carol-christ“They used chemical weapons, we must do something to stop them.”  A justification widely used in support of President Obama’s decision to launch a military strike against Syria.

We fought the Civil War to end slavery and racism. We fought the Second World War to end fascism. Did we end racism? Did we end fascism? Howard Zinn

At the time of the Revolutionary War, “a not inconsiderable Quaker element was on principle opposed to war, as itself a greater evil than any it might seek to right.”

Michelle Obama is against military intervention in Syria. Does the President dismiss Michelle’s dissent as “womanish”?

Dwight-D-Eisenhower-Pacifistic-QuotePatriarchy is a system of male dominance, rooted in the ethos of war which legitimates violence, sanctified by religious symbols, in which men dominate women through the control of female sexuality, with the intent of passing property to male heirs, and in which men who are heroes of war are told to kill men, and are permitted to rape women, to seize land and treasures, to exploit resources, and to own or otherwise dominate conquered people.

“[W]e must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military–industrial complex.”  Dwight D. Eisenhower

The drums of war have stopped beating publically–at least for now. Obama’s decision to ask Congressional authorization to bomb Syria for 90 days—remember that number, 90 days–has been tabled—at least for now.  But make no mistake, the  military industrial complex is still barking at the heels of US government decison-makers.  The notion that while women may be for peace, “real men must make war” is still operative in the American psyche.

In my years of opposing specific American wars, I have concluded that war is itself a greater evil than any it might seek to right.

Howard Zinn made this clear in his lecture on “Three Holy Wars.”  We did not have to fight the American Revolution.  We still could have been free, and we might have been Canadians.  We did not have to fight the Civil War.  Slavery could still have been ended, though it might have taken longer. If the Civil War had not humiliated the South, the racism that still infects the South and the North might not have become so deeply entrenched. Slavery was ended in the British Empire without war.  Racism has not been overcome in the United Kingdom, but it is not nearly as virulent there as it is in the United States.

What about the Second World War? Didn’t we fight it to end the death camps of Nazi Germany? In fact, the death camps played little or no role in the United States’ decision to enter the war, and the records show that Franklin Delano Roosevelt did not choose to “divert war resources” to bomb the train lines to the death camps during the war.  Was fascism defeated? Or  reborn in the USSR?  Are there no fascist regimes in the world today? Why is the US presence on the global scene perceived by many around the world as virtually indistinguishable from that of a fascist imperial empire?

What would 90 days of bombing Syria achieve?  Those who say that 90 days of “strikes” would “take out” only “military targets” are kidding themselves or engaged in outright lying.  If Obama only intended to “send a message” or to bomb a few military bases or airports, he could do that in 3 days or even in 3 hours—no need to ask for 3 months of bombing.

If the US or its allies bomb Syria in the future, there will certainly be “collateral damage.”  That means innocent women, children, and men not engaged in the conflict will be killed.  Homes and shops will be destroyed, fertile fields poisoned, and more families forced to flee.  And for what? There are no “good guys” in this conflict.  The opposition includes radicals Islamists (not to be identified with all Muslims)  with ties to Al Qaeda.  Do we really want to put them in power?  Will this end fascism in Syria? Create democracy?  For women?  End the “threat” posed by chemical weapons?

What does it mean to say that war itself is a greater evil than any evil it might seek to right? War kills. Modern wars kill millions.  Are these “sacrifices” justified by the “higher good” war intends to achieve? War destroys buildings and poisons the environment. Is this “sacrifice” justified by a higher good?  War creates trauma and leaves behind traumatized individuals.  Traumatized individuals re-enact the violence of war on themselves and others.  Are these “sacrifices” justified?

Who would choose to be raised in a family with a traumatized mother or father?  Who would knowingly choose traumatized individuals to lead countries?  In Daughters of Copper Woman Anne Cameron wrote that the Native cultures of the American Northwest understood that it takes 4 generations of peace cleanse a society of the effects of war.

Barbara LeeUS Congresswoman Barbara Lee of California was the sole vote against authorizing George Bush to go to war with Afghanistan.  She led the opposition to a war in Syria, and so far she has succeeded.  Lee said in an interview, “[T]he use of force at this point would create more havoc, more violence, more death. I’m concerned about the possibility of retaliation, of regional conflict or war breaking out, I’m concerned about more innocent lives being taken. I think there are non-military alternatives that we have to push hard. No one says it’s going to be easy, but we have to get to a negotiated settlement that the president and John Kerry talk about. Now some would insist that a strike is the only way you could get the Assad government to come to the table, but I don’t believe going to war will lead to a negotiated settlement.”

For for now at least, Barbara Lee’s courage is paying off and those of us who stand with her can breathe a sigh of relief. However, we must remain vigilant as the military industrial complex remains powerful, and we have yet to transform cultural images that associate masculinity with willingness to wage war.

Carol P. Christ  is proud to be a constituent of Congresswoman Barbara Lee.  Carol is dreaming of the fall Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete which she will lead through Ariadne InstituteAriadnian Crete was a society of peace, not war. It is not too early to sign up for the spring or fall pilgrimages for 2014.  Carol can be heard on a WATER TeleconferenceHer books include and Rebirth of the Goddess and the widely-used anthologies Womanspirit Rising and Weaving the Visions.

Author: Carol P. Christ

Carol P. Christ is a leading feminist historian of religion and theologian who leads the Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete, a life transforming tour for women. www.goddessariadne.org

4 thoughts on “WAR, WAR, WHAT ARE WE FIGHTING FOR? by Carol P. Christ”

  1. And since the days of Homer, our heroes have been warriors. Well, they’re not not my heroes. Brava! Will we ever have a peace society? Strong, brave blog. Good for you!


  2. You are so right, Carol, in everything you say here. War as business and domination, as ‘masculinity’, as privilege and superiority, it’s all tied together – a web of lies so difficult to untangle and undo. I so appreciate your voice on this. Thank you.


  3. Redefining the notion of heroism may help young men and all other people to disassociate heroism with soldiering and killing and she spurious bravery that comes from seeing your enemy destroyed. There is heroism in ordinary things like a single mother working to feed and educate her children, doctors without borders who alleviate suffering, young women voicing their objection to being cut to fit into the fashion industry’s narrow confines of “beauty”, the voice of anyone who speaks their convictions against racism, misogyny, sexism, and prejudice.


  4. I agree with most of this, especially where you write, “The notion that while women may be for peace, ‘real men must make war’ is still operative in the American psyche.” But I cannot agree with your implication the the US should have stayed out of WWII (funny I was just thinking about this the other night). First, we were directly threatened–I remember the blackouts to avoid being targeted by bombers, I remember the German subs off the east coast, I remember the overt antisemitism that had spread to the US, and although I was too young to understand the details of what was going on in Europe, from history I know that just about all European countries but Britain and Russia had been defeated by Nazi Germany. That FDR was not targeting train lines is not as consequential to me as the fact that US intervention did result in the defeat of Hitler and the rescue of people in the concentration camps. Re: fascism and Russia. I don’t consider the dictatorship in the former USSR, nominally socialist, to be the same as fascism. It was a socialist dictatorship (similar to Cuba). And to me all dictatorship–including what is going on now in some of the US states–e.g. Michigan) is bad. To me a socialist dictatorship is different from fascism and a fascist dictatorship, which is what Nazi Germany was. Fascism, as I understand it,is the political theory and practice that one culture, “race,” etc., is better than another. (One might say that nationalism, taken to the extreme, is a form of fascism.) However, I strongly agree with your analyses of other wars and strongly resonate with your statement, ” War creates trauma and leaves behind traumatized individuals. Traumatized individuals re-enact the violence of war on themselves and others.” I believe that initiating military intervention when we have not been attacked and there is no imminent threat of attack is wrong. I would prefer we keep out of the Middle East because, on a practical level, it is a no-win situation, and on an ethical/philosophical level, it is not our battle to fight and is likely to result in more death without any gain in settling the disputes there or establishing more democratic and peaceful governments.


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