From the very beginning of the war in Iraq, faith leaders, and others, have raised concerns that the conflict did not meet the criteria for a “just war.” Just-war theory has been taking shape for centuries. In its present form there are a minimum of five conditions to be met in order for an armed conflict to be considered “just.”
Obviously for a war to be just there must be a just cause behind the conflict. Traditionally this has included responding to a direct attack or intervening on behalf of a weaker country that has been attacked.
The Bush administration strained the limits of credulity by suggesting that leaders in Iraq had something to do with 9/11. We know now that no such connection existed. There were also efforts to establish the conflict as just by portraying Iraq as poised to attack the United States with weapons of mass destruction, including soon to be acquired nuclear weapons.
All of this proved false and there is considerable evidence that administration officials knew these claims were false when they made them.
Furthermore, in order for a conflict to be considered just, it must be lawfully declared by competent authority. In our case that means congressional approval. Only congress can declare war. That step was observed in the case of the Iraq war, but now many in congress believe they were misled.
Other tenets of just-war theory include believing that there is a reasonable chance of success. Poor planning on the part of civilian military leaders like Donald Rumsfeld, and the refusal to hear warnings from military analysts about the likelihood of sectarian civil war, greatly diminished our chances of success in Iraq.
Additionally, a just war must always be a last resort. All other ways of resolving whatever problem or threat should be tried, and tried again. The rush to war with Iraq actually cut off diplomatic efforts that we now know were working.
Finally, a just war must have good intentions. Good intentions include creating or restoring a just peace, righting a wrong or assisting an innocent or weaker country that has been attacked.
According to Alan Greenspan in his new book The Age of Turbulence, the war with Iraq did not have a good intention. “I am saddened,” Greenspan writes, “that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil.” In fact, Greenspan told President Bush that “taking Saddam Hussein out was essential” to protect oil supplies.
If this is true, that the Iraq is mostly about oil, then not only does it fail the criteria for a just war, but it stands as a monumentally unjust war. Thousands of American men and women, and hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis, including women and children, have died for the sake of oil.
People of good faith and good will cannot allow this to continue–especially people of faith. We who would champion the sacredness of human life should be appalled at the carnage being wrought for the sake of a commodity.
We can no longer remain silent about this. It is a complete reversal of Christian moral values. Instead of loving people and using things, we are devoting ourselves to things, in this case oil, and using people to have it–using them to death.
Somehow we must find a way to get our young men and women out of this quagmire. We may also need to spend some time considering what form our repentance might take.
James L. Evans, a syndicated columnist, also serves as pastor of Auburn First Baptist Church in Auburn, Ala.