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.