War is murder

War is murder. There are no two ways about it.

Hosea Biglow, the 19th century farmer in James Russell Lowell’s book “The Biglow Papers,” says that war and murder are one and the same. He declares that the true purposes of war are greed and covetousness. Merriam-Webster cites the definition of murder as being the unlawful killing of one human by another. The key word being unlawful. Merriam-Webster also says that war is a state of usually openly declared hostile conflict between states or nations. If the differences between killing someone in war and murder are simply that one is lawful and the other isn’t, it is paramount to note that it is the state that makes these laws and it is the state that declares war.

It is important to remember that states are man-made. There are no natural boundaries segregating one’s possessions from another’s. The only reason they exist is because human beings choose to enforce them, generally violently. The enforcement of those man-made boundaries, and the protection or procurement of everything within, through the use of force, is legally defined as war, not murder.

Nazi Germany killed millions of innocent people. We now call that murder. It was no more murder than war is, given that their killing was codified by law. England oppressed and killed millions in its subjugation of Scotland, Ireland, India, the Americas, and many countries on the continent of Africa. It was every bit the definition of murder that the Nazis committed. The United States killed millions of indigenous natives in the Americas. Most of them not hostile, at least not hostile before they were invaded and moved off their lands. They did so with the full backing of both popular support and the law. By moral definition, this has to be murder.

Murder, by moral definition, must solely consist of the killing of one person by another, without regard to law. The law has no bearing on morality. The state cannot define morality. It is subject to it. If you go to war, you will put yourself in a situation where you have to kill someone. It is murder. Whether or not it is justified depends entirely on the justification of the war. If you cannot justify the conflict, you cannot justify the murder.


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