On War

The second invasion of Iraq by American and Allied forces began in March of 2003. Some months later, it appeared that the Iraq phase of the War Against Terrorism was winding down. Our President had declared that the Saddam Hussein Regime no longer existed. A number of our Navy's major combat ships left the Persian Gulf area and returned to their home ports or normal patrol areas. There were still what CentCom called “pockets of resistance” in northern Iraq and in some of the cities, but the primary military mission appeared to be that of establishing order and restoring Iraq's infrastructure.

Before the fighting started, back when the specter of war loomed ever larger over the Middle East, it became clear that not everyone supported the idea of our going to war with Iraq. “Negotiate,” some shouted; apparently overlooking the fact that negotiations had been ongoing for more than a decade. “Let the United Nations deal with Iraq,” was another frequently heard plaint; yet the world had been watching for nearly 12 years as the United Nations' peace overtures and weapons inspection programs proved ineffective. Others claimed that war—not just with Iraq, but any war—was immoral. Many groups and a few nations made major efforts through diplomatic means to convince or compel America not to go to war. Nations that we had succored during periods of their own need, some of which had veto authority, turned their backs and refused to support us in the United Nations. The Catholic Church, in the persons of her pope, her bishops and priests and the Catholic faithful, struggled tirelessly to forestall the war to topple Saddam's regime.

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A papal envoy met with President Bush and reiterated the Vatican's opposition to a U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, saying a war without U.N. approval would be "immoral, illegal, unjust."…

Speaking about Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, the cardinal told reporters, "If he intends to disarm, certainly at this stage he goes too slowly. He has been promising for 12 years, but now where do we go?"

The Vatican maintained that there was no moral justification for a war against Iraq. The pope and Vatican officials argued that a war on Iraq would be disproportionate to the threat, potentially catastrophic in its effects on civilians and counterproductive to the global fight against terrorism.-- Stephen Steele, Papal envoy meets Bush, reiterates Vatican opposition to Iraqi war, Catholic News Service, March 5, 2003

For reasons that elude me, the Vatican considered that invading Iraq without United Nations approval would be an unjust action. Getting that approval would have been all but impossible given that France, among others, had declared her intention to veto any UN resolution favoring war with Iraq. Does no one think it significant that the Coalition of the Willing numbered more than 45 nations, a number of which pledged combat, peacekeeping or rebuilding support for the war effort? Does no one understand that, had the U.N. given its approval to invading Iraq, the same troops and the same battle plan surely would have been used? All that would have been different would have been the United Nation/s meaningless stamp of approval would have been given to the plan.

As Roman Catholics across the nation prayed for peace, a personal envoy from Pope John Paul II urged President Bush yesterday to work through the United Nations to disarm Iraq, saying war would be "illegal" and "unjust" without further U.N. authorization.—Alan Cooperman, Vatican Weighs In Against War: Action Would Be 'Unjust' Without U.N. Approval, Envoy Says, Washington Post, March 6, 2003

As America prepared for war, the Vatican's efforts to prevent war were kicked up a notch.

VATICAN CITY - Pope John Paul II and top Vatican officials are unleashing a barrage of condemnations of a possible U.S. military strike on Iraq, calling it immoral, risky and a "crime against peace." – Victor L. Simpson, Vatican antiwar appeals intensify: Pope, others portray possible strike on Iraq as criminal, immoral, Associated Press, March 13, 2003

The Vatican was not alone in her efforts to prevent war with Iraq. That large ecumenical body calling itself the World Council of Churches chimed in on the side of peace at any price.

GENEVA - Christian leaders around the world condemned the U.S.-led war against Iraq Thursday, pleading for an end to the bombing and a resumption of diplomacy.

In Geneva, the World Council of Churches called the assault "immoral, illegal and ill-advised."

The group, made up of 342 churches in 100 countries, urged Christians to stand together with members of all other faiths, especially Muslims, "to restore confidence and trust amongst the nations of the world."--CBC News, Churches deplore war in Iraq, March 20, 2003

Did our military intervention in Iraq constitute a just war? A difficult question to answer; and one that each person likely will decide for himself. War has been a part of the human experience since not long after the 6th day of Creation. The Old Testament is liberally salted with accounts of wars, many of them involving God's Chosen People. In the Bible, we can read of God's sending the Hebrew nation into Canaan to destroy the kingdoms to be found there (Deuteronomy 7:1-2). We can read of God's use of warring nations to chastise the Jews; and we can read of His sending angels to fight for the Jews. Is man empowered to judge the morality of the wars that God engendered?

These days, it is not uncommon to encounter the message that God is love. And He is. However, He also is just and can be jealous, righteous, vengeful, merciful and many other things. I sometimes think that people who promote the “God is love” message to the exclusion of all other messages concerning the nature of our almighty and all-perfect sovereign Lord, are caught up in a web of self-delusion. They overlook that the same God about whom the Psalmist wrote: “But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.” (Psalms 86:15), is quoted by Moses as having said:

If I whet my glittering sword, and mine hand take hold on judgment; I will render vengeance to mine enemies, and will reward them that hate me. I will make mine arrows drunk with blood, and my sword shall devour flesh; and that with the blood of the slain and of the captives, from the beginning of revenges upon the enemy.-- Deuteronomy 32:41-42

Am I trying to justify America's intervention in Iraq by claiming that it was obedience to the will of God that was behind it? Not at all. I am no prophet empowered to pronounce Divine oracles. What I offer is my own considered opinion concerning the war and America's role in it. I believe that initially our involvement in the war was righteous and that the war was a just war. I don't care two hoots for arguments dealing with allegations of weapons of mass destruction or oil interests, though I acknowledge that both issues are important.

I believe the war was just because an enslaved and terrorized people were freed. I believe the war was just because no more fathers will be killed in front of their children for no other reason than that it occurred to some representative of the regime to do it. I believe the war was just because no more women will be taken to military or police barracks, or great palaces to be raped and murdered. I believe the war was just because, hopefully, no more Iraqi children will be taught to hate to the degree that they will be willing to blow themselves up for the 'cause.'

I believe the war was just because of what I saw, smiles as well as tears, on the MSN coverage of the war.

That was then. This is now. Nearly five years after the commencement of hostilities, American forces are still in Iraq, still engaged in mortal combat and still dying. Why are they there? I confess to having no knowledge of why they are there other than what Washington tells me. I do believe that our war industry benefits greatly from the continuing expenditures necessary to support this new Vietnam War, and I know that it maintains a small army of lobbyists in Washington. Certainly, the oil industry has been blessed by our endless involvement in combat and security activities in Iraq. There are tens of thousands of "private security operators" operating in and around Iraq, and they have a vested interest in our continuing presence in that be-nighted nation. Generals and Admirals seem to love the war, for it provides valuable "combat experience" points when their records are examined by promotion boards.

Special interests and lobbying have long been with us and always will be, I suppose. Sadly, I have come to accept that financial interests are more powerful forces in determining national policy than is the will of the American people, who apparently are only considered important during election campaigns. What tears at my heart about this "forever" war in Iraq, and other recent military actions is that Americans are being martyred on the altars of what amounts to a secular religion. I refer to the fantasy religion our leaders give as a major reason for offering up our youth and national treasure. It is called "democracy." How often are we told that our continuing military presence in Iraq is necessary to help bring democracy to the Iraqi nation? Our armed forces in the desert are suffering and dying as evangelists for this worldly religion that, to my knowledge, exists no where on earth. America is not, nor has it ever been, a democracy. Ours is a representative federal republic and always has been.

Does anyone believe that by force of arms we will be able to bring into existence a Utopian nation in Iraq or anywhere else? In a land where anything even approaching democratic rule has never existed, will we be able to force a draconian change in governmental process? I think not. If the people of Iraq ever are to know anything approximating real freedom, I believe that the process must begin with the children, who must be taught that there are alternatives to autocratic or despotic rule. I believe that it will be generations before Iraqis will know real freedom of choice and expression -- if ever.

I believe that, while it cannot be denied that our demonstrated willingness to go to war against terrorism has reaped enormous benefits for America, I believe it also plants seeds of hatred that grow into new crops of terrorists. I do not believe for an instant that our withdrawal from Iraq will result in a termination of worldwide terrorism. There always will be persons willing to lash out in anger against those upon whom their hatred is focused. Would it not be a wiser to concentrate our national efforts and resources on identifying and neutralizing individual terrorists and groups who threaten the United States, as opposed to engaging in never-ending wars in backwater countries? That works for Israel, whose Mossad has a record of actions against terrorists that should put our narcotics traffic supporting CIA to shame.

I believe that the Catholic Church, in its official heart, knows that our invasion of Iraq was justified. Forget the well-publicized efforts of the Pope and Vatican officials to prevent the war that were, after all, to-be-expected efforts to maintain peace. Forget the anti-war demonstrations involving Catholic and non-Catholic activists who were doing no more than exercising their constitutionally guaranteed civil rights. Forget the often-unsupported opinions of Catholic faithful or Evangelicals like me. Study the Scriptures. Study the history of the region. Study the scenes revealed by media reporters riding along with our fighting men and women. When you have done that, go to a quiet place and prayerfully seek God's input before making any decision concerning the justice of this war and of our continued involvement ini what has become a national civil war.

As most who read here should know, I am no friend of the Catholic Church. I devote a great deal of time and effort to studying Vatican and other documents concerning Catholic doctrine and practice, for the purpose of identifying conflicts among these documents and practices. I have no interest in evangelizing Catholics or any others, for I do not consider the Internet to be an appropriate medium for such activity. When I share the Scriptures in obedience to the Great Commission, I prefer to do it face-to-face so that I might respond immediately to the issues those I am discoursing with might raise. In the past, I often engaged in apologetic exchanges with well-qualified Catholic apologists, but I rarely do that these days. It occurred to me that, since neither I nor my antagonist was likely to yield to the arguments proposed and answered, such exchanges served only to sharpen the apologetic skills of my opponents and myself. If anything, I am a polemist dealing with the teachings and practices of the Catholic Church, though I have never confined my polemics exclusively to the doings of the Catholic Church. Those who visit my web site will soon see that I also address issues within evangelical churches, though to a much lesser degree.

Why the emphasis on the Catholic Church? I was born and raised Catholic. At one time I loved the Catholic Church and was proud to be known as Catholic. Somewhere along the line that love died for lack of nourishment. I strive with the Catholic Church because I once loved her and because I now know her to be something other than what she claims to be. I do not believe that the narrow road leads through the Church of Rome. In fact, I believe that the Church of Rome impedes a person's progress along the narrow path through false teachings and what amounts to a form of rabbinical Judaism in some of her practices.

Not everything the Catholic Church teaches and does conflicts with Scripture. In some of her foundational doctrines, she cleaves strtictly to biblical revelation, and some of her rituals and practices would likely have been familiar to first century Christians. An example of how the official position of the Catholic Church can be 'right' while the practice and pronouncements of Catholic officialdom can be 'wrong' is to be found in the Church's position on what constitutes a just war. The Diocese of Austin (Texas) published a clear statement of the official Catholic understanding of what a just war is.

I fully agreed with the position as stated and had hoped to post the statement on this site. I wrote to the Diocese asking permission to post the article in full. I was asked to provide the URL of the site where I hoped to post the article. I sent the URL of my web site. Understandably, my contact at the Diocese wondered why I would want to post the article at a site that appeared to lead people away from Catholicism. And so I post a 'fair use' portion of the article here:

The “Catechism of the Catholic Church” addresses the issues of peace and war in articles 2302-2317. Specifically in article 2309, the Catechism outlines “the strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force… At one and the same time:

· The damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave and certain;
· All other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;
· There must be serious prospects of success;
· The use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluation of this condition.

The evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgement of those who have responsibility for the common good.”-- Catholic Teaching on Peace and War, October 12, 2001 (My emphasis)

It is a simple matter to point out the faults of the Catholic Church, but fairness demands that we also point out things they do well. Of course, it should be apparent that the conditions stated above deal with initiating a formal offensive war against a hostile nation of force and are, more or less, reasonable. It appears, however, that Mama Church fails to recognize that the nation or force attacked likely would defend itself by any and all means available. Logic dictates that one warring nation would be at a great disadvantage were it required to adhere to formal, civilized rules of warfare while the other is free to fight by any means, no matter how bloody or bestial. No matter how noble our ideals, there comes a time, when the metal meets the meat and lives are at stake, that behavior turns savage.

In closing, I add that I believe, sorrowfully, that our warriors, and those of other nations, are caught up in what appears to be the new millennium's equivalent of the Vietnam War of the last millennium. More than 58,000 Americans, and well over a million Vietnamese, died in that war, which demonstrated what the French had learned previously: conventional forces, no matter how well armed, have little hope of defeating an entrenched guerrilla force by using conventional maneuver tactics. For more than ten years, Americans fought and died in Vietnam before America pulled out and left South Vietnam to her own devices. How long will Americans bleed in Iraq and Afghanistan before our government pulls the plug and brings them home, leaving the Iraqi and Afghani peoples to their own devices? When our troops have come home, will anything really have changed in Iraq or Afghanistan?

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