JON KATZ, P.C.
Attorney at Law
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JON KATZ'S OPINION: SEPTEMBER 11 AND JUSTICE
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By Jon Katz
ON JUSTICE, MILITARY RESTRAINT AND PEACE:
SEPTEMBER 11 LEADS TO CRITICAL CROSSROADS
The only just goal of battle and war -- if there is any -- is to achieve a just peace. There can be no just war if no side struggles for justice, restraint, peace and love within and without.
The September 11 terror attacks hit all the more home for me, because I have spent plenty of time living and working near the Pentagon and World Trade Center, and have visited people who work in both buildings. To the extent that these attacks involved an anti-Israel campaign, the attacks also strike at my strong support over the years for a secure and just peace for Israel and for a just Israeli government and military.
It is hard enough for me to have sufficient faith in the United States government and military in general, let alone when the United States is preparing for battles and warmaking. The United States military has not shown that it can stop more My Lais and more military atrocities. The United States government and military executed the unjustified Grenada invasion, the unjustified Panama invasion, the premature invasion of Iraq, and the numerous premature post-war bombings of Iraq. The United States government and military also push for military solutions to drug trafficking, often empowering unjust foreign governments in the process.
Before the September 11 attacks, we already had a government that provided insufficient protection of civil liberties and civil rights, and a president who vocally supported the Texas death penalty machine and who can be expected to do the same at the federal level. In the weeks and months ahead, we can expect unjustified and unconstitutional gags and obstacles on peaceful demonstrators and the press, further erosion of Fourth Amendment rights, increased harassment of immigrants, expanded use of the unconstitutional secret terrorism courts, and expanded enforcement of the statutes criminalizing financial donations to organizations that the State Department deems to be terroristic.
For those of us who oppose the death penalty and embrace full due process rights for criminal defendants and civil litigants, how do we jibe such sentiments with sending United States troops to battle where they will cause soldier and civilian deaths and wounds without any sufficient semblance of due process? How can death penalty abolitionists harmonize their total opposition to court-ordered killing, with the even wider-spread killing of soldiers and civilians that comes from going to war? For those, like myself, who are scared about putting a gun and power of arrest in a rookie police officer's hands, how do we feel about putting guns and bombs in the hands of inexperienced soldiers and unjust soldiers?
The power of love has been a big focus at the Trial Lawyers College. Wartime cannot suspend our struggle to continue to be loving -- or at least just -- even towards our most heinous enemies.
Through it all, I continue to be reminded of the message of so many pacifists that violence begets violence, and also of my intention to flee or fight when those I love or myself are threatened with immediate physical harm.
To sufficiently restrain themselves, United States warmakers must listen to the voices of the rational pacifists. One of them is Jun Yasuda of Grafton, New York, who is a longtime peace activist and nun with the Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhists. She once told me about the day she joined a protest supporting the land rights of native people in Canada. At some point, an opponent of the protest rushed towards Jun-san and some other protesters swinging a metal pipe. Jun-san expected she would die. Instead of protecting herself, Jun-san prayed for the attacker, because he and all human life are sacred to her. Jun-san did not flee or fight in fear, because she has resigned herself that she will die one day anyway, and she sees death as just another part of life. Somehow, the attacker's pipe never hurt anyone, and he was subdued (clearly not by Jun-san).
Rev. Ishi Bashi-san of Queens, New York, also with Nipponzan Myohoji, told me about being held up at gunpoint one summer evening in Central Park. Instead of fleeing or fighting or fearing, Ishi Bashi-san profusely apologized to the robber that he had no money on him, since he only had on shorts and a t-shirt without pockets. Ishi Bashi-san told the robber that the robber clearly needed money more than Ishi Bashi-san, so he invited the robber to come home with him, where he could give the robber money. The robber became scared, bowed, and ran away.
I asked Ishi Bashi-san whether he thinks it wrong for a person to defend against an immediate physical attack. He accepts this as an option, but says he would never do so himself.
Let us learn from past military injustices, atrocities and overkill. Let us learn from the rational pacifists. We are at a critical crossroads where we all must struggle to maintain and enhance justice and human rights during the heightened national security and military actions and hysteria that will take place. We will pay a high price if we do otherwise.
Originally appeared in the Trial Lawyer's College's Warrior magazine (October 2001 special edition), Jon Katz shares copyright with the Warrior newsletter.
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