Wednesday, June 6, 2007


I have opposed this Iraq War since it was first suggested. My original reasons were Christian. Long ago Augustine proposed the Just War Theory. It basically says that for a war to be just it has to meet the following criteria:

  1. have a just cause;
  2. be declared by a proper authority;
  3. possess a right intention;
  4. be the last resort;
  5. have a reasonable chance of success; and
  6. the ends be in proportion to the means used.[1]

Before I explain why the current Iraq War does not meet these criteria, let me add one caveat to Just War Theory: war is always evil. Sometimes, alas, it is the least evil choice in this messed up, sinful world.

Having said that, the Iraq War fails to meet the first, third, fourth and fifth and sixth criteria listed above.

A just war has to have a just cause. This basically means that one’s country has been attacked or another country has been attack and one’s country comes to the defense of the other country. President Bush and his aides promoted the Iraq War by calling for a preventative war. A preventative war cannot be just because one’s country is not under attack. Even the threat of potential weapons of mass destruction fails under this theory, not because no such weapons were found but rather because the U.N. inspectors were doing an adequate job, not of finding weapons of mass destruction but rather of preventing Saddam Hussein from using them, if they existed, the presence of the inspectors did not allow for sufficient space to make and deploy the weapons.

Further, the argument that Saddam Hussein supported Al Qaeda is laughable. Radical Islamicists hated Saddam Hussein as much as they hate us.

A just war has to be declared by a proper authority. This basically means that a legitimate government has to declare the war. I let this one go because the president did go to congress and get its permission. Still, a little more attention to the truth would make this criteria more justifiable.

A just war has to possess a right intention. Hmmm . . . What were our intentions again? The stated intention was to remove the threat of weapons of mass destruction. But evidence has come out that the administration knew that weapons of mass destruction, at least nuclear weapons, were not in Iraq. And the problem with finding chemical or biological weapons is that the places where they might be developed can look a lot like a insecticide factory or a graduate level bio lab.

Now if one makes the argument that the people of Iraq needed to be set free from a tyrant one has a slightly better intention. But the right thing to do under such circumstances is to provide material support to tribal or governmental leaders who seek to overthrow a tyrant. Setting a people free who do not fight for their own freedom is a dangerous activity that usually is punished. Alas, too few people study history.

A just war has to be the last resort. In 2003 were there other actions the United States or NATO or the UN could have taken to prevent the use of weapons of mass destruction by Iraq? That, after all, was the reason given for the war. Certainly the UN inspectors were not allowed to do a complete job. Nevertheless the probability of Iraq actually being able to use weapons of mass destruction was fairly low. The US and its allies had no fly zones over northern and southern Iraq. There were spy plane missions and robot plane missions and spy satellite missions constantly observing Iraq. Wouldn’t greater support for UN inspectors have been a reasonable step before the last resort of war?

Oh, and I have to say here, because I have to say it somewhere: the sanctions and the oil for food policies weren’t working. They weren’t working partially because some UN officials and others got very rich selling oil on the side for Saddam Hussein and also because Saddam Hussein didn’t care if the middle class of Iraq sank into poverty and people starved. He was just a bit too self-centered to care about those who didn’t help to prop up his regime. And besides, let’s see we send food to feed the starving in North Korea, a country the president calls part of the axis of evil, but not to the people of Iraq? Either there is a subtlety of foreign policy that I just don’t get here or feeding North Koreans while starving Iraqis just didn’t make sense

Whew! Having got that out of my system:

A just war has to have a reasonable chance of success. Well, we did succeed, didn’t we? Saddam Hussein is dead and the Baath party is destroyed. So why are civilians and soldiers dying every day in Iraq? It is because we didn’t take a careful look at the situation on the ground. HELLO! Did anyone ask any questions about the millennium old hatred of Sunnis for Shiites and vice versa? How about the desire of Kurds to establish their own nation and how surrounding countries like Turkey and Iran might feel about that? (Remember that Turkey wouldn’t let us fly air missions out of bases in Turkey? Think maybe they has a reason for that, justified or not?) Did anyone consider that Hussein had favored his Sunni relatives and friends and oppressed the Shiites and that the Shiites might want some revenge? Did anyone in the administration consider the important role of tribes and tribal leaders in Iraqi life? Or the fact that in some Muslim countries, when allowed free elections, people vote for parties like Hamas? Nope! We wanted to establish an American style democracy in an area of the world that didn’t have the history and tradition that would contribute to such a democracy. What did we expect?

The ultimate result seems to be, no matter how many troops we pour into Iraq now, the Sunnis and the Shiites are going to fight whether we are there or not. Maybe, if we sent in a million troops we might get the fighting to die down a bit, but they are, sure as shootin’ (couldn’t resist that bad pun), going to start fighting again as soon as they get a chance. And let’s see . . . if we get really unlucky maybe the Iranians will not only supply weapons to the Shiites but send troops as well and then Sunni nations like Syria and Saudi Arabia will send troops in to protect the minority Sunnis and we will have a really big war in the Middle East!

By the measurement of number of deaths the Iraqis were better off under Saddam Hussein! At least under his rule only the army or the secret police might come and kidnap you in the middle of the night. Now kidnapping is a growth industry in Iraq and mass murder is an everyday event!

Please notice I’m not arguing that Saddam Hussein provided good or just rule in Iraq. I am arguing that one should consider the consequences of one’s actions before one acts! Again, study of history would be a help.

In just war the end has to be proportional to the means. Curiously this can be argued two different ways. On the one hand, the amount of bombs we dropped on populated areas in Iraq was beyond proportional to the goal: the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. A lot of people who just wanted to go about their daily lives got killed. Them bombs just ain’t as smart as they are supposed to be! Proportionality is a problem with all modern warfare, including World War II. One can no longer just fight the army in an open field away from innocent civilians. There are, as Bob Dylan called them the “Masters of War,” those who make the weapons that kill and their factories. It is difficult to win a war these days without also destroying the means by which the enemy fights the war. This doesn’t mean that wars should never be fought any more. There are still just causes. But war has gotten dirtier and more evil. Thus we should consider longer whether we should enter a war or not.

On the other hand, there is the Powell Doctrine. Colin Powell, after his frustrating experience in Vietnam, argued during the First Gulf War that if you are going to do the job you have to do it right. In other words you use all the power available to you, not to kill everyone in sight but rather to so overawe the enemy so that he/she will not resist. Alas, our president did not listen to his best advisor and tried to do this war on the cheap, not sending in enough troops because it wasn’t politically expedient. Remember that big base full of weapons that sat unguarded and was looted? Those weapons are being used against our troops now! If we sent in enough troops we would have been able to guard those weapons. And the oil lines. And put enough soldiers on the streets to make guerrilla warfare too expensive.

Of course, no one was listening to me in 2003. For that matter few, if any, will listen to me now. But it isn’t fair to just critique the past and then leave. So I have a proposed solution. It ain’t pretty, but it’s mine.

  1. Apologize. I know politicians don’t like to admit they were wrong but what the heck? They were wrong! So President Bush should say he was wrong when he decided to go to war with Iraq. He should say, at the very least, that he did not consider the full consequences of his actions and that things certainly didn’t turn out the way he expected them to turn out.
  2. I know we don’t have a lot of credibility with the Sunnis or the Shiites, but we should ask their leaders to sit down with us, or some other party that both sides trust and see if there isn’t a way to stop the fighting between the two groups. Better include those tribal chiefs in the conversation too and provide all sides protection from both their enemies and their friends if they will accept such protection from us or some other group.
  3. We should offer the Kurds all the support they need. After all, the north of Iraq is the one place in the country where American troops are welcomed. After their persecution they deserve a place of their own. But we shouldn’t get involved in their arguments with the Sunnis about who owns which city or who owns the oil. We should encourage them to negotiate with the Sunnis about these issues. Alas, negotiation does not seem to be the preferred method of resolving disputes in Iraq today, but we should at least try. Oh, and we shouldn’t guard the borders of Kurdish territory. They should take on that task.
  4. The unfortunate fact of the matter is that neither the Sunnis nor the Shiites want us in their country. Both sides have people who shoot at our troops and set off bombs as they go by. Polls say that most of the Sunnis and Shiites don’t want us in Iraq. Let’s take them at their word. Give them the chance to sit down together and try and work things out and tell them they have six months to do so. They can choose peace or a long, messy, horrible civil war. After all, they can continue to fight that civil war slowly as long as we are there and then heat it up when we leave. They could fight now or later. Or they might just take a look at the situation and back off and try to find a way to get along together. Then again, they might not. Either way it would be their choice.
  5. If the various groups find a way to peace we should pay to fix their country’s infrastructure. I don’t like more taxes anymore than anyone else, but we made the mess and we ought to clean it up.

Anyway, that’s what this simple-minded pastor thinks.


1 comment:

Jodie said...

Well I am listening.

But I don't count. I was against the war too. Why? Because among other things the data said we had no case. Because the White House was using double speak. While never claiming Iraq had anything to do with 911, they always managed to mention 911 when talking about Iraq. Classic forked tongue approach. Why use forked tongue unless you know you have no case? The war was based on a premeditated lie. Shame on Collin Powell for repeating it in public.

It was shocking that the Church could so easily be coerced to join a lynch mob.

I'm embarrassed as an American and I am embarrassed as a Christian.

So I have one small contribution. I no longer call it the War in Iraq.

I call it the Bush War.