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Virtual Talmud

Fighting for our Humanity

In recent months, public opinion has increasingly been turning against the war in Iraq–and for good reason, as body counts for U.S. soldiers and Iraqi civilians continue to soar, as the situation on the ground becomes increasingly chaotic, and as each successive justification proffered for the war proves false.

Of course, we all know that hindsight is 20-20 and so it takes no particular wisdom to say that, in retrospect, invading Iraq was a mistake. The question is, does Jewish tradition offer any insights that could have helped us avoid the situation beforehand? The answer is a resounding yes.

The Talmud (Sotah 44b) places great constraints on milchemet reshut (elective wars, as opposed to mandatory wars of self-defense) and also enshrines the religious leadership as a check on power-hungry sovereigns wishing to rush to war (Sanhedrin 20b). In Deuteronomy 2, we see Moses commanded by God to make war on the Amorites and nevertheless offering them terms of peace. The rabbis take this passage to mean that one must always offer peace and that engaging in war is a last resort (Sifrei Bamidbar 42). The current administration appeared to have little interest in finding non-military solutions to the real problem of Saddam Hussein and his supposed cache of weapons of mass destruction. The uncertainty over their existence combined with a lack of immediate threat demanded that the U.S. continue to work through the United Nations to let the arms inspectors do their job–a job they were in fact doing remarkably well when they reported no evidence of WMD’s.


Once at war, our tradition also places strict limits on the conduct of soldiers and the treatment of prisoners of war. Our religious and ethical obligation of k’vod ha-briot (respect for the dignity of all creatures)–to say nothing of our legal obligations–make it incumbent on us to treat prisoners humanely. This is the right thing to do, and it is the smart thing to do; the backlash against the United States has grown in no small part from the torture at Abu Ghraib and similar facilities, and the ongoing degrading treatment of detainees at Guantánamo Bay. When we violate the dignity of others, we diminish our own humanity as well and risk losing the moral core which can lend our actions clarity and rightness.

There is no question that we must support our troops–the vast majority of whom are serving their country with the utmost professionalism. So too we now have an obligation to Iraqis to help return their country to stability at a very minimum. But these obligations are best served not by blind compliance with a war-mongering administration whose values in justifying and executing this war run contrary at every turn to the dictates of both morality and common sense. Instead, we need to reassert the invaluable ethical lessons we learn from our tradition–the reluctance to go to war, and the demand for proper conduct when we do–so we can begin to repair the damage and move toward a stable future.

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posted March 24, 2006 at 8:15 pm

Dear Sirs: We can best support our troops,our reserves,who are used,over and over,until they are all killed,or mained,because there is no draft,and the govt. is too chicken-shit to call for one,by getting our troops out now,and admitting we were Cretins to get into this war in the first place.Want to be ethical? Admit the cold,hard truth.We made a huge,fat,bloody mess,and it’s only getting worse,the longer we stay there. A truly ethical person admits he was wrong,and tries to protect his own people,and the other side,by stopping the war.

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posted March 25, 2006 at 6:09 pm

Mnay Blessings to all . We realy do need to keep our nation in prayer . From the abuse of the mind as well as the bodies . And only by faith we pray and keep fighting for our moral’s and to respect and to love one another. And the military you are in my prayer and thought’s . Excet the lord and he will get you through .

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posted March 25, 2006 at 7:52 pm

I totally disagree. The United Nations was not doing its job; it therefore stalled our intervention and gave the opposition the upperhand. I think, failure to react sooner gave strength to the enemy and therefore made us more vulnerable and left us with very few options. 9/11 was not the first attack, it was merely the straw that broke the camel’s back.

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andrea Joy Frankel

posted March 26, 2006 at 2:39 am

Polls..What polls? Who’s polls? None that I take. Not the majority I talk too. In fact, go to Not all Jews are Liberal/permissive thinking people. In fact I do believe that more jewish peopple are finally becoming more conservative as they have seen what has been happening over the last decade. Now this new thing with Charlie Sheen. Ok, if 9/11 was a government comspiracy. What was the bombing of the towers in 93? I guess so was that. Oh ah, President Clinton was president. What about the USS Cole? 17 of our men died. Again, all the same group responsible, but again a gov’t conspiracy, oh pardon me, President Clinton again, and of course the American Embassey in Africa, same groups of people take responsiblity, oh sorry, Pres. Clintin again. The car bombing in Jeruselem? Down by 1/2 since Saddam has been removed. Oh don’t here about that on mainstream media? I am not surprised. Check.. For Zion’s Sake. We went into Iraq, for a lot of reason’s. We need to go into Iran also and other Mid East countries. You see ISRAEL has to be protected as well as the rest of the world. They DO NOT like Israel worse than they don’t like us and that is a lot! We need to make a Democracy in Iraq. We need and Afganistan. We NEED allies in the Middle East and to change gears, it seems to me the biggest whiners in the country are the ones least willing to give up their big houses, big cars and SUV’s , boats and all the other luxeries they have. Like Charlie Sheen and his Hollywood friends. Freedom does not come free and as Jews who were liberated out of Egypt and then (by the attack of Japan, should we have a thank G-d for Japan Day on our calender) from the evil of Nazism, of all peoples should be behind any attempt to free at any cost the people from the clutches of evil and Saddam was and still is evil! Remember, we do not have a draft. Any man or women goes into out Service completely understanding what heor she is there for. They considerate a duty and a PRIVILAGE! To demonstate against the war is a slap in their face and only works against them. They (for the most part) beleive in what they are doing. Only a few hundred people showed up at the anti-war demonstration in NYC recently. The media is completely out of control. They bend so far to the Left they are going to break,save a few news shows. As far as shows, do you have children? As people of faith, do you let your kids watch what the Liberal thinking media has on tv? I hope not! So, tell me, who’s polls? What polls?

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posted March 26, 2006 at 7:36 pm

It is long over due we Americans overstayed and we are not welcome in Iraq to many Sins have been commited in the name of peace and democracy. All we are teaching the Iraqi people now is hypocrosy.

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