Leading up to the war in Iraq, evangelical Christians
became perhaps the most enthusiastic advocates of imperium. Though politicians
have often abused "Just War theory," it is still an integral part
of Christian ethics when examining issues of war and peace. Thus, one must ask,
was the Iraq war "just" based on the criteria of historic Just War
Lets look at a sampling of comments proffered by Evangelical leaders leading
up to the war.
told Agape Press,
"those who oppose the war to liberate Iraq need to read God's Word." Blackaby
said, "There is no question that the current war to liberate Iraq is a 'just'
war – according to biblical standards." Blackaby went on to say that those who
stand in opposition to the president were courting the very judgment of God.
Writing in defense of preemptive military strikes in Christianity
Today, Chuck Colson argued for a less restrictive understanding of Just
War theory in the face of the terrorist threat. Remarkably, Colson writes that,
"out of love of neighbor, then, Christians can and should support a preemptive
strike" when an attack is imminent. Try not to snicker, but Colson also wrote
"Of course, all of this presupposes solid intelligence and the goodwill
of U.S. and Western leaders. I find it hard to believe that any president, aware
of the awesome consequences of his decision and of the swiftness of second-guessing
in a liberal democracy, would act recklessly."
Now then, I love Colson, but given that he believes in the total depravity
of man and considering that he did time in the pokey for doing Nixon's dirty
work, wouldn't you think he might be a bit more circumspect about executive
branch power, and the abuse thereof?
D. James Kennedy remarked
that church leaders opposed to the war "always take the position of blaming
America first for everything – and everybody else is right." Kennedy went on
"Why any churchman would choose to support that rather than to support
our own president, I don't know. I think that some of them are doing it for
purely political reasons, and [because] they have a very strong liberal bias
– and George W. Bush is their favorite target. Anything he does, I think, in
their eyes would be wrong."
On Larry King Live,
pastor John MacArthur said, in reference to the pending war, "I don't think
we're starting a war. I think a war [has] already started. The only question
is what are we going to [do with] a war that has already started."
MacArthur was obviously referring to an alleged link between the Iraqis and
9/11 (talk about bearing false witness against your neighbor!). I'm guessing
that MacArthur was getting his information from the Weekly Standard,
or perhaps the good folks at World(ly)
magazine. In any event, he was wrong, and what we have here is yet another example
of a pastor speaking about matters where he has limited expertise. The purported
Atta-Iraqi link to which MacArthur is presumably referring was a story created
and hyped by William Safire and other assorted hawks. However, the link was
disproved early on – in fact, prior to the broadcast on which MacArthur appeared.
In a sermon at his Atlanta church, Charles
Stanley defended the "war on terror." Stanley said that, "Throughout Scripture
there is evidence that God favors war for divine reasons and sometimes uses
it to accomplish His will. He has also given governments and their citizens
very specific responsibilities in regards to this matter."
Naturally, Stanley did not try to justify this particular war and again directed
his listeners to Romans 13 and demanded they be good boys and girls. He asks,
"How can we justify the protests and marches against war? I understand that,
in America, for example, we have a right to express our different opinions.
However, there comes a time when our personal opinion is not a priority. The
only reason we have the freedom to protest in this country is because thousands
were willing to die for that liberty in the past." Rather than relying on Scripture,
Stanley resorts to vulgar patriotism here.
The most systematic attempt by Evangelicals to defend the Iraqi excursion
from the perspective of Just War theory was an open letter organized by Richard
Land and signed by Bill Bright, Carl Herbster, Colson, and Kennedy. Though the
document reads like a David Letterman "Top Seven Reasons to Bomb Baghdad" list,
I want to take a few moments to examine the rationale spun by leaders of the
Christian Right for war.
Land and company write:
"Just war requires authorization by legitimate authority. We believe
it was wise and prudent for you to go before the UN General Assembly and ask
the UN Security Council to enforce its own resolutions. However, as American
citizens we believe that, however helpful a UN Security Council vote might be,
the legitimate authority to authorize the use of U.S. military force is the
government of the United States and that the authorizing vehicle is a declaration
of war or a joint resolution of the Congress."
We also learn that attacking Iraq was a "defensive" war because Hussein "has
attacked his neighbors, used weapons of mass destruction against his own people,
and harbored terrorists from the al-Qaeda terrorist network that attacked our
nation so viciously and violently on September 11, 2001."
Unfortunately, Congress never passed a formal declaration of war, or authorized
any military action whatsoever. Even the sweeping Use of Force resolution approved
by Congress three days after the attack on the World Trade Center falls short
of authorizing military action against Iraq. The resolution, in part, reads:
"That the president is authorized to use all necessary force against
those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized,
committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001,
or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts
of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations
The obvious problem is that we know that Iraq was NOT involved in orchestrating
and planning the attacks on New York and Washington and that the Iraqis did
NOT harbor al-Qaeda members. Jim
Lobe, commenting on the 9/11 Commission, wrote:
"While the commission, which has had access to highly classified U.S.
intelligence, said that al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden had sought contacts
with and support from former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein after his expulsion
from Sudan in 1994, those appeals were ignored.
"Contacts between Iraq and al-Qaeda after bin Laden moved to Afghanistan
'do not appear to have resulted in a collaborative relationship,' according
to the commission's report, which was released Wednesday morning. It added that
two senior al-Qaeda officials now in U.S. custody 'have adamantly denied that
any ties existed between al-Qaeda and Iraq.'"
Even Colin Powell eventually admitted (Jan. 9, 2004 edition of the NY Times)
that even though he claimed otherwise in his address to the UN, there was no
"smoking gun" linking Iraq and al-Qaeda. More importantly, despite the wild
claims of the administration and its lackeys, there have to date been no significant
findings of WMD.
Land further writes that the attack was a last resort because:
"Saddam Hussein has for more than a decade ignored Security Council
resolutions or defied them while breaking virtually every agreement into which
he has entered. He stands convicted by his own record as a brutal dictator who
cannot be trusted to abide by any agreement he makes. And while he prevaricates
and obfuscates, he continues to obtain and develop the weapons of mass destruction
which he will use to terrorize the world community of nations."
Ritter addressed this particular charge after the release of the report
by the Iraq Survey Group. Ritter writes:
"It is now clear that Iraq had in fact disarmed in compliance with
Security Council resolutions. One of the tragic ironies of the decision to invade
Iraq is that the Iraqi WMD declaration required by security council resolution
1441, submitted by Iraq in December 2002, and summarily rejected by Bush and
Blair as repackaged falsehoods, now stands as the most accurate compilation
of data yet assembled regarding Iraq's WMD programs (more so than even Duelfer's
ISG report, which contains much unsubstantiated speculation). Saddam Hussein
has yet to be contradicted on a single point of substantive fact. Iraq had disarmed;
no one wanted to accept that conclusion."
As early as July 2002, Ritter was debunking the myths of the War Party. Land
and his band of merry warriors could have stumbled into the truth with little
more than a little intellectual curiosity and an Internet connection. In the
Ritter wrote the following:
"I bear personal witness through seven years as a chief weapons inspector
in Iraq for the United Nations to both the scope of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction
programs and the effectiveness of the UN weapons inspectors in ultimately eliminating
"While we were never able to provide 100 percent certainty regarding
the disposition of Iraq's proscribed weaponry, we did ascertain a 90-95 percent
level of verified disarmament. This figure takes into account the destruction
or dismantling of every major factory associated with prohibited weapons manufacture,
all significant items of production equipment, and the majority of the weapons
and agent produced by Iraq.
"With the exception of mustard agent, all chemical agent produced by
Iraq prior to 1990 would have degraded within five years (the jury is still
out regarding Iraq's VX nerve agent program – while inspectors have accounted
for the laboratories, production equipment and most of the agent produced from
1990-91, major discrepancies in the Iraqi accounting preclude any final disposition
at this time.)
"The same holds true for biological agent, which would have been neutralized
through natural processes within three years of manufacture. Effective monitoring
inspections, fully implemented from 1994-1998 without any significant obstruction
from Iraq, never once detected any evidence of retained proscribed activity
or effort by Iraq to reconstitute that capability which had been eliminated
"In direct contrast to these findings, the Bush administration provides
only speculation, failing to detail any factually based information to bolster
its claims concerning Iraq's continued possession of or ongoing efforts to acquire
weapons of mass destruction. To date no one has held the Bush administration
accountable for its unwillingness – or inability – to provide such evidence."
UN chief weapon's inspector Hans Blix also called Iraqi cooperation proactive,
and asked for several more months to finish his work.
Land also wrote that the invasion hued to Just War theory because of the "limited"
goals stated by the administration. Land said that the "stated policies for
disarming the murderous Iraqi dictator and destroying his weapons of mass destruction,
while liberating the Iraqi people from his cruel and barbarous grip" were reasonable
goals. Since we've already discussed the fact that Hussein did not need to be
"disarmed," what about the promise of bringing liberty to Iraq? I would ask
Dr. Land, who is very concerned with religious liberty, if our intervention
has made life better for our Christian brethren in Iraq? (I think the answer
is no. Click here,
here and here
for some details.)
As importantly, when did it become the obligation of the United States to
secure "liberty" in other lands? Trying to find some plausible explanation for
the war, Mr. Bush said that, "The establishment of a free Iraq in the heart
of the Middle East will be a watershed event in the global democratic revolution.
Our commitment to the global expansion of democracy ... as the alternative to
instability and to hatred and terror is ... the third pillar of security." Since
when did "democratic revolution" become orthodoxy for Christians, or conservatives?
Mr. Bush's rhetoric, which has been endorsed by Christian leaders, is Wilsonian
and humanist to the core.
Contra the suggestion that God creates human beings to be free, Scripture
affirms that we are slaves – either to sin or Christ. Our brethren who support
the export of an ideological revolution divorced of the Gospel are succumbing
to a heresy, plain and simple.
Finally, and most sadly, Land and his co-signers write that, "We are confident
that our government, unlike Hussein, will not target civilians and will do all
that it can to minimize noncombatant casualties." A just war requires that great
care be taken to protect civilians from harm. Unfortunately, at least 15,000
civilians have perished in Iraq. And the medical journal Lancet,
in conjunction with researchers at Johns Hopkins, has concluded
that up to 100,000 civilians have perished and that the likelihood of violent
death is 58 times greater than in pre-war Iraq. Nothing like making the world
safe for democracy.
Given that the war in Iraq was conceived in deception, lacked a mandate from
the Congress, has created chaos in Iraq, and made America less safe, will our
friends admit that they were wrong, or will they continue to serve as shills
on behalf of the state?