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Regular contributor ("Carson City Limits" and other content) for Random Lengths (circulation 56,000) in San Pedro, CA, 2001-present. Manga reviewer: LA Alternative (circulation 150,000), 2005-2006. Some manga reviews also ran in NY Press around this time. Entertainment reporting: Music Connection (circulation 75,000), 1983-1906. Travel writing: Oakland Tribune (1998) and Life After 50 (2006). Other bylines: Goldmine, Star Hits, Los Angeles Reader, Los Angeles Times, Long Beach Press Telegram, Blade, BAM, Daily Breeze, LA Weekly. Specializations include community news reporting, writing reviews (book, theater, concert, film, music), copywriting, resumes, editing, travel writing, publicity, screenwriting, lecturing, and content development. Education: B. A. Theater Arts, UCLA. Post-grad work, Education, Chapman University.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Book Review: Robert Vivo Argues War is a Crime Against Humanity

by Lyn Jensen

"War is not, then, something that befalls man but rather a scourge intentionally invented and perpetrated by man," provides the thesis of South American author Roberto Vivo's book, War:  A Crime Against Humanity, that was published by Hojas Del Sur in Argentina in 2014. It has since been made available in English translation, in both e-book and paperback formats.

Unfortunately Vivo adds little to arguments already made concerning the immorality of war, and he also offers few suggestions as to how humanity may move beyond warfare to alternate means of resolving our differences. His first chapter, "Violence and Man" is an overly broad look at war's history that stops short of examining war's true economic, anthropological, psychological, social and political causes. It fails to answer or even ask some basic questions readers may have.

If you're looking for discussions on such topics as, "Why do politicians keep sending citizens to war?" or "Why do citizens keep allowing politicians to send them to war, for that matter?" you won't find them in this book. Readers will find better answers to such questions in, for example, General Smedley Butler's classic pamphlet War is a Racket. 

Vivo's second chapter, "A History of Peace," also does little to address the history of the peace movement. Much of the chapter is spent on distant historical examples of Christians, Moslems, and Jews co-existing and working together. Those examples might be better suited for studies in religion than for a book supposedly about the criminality of war. As for what Vivo says here about the modern peace movement, Ghandi gets two paragraphs. Nelson Mandela (and the entire South African anti-apartheid movement) gets one. Martin Luther King, Jr. gets nothing.

"Open Society and Closed Society," the third chapter, also suffers from overly broad generalizations that do little to advance the author's thesis. One might think that a South American scholar might provide a neutral viewpoint concerning examples of America's liberal-conservative divide, but that doesn't happen. Instead the chapter focuses on more distant history (some interesting insight into the political views of George Washington and Napoleon in particular). Vivo's book might be more relevant if it focused more on how to make today's peace movement heard above right-wing noise.

Only in the final chapter, which bears the same title as the book itself, do we find significant guidance pointing us to a world without war. Vivo begins here by using slavery, torture and racism as examples of moral issues the world has made great progress toward criminalizing in modern times. However, he fails to provide any concrete examples of how steps taken to eradicate those issues may be duplicated within the anti-war movement.

Vivo finally gets around to discussing of the criminal 2003 invasion of Iraq on pages 310-311 (out of 335 pages). Even then he only focuses on the British, as he relates how that nation flouted the Nuremberg trials' condemnation of aggressive war as the supreme international crime. Here we see we have precedent for war as a crime--the problem is Britain's government (and America's, and much of the rest of the world) routinely ignores it.

War does proffer the United Nations' International Declaration of Human Rights (IDHR) as one example of how the world is moving--stumbling, fumbling, bumbling, but moving--towards binding all nations together in criminalizing war, and also torture. Vivo stops short, however, of recommending ways the peace movement may ensure national and international leaders execute compliance with the IDHR.

Another example of enforcing international law is the International Criminal Court (ICC) but here, too, the United States in particular simply chooses to not accept the court's authority. Vivo proffers, "The United States is in the unique position of having taken part in the organization of the ICC and having signed its charter in 2002 [the year after we criminally invaded Afghanistan and we were planning to criminally invade Iraq] but having then (under the administration of George W. Bush) refused to ratify it. The United States is not a member of the ICC, nor does it recognize the authority of the Court within its own country, and this last is the case too of other world powers such as China, Russia, India, Iran and Israel."

In summary, Vivo argues, "[T]hat if a single individual's human and civil rights can be arbitrarily suspended, everyone else's rights are at risk too, it stands to reason that if a single major power is permitted to thumb its nose at the principles and institutions of international law and governance, the effective power and investiture of such institutions is severely undermined, as are any genuine possibilities for universal peace and justice."

A classroom, study group, or book club may be where War may prove most useful, where it can be discussed as part of more extensive anti-war studies. Youth, or others who are new to the peace movement, may find it a place to provide a broad overview regarding the criminality of warfare. Committed pacifists will need to seek out additional material that more directly addresses alternate means to resolving our differences.

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