Monday, December 05, 2005

Is The War in Iraq a "Just War"?

By Noor M.
"No to America, No to Saddam” –Protestors in Baghdad after Friday prayers.

"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we." —George Bush, Washington, D.C., Aug. 5, 2004

George W Bush has made some devastating mistakes in his “war against terrorism” that the Iraqi citizens are paying for with their lives. The U.S. led invasion in Iraq is far from just. In fact, I say it is UNjust because of a variety of reasons. However, some people consider war a necessary evil. Just war theorists believe there are a certain conditions that justify its occurrence. I will analyze the war in Iraq using these subjective conditions to determine whether the invasion of Iraq could be termed “just.”
The first condition to a “just war” is that the intervention’s basic intention must be just. The U.S. administration initially used the attack on the twin towers to justify the invasion to the American people. In his October 2002 speech George Bush said, “Saddam Hussein is harboring terrorists and the instruments of terror, the instruments of mass death and destruction. And he cannot be trusted. The risk is simply too great that he will use them, or provide them to a terror network.” This in fact was untrue, no weapons of mass destruction were or any active facilities building nuclear weapons were found in Iraq. Bush also claimed there were ties between Saddam Hussein and Al Quaida and once again this was proven untrue. A large part of the international community and certain Americans believe that the reason the U.S. invaded Iraq was because Iraq has the second largest deposits of oil in the Middle East. Could that be called a “just” intention? Or is stealth a more appropriate label? (Considering that the Iraqi Oil Ministry is heavily influenced by the American occupation to make decisions that favor U.S. policies).
The second condition to a “just war” is that the intervention be carried out by a legitimate authority. The United Nations has been given the difficult task of resolving conflicts between nations in our current system of anarchic world politics. A hegemonic power i.e. the United States is not a legitimate authority. That would be breaching the nation’s sovereignty—a consequence that must be avoided as decided by the international community since the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648. The United Nations never sanctioned an invasion into Iraq; in fact, it was against the U.S.’s actions in Iraq. The U.S. administration set a dangerous precedent in Iraq by undermining the authority of United Nations—the solitary international organization founded to monitor relation between nations.
The third condition on just war states that intervention cannot be launched for immoral reasons under the guise of doing good. As I explained before the Bush administration falsely led the people in the United States into believing that Saddam was harboring weapons of mass destruction and that there was a direct connection between Hussein and the Al Quaida terrorists. The evidence presented that Hussein had bought Uranium from Niger to make a bomb was dismissed by the U.N. inspectors as crude forgeries. Are the people supporting the war not phased by the revelation of the absence of credible evidence? The spread of democracy and protection of the Iraqi people (questionable as these reasons are) seem to satiate the American population still supporting the war. Do those Americans not care that their president lied to them about going to war? Does the international perception of this disgusting lapse on part of the U.S. intelligence not bother them? I speculate the real reasons are in fact, money, power and credibility.
The fourth condition states that intervention must be the last resort; all peaceful alternatives must have been exhausted. I will not defend Hussein’s actions because I do believe in his philosophy. However, the United Nations did not approve the invasion of Iraq partly because the Security Council as a whole did not believe that all peaceful alternatives had been exhausted. The U.N. did not think the evidence presented by the U.S. was sufficient to breach Iraq’s sovereignty. More importantly, even if that were the case, the reasons given for invading Iraq were not true.
The fifth condition to a just war states that the intervention must have reasonable chance of success. The U.S. led invasion absolutely fulfills this one condition of a “just war.” However, simply fulfilling this condition does not justify the invasion of Iraq. On the contrary the U.S. was so much more powerful than Iraq that it makes the invasion more unjust. Iraq never really had much of a chance against the U.S. which is militarily stronger than the rest of the world combined. Does being militarily strong give a hegemonic nation the right to expect that the rest of the world will cater to its every demand?
The last condition of a just war is that the intervention’s cost must not exceed the importance of its outcome: the means & ends must be proportional. More than 2000 American soldiers have died in Iraq and the unofficial count for Iraqi civilians is between 20,000 and 30,000 people. The United States has also committed some appalling human rights abuses in the process of “combating terrorism.” Currently it holds 70,000 detainees captive all over the world! Is the spread of freedom and democracy in Iraq worth these lives? More importantly, is democracy exportable? If so, is Iraq ready for democracy? If Americans genuinely believe so, then they must now fulfill the responsibility they bestowed upon themselves by setting up the dangerous precedent of Iraq. They must protect the citizens of every nation that believes it is under the rule of an autocratic regime.
I rest my case. You can announce the verdict. Was the war in Iraq a “just war?”

Extra links:


By Iren A.
The problem with deciding if the war on Iraq is justified or not is that the proclaimed motives have changed since the beginning of the war. The decision to invade Iraq was announced when American people were wounded by the horrible events that occurred on September 11. Americans have never been more scared off Islam Fundamentalists and terrorism. So when President Bush announced that they had 'intelligence' that there might be weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, suddenly there was no question about it. Eliminating Saddam would give the same satisfaction to some Americans as eliminating al Qaeda would. However, there were no weapons of mass destruction found.
One would think that after that everyone would realize that America went into Iraq for nothing. There was no proof that Saddam Hussein was connected to any of the terrorist groups that attacked/was planning to attack America. He didn't possess a threat against United States, since by now everyone knows that in the 21st century it is not possible to threaten or deter America without nuclear weapons. Then why did people still continued to support the war on Iraq? Because the Bush Administration suddenly presented a new motive for the war on Iraq. America might not have gone to Iraq for the right reasons, but they may as well stay there for the right reasons: humanitarian intervention. US is the only country that can take out Saddam, and save the Iraqi people from suffering, therefore it's the US's job to do it. It is our job to spread democracy, and give freedom to people around the world. But if that's the case, why doesn't US intervene in Sudan? When there are dictators around the world doing the same thing Saddam did, if not worse, why doesn't US invade those countries as well? Because we're already in Iraq. Then another question: was there really a genocide, a mass murder of civilians going on in Iraq that called for a humanitarian intervention?
First of all, if there was a genocide going on, it has been going on for a long time. For example, it was going on in 1988 when chemical weapons on Kurdish villages were dropped, or in 1991 when Bush supported Saddam on the war against Iran. [1] And humanitarian intervention would have been justified on those cases. However, the director of Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth argues that research shows in 2003 only "smaller scale killing" -torture, imprisonment, nothing more than America practices today on 'suspected' terrorists- was going on in Iraq. [1]
Even if there was a genocide going on, we know that America wouldn't intervene without trying other alternatives, or without the approval of the Security Counsel. In fact, waiting for the approval of UN is what delayed most Western countries, including US, to intervene in Rwanda. Is it just that when it's not to our own self-interest, we play with words so that we don't have to call it a genocide. But when it is to our own -self interest- we have no problem accepting it. Even Cheney highlighted the fact that one of the reasons America went to war was that Iraq was "seated atop ten percent of the world's oil reserves, Saddam Hussein could then be expected to seek domination of the entire Middle East, take control of a great portion of the world's energy supplies". [2] Then at least, we should show that if not the only motive-the dominant motive is humanitarian intervention, and it is in the best interest of the civilians, not dangerous to the civilians. In other words, when there is a humanitarian intervention going on, it must be done in a way that respects humanitarian laws-therefore not start fires in heavily populated areas, or when there is not enough intelligence that the target is going to be there, and other 'inexact methods' US uses. [1]
So around 30,000 Iraqi people and 2,000 US soldiers have been killed.[4] And it might even be worth it if even though the motives were all wrong, at the end Iraq would be at a better place than before. It will all be better if the democracy really works for Iraqi people. But is it really what they want? Are the American people helping by still controlling their lives? After interviewing Iraqi citizens, Nir Rosen concludes that: "As the occupation wears on, more and more Iraqis chafe at its failure to provide stability or even electricity, and they have grown to hate the explosions, gunfire, and constant war, and also the daily annoyances: having to wait the hours in traffic because the Americans have closed off half the city; having to sit in that traffic behind a U.S. military vehicle pointing its weapons at them; having to endure constant searches and arrests". [3] US is there because it wants to prevent civil war between Sunnis, Shi'ias and Kurds. But Rosen concludes that most Sunnis are fighting because of revenge: "Revenge for the destruction of their homes, for the shame they felt when Americans forced them to the ground and stepped on them, for the killing of their friends and relatives by U.S. soldiers either in combat or during raids". [3] He goes on to say that "Were America not in Iraq, Sunni leaders could negotiate and participate without fear that they themselves would be branded traitors and collaborators by their constituents". [3]
While we are criticizing the way Saddam and those other 'ignorant' people use force to get what they want, we're using the same methods. More and more terrorists see on TV the way Americans treat Islamic fundamentalists, and the more and more they think that they were right to think that America is really the enemy, they are really trying to eliminate Muslim people. And the more they want to harm that enemy, and take revenge for the way they treated other Muslims. 2001 will not be the last time America seriously suffers from terrorism. This summer will not be the last summer suicide bombers try to blow themselves up along with civilians in London.
So no, I don't think the war on Iraq is justified. Not just because the motives were wrong, a lot of people were killed, and human rights were violated. Because instead of eliminating terrorism, it is helping to spread it.
Works Consulted:
[1] Roth, Kenneth. "The War in Iraq: Justified as Humanitarian Intervention?", The Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., Lectures on Ethics and Public Policy, April 20, 2004.
[2] Richard Cheney, United States Vice President, stated in his remarks to the Veterans of Foreign Wars 103rd National Convention on August 26, 2002,
[3]Rose, Nir. ""If America Left Iraq", The Atlantic Monthly, December 2005, p 42-46.