Justifying the Iraq War

Justifying the Iraq War

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The ensuing war between the United States and Iraq has been a topic of controversy for several years now. Citizens of America have been divided since the war began and continue to cluster in groups that either fully support or have no support for President Bush and this ongoing war. Many would like to know who is right and who is wrong. Is this war with Iraq justifiable, or has America jumped into something that could have possibly been avoided? To answer these questions a comparison should be made between the characteristics of this war and those that constitute a just war. Just war is a term which implies that a certain war is acceptable and justifiable based on certain conditions. The conditions for having a just war include those which must be visible before a war can be declared (Jus Ad Bellum) as well as those that must be followed during a war (Jus In Bello). Some of the conditions that are necessary before war is declared include having a just cause for war, having the right intentions for war, and having no other alternative but war (1). Once engaged in a war other criteria apply such as the acts of war must be aimed those doing wrong and not at innocent civilians, prisoners of war should be treated humanely and with respect, and finally that there be no torture of any kind to soldiers of the opposing army. If these characteristics are put up against the United States and their strikes on Iraq, there is absolutely no way that the just war theory could classify this war as being just.

The primary criterion for any war to be labeled as a just war is for that war to be declared for a just cause. The United States clearly did not have any such cause for launching a war against Iraq. The Bush administration’s newly proposed doctrine of pre-emption declares the right to initiate strikes against states that are deemed to be future threats against the US (2). Under the rules of just war, just cause is described as self defense against an attack in order to preserve innocent life, not pre-emptive strikes against possible dangers. The fact is, is that although the idea of attacking a nation that does not pose a threat today, but may pose one in the near future is as old as war itself, it completely goes against the precedents set forth by the just war theory(2).

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When looking back, many people remember the terms “weapons of mass destruction” or “regime change” as reasons that the Bush administration gave to gain support of the war. These reasons are in complete disregard for a just cause of war and to make matters worse no such weapons were ever found by weapons inspectors. Furthermore, although regime change could be a possible outcome of war, waging war primarily for that reason could set a dangerous precedent and is completely inconsistent with just war principles (2). The United States led by President Bush did not have any justifiable reasons to begin a war with Iraq under the principles of just war.

Did the United States have any alternative other than war? By the rules of just war, force is only to be used when every other reasonable alternative has been have been exhausted. It has been shown over and over that the United States’ government had absolutely no reason to engage in such a war with Iraq. Once it was made certain that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction in their possession, any action other than war would have most likely been appropriate to take. The United States’ pre-emptive strikes on Iraq were and are still uncalled for and unjustifiable. There is absolutely no concrete evidence indicating that Iraq was or is about to launch any sort of attack against the United States or another country (2). Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran put it best when he said that such a “war of aggression” is a crime against peace (3). Since it is obvious that the Bush administration completely disregarded the rules of just war before the use of force they might as well continue to disregard them while partaking in an unnecessary war.

Once engaged in a war the just war theory gives several more characteristics that define how a combatant is to act. First and foremost, soldiers are morally bound to direct their acts towards those inflicting the wrong, not to innocent people who have no involvement in the circumstances. This is a simple rule to abide by and one which doesn’t seem to be unclear at all; don’t harm people who are innocently caught up in this mess. Since the war began over __ years ago, the number of civilian casualties is continuously on the rise. Iraqi citizens, people who are innocent of any wrongdoing, people with hopes and dreams and leading regular lives, are being brutally killed every day that this war needlessly goes on. Find some sort of actual number for the casualties……..

Arguably one of the largest stories in the news during 2004 was the severe mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners of war by US soldiers. As if everything else the United States has already negatively done involving this war was not enough, now our soldiers think it’s a good idea to abuse POWs. This is yet another prime example of how unjustly the war in Iraq is being carried out. The second and third principles of Jus In Bello state that there shall be no torture of combatants and that prisoners of war are to be treated with respect. In March of 2004, seventeen American soldiers in Iraq were removed from duty after being charged with mistreating Iraqi prisoners; they now face court martial and more than likely prison time for their actions. Iraqi prisoners were abused in embarrassing as well as physically and emotionally painful ways. The majority of the photographs that have surfaced in the past year show American soldiers standing by watching in laughter as Iraqi POWs are positioned to simulate degrading homosexual activities with one another (5). This is completely unacceptable according to the rules of just war and morally unthinkable. The United States is looked upon as possibly being the most advanced and politically correct country in the world. When our soldiers act in this manner it is a disgrace to our country as a whole. The actions of United States soldiers throughout this war are unacceptable and completely unjustifiable as noted by the just war theory.

After comparing the actions of the United States’ government both prior to and during the war in Iraq, it is safe to conclude that the just war theory is incapable of justifying such a war. There was absolutely no just cause for launching any long term strikes against the country. A pre-emptive attack was carried out by the Bush administration to put an end to any threat that Iraq had on the United States. The fact is that there is no evidence that supports Iraq having any weapons of mass destruction, much less that they were planning to attack the US (2). According the rules of just war, war is only acceptable when all other solutions are deemed useless. In this case, however, the United States attacked without being provoked and without taking the time to put into use all other possible alternatives. Once involved in this unnecessary war, our government and its soldiers continually acted with no regard to the rules of just war. Thousands of civilian lives were taken through hastily planned attacks, and countless Iraqi prisoners were abused in unthinkable ways. Not only did the United States unjustly enter an unnecessary war, but once they were involved their actions continued to be in conflict with those expressed in the definition of just war. There is no way to conclude that America’s presence in the country of Iraq can be justified in any way.
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