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American Empire and Christian Silence

General Howling Jake Smith earned his name by ordering his officers to turn a Philippine island into "a howling wilderness."

  • Timothy Wilder,
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General Howling Jake Smith earned his name by ordering his officers to turn a Philippine island into "a howling wilderness." Anyone who resisted, and all combatants - defined as males ten years old or over - were to be killed. When 900 Filipinos were trapped in the volcanic basin of Mount Dajo, American soldiers under the command of General Leonard Wood continued to fire on them for four days until all — men, women, and children— were killed. Wood became governor general of the Philippines. Estimates of the number of Filipinos who died in the Philippine war range from 200,000 to 600,000.

A few years passed, and the self-appointed world messiah Woodrow Wilson led America into another war that was not our business. His "war to end all wars" set up the geopolitical framework for conflicts into the twenty-first century. Debate continues over American entry into World War II, but its conduct was indefensible. America followed the policy set by the British of massive — if possible, total — destruction of cities, together with their populations. This was practiced even against cities without strategic importance, such as Dresden, whose surviving population was then strafed from the air as they fled the area: reportedly Churchill and FDR thought this display of brutality would give them more credibility in negotiations with Stalin.

In the Asian theatre, military policy was even more horrific, as the American Air Force deliberately created huge firestorms in Japanese cities which suffocated and burned tens of thousands in a single raid.

Moralism Versus Justice
All this was done in an atmosphere of intense moralism. WWII is held to have established the principles that national authority cannot abrogate international law, and that responsibility for crimes may not be escaped because they were ordered by superiors. Nevertheless, there was something warped about this moralism. The physicist Edward Teller pointed out that the world outrage and protest when a Japanese fishing trawler was accidentally caught in the fallout of a hydrogen bomb test far surpassed the outrage over the deliberate destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki "when a demonstration would have sufficed."

To this day former Nazis and their collaborators are relentlessly hunted down, tried, convicted, and punished, to great congratulation by the press, while ex-communists, whose killings far surpassed those of the Nazis, are not only left alone but participate in governments from Britain to Asia. Clearly, moralistic zeal is not the same as justice.

Gingrich's and Clinton's Balkans
Passing over several more wars, we come to the events in the Balkans. Here the U.S. embraced the agenda of the radical Muslims and neo-Nazis, including the KLA — the inventors of the term "ethnic cleansing" whose manifesto called for Kosovo to be an "ethnically clean" province. After being pressured by Newt Gingrich and Bob Dole to side against the Serbs in Bosnia, President Clinton intervened, helping to organize and participating militarily in the ethnic cleansing of the Serb population from the Krajina region. Bosnian cities, such as Srebrenica, which had been cleansed of their Serb population by Muslim warlords, were declared "safe zones" by the U.N. — that is, bases for Muslim attacks on Serb rural villages while Serbs were not allowed to counterattack without facing bombing from the US Air Force.

Then the US organized "peace" negotiations for the Kosovo province where the Albanian KLA, whose units are named after Nazi "heroes" who carried out the genocide of the WWII era, were engaged in terrorism against all rivals. The US promised the KLA that it would force the Serbs - by bombing if necessary - to give the KLA the deal it wanted, and it gave the Serbs the ultimatum that all of Yugoslavia must submit to NATO occupation. The purpose was to set the demand so high that it would force war. Once Serbia refused this demand, the US put together a coalition — which eventually came to include Germany, which had equipped and trained Croat deathsquads and trained KLA terrorists; the Czech Republic that after WWII had ethnically cleansed the German population from the Sudetanland; Poland, which had ethnically cleansed the German population from the regions acquired at the end of WWII; and the French, who had advance knowledge of the Rwanda massacre, and taken steps to insure the massacre was not prevented. This American-led coalition began the massive bombardment of Serbia and Kosovo, while proclaiming the moral imperative to prevent ethnic cleansing, though this was apparently their goal in starting the war: an ethnically clean Kosovo was the KLA declared goal since the early 1980s and NATO effectively went to war on behalf of the KLA.

Future of the Church
In this century of ghastly behavior by the American elites, what has the church said? There have been various protest movements: Mark Twain and William Jennings Bryan are remembered for their opposition to the Philippine war. But on the whole, the church has been not merely ineffective, but inactive. Faced with one hundred years of evil in foreign policy, the church has largely failed to notice that something was wrong. How is this possible?

The fact is that very few people reason from moral principles or order their conduct by them. The great majority adopts the attitudes that respected and leading opinion-makers portray as acceptable. As opinion leadership has left the pulpit and gone to the media, Christian moral principles simply fail to enter the consciousness of the public about the policy issues that arise day by day. The only way to change this is for churches to engage in systematic, comprehensive, continuous, and clear training in God's commands for man's conduct in this life. This was not done.

The alternative has been the Christian tradition of just war theory. The Roman Catholic libertarian Llewellyn Rockwell points to the imperative of a morality of war for a social order:

Why can't nation states defend their interests around the globe through any means necessary? Because [in] that way lies moral corruption and chaos. War is the health of the state and the state is the greatest earthly enemy that the faith has confronted in the long history of Christianity. God's kingdom is not of this world, but states have shown a propensity to try to establish themselves as gods, especially in the modern era.

So there must be restraints on states, particularly on their power to make war. These restraints must be based on Christian moral teaching, and they must also be embodied in the legal structures of nations, including that of international law, a product of centuries of Catholic jurisprudence, which the great Protestant "scholastics" Pufendorf and Grotius also helped spread.

The desire to avoid war is a fundamental idea in the Christian view of politics, just as the romanticization of war is a pagan one that reflects a disregard for the sanctity of life.

Rockwell explains the just war theory:

What makes a just war? Every Catholic Encyclopedia spells it out. It must be defensive and never aggressive. It must be the last resort, undertaken after all possible means of negotiating a peace have been exhausted. It must be conducted by legitimate civil authority. (And an oppressed lower order may take up arms against a leviathan central power.) The means used must be proportional to the actual threat. There must be a good chance of winning (no sending soldiers to their death for no purpose). After the fighting is over, there may be no acts of vengeance.

Finally, and extremely important in our own century: no military action can be undertaken that seriously threatens civilians (much less deliberately aims at them as in Hiroshima and Nagasaki). There's a word for targeting civilians: murder. Wars are for soldiers, not non-combatants, and if all these conditions are met, war may be undertaken in good conscience (though no one can be obligated to participate).

The silence of the church before the events of the past century shows that American Christians do not believe the just war theory. Nor may a pastor stand up on Sunday and preach from the Catholic Encyclopedia or appeal to Augustine and tradition. He needs a systematic and exegetical theology of war and peace that can be seen to be taught clearly by the revealed Word of God. It will then be a plain obligation on the church for voting, office holding, and the choice of careers, and can be backed up by discipline. Such a theology must be made accessible to individual Christians in a thorough, well-organized book that they may acquire for themselves and study.

I am not claiming that such a Biblical theology would be identical to the just war theory. Rather, I am pointing to the urgent need for a theology of war and peace. The American church is caught in the sins of the ungodly state through its neglect of the theonomy of war and, if it remains indifferent to God's commandments, it will fail to show the marks of a true church and its candlestick will be removed.

  • Timothy Wilder

Timothy Wilder is a computer administrator at the University of Minnesota, and publisher of Contra Mundum Publications. He maintains two websites at: and and can be reached by email at [email protected].

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