As discussions of war with Iraq continue to surface in headlines and political
councils, it is of weighty importance to ask under what circumstances such
a "pre-emptive war" is morally justifiable. If such hostilities
are considered to be a continuation of the war on the terrorism of 9/11,
then the challenge for our good president and his advisers is to make the
bridge, to show a real connection between the events of 9/11 and the need
for the forcible removal of Saddam Hussein.
Most of the world joins us in desiring the capture and prosecution of Osama
bin Laden and his cohorts. Similarly, few question Saddam Hussein's arrogance
in defying 16 UN resolutions and his potential for destructive terrorism
on a mass scale.
These factors notwithstanding, friendly and not-so-friendly nations who
have backed us the last dozen years in our military interventions in Kuwait,
Bosnia and Kosovo and Afghanistan are now in disagreement with our plans
for military intervention in Iraq at this time. Indeed, there seem to have
been similar divisions among our military and civilian leadership as well
as our citizenry in general.
Our conference of bishops has suggested to President Bush that in terms
of the traditional just-war theory the case for an attack against Iraq
is far from established. The Holy See has also expressed strong reservations.
If the link between Osama bin Laden and Iraq is not made, and the use of
armed force is to be justified on grounds other than a continuation of
the war on terrorism, then some practical questions must be asked in the
light of Catholic just-war theory:
||Does Iraq's present stance cause such a significant and proximate danger
to the United States that a unilateral attack against Hussein is a justifiable
action of self-defense?
||Has every other possible means been taken on our part to eliminate that
||What will be the estimated cost of our military action in terms of lives
and money and political stability in the Middle East?
||Given (a) an American military already so heavily committed, and (b) the
potential for other additional conflicts in the Pacific, the Balkans and
the rest of the Middle East, is our military in adequate readiness?
||What will be our terms of exiting from Iraq and can we be assured that
the outcome of our intervention will offer significant improvement over
the present admittedly tyrannical rule being suffered by the vast majority
of innocent Iraqis?
I have profound respect for President Bush, his integrity and his experienced
advisers. However, Americans, our allies and the world community expect
more if military action must ultimately be taken as a last resort. The
very least that our government must bring about before committing our armed
forces to further armed intervention in Iraq is:
||A consensus by the world community similar to the consensus realized the
last dozen years in our other military initiatives that armed intervention
is the only way to remove an inescapable and serious threat; or
||Convincing evidence offered by the United States of a serious and imminent
hostile threat by Iraq, along with a clear demonstration of the need for
independent military action.
In either case, we all pray that military action on our part will not be
necessary. And we pray that our leaders will find a way, working with other
governments, to eliminate peaceably the potential danger that is unquestionably
posed by the Iraq regime".