March 20, 2003
to Bush's Unjust War
A BUZZFLASH READER COMMENTARY
United States, as the world knows, will never start a war. . .
. we shall also do our part to build a world of peace where the
are safe and the strong are just."
I weep for my country. I have watched the events of recent months
with a heavy, heavy heart. No more is the image of America one
of a strong yet benevolent peacekeeper."
Now that war is upon us, there is little doubt it will be justified. Weapons that eluded inspectors will be miraculously and quickly found, as will, most likely, devious plots to use them. One only has to recall the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11 to realize how easily these things fall into Uncle Sam's hands -- from Mohammed Atta's suitcase, (complete with a flight manual and Koran) to his grooming tips letter to fellow suicide pilots to the passport that survived the fiery inferno. (For more "lucky finds," see http://www.guardian.co.uk/september11/story/0,11209,669961,00.html.) But though the war will be "justified," could it ever be considered just?
There has been much discussion lately about whether or not this war complies with "just war criteria." Former President Jimmy Carter's March 9 New York Times op-ed piece has fueled the debate, particularly since Carter surmised that this war does not. "As a Christian and as a president who was severely provoked by international crises," he wrote, "I became thoroughly familiar with the principles of a just war, and it is clear that a substantially unilateral attack on Iraq does not meet these standards." http://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/09/opinion/09CART.html.
Most scholars trace just war theory back to Saint Augustine, who grappled with the dilemma of balancing lofty Christian principles with the messy business of defending Rome. Later refined by Saint Thomas Aquinas, just war doctrine represents a standard that has lasted centuries -- and remains the moral template by which conflicts are judged. According to President Carter, to meet just war criteria, a military action must:
Since war always involves dire moral dilemmas, (killing and maiming aside, "just wars" can be waged unjustly, just as unjust wars may be fought in accordance with the rules), most American churches have studied the second Gulf War in terms of just war theory and have concluded, as has Carter, that it doesn't meet established criteria.
In an article entitled, "War in Iraq is wrong, 51 church leaders say," the Miami Herald addressed the significance of just war theory, explaining how "most of those involved in public debate are using [just war] doctrine to argue the pros and cons of a U.S. invasion of Iraq." http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/4362924.htm Reporting in Oct. 2002 on how 51 "leaders of the Episcopal, Evangelical Lutheran, United Methodist, Presbyterian (USA) and Orthodox churches, wrote to President Bush on Sept. 12, 2002 saying "it is wrong . . . to take such action" (and how the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops concurred), the article was reinforced by Carter's description of an "almost universal conviction" that this war is unjust. The exceptions, Cater pointed out, are the few churches that are "greatly influenced by their commitment to Israel based on eschatological, or final days, theology." In other words, most religious leaders, save those praying for Armageddon, are judging this war on just war criteria - and denouncing it.
The debate over just war theory has included the moral dilemma posed by preventative war, as well as how modern-day weapons fit the criteria, (as with the Pentagon's "shock and awe" plan, you can't wage a nuclear war without targeting civilians). Then, too, there are varied interpretations. An Oct. 2001 National Review article framed just war theory in a slightly different way. While explaining ways the theory is embraced by Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox Christians and how "the teachings of Jewish tradition on war and peace are closely in line with it," Robert P. George, the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence Princeton University characterized just war criteria thusly:
"There is a set of principles establishing criteria for moral evaluation of the use, or possible use, of military force. First, war can be justified only in self-defense or defense of others. . . . A second principle of just war requires that the use of force have a reasonable likelihood of success. Lives may not be sacrificed and taken in futile causes. A third principle demands that force be used only when nonviolent means will not suffice. A fourth recognizes the immunity of noncombatants from deliberate attack. Although it can be permissible to perform military actions that foreseeable result in the death or injury of noncombatants (so-called "collateral damage"), it is never permissible to make the harming of noncombatants the object of the actions. Thus, killing civilians for revenge, or even as a means of deterring aggression by people who sympathize with them, is forbidden. A fifth principle requires that the use of force, especially where harm to noncombatants is likely, be "proportionate" to the evil being opposed." http://www.nationalreview.com/interrogatory/interrogatory101501b.shtml
Even given these broadened definitions (used here to justify the war in Afghanistan) the conflict in Iraq can only be viewed as being unjust. Since much of the "evidence" this administration has provided has been based on forgeries and fabrications, this war is not a matter of national security or defense, but is rather, as New York Times columnist Tom Friedman asserts, a war of choice. Depending upon which ever-changing reason for war one accepts, it violates the second principle, too, unless "success" is defined only in terms of disarmament, which most outside the U.S. still believe could have been achieved peacefully. Considering that the Bush administration was building a Qatar-based media propaganda center http://www.buzzflash.com/contributors/03/03/17_goon.html while it pretended to go along with inspections, it's safe to say the administration never planned to comply with the third principle and exhaust all nonviolent means. And since the Pentagon is deliberately planning a "mini-Hiroshima" to demoralize citizens and "deter aggression," this war most assuredly violates principle No. 4.
brings us to the fifth principle, as defined in the National Review.
Chances are, when all is said and done, CNN will feature happy Iraqis
cheering us on, ala Kuwaitis, circa 1991. Yet adherence to criteria No.
5 depends largely upon how Iraqis feel about being "liberated" from
the dictates of one "strongman" into the oppressive rule of
another. As a recently leaked State Department document revealed, "The
towel heads can't hack [democracy]; the only way to achieve stability
country is to install another strongman drawn from Saddam's Sunni minority."
So, once again: Is this war being waged as a last resort? Is it truly defensive? Are we exacting revenge for 3,000 dead, even though Iraq had absolutely nothing to do with the World Trade Center or Pentagon attacks? Will this war protect innocent civilians? Is it sanctioned by a legitimate authority? One can only conclude that this war gives new meaning to the adage, "don't ask, don't tell."
Of course, now that war is here, we're expected to ignore history, overlook lies and fall in line. But the Vatican's warning that "those who decide that all peaceful means that international law makes available are exhausted assume a grave responsibility before God, their conscience and history," rings more true to us than all of George Bush's ungodly, un-American falsehoods.
And so, though we appreciate and worry about our troops (and think of their mothers and fathers), we can't deny our consciences. As God is our witness, we believe Bush's warmongering is wrong, dangerous and unjust. And we'll continue to say so.
A BUZZFLASH READER COMMENTARY
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