Saturday, October 23, 2004

Catholic Layman's Justification of the War in Iraq--Part I

I posted recently on a piece by a couple of Kerry Catholics who feel the war in Iraq is unjust and so much so that they cannot see how anyone could argue otherwise. No debate, no dialogue, no opposing view. Nothing could be further from the teaching on Catholic Just War (CJW) doctrine. CJW doctrine allows for Catholics of good faith to come to different judgements on war. Why? War is sometimes necessary, sometime morally required.

I appreciate and respect the views and judgements of Catholics opposed to the war in Iraq. Some of their arguments claiming an unjust war are rational, though they at times just seem to be part of the anti-Bush crowd. I also appreciate the use of the Catechism by the authors of this piece, in making their arguments. In my reading of and studies of CJW doctrine and its application, I have become used to the more traditional JW doctrine. The points are basically the same, but the Catechism is such a gift for lay Catholics and it is wonderful to see it used in a discussion (albeit a one-sided one) on CJW. I will use a argument that the war is indeed just.

So, let us look at the Kerry Catholics case:

The authors claim there was no "aggression" and that it is "impossible" to argue Iraq had or could cause damage which is "lasting, grave, and certain". How is it "impossible"? The Iraqi regime:

-attacked and fought a war with Iran,
-attacked and occupied Kuwait,
-supported terrorists and terrorist organizations (to include al Qaeda),
-financially supported families of Palestinian homicide bombers,
-allowed a branch of al Qaeda into northern Iraq to fight the Kurds,
terrorized its own people,
-used WMD against Iran,
-used WMD against the Kurds,
-violated UN resolutions established in the wake of the Kuwait war,
-kicked out UN weapons inspectors in 1998,
-consistently and constantly harrassed US military pilots who patrolled the Iraqi no-flyzones,
-was the only regime whose leader praised the 9-11 attacks,
-planned 9-11 like attacks on US targets, as brought to our attention by Russian President Putin

Living in a post 9-11 world and knowing that other regimes, like the Taliban in Afghanistan, harbored and supported terrorists and given the nature of the Iraqi regime as listed above, how can one seriously believe it is impossible to argue that Iraq had or could cause damage. I would argue it is impossible to state they were not a serious threat. This was an "aggression underway" which began with the Kuwait war and one if left unchecked, as the Duelfer Report now suggests, would have led to the regime waiting out the sanctions, using the money skimmed off the Oil-for-Food program to pay for military arms and its WMD programs, reconstituting the Iraqi WMD programs (i.e. chemical and biological weapons within months and nuclear weapons within a year or two), and threatening its neighbors and us with these weapons. To me there is no reason why we would need to wait for another 9-11 attack which could be traced back to the Iraqi regime, and would cause thousands or more Americans to die, in order to justify an attack against Iraq. It would be too late and I suspect many Kerry Catholics would be up in arms protesting the President Bush had failed to protect us.

Just look to World War II for an example. If the Allies had decided to stop the Nazis in 1936 when the German military re-occupied the Rhineland in defiance of the League of Nations, would it have been just? Think of the lives which could have been saved. The Allies did nothing and likely many would have opposed such an effort. (As well, given the way Catholics understand Catholic Just War doctrine it would have been seen as an unjust war.) Yet, knowing what the Nazis ended up doing in the late 1930s and 1940s how could such an action in 1936 to stop the Nazis not be seen as just?

As the world has changed since St Augustine first developed Catholic Just War doctrine in the 5th century, so too has Catholics understanding of it. Now with new weapons and technology (WMD) & non-state actors (terrorists), Catholics must look to apply these new conditions to Catholic Just War doctrine. Terrorist attacks, even ones planned and directed by states like Iraq, will come without threat, without being signaled by movements of conventional arms or strategic indicators, without any advance warning of any kind. How can we wait when a nation could launch a secretive, sudden attack upon a major city with small amounts of biological or chemical agents? The challenge is to know how does this new environment apply to Catholic Just War doctrine and dismiss such understanding out of hand like Kerry Catholics seem to be doing.

NEXT: The so-called "rush" to war.

8 Comments:

Blogger Ono said...

There is so much that is wrong with what you are saying. I think the hang up with conservatives like yourselves is the strict adherence to protecting an abstract principle and not people or lives. For anyone to quibble about just or unjust war, when 100,000 innocent are maimed that should never have been in the first place, or when 20,000 innocent are killed that should never have been is incredible. Even if you support Bush, you don't have to justify this war. We all know it is wrong.

Those of us who are pro-choice don't justify abortion, we simply recognize that the issue is far more complicated than way conservatives want to deal with it. We follow the lead of the Church which does sanction abortions in certain cases under rules of double-effect. We argue that the same rule applies for us because pro-choice is not pro-abortion. Nonetheless, we do not sweep the reality of dead child under the rug. Likewise, you don't have to justify this horrendous unjustly belligerent action just to ease your conscience about the horror of this war.

Secondly, you all treat this war like a logical equation: Proposition #1: you may never do what is intrinsically evil: abortion is intrinsically evil: war is not intrinsically evil, ergo "just war" [X=non-intrinsic evil] not equal to abortion [Y=intrinsic evil], ergo . . . If you cared about life, just or unjust, you would grieve for the innocent dead. Again, we pro-choice do not deny the difficulty of our position, but we understand it is one we must take because we believe it is the war forward, but we don't diminish what is done. You don't have to justify this war so you can feel good about voting for a man who has displayed a reckless disregard for life both in this war and as governor of Texas, to the point of even mocking the condemned.

Also you say:
Terrorist attacks, even ones planned and directed by states like Iraq, will come without threat, without being signaled by movements of conventional arms or strategic indicators, without any advance warning of any kind. How can we wait when a nation could launch a secretive, sudden attack upon a major city with small amounts of biological or chemical agents? The challenge is to know how does this new environment apply to Catholic Just War doctrine and dismiss such understanding out of hand like Kerry Catholics seem to be doing.This simply is outlandish. There is no such thing as "without advance warning of any kind". We had so much advance warning about 9-11 and this President has not been held accountable for his negligence prior to 9-11. The 9-11 report and everyone who has anything to say has said that all summer of 2001, the nation's alert level was deservedly at its highest because they knew something major was about to happen. (George Tenet said the nation's alert system was "blinking red") Terrorist attacks do not happen without warning, it is simply a different type of warning than you find with state armies. Also this Bush and cohort approach to defense and securty issues as a "state" issue is misguided. No state, NOT EVEN THE TALIBAN, wants to be a target of retaliation, stable states are inherent bulwarks against terrorism. The self preservation instinct of leaders works in our favor. The war on terrorists is transnational and should focus on a movement and terrorist groups and not states primarily.

But even then, you are showing what the U. of MD research showed that Bush supporters are disproportionately misinformed about Iraq's role in 9-11 or terrorism, among other things. For years preceeding 9-11, Iraq was not even on the state-sponsor of terrorism list: but Iran was, so was Syria and North Korea.

I'll stop here, but to say "How can we wait . . ." is unbelievable. You are then flat out advocating a doctrine of constant war for constant peace. Simply state, an anti-Christian position. Again, if you want to vote for Bush, do so, but don't justify a misguided and pernicious doctrine just to ease your conscience.

6:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Ono. Don't think I am ever going to convince you.

A couple of quick thoughts:

Your claim to be the all-knowing ("We all know [this war] is wrong.) is priceless.

Pro-choice IS pro-abortion, whether you like it or not.

Don't assume I don't grieve for those lost in this war.

In re: to the advance warning, it's news to me that the president knew that terrorists were going to fly planes into buildings on 9-11-01. There will be no advance warning next time either, regardless of who is president.

Your view that there is NO justification for war strikes me as hypocritical since you claim the Catholic Church is wrong in reminding the flock that abortion can never be permitted. But, why should I be surprised.

God bless.

8:40 PM  
Blogger Ono said...

Your claim to be the all-knowing ("We all know [this war] is wrong.) is priceless.How about this: do the U.S. Bishops and the Holy Father believe this war is wrong? Did they believe it was wrong before we went in?

Pro-choice IS pro-abortion, whether you like it or not.You give no ground on that issue because you know that it is the lynch pin issue. You may not give ground, but it is gaining currency as people are begining to articulate how they feel about the issue. They are pro-choice but not pro-abortion.

But nonetheless, what do you say then about the abortions the Church sanctions under the topic of "double effect." In the classic case of an ectopic pregnancy where a fetus inplants in the fallopian tube, the mother is clearly going to die because, and only because, of the fetus inplanting where it does. It is then a choice, she either leaves the baby there and they both die,or she terminates the pregnacy so that she lives. Catholic theology gives her cover by saying, "what if we take out the fallopian tube and say that our intention is to save the mother's life and not to terminate the pregnancy, then it isn't classified as an abortion, even though ultimately we need the baby to die.

But the truth is, we all know what is being done and why. The baby is being indirectly killed so that the mother can live. It is an abortion, plain and simple, and the Church allows for this. That's a pro-choice position, folks. The primary and crucial difference between that proceedure and a direct action on the baby is that the direct "intent" is not abortion, however, the ultimate intention is abortive. This situation in which the Church sanctions such activity is proof enough that pro-choice is not pro-abortion: intent is the key. And as pro-choicers, our intent is not abortion, but lives and dignity, that ultimately lead to a better society.

Don't assume I don't grieve for those lost in this war.Then drop the "just" or "unjust" war mantra; whether the war is just or unjust means nothing. These deaths are no more justified if the war is just or unjust. Just admit, there is blood on our hands for supporting and conducting this war. If we believe that the war achieved a good thing, then pray for forgiveness, but don't hide behind "just" or "unjust" war; the war's moral status means absolutely nothing to the innocent dead or maimed, to their relatives, or to God! (If I may presume to speak for the Almighty)

In re: to the advance warning, it's news to me that the president knew that terrorists were going to fly planes into buildings on 9-11-01. There will be no advance warning next time either, regardless of who is president.You know as well as I do that you are playing the Condi Rice and Bush admin grammar game, "if we knew that two Boeing 757, UAL and AA planes from Logan airport were going to fly into towers at 9:45 in the morning we would have moved heaven and earth to stop it." My favorite was the "There is no plan on my desk to invade Iraq." (I suppose the plan was on the floor on a stack of papers, next to the desk.) Everyone knew the terrorists were planing to strike, period. Everyone knew what sort of things they had done in the past. In 1996, during the Atlanta games, the counterterrorism taskforce prepared especially for planes being used as misiles. Tom Clancy had written a novel using that type of attack. This was not new stuff. There was more than sufficient warning.

If your point is that in conventional warfare between states that there is warning as opposed to when dealing with terrorist, that is incorrect. There always is warning, you just have to interpret the signs diligently and correctly. In fact, convention warfare begins or can begin far more clandestinely than a terrorist attack, which undercuts your point that we can't afford to wait. In most modern wars, by the time the military divisions or groups begin to move, you know there is a whole iceberg of clandestine activity that has preceded it.

Your view that there is NO justification for war strikes me as hypocritical since you claim the Catholic Church is wrong in reminding the flock that abortion can never be permitted. But, why should I be surprised.
I can pretty much guarantee that I have never said there is no justification for war. That is more than likely a discussion you've had with another liberal Catholic. I respect the pacifist view, but believe that war can be necessary evil, (note that it is evil, just or unjust). The issue is this war and the recklessness with which this President went to war and how he has conducted this war. There was NOTHING necessary about this war. It shows a complete disregard for life.

A final point, is that there is a pratical reason for the necessity for the separation of Church and State. The Church has tried theocracies in the past and it does not work. it will only work when the there is the Kingdomof God on earth. The Islamic world is presently wrestling with this problem or the fusion of religious/moral code and legal code. Religion inherentlty presents stark contrasts between good and evil that CANNOT translate into human political structures. The Church can make a point about the morality of abortion or other evils, but it needs to stay out of politics or the practical means of translating moral goals into practical policy.

A case in point: one reason the US Bishops were careful about how they voiced their disapproval of the war was because of the thousands of Catholics in the military. They knew what they thought about Bush's reckless rush to war, but did not want to create a conflict of conscience for Catholic service men and women. Now, that is action I can live with and it has wisdom. They made their point and then left it up to consciences. More importantly they did not want to create a conflict of conscience with the faithful, which is worst thing they can do in any situation (or, at least, one of the worst things). That's a model for how they should operate. They need to remain the realm of ideals and leave the pratical aspects to people's consciences. So I think I, and many liberal Catholics, have been consistent on that point. The Church can proclaim goals and ideals, but it is not in its comptence to speak definitively on how we achieve those goals.

10:55 PM  
Blogger David said...

>>>do the U.S. Bishops and the Holy Father believe this war is wrong? Did they believe it was wrong before we went in?

Sure they do, but in all due respect their views are NOT binding on Catholics. The decision whether or not a war is just is a prudential one left up to faithful Catholics to make. You and other Kerry Catholics use these words and statements as official teachings and they are not. And if we are to take the words of the Holy Father and other bishops at face value why do YOU ignore them when they talk about the fact that opposition to abortion is paramount?

Your "double effect" comment only confuses those who read it. Tell me how a partially born child being stabbed in the skull and it's brains removed is needed to save the life of the mother? Tell me Ono, why your Senator Kerry and others like you make arguments about optic pregnancies and never mention the horror of PBA?

Sorry, but I will continue to call the war in Iraq just and grieve for those lost. Why you think I cannot do both is beyond me. Remember all wars are "defeats for humanity" In WWII Germany did not attack us but we bombed the hell out of places like Dresden which killed tens of thousands. But that was a just war.

We will just have to disagree over "advance warning". But if you think Senator Kerry and his Clintonista foreign policy team will catch the terrorists before the next attack you are dreaming.

6:50 AM  
Blogger Christopher said...

Saddam Hussein's Philanthropy of Terror is a good resource. The author gets a lot of his information from Stephen Haye's The Connection: How al Qaeda's Collaboration with Saddam Hussein Has Endangered America, which is the best book I've read on the subject to date.

6:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For many, Bush's little preemptive war of killin folk under false pretenses will dissuade them from reelecting him as our commander in chief. If the 9/11 Commission, who have access to restricted documents that the average chimp does not, did not see any substantive link between the 9/11 attacks and Saddam, why is it that so many chimps try to justify this illegitimate war? Killin folk under false premise is bad. It's bad because 1. killin folk under false premise is bad, and 2. killin folk is bad.

12:47 AM  
Blogger FisherRog said...

Please don't tell anyone in the anti-Iraq war that they are visceral racists. Racists? Yes, how many US troops died in Darfur? How many in Rwanda? How many in Nigeria? Oh, none you say? Is it because those kind (insert black) of people aren't worth dyng for to enjoy the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness we enjoy here. Oh, is it also true that the darker skinned darker haired people of iraq also aren't worth dying for? You got it. The US could lose 450,000 men in WWII but we carefully detail how many die trying to bring freedom and liberty to Iraq. Call the racists what they really are.

The Fisherman

1:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ono, when you talk about abstract concepts, I have found it is the Democrats that talk about abstract concepts because they rarely have proof of what they say. Here are a couple of examples from your board that we Catholics for Bush have experienced. Social Justice programs have become a bad word for me, because you people equate them with Government intervention, and that the Government is successful with their intervention. IT just isn't true. So far, no one has been able to name a social program through the Government that has been successful in FREEING the poor, and the disabled, and really placed them where the Catholic goal is, Independence. The poor have a right to dignity, and to be dependent on social programs via the government that don't work, is not dignified. They also have the right to independence, and anyone that knows about social programs via the government, knows there is no way to become independent from them. Keep in mind that anyone that has threatened to change our welfare system in this country has been demonized by your party as selfish and uncaring. Finally, if you talk about charity in the form of taxation, I would ask you if you feel like you have a lot of vitue in using your tax dollars as your charity. I say there is more virtue in researching the charity yourself, giving the money on your own, and knowing where the money goes to. Personally, I don't want my money to go to abortion. I consider the Pope my moral authority via the Catechism and he has stated that to even assist someone in getting an abortion is grounds for excommunication. Therefore if ONE penny of my money goes to a poor person for abortion, I am in a state of sin if I know about it. Since, I know that the there are means where a poor person can get an abortion via medicaid, and planned parenthood which gets some government funds, then I have to find ways of moving money away from my tax contribution and/or vote for the individual that will do the MOST to get rid of those opportunities. Clearly that choice is NOT John Kerry. His record while in the Senate has been abomidable on life issues. Unfortunately the other fact seems to be that we have weak Bishops in this country that are too afraid of losing ... something if they follow the Catechism too strongly. To prove that Democrats are giving their tax dollars and little more little less, here is another fact: in the yr 2000 the states that went to Gore, gave less in charitable giving than the states that went to Bush. This is a fact. Does that mean that the ONLY charity that Democrats give is their taxes? According to a friend of mine that is a staunch democrat yes, and so what, at least they are giving something. She claimed that we all know that most people have to be FORCED to give to charity. My goodness, what a Catholic concept. Ono, I am sorry for you, but you are young and hopefully will see the error of your thinking later in life. The Pope is our authority, you have made John Kerry the authority and I would submit to you that you risk your soul by doing that. Your conscience is led by politics, not by the Holy Father who is your so called spiritual leader, but one who you have chosen to ignore, for your self appointed spiritual leader, John Kerry. The Catechism has been in place as is, with little change since Vatican II, long before this election. Many of you people didn't know what it said that is why you kept bringing up issues, like the death penalty and just war. You also were bringing up on your board issues about who does the most to "reduce abortion by their policies" You think that too is John Kerry? Our Pope has had 25 yrs to change the Catechism if he didn't like the fact that abortion was grounds for excommunication, and he hasn't done that. I would ask you to reconsider for the benefit of your children growing up in a world and culture that we create when we don't respect our own children's life.

5:50 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home