Sunday, July 04, 2004

George Weigel on "Abu Ghraib and Just War"

It's worth remembering, in this context, that the first reckoning with what went desperately wrong at Abu Ghraib prison came, not because of 60 Minutes or other organs of investigative journalism, but from within the U.S. Army itself, which launched a criminal investigation of the situation on January 14, the day after Spc. Joseph Darby reported the abuse to military investigators. This empirically confirms an impression that I've been forming for years: that the just war tradition is taken far more seriously in the U.S. armed forces than in other sectors of our society, including many of our religious institutions. . . .

Thus, today, no one knows the stain on military honor that Abu Ghraib represents better than the officers and enlisted personnel who believe they came to Iraq to liberate its people from a vicious dictatorship in which murder, rape, and torture were normal instruments of state policy, not aberrations.

Some have been using Abu Ghraib to turn the Iraq debate into another round in the increasingly ugly American culture war; others have been trying to turn this sordid business to partisan advantage. But Abu Ghraib cannot be addressed as if it were primarily a domestic political problem. The ius ad pacem — the right intention — that was a significant part of the just war case for deposing the Saddam Hussein regime demands that swift and sure justice be meted out to those who have disgraced the uniform of the United States. That, in turn, will help advance the cause of a free, stable, pluralistic, and self-governing Iraq.

George Weigel, Abu Ghraib and Just War July 3, 2004.