Because Zarathushtrians value Truth, we are
given by that value, an education for leadership. Leaders in all walks of
life can set a standard and implement a vision by honoring Truth.
Independently of our individual perspectives
about the War on Terror, Donald Rumsfeld, America’s Secretary of Defense,
provides a case study on the social role of Truth in North American
society in one of civilization's most embattled moments. A Zarathushtrian
cannot help but wonder if this leader would find inspiration in
Zoroaster’s view that Truth be upheld.
This case study on the social role of Truth
arises in the context of the war effort. It is useful to first understand
basic themes regarding morality and war as we pursue this case study: When
it comes to war, one must contend with the rules of war and also
the rules in war.
The first matter is about reasons for war --- the cause of war,
whether and how war is justified. The second matter deals with what
is permitted while at war or in war --- for example, the idea that
civilians are not a legitimate target in a battle is a rule we accept in
prosecuting a war (and also has implications for “of war" issues ...).
War is the ultimate expression of human
conflict. As such, discussions of the morality of war can be felt to be
perplexing. Actually, whether there are indeed rules in war can be
fraught. It is said, in war, "Anything goes". That is, as the ultimate
expression of human conflict, war exceeds assessments of rightness and
wrongness; thus, there are no rules in war. The conclusion from this line
of thought would be that war is about lawlessness writ large.
But we do accept rules in war and think some
things are beyond the pale of any legitimate political or other grievance.
There are numerous examples and our governments see terrorist action
itself as violating legitimate warfare. The rules in war apply not only to
individuals, but to governments and other social entities.
Whether we believe him (or the Washington
administration) or agree with current policies, Rumsfeld set a vital
standard at the beginning of the war on terror in saying that his office
would only deal in Truth. If there were not rules in war, it would be
permissible for a government to use any means, including lying, propaganda
and sabotage, to persecute war. Rumsfeld claimed the opposite terrain, a
highly principled stand, to operate Truthfully.
In the Zarathushtrian tradition, Truth is the
To claim it as the Highest entails that other virtue derives from it.
This derivative efficacy of Truth has many implications for a social
Rumsfeld's record with the press is indicative
of what must be done if a value is set on Truth. For example, he declines
to answer a question if he cannot answer truthfully. As another derivative
implication, he closed an office (The Office of Strategic Initiatives)
rather than be mistaken as endorsing any legitimacy to lying. The
derivative effect of Truth may impact the course of war at strategic and
operational levels; and may provide indictment of wider political
processes where overt clarity cannot be viable.
Adhering to Truth in war or otherwise can be a
challenge. Difficult questions arise about the permissibility of lying
when doing otherwise causes (or allows) harm. War especially makes for
many questions and cases on this concern. And, life does place us in
compromising situations where it can seem not telling the Truth seems the
thing to do rather than cause harm: Life can present us with a dilemma.
Sometimes one has to choose between two principles or values (tell a lie
or do harm) and cannot hope for perfection.
Also, Truth is a virtue of moderation: To tell
the Truth means avoiding the extremes of timidity and brashness.
Excessive stridence, gracelessness in revealing truth, decisive
confrontation, can abuse Truth.
Rumsfeld set a remarkable standard.
His popular acclaim with people and press may reveal how hungry people are
for an advocate for Truth. Indeed, Rumsfeld’s leadership of the war effort
and his department is not simply functional. Rather, he places the crucial
value front and center of what he's doing, and re-makes society by
reference to the value.
To better understand Rumsfeld’s
valuing of Truth, where his inspiration for it springs, and whether he
knows or appreciates the Zarathushtrian position on Truth, we are
inquiring as to interviewing him and have been invited to attend his press
briefings with our inquiries. What would we wish to know in a one-on-one
discursive format and where can the conversation lead? Demonstrating one
Zarathushtrian’s outlook that a Zarathushtrian ethic and Vision contribute
to the forefront of the World circumstances and our North American
society, our questions in this case study would include these:
Mr. Rumsfeld, how long have you been of the
view that the Department of Defense needs to adhere to the Truth? Were
you offering a singular position or continuing a tradition that existed
before your leadership?
How does your adherence to Truth
derivatively impact other of the Department’s policies?
How does your adherence to Truth impact of
your leadership and its effects at the Department?
Do you see your position on Truth affecting
the allies and enemies to a good effect?
From what spiritual and moral sources does
your position on Truth spring?
Are you aware of the Zarathushtrian view
that Truth is the Highest Virtue?
What challenges exist in adhering to Truth
in the face of effectively confronting the enemy? Can deception be a
proper tool of war or only a second-course measure of poorer resort?
After the War on Terror, do you think that a
strong value will be placed on Truth in the new world order?
Does Truth straddle both things as they are
and also things as we are committed to making them?
What examples of Truth and Truthfulness have
given you inspiration in life?
Zarathushtra’s Vision in the Geo-Politics of the Future:
Each of us knows Zarathushtrians
who have and who will live through moments of extreme political and social
upheaval. The challenge encountered in life through its changes often
strengthens the resolve and commitment of a person. Indeed on the
spiritual score, the capacity to retain hope and not succumb to despair
mark a distinct outlook by which we can keep our Good Minds active and
purposive towards bettering the world.
We meant to discuss what a future North
American Xerxes or Shirine might be like or what they may do, and what it
should mean to us now if in fifty years new Zarathushtrians, alike and
unlike us, are born.
But we find ourselves faced with shifting
global geo-politics. At the moment of our discussion, the US and UN are
discussing, likely preparing, to use military means to remove a dictator
from power. Is an ancient, reflective religion as ours helpful in this
immediacy? How do we search for Asha or cultivate a Good Mind when War
erupts -- what does our Post Sept-11 situation portend for the new
Zarathushtrians born fifty years from now? Should we have hope for an
ultimate world harmony?
Consider the inspiration Timothy R. Smith
finds in Zarathushtra’s Vision, "Terrorism is not alone in its quest for
gain at the expense of others. Many other interests have plans to add more
for their members at great expense to others ... Left unbridled, entire
governments, nations, and communities are prone to do the same in a
nightmare of contradictions. ... ... the entire world has a lot of
building and rebuilding to do. ... ... Order will someday be restored,
justice will prevail, and we will be happy again.
The souls lost on the tragic day of September
11th and since were not lost in vain. Rather, new beginnings have been
catalyzed for a fresh, new world. ... ... let us listen to the Soul of
Mother Earth. For, in spite of our dreadful failings of the past, we have
every reason to be cheerful and optimistic about the future to come."
No less can be expected from the
religion of a pre-eminent singular type "...revolutionary, emancipatory,
and life-oriented", promoting "life affirming and rational conduct", from
a religion working in for "... a radical transformation of reality"
towards an ideal and actual world of harmony and happiness.
The Xerxes, Shirin and Spithrodates of the future with their kindred
fellows of the human family will inherit this world of shining hope.
On September 11th,
2001, four commercial jetliners in the air over the United States were
seized by terrorists. A highly coordinated attack aimed two of the four
jets into the World Trade Center in New York, creating an inferno that
killed thousands; another jet crashed into the Pentagon in Arlington,
Virginia, destroying part of the building and killing nearly two hundred,
while the fourth jet plunged to the ground in Somerset County in
Pennsylvania, killing all on board. Less than two hours had passed, but
before the day was over, the massive twin towers of the World Trade Center
collapsed, and many firefighters and police died in rescue operations. A
federal investigation identified members of the al-Qaeda network as
the people responsible for these calamities. Their leaders, Osama bin
Laden in particular, were thought to be in Afghanistan under the
protection of the Afghan government, the Taliban. While nations from all
over the world immediately expressed their condolences to the families of
victims of the tragedy, the United States strained heavily under massive
transportation and security problems. For a number of countries, however,
sympathy began to fade soon after the United States vowed a “war on
terrorism” not only against terrorists as individuals, but also against
those governments harbouring terrorists. The United States nevertheless
managed to pull together sufficient strategic alliances to launch intense
air strikes and ground operations in Afghanistan in an attempt to rout out
the al-Qaeda terrorists and dislodge the oppressive Taliban
government. The Taliban is out of power for the time being, but the
masters of terrorism remain unaccounted for as of this writing. Virtually
unknown to many Americans as they remain largely self-absorbed and
insulated from what goes on in the greater international community, the
September 11th tragedies and the events that have since
followed have led to a deep and dangerous polarization among nations.
Perhaps weary and tired, many Americans take some comfort in rationalizing
the attacks on the United States as largely symbolic, and stop short at
that point. Many continue to overlook the clear intent on the part of the
terrorists to destabilize the world’s oldest, most prosperous, most
generous, free and secular republic to a state of bedlam and anarchy from
which it would be unable to recover. History will eventually show neither
the muddled, chaotic pseudoreligious zeal of this plague of terrorists,
nor the incomparable retaliatory military and economic might of the United
States, necessary as it may be at this time, will dare to gaze upon the
face of Truth.
This article appeared in the Winter 2002 issue of the FEZANA journal under
the overall heading “Zarathushtrian Education: Zarathushtra’s vision in a
life time’s learning”, guest edited by Dr. Mehrborzin Soroushian, and Dr.
Donald H. Rumsfeld served as the
U.S. Secretary of Defense in president George W. Bush’s administration
(2001-2005) and along with Mr. Colleen Powell, the U.S. secretary of
States played an essential role in the war against terrorism that ensued
the Sept, 11, 2001 tragedy.
Readers may wish to refer to Michael Walzer’s Just and Unjust Wars: A
Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations Basic Books, April 1992
as one primer on the topic of the morality of war.
See The Love of Truth in Ancient Iran, Professor Stanley Insler,
Vohuman.org, Fall 2000 for a fuller elaboration, The Vision of
Zarathushtra, Professor Kaikhosrov D. Irani, Vohuman.org, Fall 2000,
and The Freedom to Choose and
the Moral Responsibility to Make the Right Choice, Dr. Mehrborzin
The virtues of Truth, Goodness and Beauty deriving from the ancient Greek
tradition are also sometimes thought to cohere into a whole whereby all
are encompassed in the first virtue (of Truth).
This moderate aspect is not unique
to the virtue of Truth. The Aristotelian moral outlook, pre-eminent in
offering a virtue conception of moral life, construes all the
virtues as moderations between opposing extremes. Courage, for example,
lies between the cowardly and the rash.
Earlier, we qualified veraciousness regarding Rumsfeld and Truth, but in
this paragraph we take his advocacy for Truth at its face value.
A Healing Vision, Timothy R. Smith.
Communicative Reason and Medieval Iranian Thought ISBN