The aftermath of war

The classic just war theory has a great deal to say about justifications for going to war, and about the proper conduct of war once it’s being fought. But it says almost nothing about the aftermath of war. (For the record, I think this whole theory is defunct. There is probably no such thing as a “just war” in the 21st century. Just for starters, how does one make the required distinction between combatants and civilians?)

The weapons of modern warfare often leave horrific legacies that create death and havoc after a war. Think about the radiation after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the unexploded land mines around the globe, the depleted uranium in Iraq, and the legacy of Agent Orange in Vietnam.

This week on Interfaith Voices, we visit once again the results of the spraying of Agent Orange. Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Connie Schultz gives us an overview of the destruction it caused in lives and in the environment. Heather Bowser tells her personal story as the daughter of a Vietnam veteran who was exposed to Agent Orange during the war; she was born without part of a leg and several fingers. Her story is like that of tens of thousands of children in Vietnam.

Charles Bailey, whom I got to know on my own trip to Vietnam last year, describes how the experience of a gutted landscape (a “moonscape,” he calls it) in a once lush Vietnamese valley changed his life. He has spent the last eleven years working toward a bilateral solution to the legacy of Agent Orange, with considerable international success. He is now at the Aspen Institute guiding a major project on this issue. Finally, David Zeiler puts in all in context with his discussion of Agent Orange spraying as a form of “ecocide.”

Here is the link to listen:

Join the Conversation

Send your thoughts and reactions to Letters to the Editor. Learn more here