- Text smaller
- Text bigger
On Wednesday the Senate voted to shelve a proposal by Sen. John
McCain to authorize “all necessary force,” including ground troops, to
achieve American objectives in Yugoslavia. This is a good thing. To put
it mildly, I do not believe that we need to multiply expressions of our
confidence in Bill Clinton’s leadership and judgment. We might try
instead multiplying instances of clear and morally literate reasoning
about the war in Yugoslavia. Here, Sen. McCain is not
“All necessary force” would literally include the use of nuclear
weapons. So Sen. McCain put a resolution on the table that would have
authorized Bill Clinton — a man we know to be without judgment,
conscience, decency, morality, integrity, or competence — to use
nuclear weapons to deal with the conflict in Yugoslavia. The idea that
the Senate would authorize such a man to use all means he judges
necessary in a military effort as questionable as this one is insane. In
this proposal, Sen. McCain shows a lack of judgment bordering on lunacy.
Is this too harsh a judgment? Let’s review the facts. We have a
president whose moral judgment, character, self-control, and maturity we
know we can’t trust. This president has led us into a war which has no
proper justification in terms of American interest, and which has been
conducted in a fashion that raises serious questions about the morality
of the strategy and intentions involved. Sen. McCain has now turned to
the world and said “This individual, whom we have every reason to doubt,
who lacks all credibility, who may be engaged in a deeply wicked and
immoral strategy, should be given a blank check to do whatever he
pleases in using our instruments of force to kill people.”
John McCain, what is the matter with your thinking? Bill Clinton is
the least trustworthy president we have ever had. Given his behavior
towards women, including the credible allegations that he has committed
violent rape while holding high office, we should seriously
entertain the possibility that he is psychotic. At the very least, we
should note that being a brutal rapist does not suggest someone who is
in control of himself. So given that he may very well have a deep
problem with violence toward women, bordering on the psychotic, Sen.
McCain wants the people’s representatives formally to express our trust
of Bill Clinton and authorize him to use all the force that his good
judgment deems necessary to accomplish his objectives.
Anyone making such a suggestion, in my opinion, raises deep doubts
about his own judgment. And I believe that such doubts will now have to
haunt John McCain.
Bad thinking abounds in discussions about this war, and we let it
pass at our national peril. Sen. McCain, Henry Kissinger and others are
making the following argument about the war:
First premise: There are serious questions about our involvement in
the war in Yugoslavia.
Second premise: We entered the war as the result of bad judgments.
Third premise: It isn’t clear what our objectives are.
Conclusion: Since we have begun the war, we must continue until
victory is achieved.
When anyone makes this argument, we should stop him, look him right
in the eye, and ask him the simple question: What is war?
Sometimes we use words quite readily while forgetting what they
really signify, but we ought not to do so. So we should ask, What is
war? And when we receive blank looks, and are told it is a silly
question to which everyone knows the answer, we should say that
everybody may know it, but clearly not everybody is remembering it.
Get them to think about it. Remind them of this simple equation: War
= killing people
You can put whatever kind of mask on it you like, but at the end of
the day, war is about the business of killing human beings. We may be
doing it this way or the other way, with more damage or less, but at its
heart war is about killing people.
Every sentence of discussion about Yugoslavia should be modified by
replacing the word “war” with the phrase “killing people.” And then we
should just listen to what is being said.
We don’t know why we are killing people. It is not clear what our
objectives are in killing people. We are not sure we should have started
killing people in the first place; as a matter of fact it is pretty
clear that we shouldn’t have started killing people.
But since we have started killing people, we have no choice; we have
got to go on killing people until “victory” is achieved.
When our planes go over Yugoslavia and drop bombs on things, they are
killing people. As we watch this go on, we are asking, “Why is this
happening?” And the answer comes back, “Well, we don’t know why we are
killing people. We don’t have a clear objective in killing people. We
probably shouldn’t have started killing people; as a matter of fact, we
know we shouldn’t have started killing people.”
“So why are you doing it?”
“We have to kill them, because we started doing it, and so we have to
keep doing it.”
The Clinton policy toward Yugoslavia is insane.
When we have an insane president, utterly without moral judgment —
do we have to follow his leadership? Sen. McCain thinks it is important
that we leap to reassure him that we will. Is this our duty?
No, it is not. Because the American people are sovereign, and are
ultimately responsible before God and the world for what we permit our
leaders — our instruments of self-rule — to do. The Constitution of
the United States leaves it to us and to our representatives to check
our president when necessary, so his madness does not drag this nation
into war, and does not drag the nation’s conscience into doing things
that our conscience cannot countenance. At such moments, we must not
simply follow — we must evaluate, discern, and judge our leaders. We
are in this situation now, and it shouldn’t take us long to reach our
As conscience and right thinking engage the situation we face, people
around the country are beginning to wake up and realize that we must
stop this war.
We must stop this war. We have begun killing people without good and
sufficient reason, without even knowing clearly what our reasons are,
without clear objectives, and without achieving any decent moral
purpose. We have now, as a people, begun to realize that this is our
situation. In such a case, the thing to do is simply to stop. Otherwise
we risk falling prey to the very logic of war — fighting for the sake
of fighting — which is at the root of the problems in the
It is the duty of the American people to demand the immediate
cessation of the illegal and immoral war of aggression in Yugoslavia —
the rest is detail. If we stop, we will provide the world with a shining
example of the possibility of a free people coming to its moral senses
and acting accordingly. Those who are so eloquent in their concern with
the precedent of America “losing a war” might want to attend instead the
benefit to the world of such an example of virtue by a great people.