So the conversation about the Iraq War came up again in my world politics class. I want to make very clear, in a very easy to understand format, why I do not think this war was justified, and why I do not think that any person who participated in that war, whether they joined the military before or after the war was declared, can justify their choice to participate in this immoral war.
First, I want to address a couple of arguments that I’ve heard to justify this war. The arguments will be in bold, and I’ll reply in regular text.
We Owe It to The Iraqi People because we helped Saddam in the past
I can understand why a liberal would make this argument. The student who presented it last night was a liberal. I think this should make the blood of every conservative boil. Yet most self-identified conservatives supported this war! Many did so because they thought George W. Bush was a Christian. This is not true (I’ll post the video that shows how I know he isn’t in my next post) but even if it was, it wouldn’t matter.
But back to the discussion about Iraq. Who is “We” anyway? Most people, when they say this, really mean the government of the nation. But who will be paying for this war? Will it be the governing officials, specifically the ones that supported Saddam in the 1980’s? Of course not. It will be the innocent people who are killed in Iraq (Whether they be civilians or soldiers who are defending their own country), American soldiers, and American taxpayers. With the possible exception of the soldiers who may have voluntarily joined the military (Although even then, many join because of pro-military propaganda that ignores the real truth) none of these people voluntarily consented to sacrifice their lives or material wealth in order to participate in the war in Iraq. That would be a violation of the Biblical commands against stealing (Ezekiel 20:15) and murder (Ezekiel 20:13) because taking someone’s money without his consent is theft, and killing a person other than in self-defense or as punishment for a serious crime is murder.
So did “We” owe anything to the Iraqi people? I am honestly not convinced the majority of Iraqis actually want freedom in the first place. And as bad as Saddam was (Far be it from me to defend him), I honestly think he, being a relatively secular man, will not be nearly as bad as the radical Islamic leaders who will likely replace him. Let’s say I’m right. Let’s say the government the majority of Iraqis choose is more oppressive, or more opposed to American interests, than Saddam was. Do we say “we owe it to them” again and go back in? By the same logic that we owed it to them in 2003 because of what America’s government did in the 1980’s, “we” would owe it to them again sometime in the future because of what America’s government did in 2003.
But even if I’m wrong, even if this war would lead Iraq to being a free, prosperous, Western nation, that is still no justification for killing innocent people and confiscating the wealth of Americans. The ends do not justify the means.
Iraq might have attacked us
If I actually described what I really feel about this line of reasoning, you’d likely call my rhetoric unchristian. You might be right, but I don’t know how to explain just how much this disgusting line of reasoning is. I’ll just suffice to debunk it, and let you imagine how this affects my emotions for yourself.
What might happen in the future is not a justification for actions. Most conservatives and all libertarians recognize that it isn’t OK to take away someone’s guns because he might commit a crime at some future date. I can understand taking away someone’s rights to carry because of a violent crime he actually already committed, even though I personally might have a different way of handling it depending on the situation. But there is no justification for preventing someone from owning a gun because he just might shoot someone with it.
If that isn’t good enough for you (and it should be) I seem to remember this even more clear, and somewhat humorous, example from Walter Block. Surely every man should not be castrated simply because he might rape a woman at some point in the future.
So to justify an attack on Iraq based on what might happen in the future is clearly not much of an argument. I even had some students bring up the possibility that Iraq could someday become a threat to the US. Yeah, I guess given a couple hundred years, anything is possible. But if you really want to use that long a timescale as an argument, we might as well just nuke the entire world and be done with it. The absurdity of this line of thinking should show you that the Iraq War was completely unjustifiable, at least on this ground.
Some will justify the war in Iraq because of humanitarian causes. Nobody should have to suffer under a tyrannical government, they reason. While I agree, I do not think this is any justification for the war in Iraq.
First of all, humanitarian causes was never even really the motivation for war in Iraq, or any other American war, for that matter. President Bush’s motivation was much closer to the second reason presented, motivated by what Iraq might do in the future, because Bush claimed that Iraq had WMDs. Of course, we found no evidence of this, but what if they did have WMDs? Neoconservatives cite the fact that Iraq refused to let UN inspectors into the country, and that this proved that they had WMDS. They used this as a justification for the attack. Yet, the United States would never allow UN inspectors into their country to see if they had WMDs, and they know it. And not only does the US have enough nuclear weapons to destroy the world five times over, but they actually have used nuclear weapons against Hiroshima and Nagisaki in 1945. So really, I think Iraq’s argument to attack the US preemptively because of what it might do is stronger than the argument that the US should attack Iraq preemptively because of what it might do. Incidentally, the US attacking Iraq preemptively, by this line of reasoning, proves that Iraq should have attacked the US preemptively because the US “could have” attacked Iraq, and did. Readers, are you seeing why this doesn’t really make any sense?
The fact that there was never any motivation on the part of the bureaucrats in DC to declare this war for anyone’s “freedom” should be enough to realize that the “liberate Iraq” and “humanitarian” arguments are no good. But in case it isn’t, I’ll simple cite the official stats from the US government. Over 100,000 people were killed during this conflict, by the government’s own admission, by even the lowest estimates (See here and also here). Some estimates place the total as high as 1,000,000. I do not know what the correct numbers are. I suspect that the US government would under-report the number of people that they have killed. I see no motivation that they would claim that they killed more people than they actually did. That would just make them look bad. So considering the official count is 100,000, I am confident in saying it was at least that high, and maybe higher.
Even ignoring the fact that there is no indication that the Iraqis really want to be free to begin with, if the government felt a moral obligation to overthrow Saddam for killing over 100,000 Iraqis, and the US Army killed over 100,000 Iraqis to overthrow Saddam, is our government really all that much better than his for the Iraqis? I think its obvious that the answer is no.
Nevermind the fact that our own government is now tapping our phones without a warrant, claims the power for itself to indefinitely detain American citizens without warrant, to kill people with drones without any judicial oversight, allows the murder of millions of unborn children, allows invasive pat downs of Americans, including children, as a prerequesite for boarding flights in certain cases, has the highest prison population in the world, half of whom are for drug related “crimes” (I’ll address this one in a future post), allows the murder of millions of unborn children, takes more than half of what some Americans earn… I could go on and on with this. As American civilians living in the United States, particularly those of us who are Christians and live according to traditional conservative morality, we are better off here than we would be in Iraq. But for many others, this is not the case. And the people of Iraq would certainly be better off if the US government was not poking its nose where it didn’t belong. Don’t we have enough problems in our own country to fix?
This is not an issue I will compromise on. This is an issue of basic morality. Its one thing to wage war because you are attacked. I can understand that. Its another thing to wage war because you might get attacked in the future, or because a leader is a tyrant in his own country. I think I’ve shown more than enough evidence that this is completely unacceptable. Some will throw our red herrings like “There’s no perfect candidate”, but I won’t vote for any candidates that support wars like this either. My response to those who slander me by saying I am “Demanding perfection” would be to ask whether you’d ever vote for a candidate who is pro-abortion? If you answer “:no” does this mean you are “demanding perfection”? Of course not. There are some issues you will compromise on, and others that you will not compromise on. The same is true for virtually everyone. We won’t get any candidates that are actually moral unless we are willing to demand that they be moral, which means we have to be willing to “Waste our vote” or even not vote at all if that’s what it takes. Even if that means being mocked by people who are all too willing to compromise.
Does this mean that you should never support a candidate who is wrong on any issue? Of course not. Senator Rand Paul is far from perfect. I don’t agree with him on everything. But he understands the basic moral necessity of peace. If, in the future, he should stray from that, I won’t support him anymore. Demanding that our candidates support peace, life, and free markets in general does not mean we are demanding that they be absolutely perfect.
I did want to address one more thing, and that is the question of the moral standing of those who participated in the war in Iraq because they are ordered to. For now, I will be limiting my address to those who agree that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. Those who do not have a subjective morality, so I will not be able to convince them. But for Christians, I want to quote a passage that is commonly quoted to justify obedience even when ordered to fight in an unjust war,and explain why it does not mean we should obey unjust orders:
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.
Chuck Baldwin has actually written an entire book on this passage. I’ve read a number of people who have written some interesting things about it as well. For now, I’m simply going to focus on one aspect of this, and leave the other considerations for another day.
Paul says to obey also “for conscience sake.” Paul is not saying to disobey our conscience in order to obey the government. Paul is saying to obey the government “for conscience sake”, which means obedience must be consistent with our conscience.
For one thing, this clearly means any commands of God override any commands of government. It also seems to me that this is saying if God has given a person a personal conviction not to do something, that that should clearly override what the government says.
However, even going with the Bible by itself, we can see a prohibition against aggressive war:
10 And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then?
11 He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise.
12 Then came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, Master, what shall we do?
13 And he said unto them, Exact no more than that which is appointed you.
14 And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages.
The translation of this verse is apparently tricky in English. I don’t know Greek, but I saw this article on it, which I found interesting. There’s also Matthew 5:9, which says “Blessed are the peacemakers” and while I understand that this is primarily talking about spreading the message of how men can be at peace with God, I cannot help but think that invading a foreign country is totally incompatible with this.
So, I think I have shown that Christians should follow their consciences, and what the Bible says about peace, rather than obeying orders they are given to invade foreign countries. For me myself I will never join the military because I know participating in aggressive war has been a part of the job since the 19th century. If I am drafted, I will obey God rather than man.