Saturday, December 31, 2005

Dispelling the Myths about Iraq: Juan Cole and James Phillips

David Jones recommends the article Top Ten Myths about Iraq in 2005, by Juan Cole, University of Michigan history professor and soon-to-be president of the Middle East Studies Association, which he describes as -- contra FoxNews -- "fair and balanced."

We all have our ideologically-fueled predispositions. Just as David Jones tends to approach anything authored by NWN (Neuhaus, Novak, Weigel) with extreme prejudice given their "neocon" affiliations, I would personally do the same with Juan Cole, background information on whom can be obtained from the following:

Meanwhile, James Phillips, another researcher in Middle Eastern Studies, posts his own article Dispelling myths about Iraq at SperoNews, "refuting of some of the major myths that have distorted the pub lic's understanding of U.S. policy regarding Iraq."

Given as Phillips is part of the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies (run by the notoriously (gasp!) conservative think-tank Heritage Foundation), his assessment of Iraq reads somewhat at odds than that of Dr. Cole. As I've linked to both articles in question, I trust our readers will make their own judgements as to their merit.

I think when it comes to learning about Iraq we need to take information from multiple perspectives (politically-aligned) and sift the wheat from the chaff. Anybody who has followed Arthur Chrenkoff's "Good News from Iraq / Afghanistan" round-ups during 2004-2005 realized that the usually-negative commentary of the Mainstream Media provided only a small glimpse of what was actually happening.

When it comes to understanding "the situation in Iraq", I've benefited greatly from reading the blogs of U.S. military currently serving in Iraq, journalists like Michael Yon and Bill Roggio (thanks to Chris Burgwald for recommending the latter) "reporting from the field", as well as the frontline accounts of Iraqi bloggers who are exercising their freedom of speech post-liberation (or occupation, depending on your POV). One of my personal favorites is Iraq the Model; Hassan from Iraqi Blog Count provides a history of Iraqi blogs.

Friday, December 16, 2005

"The Jews of Europe are now the Kurds of Iraq"

The Jews of Europe are now the Kurds of Iraq, and the Shiites, and the Marsh Arabs. The point of war is not only to defend one’s own country from attack but also to free from the jaws of death millions of innocent human beings who lack the military means to secure their own freedom. This may not be a universally supported political or military view of war, but it is a religious view of war, and it is my view of this and other wars.

I do not know a single Kurd or a single Marsh Arab or a single Iraqi Shiite, but I do know that they have been slaughtered by the thousands, and because of this war they are now free. The Iraqi killing machine has been destroyed. I also know, and every person of even moderate intelligence also knows, that if our troops withdraw now, before victory has been fully achieved they will be slaughtered again. When I say never again in memory of the Holocaust, I don’t mean “never again Jews,” I mean “never again anyone.”

It matters not one wit to me that they are not Jewish nor even that they may not be grateful to America. All that matters to me is that they are made in God’s image and their lives are no longer held tight in the bloody maw of a genocidal dictator. The Jews of Europe and the Kurds of Iraq may both have been outside the strictly delimited aims of the war in Europe or the war in Iraq, but their cries must reach some listening ears and sensitive souls. It is deeply disappointing to me to know that people in my movement of Judaism with whom I share a belief that my daughter deserves the same spiritual horizons as my son cannot feel the need for freedom of those victims of genocide whose cries reach God even if they often do not reach the front pages of the morning papers.

Rabbi Marc Gellman, Historical Blindness Newsweek Dec. 16, 2005

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Iraqi Elections - A Roundup

  • "We got our purple fingers updated!" - a roundup of election news and on-the-spot reports from Omar @ Iraq The Model Dec. 16, 2005.
  • Elections - Now and Then, by Greyhak. Mudville Gazette: "If it bleeds it leads, they say. And today it did not. So it's what that story doesn't say that tells you everything you need to know about today. . . ."

  • When the sense of history overwhelms, by Jeff Harrell (The Shape of Days):
    My roommate said to me last night, “I’m surprised you didn’t write more about the Iraqi election.” I tried to explain. My excuse is as simple as it is embarrassing: I’m overwhelmed.

    How many different ways are there to say “historic moment?” How many different ways can you say that a nation was born yesterday? If I were writing a speech, I’d have all the high-minded rhetoric and soaring oratory you could ask for. But to try to write about it casually, in my own voice . . .

  • It’s Electric! "U.S. troops describe a festive atmosphere across Iraq," says W. Thomas Smith Jr. NRO National Review Online December 15, 2005:
    "On this side of the world, saying something and coming through and doing it means a great deal," U.S. Marine Maj. Neil F. Murphy Jr., spokesman for Multi-National Force West at Camp Fallujah, tells National Review Online. "Iraqis know that we mean what we say by staying and helping them get on their feet."

    Consequently, he adds, "The Iraqi people are looking at this [election day] like an actual holiday." Not in the sense that it need not be taken seriously, but in the sense of what one Iraqi army soldier said: "This is the first time in my whole life I got to choose the government of my country!"

    What? The elections held by Saddam Hussein with a nearly 100% vote of support didn't count?

  • Highlights: Iraqi journalists & bloggers on the ground for Iraqi elections Compiled in Los Angeles from reporters and bloggers for Pajamas Media including: I.S. in Karbala; W.Z. in Erbil; A.S. in Najaf; N.R. in Mosul; A.D. in Basra; A.T. in Babil; W.A., Omar and Mohammed in Baghdad. Dec. 15, 2005.

  • Congressman Jack Kingston relays a note from a U.S. military official with his observations and experience of the elections.

  • Hassan Kharrufa has photos of his family, including one of this proud Iraqi:
    Even my 85 year old grandfather, who had much trouble walking, came with us to cast his vote. Although the walk was very hard on him, but he pulled himself together and managed to reach the poll centre. . . . He was treated like a king there. He sat in a chair, and they brought the pen and ballot paper to him. He chose his list, gave it to them, they folded it, and put it in the box. Then they brought him the ink pot.

  • "The Truth on the Ground", by Major Ben Connable. U.S. Marine Corps. Washington Post Dec. 14, 2005:
    When I told people that I was getting ready to head back to Iraq for my third tour, the usual response was a frown, a somber head shake and even the occasional "I'm sorry." When I told them that I was glad to be going back, the response was awkward disbelief, a fake smile and a change of subject. The common wisdom seems to be that Iraq is an unwinnable war and a quagmire and that the only thing left to decide is how quickly we withdraw. Depending on which poll you believe, about 60 percent of Americans think it's time to pull out of Iraq.

    How is it, then, that 64 percent of U.S. military officers think we will succeed if we are allowed to continue our work? Why is there such a dramatic divergence between American public opinion and the upbeat assessment of the men and women doing the fighting?"

  • “’The Wrong Shall Fail’” - text of President George W. Bush's address to the nation on Sunday, December 18, 2005, as released by the White House. Dec. 18, 2005.
  • "Happy Days!" - Robert Kagan and William Kristol The Weekly Standard Dec. 26, 2005:
    Has this one election settled everything, or even anything? Is Iraq now safely on the path to a durable democracy? Of course not. One voter told a New York Times reporter, "Iraqis aren't used to democracy, we have to learn it." True enough. They will have to learn it, and this learning process will take time and be attended by many backward steps, many errors, and many crises. But now, at least, they have a chance.

    Iraqis would not have had that chance had the United States chosen to leave Saddam Hussein in power. They would not have had that chance if American troops had been withdrawn or reduced from the already inadequate levels established after the invasion in 2003. And they will lose that chance if the United States now begins a hasty reduction of forces. Burns reports that even Sunnis unhappy with the American presence favor only a "gradual drawdown," and only if Iraq has achieved a sufficient level of security and stability. "Let's have stability, and then the Americans can go home," one Iraqi store owner told Burns. Informed that President Bush was saying exactly the same thing, this man replied: "Then Bush has said it correctly".

  • And in the words of one Iraqi Betty Dawisha:
    Anybody who doesn’t appreciate what America has done and President Bush, let them go to hell”

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Maintaining my Status as a Warblogger: The Mother of All Roundups

Various critics (friend and foe alike) have referred to me as a "warblogger" -- a label I find rather curious, since my actual blogging on the war is rather minimal compared to my other interests, and when I do blog, my meager efforts in this regard pale in comparison to the likes of, say, Little Green Footballs or Winds of Change.

When I think of "war blogs," I think of the reporting of combat journalist Michal Yon or blogger Bill Roggio, currently touring Anbar Province, Iraq by invitation of the 2nd Marine Division, or the real 'milbloggers' posting from the trenches.

However, Wikipedia defines a "warblog" as

"A warblog is a weblog devoted mostly or wholly to covering news events concerning an ongoing war. Sometimes the use of the term "warblog" implies that the blog concerned has a pro-war slant."
So on that note perhaps I'd qualify.

It has been quite a while since I did any significant posting on this subject . . . so in the interest of bolstering my reputation, here's a roundup of recommended links on the subject culled from the past few months.

  • From Bill Roggio's The Fourth Rail, An Interview with Colonel Davis Oct. 30, 2005, "Commander of Marine Regimental Combat Team - 2, who is responsible for fighting in western Anbar province, also known as AO Denver" -- who, among other things, summarizes his regiment's mission in Iraq:
    . . . I don't like to talk in terms of winning and losing when it comes to the issues in the Middle East. Americans have a very Western way of thinking: you identify the problem; you analyze the problem and then fix it and move onto the next problem. Out here you need to be vigilant and do a lot of continuous maintenance work, which pays off over time.

    Saddam never controlled this region of Iraq. It is very tribal and fiercely independent. He sent in the army to kill and intimidate the population. He established two tribes in the region: the Salmanis and the Karabilah tribes, to further his goals and counter balance existing dominating tribes. The Iraqis out west, particularly in Haditha are well educated and are able to provide for their own needs. They have operated this way for centuries and can do so again with the proper security environment. We have a simple equation we use out here:

    Presence = Security = Stability = the environment for self governance.

    Our goal is to enfranchise the Iraqi security forces and allow them to provide for the security in the region and improve the lives of the Iraqi people. We will continue to conduct civil/military affairs operations to improve the lives of the Iraqi people. In Haditha, we are rebuilding the hospital the jihadis attacked with a car bomb and then used as a base of operation. We are working to enhance schools and other services vital to the people. We will continue to maintain a presence until the Iraqi Army is capable of standing on its own.

    Thanks to Chris Burgwald, who introduced me to the blog. See also this piece on Iran's sponsorship of international terrorism including Al Qaeda.

    Update: The Fourth Rail is now closed, as Bill Roggio is currently blogging from Iraq (Anbar Province) by special invitation from senior Marine officers with the Regimental Combat Team - 2, 2nd Marine Division. You can now read him at

  • Purple-Ink & Other Underreported Successes, by W. Thomas Smith, Jr. National Review Oct. 31, 2005:
    Lance Corporal Tara Pryor has been in Iraq for only three weeks. Already, she has learned that what readers glean from newspapers and television broadcasts back home are not as things really are.

    “I am surprised,” says the 21-year-old Strongsville, Ohio, native who currently serves with the Marine’s 6th Civil Affairs Group in Fallujah. “The majority of the [Iraqi] people appreciate what we are trying to do.”

    Pryor’s revelation is no surprise to those who have been there. Back home, military servicemen and women contend the daily fare from the various media ranges from disturbing to false to downright manipulative. . . .

  • A War to be Proud Of, by Christopher Hitchens. The Weekly Standard 09/05/2005, Volume 010, Issue 47. The former Nation journalist turned neocon poses some difficult questions that beg for answers:
    The balance sheet of the Iraq war, if it is to be seriously drawn up, must also involve a confrontation with at least this much of recent history. Was the Bush administration right to leave--actually to confirm--Saddam Hussein in power after his eviction from Kuwait in 1991? Was James Baker correct to say, in his delightfully folksy manner, that the United States did not "have a dog in the fight" that involved ethnic cleansing for the mad dream of a Greater Serbia? Was the Clinton administration prudent in its retreat from Somalia, or wise in its opposition to the U.N. resolution that called for a preemptive strengthening of the U.N. forces in Rwanda?
  • Our Troops Must Stay: "America can't abandon 27 million Iraqis to 10,000 terrorists", by Senator Joe Lieberman. Wall Street Journal Nov. 29, 2005. In case you missed it, a gutsy article from the Democratic senator from Connecticut, who returned from my fourth trip to Iraq in the past 17 months, and has good things to report.

  • Over at Mudville Gazette, Greyhawk questions John P Murtha's citation that "Over 15,500 have been seriously injured" in Iraq:
    There have indeed been over 15,500 wounded. But of those, 8375 returned to duty within 72 hours - so although those wounds weren't funny perhaps those wounds weren't quite serious either. Still, 7347 troops have been wounded severely enough to require over 72 hours recuperation. Furthermore, 2,791 Soldiers were wounded seriously enough to require evacuation to Stateside Army Medical facilities. And 280 amputees have been treated in Army facilities as a result of the war. A lot of unscrupulous types who just want to pretend to "support the troops" ignore these facts in favor of the less correct (and more impressive) claim that 15,500 troops have been seriously wounded, or maimed, or mutilated. The real numbers are big enough - I just can't understand why some feel the need to pad them
  • Here's yet another reason to love Hollywood action-hero Bruce Willis (besides Die Hard):
    Unlike many Hollywood stars Willis supports the war and recently offered a $1m (about £583,000) bounty for the capture of any of Al-Qaeda’s most wanted leaders such as Osama Bin Laden, Ayman Al-Zawahiri or Abu Musab al- Zarqawi, its commander in Iraq. Willis visited the war zone with his rock and blues band, the Accelerators, in 2003.

    “I am baffled to understand why the things I saw happening in Iraq are not being reported,” he told MSNBC, the American news channel.

    Source: Sunday Times Nov. 27, 2005. Willis is planning on making a film on Deuce Four, the 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry, "which has spent the past year battling insurgents in the northern Iraqi town of Mosul."

    The film will be based on the reporting of blogger Michael Yon, "a former special forces green beret who was embedded with Deuce Four and sent regular dispatches about their heroics." (P.S. Due recognition to Charlie Daniels as well, who raised thousands of dollars in donated musical instruments for troops in Iraq.)

  • Rerum-Novarum: Miscellaneous Threads Worth Reviewing Nov. 19, 2005. In case you haven't had enough, another roundup with commentary from I. Shawn McElhinney, with notes on Able Danger, the question of missing WMD's and . . . Kurt Vonnegut.

History Lesson(s)

  • A Brief History of a Long War (1990-2003), by Greyhawk (Mudville Gazette), providing a necessary corrective to those who quickly forget the history of this conflict:
    . . . One of the most blatant - and most effective - examples [of revisionism] has been the highly successful propagation of the idea that the war in Iraq began as a misguided result of the terrorist attacks on the US on September 11th 2001. To achieve this feat of near-universal denial requires the dismissing of over a decade of real history - years in which a handful of Americans drew a line in the sand on distant shores - a line crossed repeatedly and re-drawn too frequently by too many hands to be forgotten so swiftly.

    And it's nearly forgotten they are, those warriors of just a few short years ago. But not just yet, at least not completely. This work in progress is dedicated to my fellow members of the US military, those who stand the "line in the sand" now and those have done so for so many years past.

    Look, here is what happened. Listen, here's what they said when it did. . . .

  • The New York Times and Iraq: 1993-2005. The blogger at American Future embarks on an ambitious project to "employ the New York Times’ editorials to trace and analyze the evolution of the newspaper’s stance on Iraq":
    A war can be lost because public opinion turns against its continued prosecution. The New York Times – the self-described “newspaper of record” – is among the world’s most influential opinion leaders. As shown by the cited quotations, the newspaper’s stance on Iraq underwent a complete transformation during the decade separating 1993 and 2003. While its editors never lost their fear of Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD), their prescription for countering the threat posed by the weapons was altered beyond recognition. In 1993, by arguing that cease-fire violations nullified U.N. protection, the Times affirmed the right of a victorious party to resume hostilities at its sole discretion if the party it defeated did not abide by the terms of the agreement to which it affixed its signature. Ten years later, the Times reversed its stance, asserting that the United States should not go to war without the approval of the United Nations. In so doing, the Times implicitly argued that going to war with the approval of a multilateral institution took precedence over the use of military force to expeditiously eliminate the threat posed by Iraq’s WMD.
    The New York Times and Iraq (1993-2005): Part I covers the eight years of the Clinton administration, is the first of three that employ the Times’ editorials to trace and analyze the evolution of the newspaper’s position on Iraq. Part II covers the Bush administration until the invasion of Iraq. Part III covers the Invasion of Iraq to Abu Ghraib (March 2003 - April 2004).

  • Where the WMDs Went, by Jamie Glazov. | November 16, 2005. Interview with Bill Tierney, a former military intelligence officer and Arabic speaker "who worked at Guantanamo Bay in 2002 and as a counter-infiltration operator in Baghdad in 2004. He was also an inspector (1996-1998) for the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) for overseeing the elimination of WMD's and ballistic missiles in Iraq. He worked on the most intrusive inspections during this period and either participated in or planned inspections that led to four of the seventeen resolutions against Iraq."


  • Junkyard blogger B. Preston "would love it if Mark Shea simply defined torture -- What it is and what it isn’t. He's right, in that this post is a typically brilliant snark-fest but never actually addresses what the McCain Amendment will and will not do. . . . It’s seriously snarky and seriously angry, but doesn’t approach the issue with any genuine seriousness. In the end, it’s lazy." Much as I enjoy Mark's blog, I do think his snarkiness sometimes gets the better of him, together with his practice of labeling the opposition. Then again, perhaps that's part of his appeal. On his behalf, he did author the rather more serious appraisal of the issue in: Toying with Evil: May a Catholic Advocate Torture? Crisis March 9, 2005.

  • Military historian Victor Davis Hanson, meanwhile, joins others in backing the McCain amendment: On torture, U.S. must take the high road Chicago Tribune Dec. 2, 2005:
    So we might as well admit that by foreswearing the use of torture, we will probably be at a disadvantage in obtaining key information and perhaps endanger American lives here at home. (And, ironically, those who now allege that we are too rough will no doubt decry "faulty intelligence" and "incompetence" should there be another terrorist attack on an American city.) Our restraint will not ensure any better treatment for our own captured soldiers. Nor will our allies or the UN appreciate American forbearance. The terrorists themselves will probably treat our magnanimity with disdain, as if we were weak rather than good.

    But all that is precisely the risk we must take in supporting the McCain amendment--because it is a public reaffirmation of our country's ideals. The United States can win this global war without employing torture. That we will not resort to what comes so naturally to Islamic terrorists also defines the nobility of our cause, reminding us that we need not and will not become anything like our enemies.

Iraq & Al Qaeda

  • Night of the Living "Known Fact", by Leon H @ RedState.Org July 10, 2005:
    One of the most persistent Known Facts in the lexicon of Known Fact users is the Known Fact that Iraq had no ties to Al-Qaeda. None whatsoever. This, of course, was the justification the New York Times (one of the great all-time users of Known Facts) used for their shrieking denunciation of Bush's June 28th speech. How could he even mention Iraq and 9/11 in the same speech? Doesn't he know that it's a Known Fact that there was no relationship between Iraq and Al-Qaeda?

    Much of the evidence behind this Known Fact lies behind the findings of the 9/11 commission, which stated that it could find "no evidence indicating that Iraq cooperated with al Qaeda in developing or carrying out any attacks against the United States." This, to the liberal mindset, was the same as saying, "We have proved conclusively that no such evidence exists, nor ever will exist, so let this henceforth be known as a Known Fact." The reality is that the commission said something very different, and the emergence of actual facts in the year since then has repeatedly put this Known Fact to death, only to see it rise up from the grave, more horrible and foul-smelling than ever before.

  • Case Not Dismissed: Ahmed Hikmat Shakir & the 9/11 Commission, by Andrew C. McCarthy. National Review Online. July 1, 2005.

  • Body of Evidence, by Stephen F. Hayes. Weekly Standard June 30, 2005:
    "THERE IS NO EVIDENCE that Saddam Hussein was connected in any way to al Qaeda."

    So declared CNN Anchor Carol Costello in an interview yesterday with Representative Robin Hayes (no relation) from North Carolina.

    Hayes politely challenged her claim. "Ma'am, I'm sorry, but you're mistaken. There's evidence everywhere. We get access to it. Unfortunately, others don't."

    CNN played the exchange throughout the day. At one point, anchor Daryn Kagan even seemed to correct Rep. Hayes after replaying the clip. "And according to the record, the 9/11 Commission in its final report found no connection between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein."

    The CNN claims are wrong. Not a matter of nuance. Not a matter of interpretation. Just plain incorrect. They are so mistaken, in fact, that viewers should demand an on-air correction.

    If you want to investigate the alleged ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda, there's no better place to start than Stephen Hayes' The Connection : How al Qaeda's Collaboration with Saddam Hussein Has Endangered America, which provides a good compilation of his investigation into this issue as it appeared in The Weekly Standard.

  • It's ALL about Al Qaeda, by Andrew McCarthy. National Review Online. June 29, 2005.

  • That was then, this is now, by John @ Powerline July 15, 2005:
    This ABC News video from five years ago, courtesy of Media Research Center, is a classic. Before Democrats had a partisan motive to claim, contrary to all the evidence, that there was no relationship between Saddam Hussein's Iraq and bin Laden's al Qaeda, their close and dangerous relationship was common knowledge. That common knowledge is reflected in this ABC news report, as it was in the Clinton administration's indictment of bin Laden in 1998 for, among other things, collaborating with Saddam on weapons of mass destruction.

    It really is a fascinating question: in this era of digital media, can the news media and the Democrats get away with trying to flush what they said as recently as 1998 and 2000 down the memory hole?

Supporting Our Troops" - Images of the Opposition

  • From the Rhode Island blog Anchor Rising ("The Right Side of Hope in Rhode Island") comes a substantial roundup of informative commentary on Cindy Sheehan, mother of fallen soldier turned icon of the pacifist opposition to the "Iraqi occupation."

  • The Peace Movement's Moderate Face, by Amy Widenour (National Center, Nov. 27, 2005):
    As Cindy Sheehan is once again protesting in Crawford, Texas, I thought it a good time to share some pictures that show -- as the mainstream media often does not -- the message of the anti-war protesters. These photos, of another anti-war rally in which Cindy Sheehan participated, were taken by Joe Roche. . . ."
  • "Supporting Our Troops" @ AmericanFuture.Net: "Chad Drake, a resident of Garland, Texas, was somehow identified as the 1,000th victim of the Iraq war. The Drake family attended a vigil at the Dallas City Hall, having been assured by a member of the Dallas Peace Center that the event would be non-political. . . ."

  • Sox or Soldiers? Which photos are White Sox World Series celebrations, and which ones are solemn memorials for 2000 dead soldiers and certainly not parties? (Pop quiz at Everlasting Phelps).

  • Academic freedom has its limits. When John Daly, adjunct English professor at Warren County Community College advocated the murder of American military officers, the public outcry (largely instigated by the Young America Foundation and the patriotic blogging community) forced him to resign. I say good riddance.

  • Anti-war protestors recently expressed their "support for the troops" by throwing Molotov cocktails at police officers, attempting to set fire to buildings, "fighting capitalism" and equating Hurricane Katrina with "genocide." Michelle Malkin has the roundup.

    (Note: Don't get me wrong. I understand one can make a principled case against the war. But if this is the public face of the anti-war movement, as it seems to be, it's high time y'all hired a new public relations department).

Saturday, November 26, 2005

George Weigel's Tranquillitas Ordinis

When I was first exploring the topic of the Catholic Church's just war tradition, I asked my father -- bright college-educated Catholic doctor of philosophy that he is -- if he had anything to recommend, especially as he had recently delivered an address on the subject War and the Eclipse of Moral Reasoning Tenth Annual Aquinas/Luther Conference. Lenoir-Rhyne College. October 24-26, 2002).

His response to me was Weigel's Tranquillitas Ordinis: The Present Failure and Future Promise of American Catholic Thought on War and Peace (Oxford University Press, 1987).

Following is a review that I stumbled across today in the process of research on the web. It should give readers some sense as to what the book is about and Weigel's thesis:

This is a remarkable book not only for the breadth of its coverage on a complicated politico-moral question, but because it is literary. George Weigel not only knows what his subject matter is, but he writes in declarative sentences which are readily understood. He also eschews the nuances used by many modern scholars to insinuate points of view without arguing them openly. Although pundits will do their best to label this book to prejudice potential readers from following it with an open mind, it is too packed with facts and principles to be categorized easily. Although more empirical, Tranquillitas Ordinis deserves to be on the same shelf as John Courtney Murray's We Hold These Truths.

We tend to forget in this age of slogans and shibboleths that the Catholic Church has had long and continuous experience with questions of war and peace and with a variety of political environments. Force, aggression, deterrence, hostages, burnt-out cities are old stuff to Catholic divines. Who better than St. Augustine knew the capacity of ancient armies to bury so great a city as Carthage and its 300,000 inhabitants. St. Ambrose, the optimist of his day, was confident that Roman Emperors with their new Christian piety could guarantee world peace. Then came the sack of Italy by Alaric the Hun and Ambrose's optimism faded. It was his convert Augustine who faced up to the reality of world politics, comprised of kingdoms organized to pursue their own selfish ends. There can never be a perfect Christian state, Augustine argued, so he advised against moralizing simplistically about the use of force on earth, only about its unreasonable and excessive use. Thus, the "just war theory" came into existence; defining the limits of justifiable defense. The Founding Father of the United States set similar limits in the preamble of our Constitution.

In thirteen chapters George Weigel does more than trace Catholic thought from Augustine through Aquinas, John Courtney Murray, Vatican II and its aftermath. He digs deep into the practical implications of the principle that a rightly-ordered political community, using moderate force, is necessary to maintain Tranquillitas Ordinis. Father Murray is Weigel's hero for unfolding the Catholic principles which underlay "the American experiment"-"a nation under God," ruled by consent of the governed, who have rights antecedent to the state, who are expected to exercise those rights individually and collectively within a framework of civic virtue. In adjudicating issues of war and peace, Murray called for "discriminating moral judgment," not simple appeals to biblical texts. Because military decisions are a species of political decisions, the Jesuit ground-breaker called for political. choices to be made within a moral framework of one kind or another. Murray spent the last years of his life developing such a framework and the moral reasoning which underpinned it. Although he never came to grips with the significance of pacifism or the United Nations' potential, his legacy is clear enough.

The remaining chapters take up the abandonment of this Augustinian heritage by modern Catholic elites. As George Weigel sees it, "they have become softly neo-isolationist, anti-anti-communist, and highly skeptical of the moral worthiness of the American Experiment." They see conflict as primarily psychological, whose alleviation is to be found in understanding and better communication. If enough people have the right intentions and are willing to act on them peace can be achieved, the new Pelagians aver. Contrariwise, Weigel argues that conflicts between states are political in origin and must be dealt with through an orderly political process which accentuates reason, not by imperatives or wishful thinking. At present America is caught up in a dilemma: Do we preserve peace by limiting our concern for our own independence and the freedom of friends beyond our shores? Or do we defend freedom and human rights even at the price of armament races, even of war?

Tranquillitas Ordinis takes the reader through the U.S. bishops' effort to resolve the dilemma with their 1983 pastoral "The Challenge of Peace." He calls it a brave effort, although he faults the staff for its presumptive "nuclear pacifism," for its other idological assumptions, and for its control of the framework under which the bishops functioned. The last seventy pages are devoted to developing a proper response to the realities of international politics within the framework of the Catholic tradition. He places his confidence in politics and is quite good in answering his own questions about the use of force and the role of America.

-- Review by Charles J. Leonard. Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Quarterly Newsletter Vol. 10, No. 4. Sept. 1987.

Friday, November 18, 2005 "First Peace, Then Withdrawal."

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Iraqi Special Tribunal

We are indeed in the internet age. Here is the link to the Iraqi Special Tribunal (IST) which will try former genocidal dictator Saddam Hussein, hopefully, in the very near future. The link includes a photo gallery of mass graves. So the inevitable question comes to critics of the Iraq War: was the war worth it?

Thanks to Catholic Analysis.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Whose Al Qaeda Problem?

"British journalists Robert Fisk, John Pilger, and Tariq Ali, along with British MP George Galloway, and, on the other side of the Atlantic, commentators such as Naomi Klein have all essentially blamed Britain and the United States for bringing the attacks upon themselves. While being careful to denounce the bombers and their agenda, these advocates uttered variations on the same theme: get out of Iraq, bring home the troops from all points east, curtail support for Israel, develop a more sensible, non-oil-based energy policy, and our troubles would dissipate in the wind. . . .

. . . theirs is also a truncated analysis. They assume that groups like al-Qaida are almost entirely reactive, responding to western policies and actions, rather than being pro-active creatures with a virulent homegrown agenda, one not just of defence but of conquest, destruction of rivals, and, ultimately and at its most megalomaniacal, absolute subjugation.

It misses the central point: that, unlike traditional “third-world” liberation movements looking for a bit of peace and quiet in which to nurture embryonic states, al-Qaida is classically imperialist, looking to subvert established social orders and to replace the cultural and institutional infrastructure of its enemies with a (divinely inspired) hierarchical autocracy of its own, looking to craft the next chapter of human history in its own image.

Simply blaming the never quite defined, yet implicitly all-powerful “west” for the ills of the world doesn’t explain why al-Qaida slaughtered thousands of Americans eighteen months before Saddam was overthrown. Nor does it explain the psychopathic joy this death cult takes in mass killings and in ritualistic, snuff-movie-style beheadings. The term “collateral damage” may be inept, but it at least suggests that the killing of civilians in pursuit of a state’s war aims is unintentional, regrettable; there is nothing unintentional, there is no regret, in the targeting of civilians by al-Qaida’s bombers. . . .

"Whose al-Qaida problem?", by Sasha Abrahmsky. October 4, 2005.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

"War of Aggression"?

This post is meant to address some aspects of criticism of U.S. foreign policy as alluded to in Stephen Hand's "claim to victory" posted Sept. 10, 2005 to his blog, TCRMusings: We Are Satisfied That We Have Made a Decisive Case Against Neoconservative Politics, Foreign Policy and War:

...thus we think we can rest our case, having done the work, engaged the great crisis of our time to the best of our ability. The reason we at TCR have spent so much time doing our part, is that a war is on, the horrors of which human beings on all sides are daily reaping with no end in sight, dying to this day, and we are convinced this war of aggression has reinforced much of the Islamic world against us, threatening to proliferate retaliatory war against the US and the UK and its bribed "coalition" for a very long time to come. Many experts fear these hostilities could eventually lead to a third World War, which God forbid.

Catholics have a moral obligation to seek to avoid war, and, short of succeeding at that, when hostilities have already unwisely begun, to work for peace, seeking peaceful solutions to end them. Having lauched a war of aggression / invasion against a sovereign country despite the testimony of the IAEA that WMD's were not found, or even expected to be found, it is time for change, metanoia. It is time to withdraw American troops not only from Iraq asap, but also Saudi Arabia and to seek justice for both Israel and the Palestinian people, even as we seek alterantive [sic] sources of energy, making this nation less dependent on foreign oil. Human lives into the future, and the stability of the world, has been our most grave concern. We think we have made our case. We will, of course, continue to report on what others are doing as developments unfold. ---10/9/05

Who is the Aggressor?

I disagree with the characterization of our present conflict as a "war of aggression" -- either against the "sovereign nation" of Iraq, or militant Islamic terrorist organizations in general.

In the case of Iraq, one has only to mention Saddam Hussein's acts of aggression against his own people, as well as his provision of financial and material support to terrorists who have already declared jihad against the West.

As presented by Deroy Murdock ("Saddam Hussein's Philanthropy of Terror September 22, 2004 Hoover Institution), Iraq's support ranged from the provision of "bonuses" to the families of Palestinian suicide-bombers (from a personal fund of Hussein himself) to the provision of training, funding, diplomatic help, safe haven and medical care to well-known international terrorists.

Saddam Hussein paid bonuses up to $25,000 to Palestinian suicide bombers. On March 11, 2002, Iraq former deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz -- the same Aziz who on Feb. 14, 2003 met with and personally assurred Pope John Paul II of "the wish of the Iraqi government to co-operate with the international community, notably on disarmament" -- announced Saddam's "decision to raise the sum granted to each family of the martyrs of the Palestinian uprising to $25,000 instead of $10,000." [1].

According to Mr. Murdock: "Hussein's patronage of Palestinian terror proved fatally fruitful. Between the March 11, 2002, increase in cash incentives to $25,000 and the March 20, 2003, launch of Operation Iraqi Freedom, 28 homicide bombers injured 1,209 people and killed 223 more, including 12 Americans." [2]

According to Patterns of Global Terrorism [U.S. State Dept., May 21, 2002], the Abu Nidal Organization (ANO), the Arab Liberation Front, Hamas, the Kurdistan Workers' Party, the Mujahedin-e-Khalq Organization, and the Palestine Liberation Front all operated offices or bases in Iraq. Saddam Hussein's hospitality toward these organizations occurred in direct violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 687, prohibiting the safe harbor and state-sponsorship of terrorism.

Among those granted safe haven by Saddam Hussein and living in Baghdad until the time of the U.S. "war of aggression":

  • Abu Abbas / Muhammad Zaidan - founder of the Palestinian Liberation Front (PLO splinter group); notorious in the West for the hijacking of Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro in October 1985. After segregating the Jewish passengers, an elderly Jewish-American named Leon Klinghoffer was shot dead and thrown overboard. According to Murdock,
    The hijackers surrendered to Egyptian authorities in exchange for safe passage to Tunisia. Abu Abbas then joined them on a flight to freedom aboard an Egypt Air jet. However, four U.S. fighter planes forced the airliner to land at a NATO base in Sicily. Italian officials took the hijackers into custody. But Abbas possessed the ultimate get-out-of-jail card: An Iraqi diplomatic passport

    Abbas fled to Baghdad, where he lived under the protection of Saddam and the Baathist regime. In the Autumn of 2001 he appeared on Iraqi state television to praise Saddam for inciting Arab opposition to Israel's policy against the Palestinians. [3] According to Fox News / Associated Press: "The PLF faction under Abbas was a conduit for Saddam's payments to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers. Israel's Shin Bet intelligence service reported earlier this year that Israel captured several Palestinians who trained at a PLF camp in Iraq and were told by Abbas to attack an Israeli airport and other targets." [4]

  • Abu Nidal, born Sabri al-Banna, was a close aid of Yasser Arafat. He fell out with Arafat in the 70's (accusing him of being "soft") and went on to establish Fatah - the Revolutionary Council, also known as the Abu Nidal Organization (ANO). Nidal's attacks in 20 countries killed at least 275 people and wounded some 625 more. Among the atrocities commited by the ANO: the Rome and Vienna Airport Attacks on December 27, 1985; the Sept. 1986 gun attack in the Neve Shalom synagogue in Istanbul during Sabbath services and hijacking of Pan Am Flight 73, and according to the confession of a former colleague, the bombing of Pan-Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in December 1988 [5]. Nidal's terrorist activities subsided in the 90's due to internal dissension when, in a fit of paranoid self-destruction, he "turned his terror campaign inward." 6] He took shelter in Iraq from at least 1999 (stories conflict as to whether he entered into Iraq secretly or "with the full knowledge and preparations of the Iraqi authorities" [7], as the ANO Beirut office claims. In any case, by 2001 he was living openly, in defiance of the Jordanian government (who sentenced him in absentia in 2001 to death for his role in the 1994 assassination of a Jordanian diplomat). He died of multiple gunshot wounds in late August 2002, presumably at the hands of Iraqi Intelligence].

  • Abdul Rahman Yasin, wanted by the FBI for his role in making the bombs for the February 26, 1993 World Trade Center attack, killing six and injuring 1,042 people in New York. Questioned and the mistakenly released by the FBI, Yasin fled to Baghdad, Iraq, where he was spotted in 1994 and reported to be operating freely ("A neighbor told the reporter that Yasin was working for the Iraqi government. Documents recovered from postwar Iraq indicate that Yasin received not only safe haven in Iraq, but also funding from the former Iraqi regime"). [8]

  • Abu Musab al Zarqawi - Zarqawi is a Jordanian and veteran of the Soviet-Afghan war. In the late 1990's he founded the organization Jama'at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad [Monotheism and Holy War], originally with the intent of overthrowing the Jordanian government. Zarqawi operated a training camp near Herat, Afghanistan, fleeing to -- where else? -- Baghdad after the U.S. led overthrow of the Taliban, where he received treatment for an injured leg. He developed ties to Ansar al-Islam, a Kurdish Islamist militant group. He presently heads the insurgency against the new Iraqi government, self-dubbed "Al Qaeda in Iraq" -- responsible for the kidnapping/beheading of American businessman Nicholas Berg, South Korean Kim Sun-il, Bulgerian truck-drivers Georgi Lazov and Ivaylo Kepov; Americans Jack Hensley and Eugene Armstrong and Briton Kenneth Bigley and Japanese citizen Shosei Koda. Zarqawi's network is also responsible for countless suicide and car bombings and the indiscriminate slaughter of Iraqi citizens and U.S./Coalition soldiers.
For information on Saddam Hussein's links to Al Qaeda, see Daniel Darling's post on the imminent threat Iraq posed in light of its collaborations with Ansar al-Islam; as well as Stephen Haye's investigative articles in the Weekly Standard and his book: The Connection (Harper Collins, June 2004).

In light of Iraq's past history as a "safe haven" for terrorists -- against other nations as well as the oppression of its own citizens, it seems that the perpetrators of aggression at this moment in time are chiefly those involved in acts of terrorism against the newly-established government in Iraq, Iraqi citizens, and Coalition forces.

Iraq -- "Sovereign Nation"?

Regarding the defense of Iraq as a "sovereign nation" in protest of the unjustifiable "aggression" of the United States, I am sympathetic to George Weigel's observation [Idealism Without Illusions: U.S. Foreign Policy in the 1990's Eerdmans, 1994]:

State sovereignty, and the consequent immunity of states from interference in their "internal affairs" is not an exceptionless norm. By agreeing to certain international human rights agreements, for example, states have voluntarily limited their sovereign claims to non-interference in their internal practices. The nature of international public life today has also "internationalized" questions that would, in an earlier era, have been regarded as a state's domestic affairs. When innocent citizens of European and North American states are put at risk in European airports because of disputes over "self-determination" in the Middle East, those disputes (and the involvement of other states and terrorist organizations in them) cannot be considered the "internal affiars" of the states (and the organizations) involved.

Moral reasoning, too, leads us to conclude that the principle of state sovereignty must not be considered exceptionless. Suppose that Nazi Germany had forsworn aggression after recovering the Rhineland and the Sudentenland, and had proceeded to implement the "Final Solution" to the Judenfrage within its own internationally recognized borders. Would the principle of state sovereignty have meant that other states were forbidden to interfere in this German "internal affair"? [. . .]

Put that way, the question seems to answer itself: whatever else it might mean, the principle of state sovereignty cannot mean that states are free to engage in the indiscriminate slaughter of religious, racial, or ethnic minorities within their borders. When that is taking place, othes have a right -- perhaps even a duty -- to intervene to stop the killing.

Although written in 1994, Weigel's observation could be brought to bear on the status of Iraq and other "rogue nations" with histories of fostering terrorism.

James Turner Johnson drew attention to the question of sovereignty, humanitarian intervention and the necessity of regime change in "Using Military Force Against the Saddam Hussein Regime: the Moral Issues" December 4, 2002. Noting that the U.S. Bishops in 1993 issued a statement The Harvest of Justice is Sown in Peace (USCCB Nov. 17, 1993) "declaring humanitarian intervention a duty in cases of gross human rights violations, observing that claims of sovereignty by those engaged in such violations have no absolute status in Catholic teaching, and accepting the use of force as a form of intervention," Johnson wondered "Where are these voices now? Are the rights of Iraqis less important than those of Bosnians, Kosovars, and Rwandans?" He went on to compare two distinct and conflicting notions of national sovereignty:

The Catholic bishops' position on the rights of sovereignty is rich in its implications. Catholic teaching on this reflects the idea of sovereignty found in Western political philosophy as late as the American and French revolutions, but replaced more recently by the idea of sovereignty in the Westphalian system. Under the older idea, sovereignty is an essentially moral construct; persons in sovereign authority are responsible for the good of their political community, for the "common weal." This implied establishing an order that served justice and achieved peace, along with an obligation to other political communities to support order, justice, and peace in and among them. Failure to discharge these obligations removes the rights of sovereignty. This line of reasoning is found, in different ways, in both the Declaration of Independence and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man.

In contrast to this moral conception of sovereignty is that regularly associated with the Peace of Westphalia, by which sovereignty is defined by a particular territory and by recognized governmental control over it and its inhabitants. This conception may be read to grant any government immunity from interference in the way it handles its internal affairs and treats its people. Thus Slobodan Milosevic, on his first appearance before the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, denied the Court's authority to indict and try him, claiming sovereign immunity. Similarly, Saddam Hussein has insisted that weapons inspectors-and UN resolutions of any kind-not infringe on Iraq's sovereignty. On the older, moral understanding of sovereignty, though, he has forfeited the right to sovereign immunity by his tyrannical exercise of government. We already see the resurgence of this idea in the indictments handed down by the international tribunals for Yugoslavia and Rwanda. Indeed, though the idea of war crimes tribunals for deposed tyrants and their regimes is relatively new, that of removing and replacing an evil regime is not at all new: consider Tanzania's deposition of Idi Amin in Uganda, Vietnam's deposition of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, and the United States' removal of Manuel Noriega in Panama. Regime change is not an innovation cooked up in the mind of Paul Wolfowitz; it is a feature of the international order. Not only is there no duty not to seek to effect regime change, there may in fact be a duty to seek to do so, both on behalf of the immediate victims of their cruelty and on behalf of the international order itself.

WMD's and Lack Thereof

Finally, there is something to be said on the inordinate emphasis and basis for the removal of Saddam on the possession of WMD's alone. Unfortunately enough, this emphasis has been the focus not only by various members of the Bush Administration leading up to the war, but also by anti-war protestors in their case against the war -- the reasoning being that the failure to discover WMD's in post-war Iraq points to the collective failure of U.S. intelligence, thereby "retroactively" rendering U.S. intervention in Iraq "unjust" on grounds that WMD's never existed.

This was the argument of Senator Barbara Boxer during the confirmation hearings of Sec. of State Condoleeza Rice:

Rice: It wasn't just weapons of mass destruction. He was also a place -- his territory was a place where terrorists were welcomed, where he paid suicide bombers to bomb Israel, where he had used Scuds against Israel in the past.

And so we knew what his intentions were in the region; where he had attacked his neighbors before and, in fact, tried to annex Kuwait; where we had gone to war against him twice in the past. It was the total picture, Senator, not just weapons of mass destruction, that caused us to decide that, post-September 11th, it was finally time to deal with Saddam Hussein.

Boxer: Well, you should read what we voted on when we voted to support the war, which I did not, but most of my colleagues did. It was WMD, period. That was the reason and the causation for that, you know, particular vote.

As a friend pointed out, Boxer's feeble attempt at historical revision is easily dispatched by a check of the Congressional record itself. The AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF MILITARY FORCE AGAINST IRAQ RESOLUTION OF 2002 includes, in addition to the "development of weapons of mass destruction" in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions, charges of "brutal repression of [Iraq's own] civilian population"; refusal to "release, repatriate or account for non-Iraqi citizens wrongfully detained"; "continuing hostility toward, and willingness to attack, the United States" -- including the attempted assassination of President Bush, Sr. and attacks on U.S. and Coalition forces enforcing the resolutions of the U.N. Security Council; the aid and harbor of international terrorist organizations, including members of Al Qaeda . . . et al. (Weapons of Mass Distraction MysteryAchievement, January 19, 2005).

In any case, repeated violations of the U.N. Security Council resolutions are not to be taken lightly. As I. Shawn McElhinnney (rightly) insists: ("Why Those Who Hold Out For Peaceful Solutions With Iraq Are Wrong" Rerum-Novarum Feb. 9, 2003):

My arguments are that [Iraq] is in material breach, has been for over twelve years (of UN resolutions: if we count international accords then we could go back to at least 1979 if not earlier), and we cannot continue to make a mockery of the notion of "keeping the peace" if all we issue to this guy is papers saying 'this is your last warning'."
George Weigel expressed similar frustration in The Just War Case for the War (America March 31, 2003):
In the case of Iraq, the debate . . . came down to one question: how many more "final" Security Council resolutions were required to satisfy the war-decision criterion of competent authority? When Resolution 1441 was meticulously negotiated last November, everyone understood that the "serious consequences" to follow Iraqís material breach of the demand for its disarmament and its active cooperation in that disarmament meant intervention through armed force to enforce disarmament. Is it obtuse to suggest that the unanimous acceptance of 1441, by a Security Council which obviously understood what "serious consequences" meant, satisfies the criterion of "competent authority" - and precisely on the grounds advocated by those who argue for the superior competence of the U.N.? No. Absent another "final" Security Council resolution, would the use of armed force to compel Iraqi disarmament mean that brute force had displaced the rule of law in world affairs? No. It would mean that a coalition of states had decided, on just war grounds, that they had a moral obligation to take measures that the U.N., as presently configured, found it impossible to take - even though those measures advance the U.N.'s goals.
* * *

A common failure by some activists to recognize and address Iraq's long history of support for terrorism and the multiple reasons behind U.S. intervention have, regretablly, led some critics to indulge in questionable allegations at a marked variance with reality, as in the proclamation that:

"[The Iraq War] was about "vital interests" ---- to wit: oil and making Iraq free for US / UK army bases to watch over those fields, for globalist business ventures galore: Haliburton, McDonalds, Penthouse & beer (discreetly under wraps), and Islamic Disney parks, and so on" (TCRMusings, circa. Sept. 2005)
and morally-outrageous conclusions as:
The Irony of the Iraq War . . . is that according to the old Just War criteria, which, with Benedict XVI, we consider obsolete in a nuclear world, the insugency [sic] in Iraq (consistings [sic] of all factions) has strict justice on its side (though we do not approve of war in any case) since they are defending their homeland against a foreign aggressor and a puppet government. (TCRMusings, Sept. 22, 2005)
The Just War scholar James Turner Johnson has written a book examining these issues in The War To Oust Saddam Hussein: Just War and the New Face of Conflict Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. 2005. Being one of the foremost American scholars of the just war tradition, Johnson's book will address such questions as:
"What should be the standard for pre-emptive uses of military force?
What of the other arguments the Bush Administration offered for the need to remove Saddam Hussein and restructure Iraq?
What is to be said for the future about the possibilities of fruitful relations between the cultures of the West and of Islam?"
If this post fails in its intent, perhaps Johnson's contributions in this area will bring some clarity to this discussion.
  1. Reuters, "Hussein vows cash for martyrs." March 12, 2002. Published in The Australian, March 13, 2002, page 9.
  2. Facts of, "Chronology of Palestinian Homicide Bombings."
  3. The Road to Hell Is Paved with Acts of Terror, by Deroy Murdock. National Review March 10, 2004.
  4. Palestinian Terrorist Abu Abbas Arrested April 16, 2003.
  5. Aide says Nidal confessed to Lockerbie bombing Nicholas Pyke. The Guardian Friday August 23, 2002.
  6. Dead Terrorist in Baghdad by Michael Ledeen. National Review Online August 20, 2002.
  7. Sameer N. Yacoub, "Iraq claims terrorist leader committed suicide". August 21, 2002 Associated Press dispatch published in Portsmouth Herald, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, August 22, 2002.
  8. Yasin, Abdul Rahman [Profile] MIPT Terrorism Knowledge Base.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

  • One Code to Rule Them All: "Congress owes it to America, our allies, and our soldiers to set clear standards for the treatment of detainees," by Tom Donnelly & Vance Serchuk. Weekly Standard October 4, 2005.

  • Detainee Abuse Redux, by Dan Darling. Winds of Change. October 6, 2005 08:40 AM.

  • "Thou Shalt Not . . .", by the Mudville Gazzette: "Much will be written about the Senate's passage of a measure codifying standards for the treatment of detainees by the US military. (For a news report on the topic, see the Washington Post story here. For blog coverage see Instapundit here)

    Before this story becomes inevitably convoluted (or "FUBAR", as we say in the military) I thought I'd present a few facts, sans opinion on the issue. As I've noted before on other topics, public discourse should start with an informed public. . . ."

  • From earlier this year . . . Against Rendition: "Why the CIA shouldn't outsource interrogations to countries that torture", by Reuel Marc Gerecht. Weekly Standard May 16, 2005.

Friday, October 07, 2005

James Turner Johnson: the War to Oust Saddam Hussein

The War To Oust Saddam Hussein: Just War and the New Face of Conflict Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. 2005. [Currently only available from the publisher's website]

From the publishers: As a leading authority on the development and application of moral traditions related to war, Johnson's analysis relates the conflict in Iraq to the broader context of the ongoing war between the West and radical Islam, the United States' "war on terrorism," and the emerging principles of preemptive military actions. After setting the context by comparing the principles of Just War to those of Jihad, Johnson provides a thorough and accessible moral analysis of the debate leading up to the war in Iraq, the implementation of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and the lessons to be learned from the conflict.

The War To Oust Saddam Hussein: Just War and the New Face of Conflict addresses the key questions most people are asking today: What should be the standard for pre-emptive uses of military force? What of the other arguments the Bush Administration offered for the need to remove Saddam Hussein and restructure Iraq? What is to be said for the future about the possibilities of fruitful relations between the cultures of the West and of Islam?

About The Author

James Turner Johnson is a professor in the Department of Religion at Rutgers University. He has a Ph.D. in religion from Princeton University. A recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities and Guggenheim Fellowships, he lives in Frenchtown, New Jersey, in Hunterdon County, near Philadelphia.


  • Setting the Context: Are We Involved in a Clash of Civilizations?
    • Jihad and Just War: Ethical Perspectives on the New Face of Conflict
    • Disciplining Just War Thinking: Uses and Misuses of the Just War Idea in Recent American Debate
  • The War To Oust Saddam Hussein: Before
    • The Debate Over Using Force Against the Saddam Hussein Regime: Was the Use of Force Justified?
  • The War To Oust Saddam Hussein: During
    • Operation Iraqi Freedom: A Moralist's Notebook
  • The War To Oust Saddam Hussein: After
    • Looking Back as a Way of Looking Ahead

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Iraq and Just War Revisited

Chris Burgwald (Veritas) has written an excellent post "Iraq: A Just War?", continuing a dialogue initiated on David Jones' blog (here) with Dr. J.P. Hubert, Jr., MD FACS, on whether the Iraq war meets just war criteria.

In response to the oft-repeated statements by Pope John Paul II and then-Cardinal Ratzinger, Chris noted:

. . . I fully agree that the notion of disagreement with the CDF Prefect (let alone the Holy Father himself) requires careful thought and discernment. But it can be licit. It's well-known that Ratzinger looked askance at the Assissi meetings, even thought they were a "pet" of JPII's. I am not saying that my wisdom and intellect match Ratzinger's, but I do think that there are problems with the position he articulated.

For instance, in the same statement you are referring to, he doubted that just war was even possible today. In and of itself (i.e. prescinding from context which was perhaps not revealed), that is a difficult statement to make sense of. The Vatican itself publicly agreed that the US's actions against the Taliban were licit. (In fact, come to think of it, one might argue that the same arguments being employed against the justice of the Iraq War also obtain with regard to Afghanistan, in that that nation did not initiate hostilities against the US.) [This strikes me as an important point.] Furthermore, with the development of technologies that greatly reduce the danger to innocents, it seems that it's easier to be in accord with the tenets of that doctrine.

On the question of whether modern technology necessarily renders the tradition of 'just war' invalid was addressed by James Turner Johnson, a scholar well-versed in the just war tradition and the ethics of warfare (Pope Benedict, Modern Weaponry and Civilian Casualties (Just War? June 18, 2005).

Likewise, a case study of this issue would be the U.S. "Shock & Awe" bombing campaign which, despite the misleading title, demonstrated the U.S. military's specific desire to minimize civilian casualties through the use of guided weaponry ("Shock & Awe, Civilian Casualties and Questionable Statistics" Just War? June 17, 2005).

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Fr. Schall on "The One War, The Real War"

Just at a moment when many liberal western media and political sources insisted that this war was "caused" by overreaction on the part of President Bush to 9/11, the Islamic militants oblige us with another graphic incident. They will not go away until actually defeated. They do not negotiate or give advanced warnings. They kill the innocent, in cold blood, precisely because they are innocent and unprepared to defend themselves. They see and justify this arbitrary killing as a legitimate means to their religious and political end, the conquest of the world for Islam. . . .

. . . There are not "two" wars -- one in Iraq and one against the terrorists. There is but one war, wherever it is fought, including in London or Baghdad. The terrorists are fully capable of being everywhere. They are invariably Muslim radicals intent on a world mission at least claiming a religious duty. They are not primarily "caused" by poverty or any of the usual ideological reasons given to justify terror. . . .

The main battlefield of the war is not Iraq or even London tubes. It is in the media and public opinion in the United States and Europe about whether the will to do what is necessary to prevent these attacks is firm enough over a long period of time. Civilian and suicide bombings have a political purpose and a religious purpose.

The political purpose is a calculated risk that continued bombings would show that Western powers cannot defend their own populations. Consequently, they should cease trying. They should rather, in return for "peace," submit to Islamic neutralization of their territories, a kind of compromised second-class citizenship. Likewise, they should withdraw from any effort to prevent such attacks in Muslim lands themselves.

The religious purpose of this war, in the minds of its advocates, is to succeed in subjecting the world to Allah. This purpose, no doubt, sounds preposterous. But I think that we misunderstand the problem if we do not disassociate what these terrorists themselves say from our theories of "terrorism." The problem is not caused by fanaticism or some political, sociological, or psychological derangement. . . .

. . . Al-Qaeda forces may have seen their reputation so questioned by the effects of the Afghanistan and Iraq phases of the war that they felt it absolutely necessary to show some flashy sign of strength. If so, this too is in effect a sign of their weakness. They revealed themselves for what they are once more. It has been taken as a truism that it is better to fight these forces on their own grounds and not in London or New York or Madrid. The war overseas does not prove that it is not effective, but that it is. But the latter three cities, however orchestrated, are part of the same war.

In this sense, we can be grateful that the Islamic terrorists in London again called our flagging attention to the real war, the one against those who first declared war against us in the name of their religious and political mission. The first effort has been and still is to undermine any effective opposition. Whether this purpose can be achieved by terrorism and its effect on public opinion remains to be seen.

Excerpts from "The One War, The Real War", by Fr. James Schall. Ignatius Insight July 8, 2005.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Pope Benedict, Modern Weaponry and Civilian Casualties

With respect to the war in Iraq, it must be recognized that Pope Benedict has offered a somewhat stronger, more explicit opinion on the war in Iraq, as documented by Michael Griffin of the Catholic Peace Fellowshiop ("A New Peace Pope"). In a May 2, 2003 interview, then Cardinal Ratzinger reiterated the Pope's appeal to conscience and Martino's question of the applicability of the Just War criteria:

Q: Eminence, a topical question that in a certain sense is inherent to the Catechism: Does the Anglo-American war against Iraq fit the canons of a "just war"?

Cardinal Ratzinger: The Pope expressed his thought with great clarity, not only as his individual thought but as the thought of a man who is knowledgeable in the highest functions of the Catholic Church. Of course, he did not impose this position as doctrine of the Church but as the appeal of a conscience enlightened by faith.

The Holy Father's judgment is also convincing from the rational point of view: There were not sufficient reasons to unleash a war against Iraq. To say nothing of the fact that, given the new weapons that make possible destructions that go beyond the combatant groups, today we should be asking ourselves if it is still licit to admit the very existence of a "just war."

About this we can note several things. First, as with the American bishops, Ratzinger's predication of the judgement that modern warfare is "inherently unjust" on the destructive capacity of modern weaponry is not immune from criticism. Just war scholar James Turner Johnson addresses this very criticism in "Just War, As It Was and Is First Things 149 (January 2005):

The problem with this conception of gross destructiveness as inherent in modern warfare, though, is that it is a contingent judgment being made to do service as a permanent truth. By contrast to the model of the two World Wars, as well as to imagined models of global nuclear holocaust, the actual face of warfare since 1945 has been that of civil wars and regional armed conflicts. Such armed conflict has indeed been bloody, sometimes genocidal, sometimes terroristic, always characterized by violence directed toward noncombatants; yet there has been no "World War III" -- or rather, given the ubiquity of this kind of conflict, this is in fact the face of "World War III." The destructiveness of these recent wars has everything to do with the choices made by those who fight them and nothing to do with any alleged inherent destructiveness of modern weaponry. In other words, the modern-war pacifists get it wrong: their contingent judgment does not describe a permanent truth about warfare in the modern age. The morality of modern war, as of all war, depends on the moral choices of those who fight it. It is not the choice to fight that is inherently wrong, as the "presumption against war" argument has it; it is the choice to fight for immoral reasons and/or by immoral means.

As Johnson says, the actual villians here "are not states as such but regional warlards, rulers who oppress their people to maintain or expand their power, and individuals and groups who use religious or ethnic difference as a justification for oppression, torture, and genocide." Civilian casualties occur not due to indiscriminate bombing so much as the fact that they are made the direct targets "the direct targets of weapons ranging from knives to automatic rifles to suicide bombs." A case in point would be the current state of Iraq, where Islamic fundamentalists are waging a campaign of terrorism and mass-murder against the civilians of Iraq who are in a process of building their own country and democratic government. On a similar note, says Johnson:

As progressively shown in the Gulf War of 1990-91, the bombing of Serbia over the oppression of the Albanian Kosovars, the campaign in Afghanistan aimed at al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and most recently (and most fully) in the recent use of armed force to remove the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq, the United States, and to an important degree also the British, have channeled high technology in ways that allow war to be fought according to the actual principles of the just war jus in bello: this includes avoidance of direct, intended harm to noncombatants and avoidance of disproportionate harm in the use of otherwise justified means of war. The results, for those who care to look at them, are simply astonishing, especially by contrast to the level of destruction and the harm to noncombatant lives and property found, say, in carpet-bombing. This, too, is the face of modern war.

Today we see a new kind of confrontation. On the one hand, we see non-state actors, as well as warlords and heads of state who use relatively unsophisticated means to gain their ends by targeting, terrorizing, and killing noncombatants and, as in the destruction of the World Trade Center towers or the bombing of the Madrid trains, intentionally causing lasting property damage, civilian deaths, and widespread fear. On the other hand, we find a state that has used its intellectual and economic capital to develop weapons, tactics, strategies, and training directed toward maximizing discrimination and proportionality in the use of armed force. Both of these developments in the actual face of war need to be taken seriously and integrated into a contemporary moral assessment of war based on a recovery of the classic meaning of the just war tradition.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Shock & Awe, Civilian Casualties and Questionable Statistics

I'd like to touch briefly on the issue of casualties in the U.S.-Iraqi conflict and how they are referenced, first in relation to the U.S. "Shock & Awe" campaign; secondly in relation to certain statistics.

"Shock and Awe" - A Case of Indiscriminate Bombing?

Initiating the U.S. war with Iraq in 2003, the "Shock and Awe" campaign was designed to shatter the will of Saddam Hussein by strategically obliterating key military targets and infrastructure. Described as "a devastating premeditated attack on a civilian urban population," likened the Bush administration's plans for the campaign to "Hulagu Khan and Tamerlane, the Mongol warlords who laid bloody waste to Baghdad in 1258 and 1401" and predicted that "Baghdad could become the 21st century's Guernica," the Basque village carpet-bombed by the Nazis in 1937 ("Shock & Awe: Guernica Revisited"). Other anti-war critics compared the campaign to Dresden, even Hiroshima.

Granted, many of these comparisons were made prior to the launch of the campaign itself (if anything, a testament to the effectiveness of the Pentagon's propaganda campaign, who freely publicized their intentions so as to intimidate the Iraqi military), but even to this day you will find similer allegations. Michael Moore, for instance, made use of the imagery in his notirious propaganda film Fahrenheit 911, portraying Iraq as a peaceful nation with footage of care-free children flying kites, set against the thunderous explosions and falling bombs of March 22, 2003.

Writing for, Inside Shock & Awe), Bijal Trivedi provides a brief history of guided-bombing, noting that the weapons employed in the 2003 bombing campaign constituted significant advancements in targeting technology beyond anything used in the first Gulf War (during which only 7% of the bombs used were "smart").

But of all the bombs and weapons launched in Iraq in the first Gulf War, only about seven percent were "smart." And even these bombs had shortcomings. Laser-guided precision weapons were accurate, but bad weather or clouds of smoke from burning oil fields often made it impossible to find targets. Worse, pilots needed to fly relatively low and within range of enemy fire.

Just a decade later, 'Shock and Awe' used another advance in precision bombing—the Global Positioning System, or GPS. GPS guided bombs, such as the Joint Direct Attack Munition or JDAM, can be dropped from more than twice the altitude of earlier guided bombs and from farther away, helping pilots avoid antiaircraft fire. Tomahawk missiles guided by terrain recognition software and digitized maps, or the newest models directed by the Global Positioning System satellites, can find their targets regardless of weather conditions or smoke. . . .

Curiously, it is a testament to the precision of the military's bombing that they ultimately failed to achieve the desired end of the campaign -- :

A bizarre testament to the precision of the weapons used during the first night of 'Shock and Awe' was that the streetlights still functioned. Electricity flowed to the city, including the Palestine Hotel where journalists frantically filed their reports. During the opening days of the war, even Iraqi government television was untouched and still broadcasting.

Civilian casualties did occur, but the strikes, for the most part, were surgical. Some buildings were completely demolished, while neighboring structures were untouched. Some buildings remained standing while their innards were gutted. In others still, only individual floors were erased.

The U.S. Shock & Awe campaign appears to validate James Turner Johnson's claims that in the U.S. armed forces of today "we find a state that has used its intellectual and economic capital to develop weapons, tactics, strategies, and training directed toward maximizing discrimination and proportionality in the use of armed force." ("Just War as it Was and Is" First Things 149 January 2005: 14-24).

Likewise, in a Frontline Investigate report on the Iraq war and civilian casualties, all the participants interviewed indicate that a priority for the military was the minimization of harm to civilians. This was admittedly easier said than done, difficulty rendered by the fact that U.S. troops found themselves attacked by Iraqi soldiers wearing civilian attire, driving taxicabs -- in the words of Lt. Gen. James T. Conway, "violating the laws of land warfare and putting its own people at risk."

Nevertheless, military historian Frederick W. Kagan reminds us:

When you're talking about civilian casualties in war, it's very important to understand that there will always be civilian casualties in war. You can look at any specific instance when there was civilian casualties and point to, frequently, errors of judgment, or misperceptions, or confusion, or lots of things that cause them. You can dissect any given incident and say, "Well, they shouldn't have done this and they shouldn't have done that." But it's almost certain that, in any large war, that there are going to be incidents, and there are going to be civilian casualties.

The U.S military took extraordinary pains to avoid civilian casualties in a campaign in which an incredible amount of ordinance was dropped all across a country, including in extremely densely inhabited areas. Overall, America's success in avoiding large numbers of civilian casualties was astonishing.

The problem is we're living in a world where the expected rate of success is 100 percent. We count up from zero how many civilian casualties there are, and every one is unacceptable. Of course, in principle, that's true. In war, reality doesn't actually work that way.

The Questionable Use of Statistics

100,000? 50,000? 37,000? 12,000? -- When the question of casualties is raised a number of statistics are bandied about. One blogger I've encountered is known for his persistent citation of "100,000" casualties. When he used the statistic in one of our many discussions I took him to task, inquiring where he obtained it (he neglected to respond).

The "100,000" of course comes from a controversial study by the British medical journal The Lancet, regarding which one need only point to the many criticisms of its methodology -- see "100,000 Dead - Or 8,000?", by Fred Kaplan. (Slate. Oct. 29, 2004), along with a thorough and sustained analysis by the blogging collective ChicagoBoyz. In fact, not even the Iraq Body Count (no friend of the Bush administration) will touch a statistic that high -- a website which in itself is notably flawed in its own gathering of numbers. The blogger in question has since taken to citing statistics in the range of 50-100,000 -- which leads me to believe he has taken no time to investigate the validity of the source.

This post is not to discount the loss of innocents. It is to the credit of our military that they undertake the measures they do to guard against civilian casualties. But of the statistics that are often cited by certain parties against the U.S. war in (and subsequent occupation of) Iraq, there is little/no recognition of causal factors except that of the United States military.

Which, in retrospect, is perhaps the point: If the U.S. hadn't invaded, there would be no occupation; no occupation, no beheadings and hostage takings and suicide bombings inflicted on the citizens of a new nation struggling to rise from the ashes and fashion a new democratic government.

If the U.S. never engaged Iraq, the only casualties would be the mass graves of 300,000 who perished for their opposition to Saddam Hussein.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

On the Iraq War, Potential Future Wars, and the Probable Positions of the Popes Thereof - "Tales of the Mailbag" Dept., I. Shawn McElhinney corresponds with critic of the Iraq war. Here is a continuation of the same discussion. Shawn notes that the person with whom he is corresponding is a polite and principled individual -- apparently a rare combination in the anti-war crowd.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

U.S. - "Outsourcing Torture to Uzbekistan?"

A reader has alerted me to this article "U.S. Recruits a Rough Ally to Be a Jailer", by Don Von Natta, Jr. New York Times May 1, 2005, according to which there is "growing evidence that the United States has sent terror suspects to Uzbekistan for detention and interrogation, even as Uzbekistan's treatment of its own prisoners continues to earn it admonishments from around the world, including from the State Department." (

Crooked Timber goes a step further, titling their post Outsourcing torture to Uzbekistan).

Back in February Mark Shea wrote a piece for Crisis magazine: Toying with Evil: May a Catholic Advocate Torture?, March 9, 2005, on disturbing cases of conservative Catholics who attempted to offer justification for the obtaining of information by torture. If it is the case that the U.S. is accepting information obtained by third-party interrogation-by-torture -- which thus far U.S. officials and the CIA have denied -- Catholics should demand a full investigation into such matters. Likewise, they should support the passing of two current House and Senate bills which seek to ban the practice of "extraordinary rendition" -- or the exporting of prisoners to other countries for interrogation.

As far as the larger issue of U.S. relations with Uzbekistan and our collaboration with the Uzbekistan government (which had assisted the United States in its removal of the Taliban in Afghanistan), I recommend Nathan Hamm's, a Eurasia news and commentary blog with special focus "on Afghanistan and the former Soviet Republics of Central Asia and the Caucasus."

Apparently the chief source of the allegations comes from Craig Murray, former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, who lost his job under allegations of professional/personal misconduct and is presently running for Parliament on an anti-Iraqi war platform. In "Craig Murray Aside" (March 23, 2005), Nathan questions the timing of Murray's humanitarian concerns ("[Murray's] care about torture in Uzbekistan seemed to peak whenever the FO brought up allegations concerning his behavior as ambassador"), and weighs the effectiveness of various measures proposed to further human rights in Uzbekistan: what he dubs Murray's "may our souls be pure" path" of isolation and non-involvement, vs. the "may our influence make Uzbekistan a better place" approach.

Also on this issue, a lengthy and extremely detailed report - Uzbekistan: Victimiser or Victim? -- by the British Helsinki Human Rights Group on the state of things in Uzbekistan. One section entitled Our Man in Tashkent: the case of Craig Murray offers a detailed look at the circumstances under which Murray left his post as ambassador in 2003, followed by an investigation into his charges against the Uzbekistan government. On-the-ground investigation led BHHRG to question the validity of certain allegations by Murray (such as those mentioned in this Janary 2005 interview, that the regime had "boiled" two prisoners to death):

BHHRG has concluded that while some of the deaths in custody may be from natural causes or suicide (which is sadly common is many countries' prisons) others may result from prisoners attacking those convicted of religiously inspired terrorist crimes. Such prisoners are incarcerated with run-of-the-mill criminals, possibly to prevent them conspiring among themselves. The government's account of what happened to Muzafar Avezov and Husnidin Alimov, the alleged victims of ‘boiling', would bear this out - it claims that the two men were attacked by other inmates who threw boiling water over them during a fight. BHHRG's own prison doctor confirmed that prisoner on prisoner violence is a common problem in the UK's jails and that throwing boiling fat, water at other inmates is not unknown. Tension between incarcerated, mainly young men, is a problem in all prison systems.

Although two examples which tend to exculpate the authorities of wrong doing do not add up to the acquittal in all cases, they are significant. The allegations against Uzbekistan have been ongoing for several years and it is hard to see what benefits accrue to the Karimov regime by consistently ignoring criticism and blithely continuing to torture suspects. On 14th July, 2004 Washington cancelled $18 m. in non-military aid to the country on the basis of hostile human rights reports - surely Uzbekistan would be cleaning up its act in an attempt to avoid regime change, orange-style. . . .

Among the conclusions the BHHRG reached:

Human rights groups seem keen to rush to judgement in cases where prisoners have died in custody, relying on allegations of brutality based on hearsay and photographs rather than proper forensic evidence. Even Freedom House's representative in Tashkent, Robert Freedman, expressed a desire for something better than “anecdotal” material on which to base claims of brutality. When outside experts have examined deaths in custody their findings have basically confirmed the version of events given by the authorities. BHHRG found conditions in the main isolator in Tashkent satisfactory compared with prisons in other post Soviet republics. In December 2004, Karimov bowed to calls from the international community and ordered a moratorium on the death penalty still operational for two types of offences.