War is a Crime!
In this column, Johan Galtung,
rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University and author of "50 Years - 100
Peace and Conflict Perspectives" (www.transcend.org/tup), writes that waging
war turns states into criminals.
VERSONNEX, France, Oct 24 2013
(IPS) - Nobody has brought this simple message
to the world like the Perdana Global Peace Foundation in Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia. As the leader, Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia’s fourth prime minister,
says: “Peace for us simply means the absence of war. We must never be deflected
from this simple objective”.
So they organise compelling exhibitions
and conferences to highlight the atrocities and horrors of war, starting
with World War I, often in cooperation with the Muhammadiyah Yogyakarta
University in Indonesia.
A very clear message from the
Southeastern part of the world to the Northwestern part: Stop It! All
your rules of war add up to its legitimation:
wars get ever worse as measured by the percentage
of non-combatant, civilian casualties – from about 10 percent in World
War I to 90 percent in the Vietnam war and other wars at the end of the
20th century. They dare refer to crimes as
“unintended consequences” or “collateral damage”.
Take Norway, a “peace nation”,
as an example, not the United States and Israel with their concept of being
chosen, and their exceptionalism. See what Norway does against the spirit
of U.N. Security Council resolution 1973 aimed at protecting civilians,
promoting a cease-fire and mediating a political solution in Libya. And
against U.N. Charter Article 2 outlawing the use of war.
According to testimony given
by pilots to the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation, 25 percent of the
bombing was planned with targets selected in advance. The rest were chosen
by the pilots who, 40,000 feet up, decided
that buildings, roads and people they saw were targets: “We
were told to fly into an enormous area the size of Southern Norway and
search for targets ourselves. We were used to clearance from somebody on
the ground, but did not get it.”
did get regime change. Norway
obeyed orders, doing its part.
This is criminal activity, like
mass murderers gone amok shooting wildly, killing whatever moves. Who ordered
it? The Labour Party prime minister, foreign minister and defence minister
in a “red-green” (meaning brown) coalition. Who did it? The pilots.
According to the Nuremberg Tribunal,
the latter cannot claim they only followed orders; and according to the
Tokyo Tribunal the former cannot claim that they were unaware of what happened.
It is the duty of the pilots to assess the legality of what happens, and
of the politicians to know what happens.
The case is now being made at
the European Human Rights Court in Strasbourg, the International Criminal
Court (where Norway does not enjoy U.S. protection), and the Norwegian
They will encounter incomprehension
in Norway: We, the perfect ones? Crimes?
must globalise crimes against humanity – a
crime committed somewhere is a crime committed everywhere, like in the
case of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.
A criminal can in the future
be arrested in any state in the world, extradited
or tried where he is arrested. The Mother of parliaments in London showed
the way as it also did for the war in Syria; a solvable crisis.
This would limit their freedom
of travel as it already does for some top U.S. and Israeli politicians.
But beyond that there
is another approach: excommunicating such states from the inter-state system
and the U.N., breaking
or downgrading bilateral diplomatic relations.
Trade is not the issue; state
legitimacy, unless that state itself takes action indicting the “warlords”,
is. The present system gives a U.S. president
the right almost single-handedly to press the nuclear button.
Where does this madness come
from? From the Westphalia 1648 “peace” giving
states the right to declare war?
That does not explain the
concentration of the “right” to engage in mass murder at the top of the
The Abrahamic god kills massively
– more in the Torah and the Bible than in the Qur’an; to be a King Dei
gratia, by the grace of god, bestows the same right on kings, transferred
to their successors – the presidents and prime ministers.
Not strange that we find most
belligerence in the West. [Are
there perhaps politico-economic causative factors, coupled with the present
hegemony of the top-most Western power, that are driving Western belligerence?
This should be considered seriously, though it does not void research into
the socio-cultural factors, their religious, thus ideological components,
and the deep-psychological origins of aggression. The editor.]
Democracy or not, it does not matter. The “grace of god” was transferred
to the people, in vox populi vox Dei, leading to the
grotesque idea that democracies have more of a mandate to kill.
As if democracy was about killing and not about the non-violent transfer
of power and resolution of conflicts. The exact opposite of, and the remedies,
to war and killing.
We are moving in this direction.
As inter-state war become more rare, wars will stand out as exceptional,
illegitimate, and illegal under the U.N. Charter.
The old laws of nations applied
to inter-state wars, but that distinction loses its significance as the
world evolves. R2P – “responsibility to protect”
(which authorises military intervention as a last resort) – kills in the
territory of other states, unlike self-defence
by defensive military in one’s own.
Could ulterior motives be behind
the dubious idea of killing people to save people?
Have all other means really been used? Not diplomats trained in promoting
the interests of their own nation, but massive non-violent invasion from
the outside as a buffer, protecting some while impeding others?
Deep mediation applied to all
parties to the conflict, not only two chosen to fit the Abrahamic search
for God vs Satan, translated into People vs Hitler and his likes; readily
Not strange if patriarchy and
patriotism are yielding to parity and globalism. The
Fifth Commandment, Thou shalt not kill, was for in-group only. But today
we are ever more one big in-group.
Using states to kill makes the
killers outlaws. Criminals. Stop it.
This back-up copy is made available simultaneously with a link to the
It is intended to keep this historical document accessible for research
We thank IPS New Service for publishing many valuable texts by Johan
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in Society # 14, Contents.
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