American Scholars Publish Letter In Support of War Against Terrorism

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It may surprise some that UC Berkeley is represented in an open letter by 60 academics that supports the U.S.-led war on terrorism as a "just war."

Since just over a decade ago UC Berkeley professors made national headlines for running an advertisement in The New York Times opposing the Gulf War, the letter released yesterday runs contrary to the university's pacifist reputation.

"There are times when waging war is not only morally permitted, but morally necessary as a response to calamitous acts of violence, hatred and injustice. This is one of those times," reads the six-page letter, titled "Letter from America."

The letter was released at a meeting sponsored by the Institute for American Values and the Center of the American Experiment.

Neil Gilbert, a UC Berkeley School of Social Welfare professor, said he signed the letter to emphasize the seriousness of the threat of terrorism.

"I think right now these radical Islamists pose a great danger to our country, our families and everyone here," Gilbert said. "I think we have a right to defend ourselves when we're attacked and when there is a grave threat."

Drawing on diverse religions, the signatories defined a just war as one aimed at protecting "the innocent from certain harm."

Generally accepted terms of just wars also state that force can only be used as a last resort in self-defense and that only military installations can be targeted. The force cannot exceed what is needed.

Gilbert said the statement is important because it clearly defines the enemy to be radical Islamic Jihadis, not all Muslims.

"It ought to go without saying- but we say it here once, clearly-that the great majority of the world's Muslims, guided in large measure by the teachings of the Quran, are decent, faithful and peaceful people," the letter states.

The letter further states that "invoking God's authority to kill or maim human beings is immoral and contrary to faith in God."

The letter also cautioned against "arrogance" and "jingoism."

Bruce Cain, a professor of political science at UC Berkeley and the director of the Institute of Governmental Studies, said that despite the university's pacifist history, he was not surprised Gilbert and other UC professors signed the letter.

"I think there's no question that support for the war in the university and in the Berkeley community generally was pretty high," Cain said. "We did a poll shortly after the war began and found a majority of people supported the war in Afghanistan. It's not surprising that one would find the same thing for Berkeley faculty."

Cain said people have contrasting views on the current war and the Gulf War because the circumstances surrounding them are different.

"People do distinguish between the two events. In particular, we were responding to an attack on American soil in this instance," he said.

Gilbert said that even among UC Berkeley faculty it would be difficult to collect 76 signatures condemning the current war.

He said he does not expect any backlash in response to the letter because it encompasses many viewpoints and is not controversial.

"I think this is a very balanced statement that expresses a very wide range of points of view," he said.

Nonetheless, not all Berkeley faculty members feel the war in Afghanistan is a just war.

"My position is I don't categorically deny the possibility of a just war. However, this is not it," said Jerry Sanders, a lecturer for the Peace and Conflict Studies department at UC Berkeley.

Sanders said the war is not just because of what he called the large number of civilian casualties in Afghanistan and the great amount of damage done.


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