What Is True?
January 9, 2003
Edited: December 31, 2008

Liberty, War & Politics

Leave Iraq Alone

Moral Reasoning to Limit War: Articles that Discuss the Idea of "Just War"

Liberventionism III: The Flight from History by Joseph Stromberg

"What is needed is a re-evaluation of Just War Theory. By this I mean a discussion that does not stop with jus ad bellum, i.e, whose cause is just, but takes in jus in bello, i.e., the question of what means are moral, whether a cause is just or otherwise. This would mean throwing overboard all that post-1945 pseudo-Christian Just War theorizing which legitimated nuclear weapons and the like on the rather thin ground that the hearts of one side were pure."(1)

It's Amateur Hour for Administration Hawks

"This administration seems to regard the United States as exempt from the laws of war and from the traditional norms governing just and unjust war. These have only philosophical or moral authority, but were taken serious[ly] in American government as recently as the 1950s and 1960s in policy debates ... over nuclear war.

"The norms of just war rest on the principle of proportionality in the use of violence, and ask not only whether the war is politically justified, but whether the harm it will do is proportionate to the good that can reasonably be achieved." (2)

Peace Trainer: Howard Zinn and the Art of Anti-War Movement Maintenance

"His anti-war stance - he takes pains to say that pacifism seems to him "logically indefensible," but sets the threshold for war higher than even "just war" proponents - stems from his own experience, and from knowing that the justifications for war (to stop aggression, to "preserve peace") often differ from the actual reasons nations go to war (strategic relationships, power balances)." (3)

Vatican terms war against Iraq as aggression

"VATICAN CITY, Dec 17: A senior Vatican prelate on Tuesday condemned any so-called "preventive war" against Iraq as "aggression".

"Archbishop Renato Martino, who heads the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, said: "Preventive war is a war of aggression and does not come under the definition of a just war." (4)

Is Bush deaf to church doubts on Iraq war?

"They are opposing war because they believe it does not meet the standards of a ''just war.''

"Church leaders have used the traditional just war criteria dating back to St. Augustine in the 4th century. These criteria start with a presumption against war, then apply a series of judgments to determine whether that presumption can be overridden. " (5)

Bishop: Clergy must unite people against war in Iraq

"Gumbleton told the Neu Chapel audience that President Bush has failed to make a case for the war using traditional Christian "just war" principles. Those principles, Gumbleton explained, include the requirement that war be a last resort, and that any use of deadly force meet strict moral conditions."(6)

Opposing the Use of Military Force Against Iraq by Rep. Ron Paul Oct 10, 2002

"For more than a thousand years there has been a doctrine and Christian definition of what a just war is all about. I think this effort and this plan to go to war comes up short of that doctrine. First, it says that there has to be an act of aggression; and there has not been an act of aggression against the United States. ...

"Also, it says that all efforts at negotiations must be exhausted. ...

"Also, the Christian doctrine says that the proper authority must be responsible for initiating the war. I do not believe that proper authority can be transferred to the President nor to the United Nations."(7)

Religious leaders voice opposition to Iraq war: Question of pre-emptive strike is called especially troubling on moral grounds

""In the history of the 'just war' ethic, pre-emptive war has been viewed quite dimly," Casey said. "When you think about inflicting harm on someone, you have to have a justifiable reason . . . ."

"Casey and Georgetown University theology professor John Langan said that in the history of what makes a "just war," two criteria must be met: an imminent threat and a grave threat. Iraq presents neither, they said. ...

"Casey said a lack of discussion from the White House on what moral grounds the United States can attack Iraq has prompted not only the petition, but also separate letters from Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Bob Edgar, general secretary of the National Council of Churches. "(8)

Iraq: Crisis of Conscience

"The threatened invasion of Iraq represents a grievous violation of just war principles. Devoid of sufficient cause, portending disaster and lacking in legitimate authority, it fails every significant test of jus ad bellum. Moreover, by these same principles, the means by which the war will be conducted (jus in bello) also promises to contradict justice.

"The principles of proportionality and non-combatant immunity concern how much force is morally appropriate and who are legitimate targets of war. They distinguish the legitimate conduct of war from acts of murder. ..."(9)

This war would not be a just war by Richard Harries, Bishop of Oxford, Aug 4, 2002
Reviews each point. (10)

War and Justice by Gene Callahan

"..."While war was seen as sometimes an ugly necessity, just war doctrine held that the same rules of morality applied to a king making war as to a peasant defending his home. The State had no special moral status, and was seen at best as a bandage, only necessary due to man's fallen nature. Pascal (somewhat behind the times in his views, no doubt) pointed out the absurdity of the idea that if someone lives on one side of a river, they are our friends, and to kill them is murder, but if they live on the other side, they are our enemies, and to kill them is good. It is the actions of others, not their affiliation with this or that state, that determines how we may justly behave toward them.

"But beginning with Machiavelli the State began to break free of the bonds of human morality. ... the new state operated beyond the realm of petty individual morality. The actions of the State could not be judged like the actions of individuals, but instead by whether they forwarded the State's interests or not."(11)

Strategies of Annihilation: Total War in US History by Joseph R. Stromberg

"Over the centuries from St. Augustine forward many Christian churchmen and writers sought to lessen the horrors of war by means of Just War theory. Their goal was to leave society in general, that is, civilians, as untouched as possible by conflicts set off by the quarrels of the political classes. "(12)

Authority and War
Useful article because it quotes from St. Thomas Aquinas and discusses the criteria of Just War. I disagree with what the author is saying; though this was written long before Iraq became an issue. In retrospect, I think people should have considered the conduct of the Afghanistan war more carefully.

Mr. Cherry thinks "Taken in its most literal sense, this might be interpreted to mean that the bishops of the Catholic Church could never deem a war unjust" and "...only that authority charged with calling for the just war can determine whether the other criteria fit". (13)

On the contrary, it is the duty of everyone to judge the morality of a particular war or the way it is conducted. The quote he gives from St. Thomas Aquinas doesn't say not to give advice to the king! What's the point of just war theory if no one is supposed to use it to make moral decisions except the aggressor ("the legitimate authority")?

Anyway, I don't agree that the State is invested with "the supreme authority" from God - whether or not Paul or Augustine thinks so - and I don't think the Bible and theology are the ultimate truth.

Although "Just War" theology is not as clear-cut as libertarian ideas such as the non-aggression principle, it looks like some of these ancient theological discussions are invaluable for pointing our minds towards moral reasoning.


Buchanan's 'A Republic, Not an Empire' a Manifesto for the New Antiwar Movement by Justin Raimondo, September 20, 1999

"As a devout Catholic, Buchanan upholds the "just war" theory developed by the Jesuits which insists on, among other things, "proportionality" that is, that the punishment meted out by aggrieved party in any conflict must be proportional to the original aggression. " (14)

A Republic, Not an Empire Speech by Patrick J. Buchanan, Mar 24, 2000

"By keeping these sanctions fastened on Iraq, we flout every tenet of Christianity's Just War doctrine, and build up deposits of hatred across the Arab world that will take decades to draw down"(15)


[1] http://www.antiwar.com/stromberg/s081002.html
Antiwar.com, Joseph R.Stromberg, August 10, 2002

[2] http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/editorialsopinion/

seattletimes.com, Friday, August 09, 2002, William Pfaff It's amateur hour for administration hawks

[3] http://www.villagevoice.com/issues/0252/giuffo.php
The Village Voice, December 25 - 31, 2002, John Giuffo, Peace Trainer: Zinn and the Art of Anti-War Movement Maintenance

[4] http://www.dawn.com/2002/12/18/int5.htm
DAWN, The Internet Edition, 18 December 2002, Vatican terms war against Iraq as aggression, AFP

[5] http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/343/oped/Is_Bush_deaf_to

The Boston Globe - Boston.com, 12/9/2002, Is Bush deaf to church doubts on Iraq war?, By Jim Wallis

[6] Original link (expired): http://www.myinky.com/ecp/news/article/0,1626,ECP_734_1479949,00.html
MyInKy.com Evansville Courier&Press, October 15, 2002, Bishop: Clergy must unite people against war in Iraq, By Maureen Hayden

[7] http://www.antiwar.com/paul/paul51.html
Antiwar.com, October 10, 2002, Opposing the Use of Military Force Against Iraq by Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX)

[8] http://www.caller.com/ccct/local_news/article/0,1641,

caller.com, Corpus Christi Caller-Times September 26, 2002, Religious leaders voice opposition to Iraq war By Tara Copp Scripps Howard News Service

[9] http://www.pres-outlook.com/hun_iraq081902.html
The Presbyterian Outlook, Iraq: Crisis of Conscience, By George Hunsinger, Posted Aug. 19, 2002

[10] http://www.observer.co.uk/iraq/story/0,12239,769010,00.html
This war would not be a just war , Richard Harries, Bishop of Oxford, Sunday August 4, 2002, The Observer

[11] http://www.lewrockwell.com/callahan/callahan89.html
LewRockwell.com, July 26, 2002 War and Justice, by Gene Callahan

[12] http://www.lewrockwell.com/stromberg/stromberg22.html
LewRockwell.com, Oct 25, 2001, Strategies of Annihilation: Total War in US History by Joseph R. Stromberg

[13] http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/comment-cherry101701.shtml
NationalReview.com, Oct 17, 2001 Authority and War Thomas Aquinas on our war By Kevin M. Cherry, deputy director of policy, Empower America

[14] http://www.antiwar.com/justin/j092099.html
Antiwar.com, Buchanan's 'A Republic, Not an Empire' a Manifesto for the New Antiwar Movement by Justin Raimondo, September 20, 1999

[15] http://www.antiwar.com/rep/buchanan4.html
Antiwar.com, A Republic, Not an Empire, by Patrick J. Buchanan, Speech to Antiwar.com Conference, March 24, 2000

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