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Michael Walzer on Just War and Terrorism

A major criticism leveled at this justification is that it does not fulfill one of the requirements of a just war and that in waging war preemptively, the United States undermined international law and the authority of the United Nations , particularly the United Nations Security Council. On this ground, by invading a country that did not pose an imminent threat without UN support, the U.

Additional criticism raised the point that the United States might have set a precedent , under the premise of which any nation could justify the invasion of other states. Richard N. Haass , president of the Council on Foreign Relations , argues that on the eve of U. There was no vital American interests in imminent danger and there were alternatives to using military force, such as strengthening existing sanctions.


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Excerpts from an April report compiled from sixteen U. In the United Kingdom , critics have claimed that the Blair government used the War on Terror as a pretext to radically curtail civil liberties, some enshrined in law since Magna Carta. For example, the detention-without-trial in Belmarsh prison: [16] controls on free speech through laws against protests near Parliament [17] and laws banning the "glorification" of terrorism: [18] and reductions in checks on police power, as in the case of Jean Charles de Menezes [19] and Mohammed Abdul Kahar. European Convention on Human Rights impose on the government a "legal obligation" to investigate and prevent potential torture and human rights violations.

Bush's remark of November claiming that "You're either with us or you are with the terrorists," [22] has been a source of criticism. Thomas A.

Keaney of Johns Hopkins University's Foreign Policy Institute said "it made diplomacy with a number of different countries far more difficult because obviously there are different problems throughout the world. I think that history is definitely repeating itself and for the Muslim world and I think even a great part of the non-Muslim world now, are beginning to recognize that there are ambitions that the United States has on the lands and wealth of nations of Islam.

Robert Pape [26]. University of Chicago professor and political scientist, Robert Pape has written extensive work on suicide terrorism and states that it is triggered by military occupations , not extremist ideologies.

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In works such as Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism and Cutting the Fuse , he uses data from an extensive terrorism database and argues that by increasing military occupations, the US government is increasing terrorism. In , a National Intelligence Estimate stated that the war in Iraq has increased the threat of terrorism.

The estimate was compiled by 16 intelligence agencies and was the first assessment of global terrorism since the start of the Iraq war. Cornelia Beyer explains how terrorism increased as a response to past and present military intervention and occupation, as well as to 'structural violence'. Structural violence, in this instance, refers to economic conditions of backwardness which are attributed to the economic policies of the Western nations, the United States in particular. British Liberal Democrat politician Shirley Williams wrote that the United States and United Kingdom governments "must stop to think whether it is sowing the kind of resentment which is the seedbed of future terrorism.

Department of State as a terrorist organization, sparking criticism. In , New York Times terrorism reporter Rukmini Callimachi said "there are more terrorists now than there are on the eve of September 11, not less There are more terror groups now, not less. The alleged mastermind behind the September 11, attacks was part of the mujahideen who were sponsored, armed, trained and aided by the CIA to fight the Soviet Union after it intervened in Afghanistan in Venezuela accused the U. As many critics have pointed, out, terrorism is not an enemy. It is a tactic.

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Michael Walzer on Terrorism and Just War

Because the United States itself has a long record of supporting terrorists and using terrorist tactics , the slogans of today's war on terrorism merely makes the United States look hypocritical to the rest of the world. A prudent American president would end the present policy of "sustained hysteria" over potential terrorist attacks.. In the months leading up to the invasion of Iraq, President Bush and members of his administration indicated they possessed information which demonstrated a link between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda.

Published reports of the links began in late December ABC News broadcast a story of this link soon after. Amnesty International Secretary General Irene Khan criticized the use of pro-humanitarian arguments by Coalition countries prior to its invasion of Iraq , writing in an open letter: "This selective attention to human rights is nothing but a cold and calculated manipulation of the work of human rights activists.

Fighting Terror with Terror

Let us not forget that these same governments turned a blind eye to Amnesty International's reports of widespread human rights violations in Iraq before the Gulf War. The term "torture by proxy" is used by some critics to describe situations in which the CIA [41] [42] [43] [44] and other US agencies transferred supposed terrorists, whom they captured during their efforts in the 'War on terrorism', to countries known to employ torture as an interrogation technique.

Some also claimed that US agencies knew torture was employed, even though the transfer of anyone to anywhere for the purpose of torture is a violation of US law. Where appropriate, the United States seeks assurances that transferred persons will not be tortured. This US programme also prompted several official investigations in Europe into alleged secret detentions and unlawful inter-state transfers involving Council of Europe member states, including those related with the so-called War on Terrorism.

A June report from the Council of Europe estimated that people were kidnapped by the CIA on EU territory with the cooperation of Council of Europe members and rendered to other countries, often after having transited through secret detention centres " black sites " , some located in Europe, utilised by the CIA. According to the separate European Parliament report of February , the CIA has conducted 1, flights, many of them to destinations where these alleged 'terrorists' could face torture, in violation of article 3 of the United Nations Convention Against Torture.

One aspect of the criticism regarding the rhetoric justifying the War on Terror was religionism, or more specifically Islamophobia. Theologian Lawrence Davidson, who studies contemporary Muslims societies in North America, defines this concept as a stereotyping of all followers of Islam as real or potential terrorists due to alleged hateful and violent teaching of their religion. He goes on to argue that "Islam is reduced to the concept of jihad and Jihad is reduced to terror against the West.

In , strong majorities supported the U. The report also indicated that Indian public support for the War on Terror has been stable. House Committee on Foreign Affairs , noted that and according to the Pew Research Center polls conducted in , "the ongoing conflict in Iraq continues to fuel anti-American sentiments. He criticized the War on Terror as describing the mission as "deeply ashamed that I served a criminal organization such as NATO, led by the USA and its perverse interests around the world.

Researchers in communication studies and political science found that American understanding of the "War on Terror" is directly shaped by how mainstream news media reports events associated with the conflict. Kuypers illustrated "how the press failed America in its coverage on the War on Terror. This goes beyond reporting alternate points of view, which is an important function of the press.

It was as if the press were reporting on a different speech. These findings suggest that the public is misinformed about government justification and plans concerning the War on Terror. Others have also suggested that press coverage contributed to a public confused and misinformed on both the nature and level of the threat to the U.

Lustick, claimed, "The media have given constant attention to possible terrorist-initiated catastrophes and to the failures and weaknesses of the government's response.


  1. ON THE ETHICS OF WAR AND TERRORISM.
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  3. The Ethics of War: Self-Defense, Humanitarian Intervention, Terrorism and Law.
  4. Scott Atran writes that "publicity is the oxygen of terrorism" and the rapid growth of international communicative networks renders publicity even more potent, with the result that "perhaps never in the history of human conflict have so few people with so few actual means and capabilities frightened so many. Media researcher Stephen D.

    Cooper's analysis of media criticism Watching the Watchdog: Bloggers As the Fifth Estate [56] contains several examples of controversies concerning mainstream reporting of the War on Terror. Cooper found that bloggers' criticisms of factual inaccuracies in news stories or bloggers' discovery of the mainstream press' failure to adequately verify facts before publication caused many news organizations to retract or change news stories. David Barstow won the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting by connecting the Department of Defense to over 75 retired generals supporting the Iraq War on television and radio networks.

    The Department of Defense recruited retired generals to promote the war to the American public. After a lengthy discussion, Nathanson's conclusions on collateral killing are not unusual and, in fact, are quite similar to Walzer's account back in Just and Unjust Wars and ever since. War inevitably harms civilians. Any non-pacifist view must allow for some degree of collateral killing.

    Terrorism - Oxford Handbooks

    If wars are to be fought at all, some incidental harm to civilians must be permissible. Such collateral harm to civilians is justified when it is sincerely unintentional, is incurred in the course of an attack which aims to discriminate between combatants and noncombatants, and where considerable precautions are taken to that effect. Questioning what counts as serious precautionary efforts to avoid harming civilians, Nathanson refers us to Israel's incursion into Gaza, which, Nathanson mentions in passing, "resulted in 1, civilian deaths" p.

    While Israeli and Palestinian figures differ, the most widely accepted estimate of the total death toll for Gaza ranges from 1, to 1, It is noteworthy, however, that Nathanson's figures on Gaza, as stated, are somewhat misleading. They are accurate to the extent that none of the Palestinian casualties were uniformed soldiers. As presented in the context of his discussion on collateral damage, however, Nathanson's figures suggest, perhaps inadvertently, that all were protected civilians. Another Cambridge University Press volume on terrorism also published in , Michael Gross's excellent Moral Dilemmas of Modern War , helpfully explains the dispute over numbers:.

    The Palestinians count over civilians among the dead, while Israeli figures number only to Obviously, this makes a huge difference when assessing proportionality.

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    The problem is not one of identification; authorities knew the names of most of the dead. Rather, the dispute turns on affiliation. Who, exactly, counts as a civilian or combatant? If, contra everyone involved, all 1, casualties in Gaza were protected civilians, as Nathanson implies, this would mean that Hamas suffered virtually no combatant casualties and that the Israeli Defence Forces rarely, if ever, struck a legitimate target.

    Though this may seem like a minute criticism of Nathanson's account, one would expect a page discussion of collateral damage and proportionality to include accurate detailed figures, or at least to back up controversial ones with some sort of data. Be that as it may, Nathanson's emphasis is on the precautionary measures for safeguarding civilians in wartime, which he regards as an independent principle of his ethics of war rather than an interpretation of the proportionality requirement or a mere addition to other restrictions.

    Walzer, in Nathanson's view, merely "sees the precautionary requirement as a gloss on the principle of double effect. It is not enough for soldiers not to intend to kill civilians; they must take serious precautions to avoid collateral harm. In Walzer's words: they "must intend not to kill civilians, and that active intention can be made manifest only through the risks the soldiers themselves accept in order to reduce the risks to civilians. Armies must carefully choose targets and methods that aim to discriminate between combatants and civilians. Soldiers may never be negligent or reckless with civilian lives and must protect civilians even by assuming greater personal risk.

    Beyond this, Nathanson affirms the traditional proportionality requirement stated in the Geneva Protocols. Even once these precautionary conditions have been met, Nathanson explains, whatever harm to civilians remains must still be proportionate in relation to the anticipated military advantage of the attack. Placing collateral damage under these restrictions clearly separates it from the intentional terrorist acts which many of us condemn. Terrorists, needless to say, do not take precautions in order to spare civilian lives.

    Only an ethics of war that places permissible harm to civilians under these severe restrictions, Nathanson concludes, is a sound basis for sincere condemnation of terrorism. Nathanson certainly succeeds in showing that adhering to his restrictions on collateral damage distinguishes legitimate warfare from terrorism and that condemnation of the latter is credible when it comes from his ethics of war.

    Ultimately, his readers will have to judge whether Nathanson's ethics of war is essentially different from Walzer's on these scores, or significantly distinguishable from the ethical views shared by many of us who believe our own condemnation of terrorism to be no less credible than Nathanson's.