so on. But you're right, obviously, and


I'm supporting the general point that in terms of collateral damage,


targeting, the use of weapon systems, we are in a different world


today than we were back in 1914, 1918 or indeed 1939. But there were


weapon systems being used in the American Civil War that caused an


awful lot of people to be killed. I mean the weapon system is not, I


don't think, part of this debate in one sense. It's a related issue.


It's not the key driver. It's the scale of killing, surely. 800,000


people died in Rwanda using machetes, as you made the point


earlier. So let's not get confused by that. How many more would have


died had they had some of these... It's believed that modern technology


enables us to be more accurate. In reality, World War One, about half


the deaths were military. World War Two, most of the deaths were


civilian. Wars fought in the last 20 years, over 90% were civilian. So


far from modern technology making things more accurate, the percentage


of deaths that are civilian is going up. You're distinguishing two


different things. You're quite right. Warfare in 1914 era, 10%


civilian, 90% military died on battlefields that were contained in


an area of operations. Modern warfare is not like that. Modern


warfare does involve more deaths of civilians. Yes, it does, but that's


not because of... ALL TALK AT ONCE.


This does bring us to war and also Iraq, of course, because a lot of


people died in Iraq, You served there didn't you? Yes. Did you feel


that you were fighting in a just war as you served for the British Army?


Iraq's a controversial issue now. At the time when I left the military, I


questioned it but I know the good things that we did in Iraq. Whether


it was a just war, that's a massive umbrella term. That wasn't really


what a soldier was thinking when he was on the ground. Am I doing the


right thing here? You weren't thinking that? I wasn't thinking


that, I was thinking, "I'm very excited, I'm a soldier, I'm trained


and I want to go to war." As most soldiers were. But it wasn't... We


weren't sat there thinking about the just-war tradition, we weren't


reading the Testament while we were out there. Usana, you were fighting


for Mujahadjadin for a while in Afghanistan, weren't you? You


understood that sense of excitement, and the here and now, don't you?


Absolutely. There's a famous line of poetry in Arabic and Hebrew from the


Islamic and Jewish tradition which says, "War, it's like a beautiful


young woman to a young man. Very seductive until he chases after her,


she turns round and she's an old hag." And that's very deep wisdom


which says war is attractive, but the reality of it is terrible. I was


in Afghanistan again three years ago and I saw the reality of the current


conflict from both sides. Both sides, the Taliban and the NATO


troops, kill civilians routinely. Roadside bombs or rockets or drone


strikes. What you have to understand is the reality of 21st century


technology means so many civilians die in a war. We have to concentrate


on pre-emptive peace-making and strengthening the international


structures to avoid war, because war is so damaging now and so deadly.


Stephen. This is why just war theory needs rethinking now in the light of


what's happening after the consequences of war, what I was


trying to say before. The effect of some of the wars that have been


waged in the last 20 years has been that we've actually developed


terrorists who actually are so angry about what has been done to their


communities, done to their families, in the name of just wars, that in


fact they themselves become part of a new problem of war and terror. And


one way or another, we have to look at the consequences of what happens


after any war that is being waged. And frankly, one of the great


mistakes in the Iraq war was that was just not thought through


properly by the United States. And also interestingly, Peter... And I


know you wrote Blair's Just War. The subtitle is the important bit


though. What was the subtitle? "Iraq and the illusion of morality". Oh,


right, yes. I was going to put it in that context but the subtitle kind


of does it. It's interesting, because Stephen raised it here about


what you do in the aftermath, because I think Tony Blair touched


on this in his famous hyphen-macro people at the time were saying


landmark hyphen-macro speech in Chicago in 1999, when he was talking


about the concept of liberal intervention. He was talking about


Kosovo in this case, but he said, "When we're talking about


intervention..." He listed criteria, three of which were these ones. "We


must be sure of our case," he said. "We must be prepared for the long


term," and I guess he means a long conflict and also the aftermath. He


said, "Do we have national interests involved?" He asked those three


questions. Many would argue there are no ticks there at all, in terms


of Iraq. With Iraq he violated... His own arguments were very good and


actually, they weren't written by him. They were written by Professor


Laurence Freedman from King's College London. He read them out,


though. He read them out, and interestingly, for your interest,


Professor Freedman is sitting on the panel judging the Iraq war, which I


find fascinating. A good reflection of British politics. However, Blair


did not satisfy his own criteria over Iraq. And this issue of let's


intervene on humanitarian terms, on an ethical basis, but have we got


national self interest involved? It is a contradiction. Blair was one


constant contradiction, and he presented moral argument, or


supposedly moral argument after moral argument because he knew he


had no solid intelligence, he knew he had no legal basis and he was


trying to use highly emotive arguments to gain support from a


sceptical country. And he apparently studied Thomas Aquinas in detail and


St Augustine, he went through them with a fine-tooth comb. I'm sure he


did, and there's no-one that Tony Blair cannot bend to his own


advantage when it comes to the use of words. And the use of truth, come


to that. Bruce Kent. I just think that we're losing the main issue,


which to me is to stop wars in the future, to build the world


structures that makes war barbaric. I don't go around armed where I live


in Finchley. I come to Manchester, I'm not scared of people in


Manchester. We've actually built a world within our domestic society,


where non-violent settlement of dispute is normal. We have an


International Criminal Court which doesn't actually work. We have a


manifest arms trade for which this country is very responsible. We


threaten other people with nuclear weapons, we ignore law where we can.


And we're not building a world and children in school are not taught


global citizenship, they're taught British nationality. And I think


we've got a lot of changes to make in our whole system if we're going


to get rid of war. Some responses. The guy in the black top, first of


all. Hi. I'm an RE teacher and I must say, I do teach global


citizenship. That's something that's very important to me. But on this


issue, I think what we need to think about is we stress so much the first


instance of why we should go to war, the just cause, the suffering, the


response to suffering, and whether we've got legitimate authority. I


think this debate has shown, and I do agree, that we do need to think


more about the consequences. Whether we actually got a chance of success,


if we're going to have a peaceful resolution, those are also very,


very important principles of a just war. And if we are going to move


forward, we do need to build a UN that has actually got a chance of


putting that into practice. Which is easier said than done, given all the


competing interests and competing principles within that organisation.


How would you have Dealt? what would your response have been, if you were


the American President, Bruce Kent, to 9/11? To 9/11? What would I have


implemented? A criminal prosecution against the people concerned. I


would have debated with the authorities in Afghanistan who


actually wanted to put Bin Laden on trial in a Muslim country, if I


remember. I'd have explored all the non-violent ways. He had no


authority to go to war in Afghanistan whatsoever according to


the charter. None. Tim? Well, I understand that and I said earlier


on, declaring a war on terror is like declaring a war on sin, I don't


think it achieves very much. I do think when 2,000 people are killed


in a city like New York, there is an inevitable? I mean, I understood


that intellectually, but I only understood the emotion of it when I


lived in Washington in the run-up to Iraq in 2003 and I ended up by


working in Baghdad with the post-war, such as it was, the


post-war team. So, again, coming back to this point, I don't like


this football match, black and white. I'm not against what Bruce is


saying, I absolutely agree. So you're for it? We need institutions,


we need to develop the United Nations, we need crisis management.


We look at the roots and consequences. Ultimately, I have to


say the reality is, nonetheless, I sat and watched the mass graves


being dug up in Iraq and those who did not want that war have to say to


themselves, "What about those people?" What about the people being


killed in? I'm not suggesting that it's either or, I'm simply saying?


TALK OVER EACH OTHER. Seamus Milne. At the time the


invasion of Iraq took place, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch


estimated that maybe 200 people were dying every year because of


political causes or repression. Although many more were dying


because of sanctions. As a result, a direct result, of the invasion of


Iraq, which was aggression, which had no authority, false pretext and


was not a just war in any sense, the current estimates are that 500,000


people died. I think there has to be some realism about what's taken


place in this war. In Afghanistan, as well. We're talking about tens of


thousands of people who've died and none of the objectives have been


achieved. The war on terror has spread terror, rather than reducing


it, all over the region and beyond, including in this country. A quick


response, Usana. I want to speak to Joan about her grandson, Kevin. I


want to give a non-Western view. After 9/11, had the Muslim countries


been stronger, they could have implemented the Taliban desire to


put Bin Laden on trial. Similarly, in the First World War, don't forget


this, was seen by the rest of the world as a European civil war


between colonial powers. Also the Ottoman Empire, which allied with


the Germans who tried to get Muslims to rise up against the British


Empire and, of course, thousands of Muslims fought for the British


Empire in the First World War. So the rest of the world was caught up


in the politics, which most people thought wars are about politics and


economics. And the religious justification really comes


afterwards for some people. Joan, you lost Kevin, your grandson, and


you work very hard with Military Families Against the War, is that


the organisation? Yes, and the Stop the War Coalition. What happened to


Kevin? He was out on patrol, a company he'd never been out with


before someone couldn't go. And apparently was hit by an RPG. He and


another guy were killed at the same time. A sergeant. Did he believe


what he was doing was the right thing? Did he think that he should


have been there? I guess you had conversations. I did. He didn't


really think it out. All he would say to me was he served in Iraq and


that was much better, the people were better, everything was better


in Iraq compared to Afghanistan. The Iraqis didn't hate them quite as


much. Whereas every Afghani loathed them. Which I understand, because


our soldiers had attacked their country. If someone attacks us,


you're going to fight back. I can't agree with that chap saying no


violence. You've got to stand up for yourself. And Kevin just did not


enjoy? he'd actually left the army, he was walking out the gates, and


turned round and went back in again because he reckoned he couldn't


leave his friends to face it. Now that is one thing the army does


teach, I admire it. The camaraderie. They all look after each other. And


if schools and other organisations could get that, it would be


wonderful. If you could say anything to Tony Blair what would you say to


him? Well, he killed my grandson. He's responsible for his death.


There's no doubt about that. You really think that, do you? Oh, yes,


and I think Tony Blair and George Bush. Now, I've listened to a lot of


religious statements today, I have no religion at all. And I think


sometimes Blair and Bush were sort of making their Christian beliefs


against people who were not of Christian beliefs, Muslims and other


different religions. I think Tony Blair and George Bush, with their


extreme Christian beliefs, and they were extreme, they were quite happy


to attack Muslims. Let's put that to Tim, because what you said is very,


very strong. She believes Tony Blair killed her grandson. Well, I don't.


I understand the point about? I've been in the military for 40 years


and there's no better community, I can tell you. British soldiers are


fantastic. But, I have to be honest and say that I think the idea that


Tony Blair sort of rubbed his hands together with glee and goes to war


because he thinks it's a great idea, or Bush, or most other ordinary


people, I just think is wrong. Leadership is difficult, people make


difficult decisions, they make the choices they believe are right. Now


I don't believe that what happened in Iraq is necessarily a good thing,


I don't want to give that impression at all, but again you've got to put


it into context of history hyphen-macro where Blair comes from,


what he's seen through Rwanda, which had a searing effect on him, it had


a searing effect on Kofi Annan, the whole idea of the responsibility to


protect begins to emerge, your point about the Chicago speech? We get to


a place, Kosovo works well and I think Iraq, you know, flows from


that. And I'm not saying he's right. But the idea that he killed, in that


sense, deliberately, I just think it's wrong. He committed an act of


unprovoked aggression. For which he has not been held to account. Ladies


and gentlemen, there's been some fascinating points made, we have


unfortunately come to the end. But thank you all very much indeed.


Thank you very much for your participation. As ever the debate


will continue on Twitter, online. Join us next Sunday from Bishops


Stortford, but for now, it's goodbye from everyone here in Salford.


Thanks for watching.


Nicky Campbell presents a special edition of The Big Questions, asking whether war can ever be just. Amongst those taking part are historians Tom Holland and Margaret MacMillan, Major General Tim Cross, author and former army chaplain Dr Peter Lee, Guardian columnist Seumas Milne, Bruce Kent from the Movement for the Abolition of War, Dr Usama Hasan from the Quilliam Foundation, and the philosopher Dr Helen Frowe.

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