Saturday, July 14, 2007

The JBS and the Christian "Just War" Theory

The people running the John Birch Society have rediscovered the Christian Just War Tradition (look here and scroll down for a second reference).

Some might suspect that this represents a sudden and uncharacteristic display of principle on the part of the current JBS management. Allow me to uproot that suspicion before it blossoms into an unfortunate misunderstanding.

In a brief essay critiquing George W. Bush's conservative credentials, JBS Web Editor Dennis Behreandt (a genuinely nice guy and a very capable writer) took note of the fact that the invasion and occupation of Iraq is "an aggressive war that violated the Christian just war principles to which conservatives have traditionally been attached...."

Gary Benoit, editor of The New American, offered a lengthier treatment of the same subject in his review of a YouTube video contrasting Ron Paul with the other GOP presidential contenders. Dr. Paul, who has consistently opposed foreign wars, is the only one in that field who has invoked the Just War teaching, in the specific context of denouncing the administration's plans for a war with Iran. Several other GOP contenders, including Duncan Hunter (who was the subject of a fawning profile in The New American a few months back), have endorsed -- either obliquely or explicitly -- the use of nuclear weapons against Iran in a pre-emptive strike. (Hunter made his support for that abominable idea quite unambiguous.)

After reviewing the basic principles of a Just War (it must be defensive, declared and carried out by the proper authority, waged as a last resort, proportionate to the threat, and discriminate between combatants and non-combatants), Gary wrote:

"These criteria for a just war do not match what we have been doing in Iraq. Nor are they in harmony with the concept of a preemptive nuclear war against Iran. Yet the Republican presidential candidates who support the concept of preemptive nuclear war also claim to be Christians and men of faith. How can that be? Have they studied Christian just-war theory? Are they even familiar with it? Ron Paul made a very astute observation when he commented: `I have been reading from a different Bible.'"

The most important element of that statement is the fact that Dennis and Gary, editors working on behalf of what is supposed to be the cutting-edge freedom organization, both invoked the Just War critique of the Iraq war and the proposed nuking of Iran weeks after Ron Paul had made it safe for the JBS to do so.

Here we see one of the key facets of "leadership," as exemplified by the timid little boys running the JBS (a designation I do not apply to Dennis, who is not in a management position):

"Leadership" consists of hanging back while others clear the minefield -- and then sprinting to the front and laying claim to an unearned share of the credit.

For months now, Ron Paul has been speaking the truth about the foreign policy pursued by the regime that rules us -- how its wars, both overt and secret, have left our nation poorer, less free, and in disrepute with hundreds of millions of people who otherwise would wish us well. People of all ages and from all backgrounds have gravitated toward Dr. Paul, recognizing in him someone who speaks the truth with quiet conviction and no little courage.

I have advised Appleton to emulate Dr. Paul's example, and to embrace the movement that he now leads (in small but significant part because of the timidity and myopia of the current JBS upper management, Alan Scholl -- about whom more anon -- in particular). If the items quoted above represent a small step in that direction, that's encouraging, I suppose, but in a highly qualified sense.

If the JBS is serious about embracing the Christian Just War doctrine and repudiating pre-emptive nuclear war (which is a serious and growing threat), it really should find someone else to define its organizational mission and campaigns. The incumbent bureaucrat in that role, Alan Scholl, publicly, pointedly, and unabashedly endorsed pre-emptive nuclear annihilation of Iran -- until I called him out on the matter and forced him to back down.

As the posting to which I've linked above indicates (scroll down to the entry headlined "UPDATE, November 11"), Alan did qualify -- practically to the point of repudiation -- his initial suggestion that a threat from Iran would justify an assault in which "several hundred nuclear missiles" would be hurled at that country, leaving it a smoldering radioactive ruin.

Here's my original post on this abhorrent proposal:

A Surprising Endorsement of Nuclear Genocide “Americans, through their representatives in Congress, can send an unmistakably clear message to the Iranian government that we will mind our own business from now on," opines a right-wing commentator. "However, if the Iranians so much as threaten to launch one of their weapons at American citizens, anywhere in the world, or harm one of them, then we will consider that an act of war. As a result, we will unload several hundred nuclear missiles on their country, leaving nothing but a vast crater behind in that part of the world.”

Note well that under this standard, nuclear incineration of Iran -- which would involve the annihilation of scores of millions of civilians -- would be "justified" as a pre-emptive measure. The missiles would fly if the Iranian government "so much as threaten[s]" to "harm" any American citizen anywhere.

Note as well that while citizens are urged to pressure their Representatives to issue the threat of pre-emptive nuclear war, no mention is made of requiring Congress to declare war before unleashing thermonuclear hell in the Persian Gulf.
And no effort is made to reconcile this recommendation with the Christian Just War doctrine, which dictates that war can be waged only when 1) it is declared by the proper authority; 2) it is a proportionate response to a legitimate injury or a rationally perceived threat, and 3) would result in less damage than a refusal to resort to arms. The Just War doctrine also contains the principle of "discrimination," under which it is impermissible to kill innocent noncombatants deliberately.

As Dr. Charles Rice, a professor of law at Notre Dame University, explains: “Proportionality relates not only to the war itself (i.e., the whole enterprise must be for a proportionate good), but also to the use of particular tactics or weapons....” Under the principle of “discrimination,” he elaborates, “it can never be justified intentionally to kill innocent noncombatants"; however, "it could be morally justified to attack a military target of sufficient importance and urgency even though the attacker knows, but does not intend, that innocent civilians in the vicinity will be killed.”
Obviously, an attack that would leave "nothing but a vast crater" where a nation of nearly 70 million souls once existed would fall dramatically short of the standard imposed by the Christian principle of proportionality.

Furthermore, the prescription for pre-emptive nuclear genocide quoted above falls short even of
traditional Islamic standards for Jihad, which -- until quite recently -- called for discriminating between combatants and non-combatants, and forbade the use of indiscriminate weapons that could kill women, children, and invalids. That genocidal prescription, however, is entirely in harmony with the post-Christian doctrine of collective responsibility in warfare that was introduced by the Jacobins during the French Revolution, refined by the murderous assaults on Confederate populations by Sherman and Sheridan, expanded during the first World War, codified by Lenin's Communist regime, and reached its perfection under Germany's National Socialists and the Cambodian Khmer Rouge - and that informs the contemporary neo-"conservatives" in their campaign to "liberate" the world through mass bloodshed.

Given this pedigree, it's astonishing to learn that the author of that prescription for genocide was -- a name that's probably become familiar to readers of this blog -- Alan Scholl, director of mission and campaigns for the John Birch Society, the individual who defines that estimable organization's ideological priorities.

This appears to be another of those
"ride the wave" proposals -- or maybe it's better described as a "joining the torchlight parade" or a "get to the stadium early to snag a good seat at the Nuremberg Rally" deal. That description, I hasten to specify, applies only to Alan, not to the worthy and decent people who constitute the Birch Society's rank and file, who are much more sensible and principled than the man setting the organization's agenda.

Just days ago, the Senate passed -- by a 97-0 margin -- a perfectly demented resolution that offers the inbred little despot in the White House a pretext for war with Iran: It demands that Iran cease "meddling" in Iraq, accusing Iran of being behind the "murder" of US troops occupying Iraq.

Commentator Chris Floyd (whose analysis is good, although his worldview leaves much to be desired) points out that because of that Sovietesque resolution, "
George W. Bush [has] a clear and unmistakable casus belli for attacking Iran whenever Dick Cheney tells him to.... This vote is the clearest signal yet that there will be no real opposition to a Bush Administration attack on Iran. This is yet another blank check from these slavish, ignorant goons; Bush can cash it anytime. This is, in fact, the post-surge `Plan B' that's been mooted lately in the Beltway."

It's not enough that the Regime, which illegally invaded Iraq and maintains an occupation force of hundreds of thousands (both troops and "contractors") in that country, accuses any other nation of "meddling" in that long-suffering land. No, the Regime -- behaving exactly like the Brezhnev-era Soviet Union -- is carrying on a full-scale covert war against Iran, and eagerly seeking a pretext to bring that war out into the open.

Notes Floyd:

"Of course, the United States is already at war with Iran. We are directing covert ops and terrorist attacks inside Iran, with the help of groups that our own government has declared terrorist renegades. We are kidnapping Iranian officials in Iraq and holding them hostage. We have a bristling naval armada on Iran's doorstep, put there for the express purpose of threatening Tehran with military action. The U.S. Congress has overwhelmingly passed measures calling for the overthrow of the Iranian government. And now the U.S. Senate has unanimously declared that Iran is waging war on America, and has given official notice that this will not be tolerated. It is only a very small step to move from this war in all but name to the full monty of an overt military assault."

If and when that war comes, what will the current JBS management do?

On past performance I would expect that the CEO would counsel caution, the organization's President would find some way to blame it on "the Jews," the editor of The New American would contemplate the question, WWM(G)D? (What Would Mel Gibson Do?), and the guy in charge of the organization's campaigns and mission -- that same Alan Scholl -- will once again find an excuse to support the mass murder of innocent people.

One thing is certain: If that war comes, we won't hear anything more out of Appleton about the virtues of the Christian Just War tradition, at least until the public grows weary of the conflict and someone else volunteers to clear the minefield ahead of the heroes running the JBS.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007


[By way of a preface: I'm bitter tonight. If you read the essay you'll understand why. There's a good possibility I won't be continuing to update this blog -- although Pro Libertate will continue -- and should that be the case there are some things I want to make sure are put on the record.]

"Do you think Will could ever come back to the staff of the John Birch Society?"

That question was posed via telephone to my wife Korrin a few weeks ago (while I was out running errands) by a Section Leader in the northeast. He is a man of character, learning, and accomplishment, the father of a large and impressive family. In many ways he is typical of the people I was blessed to meet through the JBS.

I honestly don't think he could imagine that the leaders of the organization are capable of the utter viciousness they displayed toward me and my family. If he could, he wouldn't have asked that question of Korrin.

As I write these words, Korrin is being ravaged by the sickness with which she was diagnosed in April 2006. It is a disease that is life-altering, and potentially life-threatening. Unlike some disorders, the sickness that has seized Korrin threatens our entire family. It has disfigured her in ways that transcend mere physical appearance: She remains radiantly beautiful, just as she was when we were married ten years ago, but her affliction is taking from me, and from her, much of what she is -- much of what made me fall in love with her.

I'm losing her. And I'm helpless to do anything to prevent it.

Her condition was known to the four -- I'm sorry, I just can't call them "men"; "functionaries" is a better word -- who decided in committee to deprive my family of a steady income and health insurance coverage last October. Korrin supported me when I chose not to submit to an ultimatum those four former friends gave me, knowing I would be honor-bound to reject it. But the stress of managing a large household without a steady income, and dealing with the financial burden of repeated hospitalizations, has exacerbated Korrin's condition, as any reasonable person would expect.

Bill Jasper has been a faithful and exceptionally generous friend. The same is true of others on the field staff and home office staff, as well as current and ex-JBS members and at least one member of the Council.

From the four who collaborated in the decision to kick my family to the curb, however, has come only silence.

Since last October, the only communication I've received from any of them (apart from a copy of an e-mail Jack McManus sent to Art Thompson, which was mistakenly cc'd to me, and a terse note from Jack when I replied to that message) was a perfunctory phone call from Gary Benoit on the morning of October 3 (which I've described before) in which he expressed formulaic concern for my family and then praised the wisdom of the decision to fire me.

Alan Scholl has had much to say about me, most of it studiously dishonest, but he has never had the dangling anatomy to say anything to me (when responding to lies Alan has put in circulation about my termination, I've made a point of cc'ing the e-mails to Alan, a courtesy he's never practiced). Art Thompson has spoken with others about me, apparently in the hope that he could bank-shot a message to me. He needn't take a Rube Goldberg route to communicate with he; he has my phone number and e-mail address, as do the others.

In one such conversation that was reported to me by a friend here in Idaho, Art said that I would be welcome back "anytime [I] agree to follow the rules." Implicit in that statement is a lie, namely that I had broken the rules. I never did.

Which brings me to the official reason I was terminated, as described in the only legally relevant source: The October 3, 2006 letter of termination sent to me over Art's signature.

Here is the full text of the rationale as contained in the letter, which consists of one charge and one specification:

"You do not understand that once you are a public figure everything that you say or do publicly reflects on the organization you work for, particularly when these things are in opposition to the position and principles of The John Birch Society and Robert Welch. Also, you do not understand that once we have rejected an article or nuance, you cannot go around us to post it elsewhere, identifying it as rejected material and publicly criticizing your employer for the rejection.

It is not a matter of freedom, or control, it is a matter of responsibility to your employer."

I can't disagree with the first part of the last sentence, since nothing about the JBS under its current management has anything to do with freedom. Leaving that aside, what this letter says, if read literally and carefully, is that I was fired for daring to publish a rejected "nuance."

Read the relevant statement again: "... once we have rejected an article or nuance, you cannot go around us and post it elsewhere, identifying it as rejected material and publicly criticizing your employer...." (My emphasis.)

Isaiah refers to people being made a sinner for a word. I was apparently made an ex-employee over a "rejected ... nuance."

To be specific, I was fired for re-publishing this essay in my personal, after-hours blog. As for the "criticizing [my] employer," here's the offending commentary explaining why I was re-publishing the forbidden essay:

"On June 22, I published a Birch Blog entitled `Phony Immigration Debate vs. Real Police State Threat.' Within hours it had been, um, misplaced, and never appeared in that space again -- even though it had been forwarded throughout the Blogosphere, and was reproduced in its entirety on Alex Jones's `Prison Planet' newssite.

`Where did it go?' more than one puzzled Birch Blog reader inquired of me. `Why was it deleted?' I knew where it had gone, and had been told why it was disposed of, and beyond those acknowledgements I'm really not at liberty to discuss the matter."

Why was I determined to reproduce that essay? Because it was important: The entire GOP-centered Right Wing, including the JBS under its current caretakers, was being neutralized by the immigration issue at a time when the Bush Regime was building an executive dictatorship supported by a police state.

Nobody in Appleton willing to acknowledge this in public, assuming that they even noticed. Somebody in a position of responsibility at the JBS had to go on record about this in a timely fashion.

After I first ran that essay in the Birch Blog the previous June, Alan Scholl called me to threaten my job. It mattered not whether what I wrote was the truth, sniffed Alan; the only thing that mattered was the "corporate decision" that the JBS would "ride the Republican wave." If I couldn't support that decision, then an "adjustment" would have to be made.

Alan spent more than an hour trying to bury me in marketing bromides. And while he did, as I've pointed out before, Korrin was literally dying in front of me: She was hospitalized just hours later, and had I not acted as I did she would have died within a few days.

I'm convinced that Alan decided at that time to arrange for me to be fired. He succeeded in killing the Birch Blog -- without telling me about that decision -- and suggested that I would be playing a reduced role in The New American, although I was still very heavily involved in the magazine literally up to and after the point I was fired; I sent my last article to Appleton on October 2, just a couple of hours after receiving the ultimatum from Art Thompson via telephone.

In that brief and unfocused conversation, Art mentioned the huge and worsening revenue shortfall and suggested that some of what I'd published in my Pro Libertate blog would drive away donors (something he was told by Alan, who claimed to have numerous resignations "on my desk"). The only thing that could be done, Art said in a voice theatrically tinged with panic, would be either to fire me, or force me to take down the blog, apologize for everything I'd written in it, and promise never to write a line or utter a sentence in public without obtaining Appleton's Nihil Obstat.

But here's the really odd thing about that claim:

At the very time Alan and his little clan were firing me for the supposed sin of blogging, they were running a fund-raising ad on The New American's website listing "Will Grigg's blog" as a reason for people to "help us with a donation...." At the time, remember, the Birch Blog was dead; there was only one blog being put out by Will Grigg -- the one for which I fired.

So I was fired for publishing a "rejected ... nuance" on a blog that supposedly threatened everything the JBS stands for, which is why the same people who fired me were using that blog to raise money.

That august committee defined my moral sin as that of "criticizing [my] employer": "Is a firing offense," wrote Alan to a member, using a phrase that -- appropriately enough -- reads like something a Soviet commissar would say. That committee included three individuals -- Art Thompson, Alan Scholl, and Jack McManus -- who, on company time and with company resources, actively worked to bring down the previous CEO.

I was accused of expressing views contrary to the "principles" of the JBS by a committee that included one individual, Jack McManus, who spent years bloviating about the Jewish Menace in front of schismatic Catholic groups for whom anti-Semitism is a religious dogma. (That same Jack McManus once left me horrified by describing neo-con scribbler Ben Wattenberg, admittedly not my favorite public figure, as "a slimy New York Jew," so it's not as if he deals with the issue only in rarefied theological terms.)

I was discarded as a financial liability by a committee that included the individual -- Gary Benoit -- who provided the key swing vote that permitted Vance Smith to ensconce himself at Robert Welch University, thereby helping himself to the material means to file lawsuits that left the JBS financially drained.

Most amazing to me is the fact that exactly a year earlier, I had quit my job at JBS to protest the way Vance Smith was attempting to blackmail Jack by threatening to go public with excerpts from Jack's anti-Semitic speeches. I have no brief for Jack's views, but I couldn't accept a paycheck from an organization headed by a blackmailer.

We're not just dealing with hypocrites, albeit hypocrites of significant accomplishment. There is, once again, something utterly vicious about people who would treat a long-term employee (13 years on staff, 16 years as a TNA contributor) this way -- let alone one with a large family to take care of and a seriously ill wife.

As I said, I'm bitter tonight. Bitter about what has happened to an organization I thought was worthwhile; bitter about being back-stabbed by people I had considered to be friends; and bitter about the fact that my wife is being taken from me, piece by piece, and I can't do anything to stop it.