Does God Love War? with Chris Hedges

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Event Name: Does God Love War? with Chris Hedges
Transcription Date:Transcription Modified Date: 5/9/2019
Transcript Version: 1

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I mean the the the most fundamental
verse about war in the Quran actually
states that it permission is granted to
fight for those who are being aggressed
upon and had it not been granted mosques
synagogue in 'z with
synagogues temples churches and mosques
would be destroyed and so the idea is
really it's the defense of the sacred
that that is something worth defending
and there's a verse in the Quran that
says party to whom at acuña fatahna
fight those who are aggressing on you
until persecution ends you know the idea
of religious persecution which is a lot
of what this country is about was was
about that I mean people look on the the
Puritans as as a really negative group
of people and and there's some negative
things about that but they you know when
they when they came here they were
fleeing a persecution that was going on
in England and it took a little while
but if you look at the founding father I
mean I find it really interesting that
they were so set on this issue this one
single issue and they really wanted a
plurality of face and and if you look at
some of the early documents when they
were when they were discussing the
question during the Continental Congress
of what they're called religious tests
which is where they wanted to test
people to make sure they were
Trinitarians before they could hold
public office but one of the things that
one of the arguments that was made was
if we don't have religious tests it's
it's possible that a Mohammedan or a Jew
could actually become president of the
United States and ayrton who was from
Zizek South Carolina actually said this
recorded I'm missus in our you know
founding documents he said if the the
American people ever chose a Mohammedan
to be President it would be for one of
two reasons the country had become
Mohammedan and or they found him to be
the most upright and acceptable person
for the job and in that case that was
their prerogative so the fact that they
discussed that issue is really
interesting to me and I think it gives
lie to allow the Religious Right who
quote people like Patrick Henry you know
Patrick Henry's I really he was I mean
we just
had his great-great
great-great-great-great granddaughter
was just here a Virginia gray Henry she
stayed at my house one night so and I
and I always kind of chide her on that
you know what a great grandfather you
had cuz give me liberty or give me death
right every American's supposed to know
that not that maybe did mean that type
of Liberty that the fundamentals were
talking about but um Patrick Henry was
after the Revolution you don't hear
about him anymore because he those type
of people are completely marginalized
people like Thomas Paine was too radical
do you know because he was totally anti
religion and Patrick Henry was too
radical because he was too religious you
go to the top and and so I really think
people fail to recognize how weary they
were of that encroachment of religion
and the reason they that a lot of
historians believe john adams lost the
presidency his his second term to
jefferson was because he was too
religious he started these thanksgiving
days where everybody in the country was
supposed to fast and americans didn't
like that you brought up this issue and
that's one of the questions from the
audience i'm going to bring that up when
you were talking chris up there and your
opening remarks we came across sort of
as being completely so anti-war and that
you do not believe this any so the
question really is is there a just war
do you believe in a just war and i know
you've said before in your writings that
you're not a pacifist so can you just
talk a little bit about that idea with
where you come from
i am i just have problems with the term
just war because it appears to give a
moral quality to war i think that there
are wars that are inevitable sitting
around Sarajevo at the height of the
siege with the people in the city and
having a discussion about pacifism would
have you know evoked gales of laughter
you know the fact is you know we knew
that the Serbs were a few hundred yards
away we knew what they've done in the
Drina Valley we knew that if they broke
through those lines at best people would
be displaced and many of them would be
killed and they would lose their homes
that was not a question
so one fully understood that very
natural reaction in the case of Bosnia
for people to pick up a weapon and
defend their families their community
and their city but that didn't save them
from the poisonous effects of war and
and I think that's what I I think that
that part of that mythology of wars
being glorious and and or that you know
the the way this war was sold to us that
it's you know just a big video game that
that disconnect from the reality of war
allows us to fall into morasses
such as the one we've fallen into Iraq I
think we always have to understand what
war is that war when we carry out war
it's always tragic and it always is
corrupting to the soul even if it's done
in what we could quote on Poe call to
Just Cause there I wanted to reinforce
what you'd said about the the Jewish
tradition about blood and because
there's a prophetic hadith that that the
Prophet Muhammad was a lot of said he
actually said that everyone will have
room on the day of judgment except
people that have spilt blood the and
that's actually the first thing
according to some tradition that people
are judged on and there's a very
interesting Imam Shahani who's a
theologian early theologian he in his
section on jihad he mentions a very
intriguing tradition about David that
when he was building the temple every
time he would build he would come back
the next day and the rocks were all they
were back where they started and so he
asked God to explain to him and he said
you're building this on blood
and he said but it was blood that was
shed in your path and he said it was
still blood that was shed and so you
know Imam Xiao Tong Xiao Tong he says
about that he said this is a proof that
shedding blood is never a good thing in
the eyes of God and that even when it's
done and and has some legitimacy like in
self-defense and things like that
something is taken from the the people
that shed blood and that restoration is
part of what religion is is very good at
is trying to restore and renew the
person by you know the rituals that are
done that people do to purify but it's
that process of a tone which I think is
real I think that you know that's why
you find I think the people who can cope
best are those people who after being
forced in that situation where they had
to take life really make an effort after
war to dedicate their lives to
protecting and conserving life and and I
think that I very healthy would you know
Vietnam and I and I'm really troubled
about these young people that are going
to come back from Iraq but we forget one
of the things are blinded out in iron
John was that there have been more
suicides from Vietnam vets than people
then people died in the war 54,000 we've
been more suicides and you know my
brother used to drive a cab in in the
city and and who told me many times he'd
picked these people up at night late at
night at bars and he would drive and
they would weep the whole way back to
their home and tell him about what they
did in Vietnam and there's still people
out there you know 20 percent of our
homeless or Vietnam vets you know I mean
there's there's a whole generation that
we haven't really dealt with very well
and the pain and suffering that goes
with that which is is I was I was
Kail earlier that I met a guy in Memphis
and you know I spent about half hour
with him and you know I just asked him
at the end eval you said you were you in
Vietnam he said yeah a nice
you're in combat he said yeah and it was
just something there was a look in his
in his eyes you know it's I mean there's
there's there's a look that some people
get that just have seen a little bit too
much you know things that they shouldn't
have seen and I I just think that we
fail to really understand how
traumatizing these events are and you
know a lot of these people are going to
need a lot of help from us from the
community you know in reintegrating them
one of the things that happened in
Afghanistan was that after the Russians
you know people forget 1.5 million
Afghan people died - 13 thousand Russian
soldiers I mean it's you know pirate
victory but one of the things that was
done is it is that this you know the CIA
went there and supported this this whole
effort and gave them RPGs and you know
all this weaponry and when it was all
over there was no rebuilding there was
it we just washed our hands this country
washed our hands of that event and left
these people there to their own devices
you know really traumatized people that
just saw an incredible amount of
suffering and and it hardens people I
mean you know I worked in an intensive
care unit and the first time you stick a
person it's very difficult you know but
you just you get inured to it and and
you know inflicting putting that IV I'm
an 18 gauge needle it's always asked for
a 21 gauge needle or something he chose
it those 18 gauge ones hurt um let me
we've got a couple time for a couple
quick questions I want to work these in
you both have you know Chris you've
written from the occupied territories
and and West Bank and Gaza and and you
both have studied this issue quite a bit
is this and it's not a trick question
but it's is this really about religion
is that a big part of that of the
conflict between Israelis and
Palestinians or is it as a lot of people
believe simply a territorial issue I
mean I tend to agree with a massage
it's a real-estate issue and it needs to
be sorted out I personally believe that
the Jewish community today living in
Israel most of them are not from the
original occupying generation and I
think that that that needs to be
understood that a lot of these people
were born and raised in that country of
known no other country but that country
and I think it's it's time for people to
yeah it's just such a complex issue and
I don't even you know we can go there I
know dr. bezu hands here as well so I
mean he's certainly a lot more informed
about than me but I I do believe that
religion has obviously some component
because the the Jewish claim is a
religious claim even though a lot of
Jews there I mean I think it's around
you know 60 or 70 percent are considered
secular Jews but the Orthodox Jews don't
even recognize there at least one large
branch of the Orthodox Jewish community
doesn't recognize the state because the
Messiah has to bring about the the
formation so it's a complicated issue
but Christian want to jump in there
you've written about recently about in
about the issue that lies within the
Christians and yeah and and and well
real estate is huge I mean you know
Palestine was a Muslim country from the
7th century until 1948 and most Israelis
have terrible historical amnesia in
confronting that issue the
I think it's an issue about real estate
but it's also an issue of repression for
those of us who have to work in places
like Gaza and watch these people be
stripped of their dignity and humiliated
the notion that you know take a list
drop a list of the restrictions imposed
on South African blacks during the
apartheid regime and draw up a list of
the restrictions imposed on Palestinians
and it's pretty much the same with the
difference being that as far as I know
the South Africans never sent attack
helicopters and f-16s to bomb townships
I think that the American supply
american-supplied and I think that the
what has happened you know when I first
went to Gaza in 1988 Hamas was a
nonentity and what happened is that
people have been reduced to you know
subsistence living at this point would
be kind there's been a kind of African
ization of the Gaza Strip with people
struggling now to live on less than $2 a
day they can't move they don't have you
know potable water often running water
it is just become a desperate desperate
situation and one of the things that
strikes me when I'm in the refugee camps
and and watching the power of Islam is
that everything has broken down in terms
of structure and control but people get
up for the morning prayers five times a
day they don't have jobs they don't have
enough to eat chip we're seeing terrible
malnourished now among Palestinian
children but it is the structure of
Islam in its various forms and it has
various forms in Gaza just as it does
throughout the Muslim world gives a kind
of foundation to the lives of these
people and holds them together and it
just breaks my
are to you know and I think it breaks
the heart of all of us who have spent a
lot of time in the territories because
what what the Israelis did to Gaza they
are now doing to the West Bank this is
really about breaking the back of the
Palestinians in the West Bank and again
reducing them to the same struggle to
survival that we see in Gaza and and and
and where do people finally turn in that
so is it religious no I mean I think
that that you know the the wars that
I've covered are usually manufactured
Wars they're built out of terrible
repression and terrible injustice and
terrible abuse but of course they often
times especially when people are pushed
to the extremes that's all they have
left to cling to unfortunately they
often cling to very apocalyptic visions
and and that huge religious social and
political center gets swept away I'm
going to leave you guys with one last
quick question that some people have
asked here and I think it's a good way
to end the evening what how would you
what advice do you have what would you
tell people who about fighting these
strains within our own religions and and
how do we speak of how do we affect
anything what what's not looking for
practical advice particularly about how
to think about this maybe well I mean
I've said this many times and I do
believe it um Jonathan Swift said that
we have just enough religion to hate one
another and not enough to love one
another and I really believe that what
we're suffering from in our religious
traditions is a lack of religious
understanding I think when you really
delve deeply into religion you arrive at
very similar centers and primarily you
know the Dhammapada which is that one of
the earliest Buddhist texts said that
hate can never be fought with hate but
it must be fought with love and this is
an eternal truth and there's a prophetic
tradition that says none of you truly
believes until you love for your fellow
man or any woman
what you love for yourself and one of
the things about I spoke about pseudo
speciation and Guantanamo zhing others
that the antidote for that is to
recognize that we are one self we come
from oneself and the Quran says that
your creation was from oneself and your
resurrection will be of one self and to
see oneself in the other you know that
this is a part of me John Donne said no
man is an island but each is a part of
the of the main that we we are united in
a common bond of humanity and there are
demons amongst us and and that is
without a doubt but they're not the norm
you know they're there they're very
unusual people I don't know how they got
that way but they're out there and
they're in their very dark and and
they're difficult I mean they cause for
me a very disturbing resonance you know
just in trying to understand what that
is but I really feel that and teaching
that to our children you know live the
dream I mean this is a school you know
celebrating Martin Luther King and and
and dreaming moral imagination is very
important and teaching our children that
it does not have to be this way every
great movement of social change in human
history came from people imagining
something different than what was and I
think we have to teach our young people
to imagine a world with social
institutions that engender human
flourishing because we we've inherited
social institutions a lot of us don't
even know where they came from but we've
inherited social institutions that have
become very dystopic they're very
dysfunctional and and I really think
that that we as as as as thinking
citizens we're not subjects I mean that
this not yet the this this you know this
country is based on citizenry and
citizenry is a response
ability you know we were answerable to
what goes on you know we really are and
that's why we owe it to our children
I've got five children and I owe it to
my children not to become a cynic not to
become a pessimist I can't do that I
can't do that for their sake and for all
our children's sake because they remind
us of what's right in the world and and
and so I really for our children's sake
we have to help them imagine something
very different than what it is
Chris I wanted to just ask you the same
question but with one observation in a
lot of our writings and and what you
said tonight also you seem to have a
sense of despair and that's one thing
perhaps you can address how do how do we
overcome that I have despair that I got
pretty depressed realize I did too I
write I write a happy book I have
despair because I hear the radical
fringes of my country in my society
speak in hate talk and having covered
conflicts I always know that you first
get people to speak in the language of
hate and violence before you get them to
act carry out acts of hate and violence
that language is not benign and why is
the radical fringe of the Christian
Right fighting hate crimes legislation
because then they know the things they
say about secular humanists and gays and
lesbians and Jews and Muslims and and
nominal Christians can often be defined
as hate talk and I think that that
tolerance as we spoke before is
extremely important but there are
moments and I think we have reached a
moment in our society when those of us
who care about a tolerant society have
to stand up and fight for it and we have
to say that that there are things that
you cannot say you cannot call for the
eradication of people of other faiths or
other lifestyles or other ways of being
you cannot demonize them you can't
dehumanize them which is really of
course what they're doing they're
dehumanizing them and you know there was
a great quote by dr. King you know and
it's probably fitting that we end with
his words he said I can never be who I
ought to be until you are who you ought
to be and you can never be who you ought
to be until I am who I ought to be
thank you so much