Friday, December 08, 2006

Reactions to the Iraq Study Group Report

Iraq Study Group: Change Iraq strategy now Dec. 6, 2006:

In a highly anticipated report being released Wednesday, the Iraq Study Group will call for a dramatic shift in war policy by urging the Bush administration to set a target of moving most U.S. troops out of their combat roles by early 2008, according to two sources who have seen the executive summary of the report.

The bipartisan panel, however, will stop short of a specific timetable for withdrawal.

"The primary mission of U.S. forces in Iraq should evolve into one of supporting the Iraqi Army," says the report.

It adds: "It's clear the Iraqi government will need U.S. assistance for some time to come, especially in carrying out new security responsibilities. Yet the U.S. must not make open-ended commitments to keep large numbers of troops deployed in Iraq."

Sources familiar with the report, which will be presented to President Bush at the White House early Wednesday morning, said it also prods the administration to launch a new diplomatic initiative to solve the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

The report contends the United States "cannot achieve its goals in the Mideast" unless it embarks on a "renewed and sustained commitment to a comprehensive peace plan on all fronts," according to the sources who have seen the report.

As part of this initiative, the panel calls for direct talks between the United States and Iran, as well as Syria, a move the Bush administration has repeatedly resisted.

The Iraq Study group report will be downloadable at the following websites:


  • The Iraq Study Group's self-contradiction, by Donald Sensing. Winds of Change Dec. 7, 2006:
    . . . on the one hand, the ISG says the US is facing a real crisis in Iraq and that time is short to change direction. Then, on the other, the ISG offers recommendations that even it (unanimously) says is "not likely to happen quickly." The ISG wants to start withdrawing US combat units from Iraq by 2008, but did it stop to think that it's highly unlikely for any of its regional initiatives and conferences even to be scheduled by then? The wheels of the gods and diplomats grind exceedingly slow, something James Baker should have remembered. Syria and Iraq have no obvious incentive to engage with us at all, a fact that Messrs. Baker and Hamilton tacitly admitted. To imagine that Assad and Ahmandinejad will jump at the chance to assist the US in achieving its goals in Iraq is the triumph of hope over experience. If anything, they'll see the report as a sign of the slackening of American will and pretend to engage while making sure that the "peace process" drags on interminably. (We do, after all, have a track record of being victiom of that tactic, just recall the Paris peace talks with Hanoi, in which the North Vietnamese delegation spent most of a year doing nothing but arguing about the shape and height of the negotiation table.)
  • Assessment of the Iraq Study Group Report, by Marc Schulman on Lebanon. American Future Dec. 6, 2006.
  • We've Been Talking: It's a myth that the U.S. hasn't already engaged Syria and Iran, by Joel Himelfarb. The Wall Street Journal Dec. 6, 2006:
    Based on the historical record, the advocates of U.S. engagement with these regimes are delusional. The record, from Carter to Bush II, strongly suggests that neither regime has any interest in cooperating with us in Iraq, and are more likely than not to view the Carter-Brzezinski-Hagel approach as a demonstration of American weakness.
  • Will Iraq Study Group’s Plan Work on the Battlefield?, by Michael R. Gordon. New York Times Dec. 7, 2008.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Gold Star Families Travel to Iraq

The Gold Star Families Iraq Survey Group has released a new report, "A Brighter Future for Iraq," to help enhance the debate and discussions concerning the United States’ commitment to achieve success with the mission of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The authors of this report have all traveled to Iraq since the commencement of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Seven of the individuals are known as “Gold Star Families” as they have lost a son in the war effort. Two of the individuals, Gold Star Father Joe Johnson and Marine Reservist John Ubaldi, served in Operation Iraqi Freedom themselves. Additionally, group member Melanie Morgan led a delegation to Iraq in 2005 where she had the opportunity to speak with both U.S. and Iraqi military leaders.

It is not by accident that the majority of this group is comprised of men and women who lost their child in Operation Iraqi Freedom. They are presenting their findings and recommendations to ensure that the United States adopts a policy in Iraq that will enhance American security that their children fought to preserve. Their children believed in the importance of the mission in Iraq, and so too do these parents.

-- Source: Move America Forward carries the report of the "Gold Star Families"

Bill Roggio on "The Military and the Media"

In nearly every conversation, the soldiers, Marines and contractors expressed they were upset with the coverage of the war in Iraq in general, and the public perception of the daily situation on the ground. The felt the media was there to sensationalize the news, and several stated some reporters were only interested in “blood and guts.” They freely admitted the obstacles in front of them in Iraq. Most recognized that while we are winning the war on the battlefield, albeit with difficulties in some areas, we are losing the information war. They felt the media had abandoned them.

During each conversation, I was left in the awkward situation of having to explain that while, yes, I am wearing a press badge, I'm not 'one of them.' I used descriptions like 'independent journalist' or 'blogger' in an attempt to separate myself from the pack.

What a terrible situation to be in, having to defend yourself because of your profession. I've always said that the hardest thing about embedding (besides leaving my family) is wearing the badge that says 'PRESS.' That hasn't changed. I hide the badge whenever I can get away with it.

-- "The Military and the Media"

Sunday, November 19, 2006

I support the U.S. Bishops on Iraq

The nation's Catholic bishops on Monday (Nov. 13) called for U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraq "at the earliest opportunity":

"Our nation's military forces should remain in Iraq only so long as their presence contributes to a responsible transition," the statement reads. "Our nation should look for effective ways to end their deployment at the earliest opportunity consistent with this goal."
Got to hand it to the Bishops -- they've managed to come up with a position that President Bush, Congressman Murtha, and Noam Chomsky could agree on. Hat tip: Domenico Bettinelli.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Militant Ideology Atlas

The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point has announced the release of The Militant Ideology Atlas [online in its entirety, .pdf format], an in-depth study of the Jihadi Movement's top thinkers and their most popular writings. According to the CTC, this is the first systematic mapping of the ideology inspiring al-Qaeda.

The CTC’s researchers spent one year mining the most popular books and articles in al-Qaeda’s online library, profiling hundreds of figures in the Jihadi Movement, and cataloging over 11,000 citations. The empirically supported findings of the project are surprising:
  • The most influential Jihadi intellectuals are clerics from Jordan and Saudi Arabia, two of the US’s closest allies in the Middle East.
  • Among them, the Jordanian cleric Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi has had the most impact on other Jihadi thinkers and has been the most consequential in shaping the worldview of the Jihadi Movement.
  • In contrast, the study finds that Usama Bin Ladin and Ayman al-Zawahiri have had little influence on other Jihadi theorists and strategists.
The Executive Report summarizes the main conclusions of this comprehensive effort and provides policy-relevant recommendations informed by these findings. The Research Compendium contains summaries of all the texts used in the study as well as biographies of the texts' authors and the figures they cite most. A link to the entire database will be available soon.

"So I Guess The FMSO Documents Are Legit", muses Captain's Quarters:

Over the past year or so, I have provided CQ readers with a number of translations from key Iraqi Intelligence Service documents that have been translated by either the FMSO or by Joseph Shahda of the Free Republic website. I even engaged two interpreters to verify one particularly explosive memo last April, after Shahda published his own translation. That memo dealt with IIS plans to get volunteers for suicide missions to 'strike American interests".

One particular criticism that appeared with each new translation was that the documents were never proven genuine, although no one could explain the logic behind the US government hiding these documents in Iraqi Arabic among an avalanche of mundanity, only to shove it onto a shelf for years until Congress authorized their release to the Internet. Now we find another verification of their authenticity, this time from the New York Times, which reports today that the documents constitute a national-security threat . . .

Captain's Quarters has put a lion's share of effort into bringing the various translated documents from the Iraqi Intelligence Service to the attention of its readers. Among them are the following revelations:

  • Palestinian Jihad Part Of Iraq Insurgency - A new document translated by Joseph Shahda indicates that the Saddam Hussein regime agreed to allow the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) to stage suicide operations within Iraq in the opening days of the American invasion. [posted Captain's Quarters October 26, 2006].
  • Post-Invasion Intel Showed WMD Went To Syria - Among the captured documents of the Iraqi Intelligence Services is a memo written in Arabic that describes pre-war intel from an Iraqi source working in Syria. Dated July 13, the memo itself was written after the invasion, but it describes the movement of trucks from Iraq into Syria just before the American invasions. [posted Captain's Quarters July 28, 2006].
  • Iraqi Intel Memo Describes Osama Connection A memo from the Afghan section of the Directorate of Counterintelligence (M5) to the head of M5 dated September 15th, 2001 relays information from an Afghani source that Taliban consul discussed the relationship between Osama, Iraq, and the Taliban. [posted Captain's Quarters July 24, 2006].
  • Foreign Intel Had Identified WMD Sites - an undated memorandum from the director of the IIS to the Military Industrialization Commission (MIC) discusses counterintelligence information regarding an informant with knowledge of the locations for Iraqi WMD programs. Document ISGZ-2004-007589-HT-DHM2A directs the MIC to change the locations of their assets. [posted Captain's Quarters October 17, 2006].
  • Operation Blessed July - Uday Hussein, in 1999, ordered a series of bombings and assassinations in London, Iran, and in the autonomous areas of Iraq. Document ISGZ-2004-018948 shows a response from a Saddam Fedayeen operative to Uday himself outlining the plan, known as Operation Blessed July.
  • Loose Lips Generate Paperwork, And Reveal Iraqi Malfeasance - Shortly before Saddam Hussein suspended all cooperation with the UNSCOM inspectors, in 1998 a surprise inspection at the Air Operations Directorate turned up a number of documents relating to "special" weapons -- the designation for WMD used by Iraqi forces. This caused the UN to declare a violation on the Iraqis, and touched off a massive internal investigation in Saddam's armed forces to find out who forgot to cleanse the files. The series of memos and statements in document IZSP-2003-00300856 shows that the Iraqis not only intended on making an example of the men who did such a poor job of purging the files, but that they actively hid materials that implicated Iraq in the hoarding of WMD.
  • The Saddam-Osama Connection (1994-1997) - One of the documents released by the FMSO project contains the records of the Iraqi regime's early connections to Osama bin Laden, starting in 1994 and continuing at least through 1997. [posted Captain's Quarters July 15, 2006].
  • Saddam's Subsidies To Terrorists - "Saddam's subsidy to suicide bombings has been reported in detail, and the fact that this went through his press secretary shows that he wanted to get the word out. Saddam wanted to provide incentives for terrorist recruitment in the Palestinian areas, [offering families of suicide bombers] the equivalent of ten years' revenue for a family of four. The money for this enterprise came from the West, in the helpful Oil-For-Food program that put billions of dollars in hard currency into the pockets of Saddam Hussein and his sons." [posted Captain's Quarters July 15, 2006].
  • Iraqi Documents: UNMOVIC Knew Of Renewed WMD Efforts to Make Ricin - In a summary of a larger document, translators found that Iraq had restarted its processing of castor-bean extraction, from which ricin can be developed -- and that UNMOVIC discovered it in December 2002. Hans Blix never mentioned ricin or castor beans in his UN presentation on March 7, 2003. [posted Captain's Quarters July 7, 2006].
  • Dr. Germ Analyzes Aircraft BW Attack Requirements In 2002 - Document CMPC-2003-004346 reveals that Dr. Rehab Rasheed Taha, otherwise known as Dr. Germ, prepared an analysis in 2002 of how to spread biological weapons material using an aircraft as the medium, and how far they had advanced on the application. [posted Captain's Quarters July 7, 2006].
  • Iraqi Documents: Kuwaiti POWs Used As Human Shields - captured IIS documents contains the actual orders from Qusai Hussein directing the Republican Guard to take Kuwaiti prisoners illegally held for twelve years and use them as human shields at strategic locations. [posted Captain's Quarters July 7, 2006].
  • Iraqi Documents: Our Friends, the Russians - According to document CMPC-2003-000878, the Russians gave more active support to Saddam prior to the March 2003 invasion than previously known -- and they used Syria as a conduit for their material. [posted Captain's Quarters July 7, 2006].
  • Saddam And Anthrax Operations - In document BIAP-2003-004552.pdf, we have a short memorandum announcing a transfer to a biological weapons program. "El-Salem wrote this memo in October 2002, so this is not a case of pre-Gulf War mischief. Abas got assigned to anthrax operations while Congress debated whether to authorize military force." [posted Captain's Quarters July 6, 2006].

Saturday, August 19, 2006

War "no good to anyone" - The words of a Pacifist Pope?

On August 13, 2006 Pope Benedict gave a first-of-its-kind television interview with German televisions ARD-Bayerischer Rundfunk, ZDF (complete transcript available on the Vatican website). We'll get the to the content and commentary of the interview in our upcoming Pope Benedict roundup, but this past week there has been much discussion on a particular segment:

Question: Holy Father, a question about the situation regarding foreign politics. Hopes for peace in the Middle East have been dwindling over the past weeks: What do you see as the Holy See’s role in relationship to the present situation? What positive influences can you have on the situation, on developments in the Middle East?

Pope Benedict XVI: Of course we have no political influence and we don’t want any political power. But we do want to appeal to all Christians and to all those who feel touched by the words of the Holy See, to help mobilize all the forces that recognize how war is the worst solution for all sides. It brings no good to anyone, not even to the apparent victors. We understand this very well in Europe, after the two world wars. Everyone needs peace. There’s a strong Christian community in Lebanon, there are Christians among the Arabs, there are Christians in Israel. Christians throughout the world are committed to helping these countries that are dear to all of us. There are moral forces at work that are ready to help people understand how the only solution is for all of us to live together. These are the forces we want to mobilize: it’s up to politicians to find a way to let this happen as soon as possible and, especially, to make it last.

That war is, indeed, "no good for anyone" prompted the following protest from First Things' blogger Robert Miller:
I find it difficult to understand how the pope says this. Along with many others, I often invoke the Second World War as the paradigm example of a just war, of a case where morality not only permitted but required the use of armed force in order to combat evil. But here Benedict, expressly mentioning the world wars, says that they brought no good to anyone. No good to Elie Wiesel, and all the other prisoners liberated from Buchenwald? No good to the peoples of France, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, and others saved from Nazi domination? No good to the Poles and other Slavs, destined to slavery to support the Third Reich? No good to the young Joseph Ratzinger, who, freed from service in the Wehrmacht, was able to enter seminary, study theology, become a priest and a professor, and live to become pope?

As it stands, this statement from Benedict is unsupportable. All serious people know that war is a terrible reality to be avoided whenever possible, and Benedict should certainly say this. But he is also a great theologian, well able to make moral distinctions. He ought not make statements that can so easily be understood as endorsing a dangerously naive pacifism that is incompatible with the Catholic moral tradition.

Needless to say, Miller's challenge caused quite a stir.
  • Mark Shea says "I basically agree with Miller", howbeit issuing a plea for context:
    On the whole, though I disagree with the Pope's remarks as they stand (since I believe in Just War teaching), I find myself thinking that I'd rather live in a world of people who err as the Pope does than in a world of War Zealots and Master Planners with big ideas for a New American Century based on "creative destruction" and other Machiavellian schemes. In short, I don't have much in the way of solutions, but I have a clearer and clearer idea of who I trust as I try to think things through.

    CAEI reader M.W. Forrest also speculates:

    For perspective, I think we should take into consideration that he was speaking to German reporters. What grievances did WWI and WWII solve for the Germans? WWI brought them the lost of some of their most productive land in the west and economic collapse. WWII gave them 1/4 of their country put in communist oppression.

  • Amy Welborn blogged the piece, with a not-entirely-unexpected 120 comment reaction and some good exchanges on pacifism and the just war tradition ("No Good War?" August 16, 2006).
Looking at Pope Benedict's remark in and of itself, Robert Miller's reaction is understandable. But this is not the first time that papal statements on war have resulted in a plethora of conflicting interpretations. Back in May, this blog took a stab at assessing various positions and papal pronouncements on the war in Iraq and the legitimate use of force (Toward a Proper Understanding of the Catholic Just War Tradition Against The Grain May 18, 2006).

In response to that particular post, "rcesq", a member and contributor to the RatzingerFanClub's EzBoard forum, pointed out to me that, in Cardinal Ratzinger's address in Normandy on the occasion of the 60th Anniversary of D-Day (reprinted as Chapter 6 of Values in a Time of Upheaval, first published April 2005, new edition by Ignatius Press 2006) -- we have good reason not to hasten to the conclusion from such papal comments as "war is the worst solution for all sides" and "today we should be asking ourselves if it is still licit to admit the very existence of a "just war"" -- that we are in the presence of a pacifist-pope.

What follows are my friend rcesq's observations, quoted in full (with permission) for your consideration:

* * *

[In his Normandy address], the Cardinal describes how the Nazis had seized power and caused
justice and injustice, law and crime [to become] entangled by carrying out both the legislative and administrative functions of the state. It was therefore in one sense entitled to demand that the citizens obey the law and respect the authority of the state (Rom 13:1ff!), while at the same time this government also employed the judicial organs as instruments in pursuit of its own criminal goals. The legal order itself continued to function in its usual forms in everyday lives, at least in part; at the same time, it had become a power that was used to undermine law.
According to the Cardinal,
[t]he only way to shatter this cycle of crime and reestablish the rule of law was an intervention by the whole world. . . . Here it is clear that the intervention of the Allies was a bellum iustum, a "just war" . . . perhaps the clearest example in all history of a just war.
Calling WWII a "just war" is pretty obvious and most commentators would place that conflict squarely in the just war tradition as you have explained. What's interesting, though, is that the Cardinal does not justify the war on the ground of self-defense. After all, each of the Allied powers had been attacked first by the Nazis.

Instead, Ratzinger considers the war justified because it liberated the German people from their criminal government, gave them freedom and restored the rule of law. He describes it as an "intervention" -- which sounds like the language used in AA programs when family and friends gather together to "stage an intervention" for the benefit of letting a drug or alcohol addicted friend or family member know that help for self-destructive behavior is available and required. Such a "therapeutic" approach to justifying war is not something I saw [in my prior blog-discussion of just war].

The Cardinal goes on to declare that this "real event in history shows that an absolute pacifism is untenable." Even though it appears that some just war moralists are heading in the direction of pacifism by setting the bar for justifying war impossibly high, one would expect this far more rational conclusion from someone as grounded in reality as Joseph Ratzinger, who knows well that man is fallen and sinful and will fall and sin over and over again.

It seems unusual and is, to me, unexpected, that the Cardinal would open the door to justifying military intervention "against unjust systems of government," when the intervention "serves to promote peace and accepts the moral criteria for peace." Does this allow a "pre-emptive war" against a criminal regime that flouts resolutions of the United Nations to disarm, terrorizes and kills thousands of its own people, repeatedly attacks it neighbors without provocation, and credibly boasts of having weapons of mass destruction? One could argue that it does. After all, one can look at such a regime as suffering from an addiction that requires intervention. Unfortunately, the address just offers this tantalizing thought and then moves on.

Farther on in the address, the Cardinal turns to the phenomenon of "terror, which has become a new kind of world war." He contrasts the destructive powers that lay in the hands of recognized superpowers -- who one hoped would be susceptible to reason -- with those potentially in the hands of terrorists, who cannot be counted on to be rational because self-destruction is a basic element in terrorism's power. He identifies as a "basic truth" that it is impossible to overcome terrorism by force alone, but notes that:

the defense of the rule of law against those who seek to destroy it must sometimes employ violence. This element of force must be precisely calculated, and its goal must always be the protection of the law. An absolute pacifism that refused to grant the law any effective means for its enforcement would be a capitulation to injustice. It would sanction the seizure of power by this injustice and would surrender the world to the dictatorship of force. . . .
Again, the Cardinal's thoughts suggest that it could be entirely legitimate for a country like Israel to use force against terrorists who try to undermine it; provided that the force is "precisely calculated." Naturally you have to ask how you calculate force precisely, even with so-called smart bombs: human error will occur and you can end up with horrible misfires. But I think that the Cardinal's reasoning does contradict those pundits who claim that American and Israeli soldiers are somehow acting immorally because their cause is unjustifiable.

The Cardinal posits another limit to the justifiable use of force against terror: "strict criteria that are recognizable by all," and cautions against one power's going it alone to enforce the rule of law (not stated but obvious: unilateral U.S. action). He also calls for an investigation into and addressing of the causes of terrorism that "often has its source in injustices against which no effective action is taken." This formula for dealing with terror strikes me as a fair balance of realism and idealism, practicality and morality. It's certainly not woolly headed or starry eyed -- which is how some of the bishops' pronouncements sometimes sound to me.

Ultimately, however, Cardinal Ratzinger advocates the way of Christ. Forgiveness is necessary to break the cycle of violence.

Gestures of humanity that break through [the cycle] by seeking the human person in one's foe and appealing to his humanity are necessary, even where they seem at first glance a waste of time.
These thoughts may be useful tools to assess what is happening now with Israel. I think it's possible to see their influence in Benedict XVI's endorsement of the G-8 position while he is pleading for an end to the violence and prays so fervently for peace. [The Ratzinger Forum; edited by: rcesq at: 8/2/06 5:32 pm]

* * *

"As is usual with Cardinal Ratzinger's writings, he sketches ideas, asks provocative questions, but offers no definitive answers," concludes "rcesq". At the end of my own post, I closed with the pressing need for some kind of authoritative clarification on the status of the "just war tradition", together with the proper interpretation of papal pronouncements on the war in an informal context.

Ratzinger's own thoughts on the use of force, as published in Chapter 6 of Values in a time of Upheaval will hopefully alleviate somewhat Robert Miller's concerns of a "dangerously naive pacifism."

Reading the diverse reactions on Open Book, I found Tom Haessler's comment on the different papal "styles" especially helpful:

Benedict XVI's theological and homiletic rhetoric is more kerygma (proclamation) than didache (teaching). John Paul the Great was immersed in Aquinas and modern phenomenology. Benedict XVI is immersed in the Fathers, especially in Augustine. The parsing of various aspects of just war theory is quite foreign to his approach. He's trying to call all to their senses, to awaken new communities of conscience, to help us discover new zones of sensitivity and awareness not previously attended to; he's NOT playing Jesuit anagrams with just war theory. Far from believing that military force is always wrong, he's supported the Afghanistan and Kosovo interventions. But he'd be the last one to insist that his own prudential judgments trump every careful scrutiny of all pertinent aspects of an enormously complex problematic. He's asking that he be heard, not that he be obeyed. . . . we're all orthodox Catholics here, trying to discover God's will in fidelity to all the values and norms we've learned through our membership in the Body of Christ. We all have something to teach (through our own experience), and we all have something to learn.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

"The New Testament does not order soldiers to surrender their arms but rather commends them for their righteousness and virtue. The injunction to requite evil with good concerns not so much external actions as the inward disposition with which these actions are to be performed. It seeks to insure that war, if it must be waged, will be carried out with a benevolent design and without undue harsheness."

Most importantly of all, however, we must remember that "The wicked wage war on the just because they want to, and the just wage war on the wicked because they have to...The best that can be hoped for in practice is that the just cause will trimph over the unjust one; for nothing is more injurious to everyone, including evildoers themselves, than that the latter should prosper and use their prosperity to oppress the good."

Fr. Ernest Fortin

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Israel - Hezbollah - Lebanon, "Proportionality" and Just War Theory

The conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, the loss of civilian life and the targeting of "civilian infrastructure" compromised by Hezbollah has provoked a discussion of proportionality and just war criteria -- for the benefit of our readers, this post will compile the key articles and contributions on this subject.

See also:

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Bush goes Jogging with Iraqi Amputee (Not the First Time)

Bush jogs with wounded soldier, by Jenniver Loven (Associated Press) June 27, 2006:

WASHINGTON - President Bush took a jog Tuesday with a soldier who lost part of both legs in Iraq, following through on a bedside promise even the president had doubts about at the time.

Despite a slight drizzle, Bush and Staff Sgt. Christian Bagge took a slow jog around a spongy track that circles the White House's South Lawn. About halfway through their approximately half-mile run, Bush and Bagge paused briefly for reporters.

"He ran the president into the ground, I might add," Bush said, as the two gripped hands in an emotional, lengthy shake. "But I'm proud of you. I'm proud of your strength, proud of your character."

What is interesting is that this is not the first time our President has heeded such an offer. In April 2004, he followed up on a similar promise to U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Michael McNaughton, who lost a leg in Afghanistan:
In the months since his wounding, Sgt. McNaughton has undergone at least 11 separate operations as a result of his injuries and has been fitted with a thin, robotic prosthetic shaft to replace his right leg. While recuperating at Walter Reed, Sgt. McNaughton was honored to receive a visit from President Bush. One of the subjects of common interest they discussed was running, and the President extended an invitation to Sgt. McNaughton to come running with him once he was up and about.

The President's invitation posed something of a dilemma for Sgt. McNaughton: "He said give him a call and we'll go running. How are you supposed to just call the president?" Fortunately, Sgt. McNaughton's doctor at Walter Reed was also a doctor for the President, and the two men were able to keep in touch through her.

In April 2004, Sgt. McNaughton and his family made the trip to Washington, and — true to his word — the President went for a run with him.

("Born to Run"

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Iraq and The War and Terror - A Roundup

  • The New Band of Brothers With the 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division in Ramadi, by Michael Fumento. The Weekly Standard, June 19, 2006

  • Marine Sniper takes out Insurgent Sniper - Part I | Part II. On June 21st, 2004, a four man sniper team was over-run and killed on a rooftop in Ramadi. It was a very tough loss. One of the snipers' rifles was taken. On June 16, 2006, Sgt. Kevin Homestead, a 26-year-old squad leader for K Company, dispatched an insurgent sniper and recovered the rifle. Blackfive has the two-part story.

  • Michael Fey: "My Truth" - Moved by the kidnapping, torture and murder of two American servicemen, combat artist Michael Fey (Fire & Ice) -- " someone who formerly identified himself strongly as a left leaning progressive" -- examines where he stands in relation to Iraq, the WOT, and the Democratic Party.

  • "I Met The President!" - "I can personally verify that the President of the United States is in Baghdad, Iraq! Shortly after finishing the speach that FoxNews is broadcasting, he made the rounds shaking hands and I managed to work my way to the front and shake his hand." A U.S. soldier stationed in Iraq witnessed the President's suprise visit.

  • Revisionist History: Antiwar myths about Iraq, debunked, by Peter Wehner. Wall Street Journal May 23, 2006:
    Iraqis can participate in three historic elections, pass the most liberal constitution in the Arab world, and form a unity government despite terrorist attacks and provocations. Yet for some critics of the president, these are minor matters. Like swallows to Capistrano, they keep returning to the same allegations--the president misled the country in order to justify the Iraq war; his administration pressured intelligence agencies to bias their judgments; Saddam Hussein turned out to be no threat since he didn't possess weapons of mass destruction; and helping democracy take root in the Middle East was a postwar rationalization. The problem with these charges is that they are false and can be shown to be so--and yet people continue to believe, and spread, them. Let me examine each in turn: . . .
  • Apologizing for Iraq. National Review columnist John Derbyshire says "Allow me to eat crow." Rod Dreher agrees -- sounding a note of disagreement in "a response to Messrs. Buckley, Will and Fukuyama", The Wrong Time to Lose Our Nerve. Wall Street Journal April 4, 2006. See also An Iraqi Optimist's Tale: From horror under Saddam to uncertainty today, by Brett Stephens. Wall Street Journal May 28, 2006.

  • The "Bad Body Armor" Lie - Howdy's blog. Sept. 29, 2005. A U.S. soldier refutes a liberal slander.

  • Myths of Iraq, by Ralph Peters. Real Clear Politics March 14, 2006:
    During a recent visit to Baghdad, I saw an enormous failure. On the part of our media. The reality in the streets, day after day, bore little resemblance to the sensational claims of civil war and disaster in the headlines.

    No one with first-hand experience of Iraq would claim the country's in rosy condition, but the situation on the ground is considerably more promising than the American public has been led to believe. Lurid exaggerations and instant myths obscure real, if difficult, progress. . . .

  • In a guest editorial on Winds of Change, Thomas Holsinger makes The Case for Invading Iran January 19, 2006.

  • Sectarianism, Violence, and the Future of Iraq - Threatswatch. Daniel Darling asks, "Does sectarian violence constitute civil war in Iraq?"

  • "8,000 desert during the Iraqi War" screams the headline of the USA Today article (and will likely be trumpeted by anti-war websites around the world). Buried in the story, however, is the news that Desertion numbers have dropped since 9/11:
    Opposition to the war prompts a small fraction of desertions, says Army spokeswoman Maj. Elizabeth Robbins. "People always desert, and most do it because they don't adapt well to the military," she says. The vast majority of desertions happen inside the USA, Robbins says. There is only one known case of desertion in Iraq.
  • Foiled Attacks Can Lull Public -- "In looking at the linked articles," says Michael B. Kraft at The Counterterrorism Blog, I was struck by the number of attempted major terrorist attacks in different parts of the world that were foiled and thus unlikely to register in the public consciousness.

  • Back to Iraq Part IV - From Zakho to Dohok, by Michael Totten. April 13, 2006 (This is the fourth installment in a Back to Iraq series which is basically a single long essay. Don’t miss Part One, Part Two, and Part Three).

  • April 9, 2003 was Iraqi Liberation Day. Judith Weiss of Keshertalk revisits the day Saddam Toppled.

  • A New Abu Ghraib? - Photos of American "Water Torture" at the hands of a U.S. Marine and Iraqi Babies Abused by U.S. Soldiers, courtesy of milblogger Blackfive.

  • "I have seen the enemy . . .", by Franklin Raff. Worldnet Daily April 14, 2006:
    Non-English speaking Iraqis are distressed and disheartened by American media bias. Many feel personally offended by what they read in translation and hear of in the foreign press. I am not talking about press information and public affairs officers. I am not talking about coalition soldiers (though every one I spoke with on the subject was equally frustrated.) I am talking about Arabic-speaking Iraqis. They see a difference between what we're seeing and what we're saying. What does that tell you about the extent of our problem?
  • (A post from last year, dated but worth reading, demonstrating the character of our troops):Little Girl, by Michael Yon. May 14th, 2005:
    Major Mark Bieger found this little girl after the car bomb that attacked our guys while kids were crowding around. The soldiers here have been angry and sad for two days. They are angry because the terrorists could just as easily have waited a block or two and attacked the patrol away from the kids. Instead, the suicide bomber drove his car and hit the Stryker when about twenty children were jumping up and down and waving at the soldiers. . . .

Stories of American Heroes

  • interviews SSG David Bellavia, Iraqi war veteran and veteran's rights advocate. Februrary 6, 2006.

  • A letter from the Mayor of Tall 'Afar, Iraq to the men and women of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment and their families. February 16, 2006. (Members of the Regiment are now returning home to Ft Carson, Colorado).

  • In Iraq, brave troops and a noble cause Major Kevin Kelly, F-16 pilot with the New Jersey Air National Guard, is currently deloyed in Iraq. He describes his experiences as "incredible" in an editorial for the Philadelphia Enquirer. (Via MarineCorpsMoms).

  • Captain Furat: "One More Reason For Hope", by Michael Yon. "An Iraqi Warrior is fighting for new life in America after an assassination ambush by insurgents riddled his body with a dozen bullets but failed to extinguish this soldier’s force of life. . . ."

  • Common Name, Uncommon Valor: The Story of Paul Smith, the Iraq War's only Medal of Honor recipient so far. Ralph Kinney Bennet profiles the American hero for the Wall Street Journal March 29, 2006.

  • Soldier With A Pen, by David Paulin.
    Steven Vincent, a freelance journalist who brought elegant writing and passionate moral clarity to his magazine articles, was kidnapped and murdered in Basra, Iraq, eight months ago. Like Jill Carroll, Vincent freelanced for several publications - including The Christian Science Monitor. Unlike Carroll and most journalists in Iraq, Vincent broke out of mainstream journalistic formulas and biases that have provided a distorted picture of this war. On the third anniversary of Iraq’s April 7th liberation, Vincent’s legacy is worth remembering as questions about the war’s progress inevitably provoke questions about the fairness of the media’s war reporting.

    Steven Vincent’s book: In the Red Zone: A Journey Into the Soul of Iraq is available from Spence Publishing for $10 - an online special more than one half off the regular retail price. It is well worth reading.

    The Steven Vincent Foundation: Established by Steven’s widow, Lisa Ramaci-Vincent, the foundation provides financial aid to families of murdered freelance journalists, photographers, translators and other media workers. Funds also are provided to improve the conditions of women in the Islamic world, an issue that was close to Steven’s heart. As of April, 2006, the foundation had distributed several thousand dollars to people in Iraq, Iran, and Bangladesh. Checks should be made out to “The Steven Vincent Foundation” and mailed to: The Steven Vincent Foundation, 534 East 11th Street, Suite 17-18, New York, NY, 10009. Donations via Paypal ( should be e-mailed to: On April 30, 2006, Lisa Ramaci-Vincent spoke about the Stephen Vincent Foundation.

A Touch of Humor . . .

9/11 Revisited

  • Germany says 9/11 hijackers called Syria, Saudi Arabia - according to the Chicago Tribune: "The Sept. 11 hijackers made dozens of telephone calls to Saudi Arabia and Syria in the months before the attacks."

  • On tape, Hussein talks of WMDs CNN February 19, 2006: "Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein told his Cabinet in the mid-1990s that the U.S. would fall victim to terrorists possessing weapons of mass destruction but that Iraq would not be involved."

The Case for War Revisited

Abu Ghraib Revisited

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Toward a Proper Understanding of the Just War Tradition

An Assessment of the Catholic application of just war theory to the U.S. Iraqi Conflict

"Can We Agree to Disagree?"

As readers may recall, the issue of proper discernment in areas of prudential judgement has been the subject of discussion on this blog, especially concerning the application of Catholic social doctrine in economic matters, or statements on the use of military force (as in the debate over the U.S.-Iraqi conflict).

Jimmy AkinThis subject was visited in March of last year by Jimmy Akin in the excellent article "War and Capital Punishment: Can We Agree to Disagree?", This Rock Vol. 16, No. 3 (March 2005).

. . . there are situations where war and the death penalty are moral (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church 2309, 2267). It is left to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for such matters to determine whether the conditions in a particular case warrant their use. Consequently, to disagree with the Pope on these issues is to disagree with his prudential judgment, not with Church doctrine.

Even though in his position the pope is not charged with decisions about waging war or executing criminals, deference is certainly due to his prudential judgment. But to disagree with his prudential judgment in a particular case does not amount to dissent from Church teaching and does not trigger the provisions of canon law (e.g., CIC 915) that would result in Communion being withheld.

Jimmy begins his article with a citation from Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion — General Principles, the June 2004 communique by Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), initially a confidential memo to Cardinal McCarrick and later leaked to the press (its authenticity confirmed by the Holy See).

The purpose of the memo was to address the response of Catholic leaders to "pro-choice Catholic" legislators, whose obstinate public refusal to submit to Church teaching on abortion, euthanasia and human cloning was a source of persistent scandal. In the course of doing so, Ratzinger briefly addressed what might be called the "seamless garment" approach, and the common rejoinder that Communion should be withheld not only from politicians who dissent from the Church on abortion, but also those who dissent on matters of capital punishment and the war. On the contrary, said Ratzinger:

"Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia."
How far does this "legitimate diversity of opinion" go? -- According to Jimmy, Ratzinger's recognition of such is predicated on the Church's assertion that the prudential judgment of those responsible for the decision to use military force rests with the leaders of state, rather than the Church. "Though the pontiff can counsel political leaders on such decisions," says Jimmy, "it is beyond his mandate to make such decisions, and his opinions in this area do not decisively govern the state’s actions."

At the same time, disagreement between Catholics (and with the Pope) on matters of war is not to be construed as "anything goes," but is itself constrained to the criteria of the Catholic Just War Tradition. While there has been no definitive formulation of this criteria, according to Jimmy, it has been conveyed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church [Sections 2309-2314], howbeit in a format that some have judged to be less than adequate:

The Catechism [is not] an exhaustive, technical survey of Catholic teaching. In keeping with the nature of a catechism, it teaches in summary fashion and leaves things out. Some have noted that the Catechism’s formulation of the just-war conditions does not include all of the considerations that the Church has brought to bear on this question.

Nevertheless, the conditions enumerated in the Catechism represent an important formulation of the Church’s just-war doctrine, which is theologically certain, though not definitively phrased. As a result, a fundamental disagreement with these criteria would amount to dissent from Catholic doctrine.

"A politician might quibble with the Catechism’s phrasing of the circumstances or urge something from historical Catholic just-war teaching that the Catechism omits," says Akin, "to go beyond this and to disagree fundamentally with the criteria would be to go beyond legitimate diversity of opinion and into dissent."

The points that Jimmy raises in this article are important ones, and worth considering. To this day, it remains a hotly debated issue whether Fr. Richard J. Neuhaus, Michael Novak, George Weigel, Deal Hudson, and others who supported the Bush administration in the U.S.-Iraqi conflict were themselves simply disagreeing over the application of Catholic Just War doctrine, or "disagreeing fundamentally with the criteria" and, in so doing, "going beyond legitimate diversity of opinion into dissent."

A Matter of Prudential Judgement?

For example, the Catholic writer Russell Shaw -- himself a vocal critic against the Bush administration, rose to the defense of Hudson, Novak, and Weigel in an editorial Iraq, Weigel and the Pope ( March 31, 2003). "Although I disagreed with them — indeed, perhaps because I disagreed," said Shaw, "I feel obliged to say that dissenters they most emphatically are not."

Given the limits of human knowledge, even prudential judgments by prudent people can be mistaken. In the present instance, the pope and Catholics who differed with him — conscientious and informed people like Novak, Weigel and Hudson — based their stands on an assessment of likely consequences of different courses of action. Since the assessments of what was more or less likely to happen in the future were different, so were the conclusions about what course of action to take.

To disagree with the pope in this manner is not dissent. It's not as if Pope John Paul II had taught a definitive moral principle (e.g., direct attacks on noncombatants are ruled out) which the disagreeing Catholics rejected. They agreed with the principle. They disagreed about something contingent and by no means certain: what the future outcome of complex, competing scenarios was likely to be.

Karl KeatingThe editors of This Rock (Karl Keating's monthly apologetics periodical) took a similar defence of Weigel, Novak and company:
First the death penalty. Now just war theory. The Pope and bishops offer a prudential judgment about the justice of war with Iraq and some prominent Catholics—Fr. James Schall and George Weigel, for instance—respectfully disagree. Immediately the cries of "cafeteria Catholicism" go up; liberal dissenters from the Church’s teaching on issues like homosexual practice and abortion say, "See! So-called ‘orthodox’ Catholics dissent from the Church’s teaching just as much as we do"—as though in Catholic teaching all that is not forbidden is compulsory.

Uh, not quite. Here’s what the American bishop said about their attempt to read the current world situation in light of just war theory:

    "We offer not definitive conclusions, but rather our serious concerns and questions in the hope of helping all of us to reach sound moral judgments. People of good will may differ on how to apply just war norms in particular cases, especially when events are moving rapidly and the facts are not altogether clear."

The bishops make it clear that they are not binding the conscience of anybody believer to their opinion, precisely because the possession of specialized knowledge (such as classified intelligence) makes all the difference in the world in assessing the situation. The Catechism of the Catholic Church makes it clear that, among other things, "The evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good" (CCC 2309). That means Caesar in the first place, not the bishops, since it is Caesar who is in charge of the public good.

This does not mean, of course, that Caesar is not to abide by just war teaching. Nor does it mean that he has no obligation to pay attention to the input of the bishops in forming his response to military threats. But it is to say that Catholics who are forming their consciences on the matter of war with Iraq are not bound to march in lockstep with the bishops in their opinions. There is no dogma being promulgated here, only a prudential judgment.

(As Though All That Is Not Forbidden Is Compulsory This Rock Vol. 14, No. 5. May-June 2003).

Other authors have disagreed. Mark and Louise Zwick (Houston Catholic Worker) presume Weigel and Neuhaus to be, in the words of the Zwicks, "attempting to develop a new philosophy of just war which would include preemptive strikes against other nations, what might be called a 'preventive war.'" ("Pope John Paul II calls War a Defeat for Humanity: Neoconservative Iraq Just War Theories Rejected" Houston Catholic Worker Vol. XXIII, No. 4, July-August 2003).

In At Odds with the Pope: Legitimate Authority and Just Wars Commonweal May 23, 2003), William Cavanaugh questions whether the moral authority to go to war properly belongs to the State, asking: "Has the church really handed over its moral decision making on war to the leaders of the secular nation-state?" For Cavanaugh,

The passage in question from the Catechism lays an obligation on civil authorities to consider moral truth, and not merely reasons of state, in deciding issues of lethal force. It nowhere limits the church's own competence in these matters. The Code of Canon Law (747,2) makes this plain: "The church has the right always and everywhere to proclaim moral principles, even in respect of the social order, and to make judgments about any human matter in so far as this is required by fundamental human rights or the salvation of souls" . . . For the church to defer to the nation-state in making moral judgments on war would be to court disaster.

Lately, another Catholic voice and periodical has gone much, much further in its rebuke of Neuhaus, Novak, Weigel and company; but before we turn to him, I would like to examine these papal pronouncements (by John Paul II and Benedict XVI) on this issue and their differing interpretations.

The Popes and the War

As one might expect, the various sayings of John Paul II and our present Pope are frequently appealed to by both sides in this debate. Just as those supportive of the Bush administration's policy in Iraq appeal to Cardinal Ratzinger's 2004 recognition of "a diversity of opinion" in matters of war, anti-war Catholics have laid claim to numerous statements by the present Pope and his predecessor. Regarding war itself, perhaps no phrase is more cited by John Paul II than his January 2000 World Day of Peace address:

The twentieth century bequeaths to us above all else a warning: wars are often the cause of further wars because they fuel deep hatreds, create situations of injustice and trample upon people's dignity and rights…. War is a defeat for humanity. Only in peace and through peace can respect for human dignity and its inalienable rights be guaranteed.
Pope John Paul IIUpon close examination, many of Pope Benedict XVI's statements on war (whether on the Iraqi conflict or war in general) appear to take their cue directly from the witness and thought of his predecessor.

On one hand, Cardinal Martino's March 2003 proclamation that "there is no such thing as just war" in the National Catholic Register ("I think with modern weaponry, there is no proportionality between the offense and the reply. . . . War is so destructive now. It is not just a fight between one person and another") provoked a furious rebuttal from George Weigel ("No Just War Possible?" The Catholic Difference April 2, 2003). Yet, less then a decade earlier William L. Portier drew similar conclusions upon evaluating the response of John Paul II to the 1991 Gulf war ("Are we really serious when we ask God to deliver us from war? The Catechism and the challenge of Pope John Paul II" (Communio Spring 1996):

Before and during the 1991 Gulf War, much to the consternation of policy makers and moral theologians on both the right and left in the U.S., Pope John Paul II was resolute in his refusal to be drawn into the widespread discussion of the just cause and conduct of what he referred to as the "so-called 'Gulf War."' Amid debate about whether the U.N. resort to arms in response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait met the conditions for a just war, the pope, a near-solitary voice on the international scene, focused instead on the futility of such calculations in the face of modern weapons and the human suffering they cause.
Portier goes on to note the pope's "striking refusal to discuss international conflict in a framework that distinguishes, as a matter of course, between total war and limited war" and a marked distancing from the just war tradition as normally construed:
The pope seems clearly, in the words of Bryan Hehir, to be tightening "the moral barriers against the use of force." If he has not abandoned "just-war" theory (as the editorial of 6 July 1991 urged), he has made the evaluation of its conditions sufficiently rigorous to move the use of military force close to the periphery of moral discussion. The consternation of both pacifists and proponents of just-war theory at the pope's recent statements might be a sign that he has begun to think with the "entirely new mind" urged in Gaudium et Spes (n. 80). Indeed, we could interpret recent papal pronouncements on international conflict as an ongoing attempt to carry forward the project outlined in Chapter V of Gaudium et Spes. While leaving the door open a crack for the serious possibility of "humanitarian intervention," the pope seems possessed at the same time of a profound evangelical skepticism about using military force as a means of securing justice. . . .

On the one hand, because of his insistence on the legitimacy of self-defense, the pope cannot be called a pacifist. (It might be difficult to construe every "legitimate defense by military force" as the kind of "police" action some pacifists would support.) On the other hand, he has drawn the restrictions on the use of military force with sufficient rigor that proponents of just-war theory, if they wish to take him seriously, must reexamine their assumptions and reorient their discussion about war.

Joseph Ratzinger / Benedict XVISecond to JPII's blanket condemnation of war, the two most popular citations from the "peace" movement appear to be a line from Cardinal Ratzinger, circa September 22, 2002: "The concept of a 'preventive war' does not appear in the Catechism of the Catholic Church" (Cardinal Ratzinger Says Unilateral Attack on Iraq Not Justified Zenit News Service), and, in a May 2, 2003 interview with Zenit News, the rather pointed dismissal of the Catholic Just War tradition, which as we can see follows the precedent of John Paul II:
"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."

Both quotations by Benedict XVI are cited in Benedict XVI: A New Peace Pope by Michael Griffin of the Catholic Peace Fellowship. May 2003.

It is worth noting that Cardinal Ratzinger's comment on preventive war in the September 22, 2002 was in fact preceded by his acknowledgement that "political questions are not within his competence" -- it is interesting that this acknowledgement is usually left out of citations by the anti-war movement, and we will be discussing this further later on.

The statements from Martino and John Paul II prompted Michael McGurn of the Wall Street Journal to lament:

What we have lost here is a tremendous teaching opportunity. And if the Vatican's problem is, as Archbishop Martino suggests and the pope's own words at times imply, not simply Iraq but a larger discomfort with just war in a modern world, it raises even more questions. Namely, how President Bush can be held in breach of moral criteria that (a) are in the process of being radically revised and (b) really can't be met anyhow.
(War No More? How much of a pacifist is the pope? Wall Street Journal March 2003).

In Whither the ‘Just War’? (America Vol. 188 No. 10. March 24, 2003), Drew Christiansen, S.J. pondered the serious implications of the idea that the just war had "gone the way of the death penalty":

Just war would be admitted in principle, but hardly ever in practice. Absent the institution of effective alternative conflict-resolution mechanisms and a standby U.N. force, official Catholic teaching would have become functionally pacifist, just as critics like George Weigel have argued for some time. If this were true, much would change for Catholics, from military service to conscientious objection and military chaplaincy. The salience of the church’s use of just-war criteria to prevent and limit war would also be greatly reduced, as would its ability to provide moral commentary on the formation of military policy and the actual conduct of war.

While we can't go into a greater discussion of the issue at this time, I will add that the appeal to the indiscriminate destructiveness of modern military technology as a rationale for the illegitimacy of just war criteria has been questioned by just war scholar James Turner Johnson and discussed in two posts: "Shock & Awe, Civilian Casualties and Questionable Statistics" Just War? June 17, 2005, and "Pope Benedict, Modern Weaponry and Civilian Casualties" June 18, 2005).

Suffice to say Pope Benedict's statements on the war will likely cause as much "consternation of policy makers and moral theologians" as those of his predecessor.

Dale Vree vs. "Cafeteria Catholicism" of Pro-War Catholics

In the latest issue of The New Oxford Review ("Another Outbreak of Mater, Si; Magistra, No " May 2006), editor Dale Vree appears to have thrown down the gauntlet and gone a step further, equating those who disagree with the Pope on the war with "pick-and-choose" Catholics. While he does not mention Neuhaus, Novak or Weigel by name, given the frequent criticisms of Catholic "neoconservatives" by the NOR, one can venture a guess as to who Vree is referring to.

The pronouncements of Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger, says Vree, are not merely "prudential" judgements, but "have to do with doctrine and morals. War is precisely about morals." (Strange, as if to suggest that Catholics had up to this point excluded doctrine and morals from the debate over the war?)

Vree proceeds to make his case that the invasion of Iraq was a preventive war, not a pre-emptive war ("an attack initiated on the basis of incontrovertible evidence that an enemy attack is imminent," according to the Department of Defense's Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms).

In the invasion of Iraq, there was no "incontrovertible evidence that an enemy attack [was] imminent." A preventive war is an attack initiated on the basis of the possibility of an attack by a potential foe sometime in the future. Since there is no incontrovertible or certain evidence that an imminent attack is planned by the adversary, it is not self-defense. All just wars must be for self-defense, or as the Catechism says, "legitimate defense" (#2309). One of the criteria of a just war is that "the damage inflicted . . . must be lasting, grave, and certain" (Catechism, #2309; italics added). Another criterion of a just war is that it be a last resort: "all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective" (#2309). Both criteria rule out preventive wars. (And all criteria of a just war must be met; if not, it's an unjust war.)
According to Vree, Catholics should judge that the war in Iraq was not a morally legitimate one. Even if it was not formally condemned in an encyclical ("we're not aware of any encyclical that said a particular war was unjust, and there wouldn't have been time to write an encyclical anyway"), by virtue of the fact that the Holy See applied Just War Doctrine to this particular war and deemed it unsatisfactory, condemnation of the war stands as "a teaching of the Ordinary Magisterium" to which all Catholics should render "loyal submission of the will and intellect" (Vatican II's Lumen Gentium, #25).

As if this were not enough, Vree goes on to suggest -- "in a roundabout way" -- how the condemnation of the invasion of Iraq is infallible [even though it isn't]. In much the same manner as the Church has infallibly condemned the direct and volunary killing of a human being by abortion and euthanasia, so does Vree assert that our soldiers stand condemned according to their participation in an unjust war:

So, what about unjust wars? In a just war, killing soldiers and killing civilians who get in the way of military targets (collateral damage) is not murder, whereas killing civilians on purpose is murder. But in an unjust war, killing soldiers, killing civilians who get in the way of military targets, and killing civilians on purpose are all murder. An unjust war is the "direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being," and is in the higher category of infallible teaching. So, yes, the prohibition against unjust wars is infallible. An unjust war is murder, just as abortion is murder.
Shades of Bishop Botean?

In their March 19, 2003 Statement on War with Iraq, USCCB President Bishop Wilton D. Gregory expressed his serious reservations about the decision of the Bush administration and allied nations to go to war, expressing the fear that "The decisions being made about Iraq and the war on terrorism could have historic implications for the use of force, the legitimacy of international institutions, and the role of the United States in the world." At the same time, he also acknowledged the role of conscience and the responsibility of President Bush:

People of good will may and do disagree on how to interpret just war teaching and how to apply just war norms to the controverted facts of this case. We understand and respect the difficult moral choices that must be made by our President and others who bear the responsibility of making these grave decisions involving our nation's and the world's security (Catechism #2309).

"[t]hose who are sworn to serve their country in the armed forces are servants of the security and freedom of nations. If they carry out their duty honorably, they truly contribute to the common good of the nation and the maintenance of peace" (#2310). . . .

Earlier that month, Bishop John Michael Botean of the Romanian Catholic Diocese of Saint George in Canton, OH, issued a rather more provocative and far-reaching statement against participation in the war with Iraq. In a Lenten message to his flock, he declared:

. . . for the sake of your salvation as well as my own, that any direct participation and support of this war against the people of Iraq is objectively grave evil, a matter of mortal sin. Beyond a reasonable doubt this war is morally incompatible with the Person and Way of Jesus Christ. With moral certainty I say to you it does not meet even the minimal standards of the Catholic just war theory.
Botean's statement in turn prompted a number of responses, including that of Mark Brumley (Brumley Responds to Botean, Envoy Encore March 21, 2003) and canon lawyer Edward N. Peters (Bishop Boteans' Lenten Message In the Light of the Law March 18, 2003):
"The eparch's statement is unprecedented for its clarity and starkness; it simply must be read to appreciate this point, though fair-minded readers can admit that it is not a peacenik, blame-America-first harangue, but is instead a reasoned (though, I think, wrongly) exercise of conscience. It cannot be issued, however, and then forgotten. If Bishop Botean is correct, his argumentation would seem to apply to all Catholics, and only an inexcusable lack of pastoral solicitude on the part of other Eastern and Latin bishops could account for them not following suit immediately. If, on the other hand, Bishop Botean is wrong, then he has placed his faithful in a profound and direct conflict of conscience between their ecclesiastical and civil leaders, which, I suggest only an inexcusable lack of pastoral solicitude would suffer them to remain in.
If we overlook the dripping sarcasm that has become the distinctive trademark of the New Oxford Review, we can see that Vree and Botean are of like mind, striking the same notes, arriving at the same conclusions. And so we are left with the question: how should one understand disagreement with the Pope on the matter of war -- and not just any war, but this war?

Examining Vree in light of Cardinal Ratzinger

Now, there are several points made by Cardinal Ratzinger / Pope Benedict XVI which seem to me to call into question Vree's interpretation:

First, while expressing his opinion on the war in September 2002, and his preference that "the United Nations . . . should make the final decision," the Cardinal nevertheless acknowledged, as reported by Zenit, "that political questions are not within his competence." In so doing, Ratzinger expresses both his personal judgement and -- in his characteristically careful manner -- reinforces the understanding that the judgement to use military force necessarily rests upon those leaders entrusted with the responsibility and temporal authority to do so.

Likewise, in a subsequent interview with Zenit News in May 2, 2003, articulating the position of Pope John Paul II, Cardinal Ratzinger again stated [italics mine]:

"Of course, [The Pope] did not impose this position as a 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."
Again, it would appear that Pope John Paul II's statements on the war reflect his prudential judgement -- while they invite our consideration as faithful Catholics, they should not be construed as a "non-negotiable" mandate requiring obedience.

It would seem that Dale Vree's criticism of Catholics who supported the war in Iraq would apply just as readily to Catholics who differed with the prudential judgement of the Pope on the application of the death penalty. On this point, it is worth noting that canon lawyer R. Michael Dunnigan, Avery Cardinal Dulles, and Fr. George Rutler have all arrived at similar conclusions with respect to papal statements on the death penalty and how they are to be properly interpreted.

Karl Keating addressed this very issue in his monthly e-letter Must Catholics Oppose Capital Punishment? March 2, 2004. After presenting the views of Dunnigan, Dulles and Rutler, he argues that the Church "does not mandate opposition to the death penalty, nor does she mandate support for it:

Must Catholics adopt a particular view regarding the use (or non-use) or capital punishment? In short: no.

They are free to endorse, as a political policy, the complete abolition of capital punishment, and they are free to endorse the use of capital punishment, even beyond the very narrow limits given in the prudential judgment in section 2267. Contrary to what some people claim, there has been no revolution in Church teaching on the matter.

Cardinal Ratzinger made this same point in Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion: General Principles, cited by Jimmy Akin, and which recognizes

"[I]f a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war," says Ratzinger, "he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace. . . it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia."
The expected rejoinder is that here, Ratzinger is only granting permissibility to take up arms "to repel an aggressor" and speaking within the context of the just war tradition. But the question of who constituted the aggressor in the U.S. Iraq conflict is one of the many questions that are undoubtedly open to debate, the answer to which is by no means certain ("War of Aggression"? Just War? October 12, 2005).

For these reasons, it would appear that Vree's conclusion concerning the implications of JPII's pronouncements is contradicted by none other than Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI.

James Turner Johnson's Case for Pre-emptive War

Dale Vree's criticism of Catholics supportive of the overthrow of the Baathist regime -- or, in his words, those who "can only think in nationalistic terms", "consider it patriotic to support whatever wars their nation fights" and are no better than "cafeteria-Catholics" -- is largely contingent on the notion that the just war tradition excludes any form of pre-emptive action. While this is ideally a subject for further discussion and may exceed the central topic of this post, I would like to note that James Turner Johnson (a historian and one of the foremost authorities of the just war tradition, religious or secular) has made a good case to the contrary. In The War to Oust Saddam Hussein: The Context, The Debate, The War and the Future, he points out that "the idea that preemption is sometimes justified is far from new," citing as an example Hugo Grotius: "if my assailant siezes a weapon with an obvious intent on killing me." A later version of this test would be the amassment of an army on one's borders, or mobilization of an enemy's forces. And, "while the Israeli air strike against Egyptian/Syrian air power in the 1967 Middle East war was roundly criticized . . . in the aftermath a consensus seems to have formed that preparation for invasion can be signaled . . . by the clear preparation for an air strike, with obvious intent to attack." [p. 52]

Regarding the arguments put forth by the Bush administration -- that, coupled with evidence of intent, the possession of WMD's by an enemy serves to justify preemptive use of force, Johnson concludes:

Had their in fact been such weapons, I believe this would have become a new standard test of when preemption is justified. That Iraq did not in fact have these weapons does not dispose of the argument: Is the concrete effort to obtain such weapons itself evidence of malicious intent that justifies the use of force to cancel out that effort?
As Johnson notes, this is an especially pertinent question in the case of North Korea or Iran, the latter involved in a furious drive to attain nuclear power under the guise of legitimacy while vowing the wholesale eradication of the nation of Israel. James Turner Johnson

According to Johnson, "A moralist working within the just war tradition may make clear that there must be justification, but is going beyond this role to pass judgement on the facts of the case so that premption is presented as morally impossible." Furthermore:

Moral discussion of the question of preemption is complicated -- distorted -- by the assumptions of the Westphalian system of international order as incorporated into positive international law, where there is a tendency to regard first use of force across an international border as always wrong and second use as always justified. This version of the aggressor-defender distinction does not well fit the case of threats [WMD's] that, if carried through, have the capacity to annihilate a significant part of the population of the state or even, in the case of a relatively small state, to wipe it out entirely. . . .

For my part, I have gradually moved to the position that there is a serious case for preemption when an avowed enemy has WMD, and all other means of dealing with this threat offer no hope of removing it. . . . [however], given the lack of agreement on clear guidelines for thinking about preemption, it is wrong to focus so exclusively on preemption when thinking about the justification of using armed force against Saddam Hussein.

The Conspicuous Absence of "Humanitarian Intervention"

Contrary historical revisionism of Barbara Boxer, the threat of WMD's were not the only reason many Christians were in conscience compelled to support the removal of Saddam Hussein's regime. Professor Johnson has also observed that the issue of humanitarian intervention is conspicuously absent from much of the 2002-2003 anti-war debate, including that of the USCCB:

In 1993 the USCCB declared humanitarian intervention a duty in cases of gross human rights violations [The Harvest of Justice is Sown in Peace NCCB, Nov. 7, 1993], and observed that claims of sovereignty by those engaged in such violations have no absolute status in Catholic teaching, and accepted use of force as a form that intervention might take. Such voices were not heard in the debate over using force against Saddam Hussein

Dr Johnson inquires:

Were the rights of Iraqis less important than those of Bosnians, Kosovars, and Rwandans? Or did the fact that the U.S. had national interest reasons for moving against Hussein mean that any use of force in this case was immoral? -- the moral debate in 2002-2003 failed to address this missing dimension in the just war debate.

In his excellent examination of various approaches to war within Christianity (War and the Eclipse of Moral Reasoning, Aquinas-Luther Conference October 24-26, 2002), Dr. Philip Blosser discussed the use of moral reasoning and the recognition that the duty of "love to neighbor" might very well compel one nation to rise to the defense of another -- as in repelling Saddam's invasion of Kuwait in the first Iraq war, and in responding to Saddam's persistent aggression against his own people:

Among the other things Christians concluded, over the years, was that they had to ask what Jesus required of them when turning the other cheek would mean failing to defend one's neighbor or capitulating to the "evil peace" of a repressive aggressor. This was the beginning of the tradition of moral reasoning that began the arduous work of formulating the conditions under which war came to be regarded as sometimes justifiable, sometimes even a duty of love to neighbor and God, as a means of defending or restoring the just peace of a rightly ordered political community. The task of establishing and preserving such a peace was understood, not as a sinful undertaking to sully one's hands, but as a vocation eminently worthy of the Christian in the interim between Christ's Resurrection and Second Advent.
(For further discussion of this aspect of the debate, see The Little-Discussed Question of Humanitarian Intervention Just War January 9, 2004).

Conflicting Readings of the Just War Tradition

In The War to Oust Saddam Hussein: The Context, The Debate, The War and the Future, Johnson addresses the "uses and misuses of just war thinking in recent American debate." According to Johnson, "the recent recovery of the idea of just war and its use in debate . . . has produced an even greater variety of versions of the just war idea. Claims made on behalf of appeals to the idea of just war vary accordingly."

A target of Johnson's severe criticism and close scrutiny is Bishop Wilton Gregory's letter to President Bush (and the subsequent position of the US Catholic Bishops), reliant as they are upon "a moral presumption against the use of armed force" -- "an idea that is unique to them and never appeared in Catholic doctrine -- or the broader just war tradition -- prior to the American bishops' 1983 pastoral letter Challenge of Peace." The prevalent interpretation of the just war tradition by the U.S. Bishops, and by many of those who oppose the war, is at variance with what is classically conceived as the just war tradition:

The U.S. Catholic Bishops described just war tradition as beginning with a 'presumption against war' and represented the jus ad bellum criteria as guidance for determining whether this presumption should be overruled in particular cases or not. The classical just war tradition, by contrast, had thought of the use of force as morally neutral, good where a war was determined to be just justum bellum, a use of force by the sovereign authority of a political community for a just cause, rather narrowly defined, and with a right intention, defined negatively as the avoidance of a number of wrong motives, including self-aggrandizement, theft, bullying, and action out of hatred of the other simply for being the other, and defined positively as intended to establish and restore peace. To cast the idea of just war as beginning with a general presumption against war was to make it into something different than what the classical idea had been. . . . [p. 26-27]

As the bishops have developed and applied a 'presumption against war' in various contexts since 1983, they have transformed the traditional just war categories from moral concerns to guide the practice of statecraft into a series of moral obstacles that, as described and interpreted, are arguments against the use of moral force's ever being justifiable. The regular advancing of worst-case scenarios as unbiased moral advice underscores the opposition to uses of armed force as such and distorts the application of just war reasoning. The result is functional pacifism, despite the claim that this is what the just war idea requires. [p. 49]

As James Turner Johnson demonstrates in The War to Oust Saddam Hussein, the very application of "just war" criteria varies considerably depending on the party doing so, with the USCCB and some within the Vatican employing a hermeneutic (legitimizing a strictly defensive war to the exclusion of any other) that is clearly at odds with classical just war theory. Dr. Edward Feser (contributor to the blog Right Reason) demonstrated this as well in a three-part presentation, appealing to pre-Vatican II manuals on ethics and moral theology "to show that the war in Iraq is, to repeat, at the very least defensible from the point of view of traditional just war theory, and thus on the basis of premises that paleoconservatives themselves must regard as reasonable." ("Paleoconservatism and the war in Iraq" Right Reason Part I | Part II | Part III March 2006).

Those who are familiar with George Weigel's many editorials on this subject will certainly recognize the influence of Professor Johnson. I think it is unfortunate that Professor Johnson's numerous writings on this subject have rarely played a part in the discussions of the Iraq war I have witnessed between Catholics, the notable exception being the correspondence section of First Things magazine.

If a critical engagement of Prof. Johnson's book is too much to hope for by Vree or the Zwicks, a condensed version of his position can be found in Just War, As It Was and Is (First Things 149. January 2005: 14-24).

Whither 'Just War'? -- Two Questions

In conclusion, there are two important questions that remain and will persist in the debate over the Iraqi war and its aftermath:

  1. George Weigel and James Turner Johnson, in their evaluation of both the American Catholic Church's response to the war (as well as numerous voices from the Vatican), have criticised such contemporary Catholic approaches as "functionally pacifist." Now that Benedict XVI himself has appeared to echo Cardinal Martino's assertion that "there is no such thing as just war," should we in fact discard this tradition as an inapplicable theory?

    Or, rather, does the contemporary reality of terrorism (as in September 11, 2001) and the support of terrorism by "rogue states" (such as Iraq and others) call for a necessary evaluation and revision of this tradition? As one reader noted in a response to Drew Christiansen's "Whither the Just War":

    "The just war criteria “imminent threat,” the closest relevant moral concept, does not help us respond to an attack like that of September 11, 2001 (or the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962). But just war theory cannot be abandoned because of this temporary conceptual defect. Serious moral reflection will generate over time a reasoned Christian response to this latest necessity."
    As Christiansen himself concluded: "One thing is clear: The tradition has evolved to the point where authoritative clarification is in order."

  2. Are papal pronouncements on the war to be considered "prudential judgements," about which Catholics can disagree and remain in good standing (much like they do with respect to the application of the death penalty or economic matters?)

    Or do they in fact demand "loyal submission of the will and intellect," as Dale Vree of the New Oxford Review asserts, such that those who disagree could be deemed no better than "cafeteria Catholics" who willfully and publicly dissent on contraception, abortion, gay marriage? Is Fr. Richard J. Neuhaus' support of the war, for example, to be regarded as equivalent to the "pro-choice" posturing of Senator John Kerry?

    Vree's rejection of prudential judgement in "Another Outbreak of Mater, Si; Magistra, No " (New Oxford Review May 2006) and suggestion that Catholic disagreement with the pope on the Iraq war is tantamount to heresy places him at odds not only with Karl Keating and Jimmy Akin, but even fellow anti-war Catholics like Russel Shaw, who recognized:

    "To say that people who concluded that the preponderance of evidence pointed to the rightness of the war were dissenting from papal teaching was absurd. Pope John Paul also was expressing a prudential judgment in condemning the war, and, although he expressed it passionately and frequently, nothing he said suggested anything to the contrary.
    In my opinion, the present position of Dale Vree and the New Oxford Review is symptomatic of just how confused this debate can become, absent any kind of authoritative clarification or correction.

    To put it in the words of Jimmy Akin, "Can We Agree to Disagree?"

Related Articles & Links
  • The Catholic Just War Tradition and the Iraq War - Since the beginning of the deliberations over the use of armed force against Saddam Hussein, I have attempted to compile various articles and essays from both sides (predominantly Catholic) on the question of the application of the Catholic Just War tradition.
  • Iraq and the Moral Judgement, by Richard J. Neuhaus. First Things 156 (October 2005). "Herewith an interview I did with ZENIT, the Rome-based news service, on March 10, 2003, shortly before the invasion of Iraq. Following the interview, I offer reflections on how the situation appears two and a half years later."
  • A Spectrum of Opinion: Catholics and the War in Iraq, by Russell Shaw. Our Sunday Visitor February 1, 2004. Shaw is a superb model of those who have criticized the war and its supporters while recognizing the prudential nature of the discussion, and striving to keep his own essays free of the "ad hominem sniping, the anti-Americanism, and the other bits of nastiness that often colored the debate."
  • Preemptive War: What would Aquinas say?, Gregory M. Reichberg. Commonweal January 30, 2004 / Volume CXXXI, Number 2. A fair assessment of both sides of the debate, remarkably free of the usual polemics from the Catholic left.
  • Tranquillitas Ordinis: The Present Failure and Future Promise of American Catholic Thought on War and Peace, by George Weigel (Oxford University Press, 1987). This work is hands-down is the best I have read on American Catholic thought on just war reasoning and its present defects. (Here is a review from the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Quarterly newsletter). It was written in the 80's, so it ends with an evaluation of the Bishops 1983 pastoral "The Challenge of Peace". In my opinion it should be republished -- revised and updated with an evaluation of Catholic thought during Gulf wars I and II.

Related Articles on Dale Vree / New Oxford Review, by I. Shawn McElhinney (Rerum Novarum)