Res Gestae

(by Dr. Mohamed Elmasry)

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People will readily go to war once they have been impregnated with a sufficient intensity of hate, mixed with the essential ingredient of fear. They will eagerly follow any leader who promises (however spuriously) to protect them from what they are told to hate and/or fear. The masses can be programmed to hate, and these masterminds know it well.

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Although history generally records aggression as being committed by governments, the core fact is that it originates in the minds of a few ruthless leaders.

And while a given war is launched and won (or lost) as the project of a king or a ruler, it is the ordinary people on both sides who carry the multiple burdens of conflict, death, injury, fear, deprivation, and sorrow.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert admitted recently that his government planned last summer’s war against Lebanon for months in advance — a war that severely damaged Lebanon’s infrastructure for years to come. Israeli defense officials even gave the U.S. Pentagon a detailed presentation of their planned aggression well before the event.

Here is what retired U.S. general Wesley Clark said recently in an interview:

“About ten days after 9/11, I went through the Pentagon and I saw Secretary Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz … [O]ne of the generals called me [and said], ‘We’ve made the decision we’re going to war with Iraq.’ … And he said, ‘I guess if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem has to look like a nail.’… So I came back to see him a few weeks later, and by that time we were bombing in Afghanistan. I said, ‘Are we still going to war with Iraq?’ And he said, ‘Oh, it’s worse than that.’ He reached over on his desk. He picked up a piece of paper. And he said, ‘I just got this down from upstairs’ — meaning the Secretary of Defense’s office — ‘today.’ And he said, ‘This is a memo that describes how we’re going to take out seven
countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran’.”

Shocking? Today, United Nations diplomats will readily say that most U.S. intelligence information shared with the UN’s nuclear watchdog agency has proved inaccurate and none of it has led to significant discoveries inside Iran.

But this does not matter to George Bush as he doggedly pursues his dangerous and aggressive ideology, which can be summed up in simplistic Bush-ian terms as: “I Am Right. You Are Wrong. You Are Dead.”

Over the long continuum of “res gestae” in human history one can identify the occasional “just war” of aggression; but aggression itself, for its own sake, has never been just or justifiable. No massive action intended to cause death, destruction and misery can truthfully be called a response of self-defense.

Today’s aggressive military adventurers, like the gold-greedy pirates of land and sea before them, tend to live their lives with swords always drawn, ready to kill and plunder their next victims. They have no capacity or time, it seems, to consider justice, reverence or compassion for the souls of their fellow human beings.

Understanding ethics is not as complicated as some make it out to be. Only those who are thoroughly wicked at heart could deny that freedom and peace per se are good things. The greater evil in our world comes from those who want freedom and peace only for themselves, but not for others. Thus to study history without considering its ethical implications is like studying law without understanding the deep meanings of right and wrong.

An ancient proverb states that even the strongest person cannot live in peace if his or her neighbours do not feel they are treated justly.

(Dr. Mohamed Elmasry is national president of the Canadian Islamic
Congress. )