by Christopher Manion
On the Feast of the Annunciation in 2003, Military Archbishop Edwin O'Brien wrote: "Long after the [Iraq] hostilities cease, the debate likely will continue as to the moral justification for the armed force recently initiated by the United States and its allies. It is to be hoped that all factors which have led to our intervention will eventually be made public . . . ."
The public now possesses compelling grounds for judgment. The war's supporters promised a cakewalk that would prevent a nonexistent "looming threat." Now Iraq is a "nightmare with no end in sight," and the president's strategy is one of "desperation," according to Ricardo Sanchez, the former commanding general in Iraq.
The invasion's advocates have been proven wrong, and emphatically so. They have changed their stated aims repeatedly. In lieu of arguments, they chant an appealing mantra: "Support the troops."
Archbishop O'Brien undoubtedly supports the troops. In 2003, he deemed it appropriate for Catholic soldiers "to assume the integrity of our leadership and its judgments." But now, five years later, the "full picture" that he so ardently desired tells a different story.
As a Notre Dame ROTC student in the late 1960s, I defended the Viet Nam War in countless debates. Years later, I asked Sen. Eugene McCarthy why he had so strongly opposed that war. “Nobody would tell me the truth,” he replied. Well, I believed Lyndon Johnson then, even though, as we now know, he was lying through his teeth. Mea culpa.
Today, three fundamental reasons suggest withdrawal from Iraq. First, the war is immoral, justified by a kaleidoscope of private agendas, misinformation, deliberate deception, contradictions, and fear-mongering.
Second, it is unjust: I winced as my Catholic friends twisted beyond recognition the time-honored principles of the Christian Just War theory to contrive support for "preventive" war. Some argue that "9/11 changed everything" -- nonsense. Did it change human nature? Truth? The Resurrection?
Third, the war is unconstitutional. That both major parties ignore the Constitution is just one more testimony to their bipartisan corruption.
As Americans have increasingly turned against the war, President Bush has reacted by shifting his gaze to future, more (alledgedly) intelligent generations who will vindicate him and secure his legacy. This thinly veiled contempt for "We the People" of today's America is sheer evolutionary ideology, closer to Marx than it is to the Founders. Meanwhile, the war has torn the nation apart. Friendships have crumbled. The conservative and pro-life movements are shattered, and the two major parties are increasingly indistinguishable.
Where is Christian prudence and charity among Catholic Republicans? Why have they not echoed Pope Benedict XVI's pleas for our Christian brethren in Iraq whom the war has killed, whose families it has destroyed? Why are they silent about the dispensationalist evangelicals, ardently longing for Armageddon, who support an ever-widening war so they can reign with Christ for 1,000 years? Is this rational?
And why have so many Catholics demeaned the entreaties of Pope John Paul II and Benedict against the war? Luke 4:1-13 and I John 2:16 warn us against temptations not only to material gain, but to power and superbia vitae, the "pride of life." Did some Catholic Republican leaders lose their moral bearings when they heard the siren song of access, influence, and profit?
"If we leave Iraq, things will get even worse, so we must stay." This mantra not only defies logic, it represents situational ethics at its worst. Instead of perpetuating the desperate nightmare, America must return to rational principles.
Consider: Is ours a self-indulgent, degenerate, materialist nation in decline? Or are we the West's last bastion of Christendom? America must decide. Radical Islam hates both; it might defeat the former, but never the latter.
Then America must act. As Lenin asks, "What is to be done?"
Our wounded, divided nation can be healed only by a prayerful return to the Constitution. There the war's supporters will find an alternative to their "nightmare without end." First, for what, or whom, are we fighting? The United States has no security treaty with Israel or Iraq. Let them be drawn up, ratified, publicly and extensively debated, and passed by the Senate. No secrets. Full disclosure.
Second, against whom, or what, are we fighting? Let the president immediately ask the Congress for a Declaration of War. That requires naming the enemy, of course, and that will be progress. Let him declare an emergency two-month congressional recess so all the facts can be fully revealed and debated by our elected officials in their home states and districts. The military-industrial-lobbyist-media complex need not apply. To paraphrase Archbishop O'Brien, "All factors which have led to our intervention should be made public." Tell the truth. Discuss. Debate.
And vote. If the president wins, then the war receives the imprimatur of the virtuous people of Federalist 57 (while still unjust and immoral, it would at least be legal). If the declaration fails, the war will too, and should then end immediately. If he follows the Constitution, the president will bequeath to his successor a legitimized policy as well as a stronger, united country. If the president fears giving the decision to the people and ignores the Constitution -- as he has for five years -- the country will continue to be ravaged by division and deceit.
We should swallow hard, wake up from this nightmare, and bring the troops home. Now, oremus.
► Click here to read the opposing viewpoint, "Holding the Wolf by the Ears: Why We Must Stay in Iraq," by Robert A. Sharp.
Readers have left 17 comments.
Quote(1) On Prudential Matters, Reasonable Catholics Can and Do Disagree
Lyndon Johnson lied about the Vietnam War; therefore, George W. Bush lied about the Iraq War. Non sequitur. What was the lie? "Bush lied, people died" is a slogan, not an argument.
The crux of the debate is the statement that the war is immoral and unjust; that is precisely where reasonable Catholics can and do disagree. I don't think it's necessary to say that those who support the war "twisted beyond recognition the time-honored principles of the Christian Just War theory." Their judgment of the application of those principles was indeed different from that of Mr. Manion, but we do not need to assume bad faith. Reasonable people who look at complex situations may indeed interpret them differently.
Written by Jeannine
Quote(2) Situation Ethics
"If we leave Iraq, things will get even worse, so we must stay."
We, the United States of America, made this mess. Part of the temporal punishment for our sin is making sure the mess stays as small as possible. That may mean staying and protecting the Iraqi people."If we leave Iraq, things will get even worse, so we must stay."
We, the United States of America, made this mess. Part of the temporal punishment for our sin is making sure the mess stays as small as possible.
Written by Donato Infante III
Quote(3) Reasonable disagreement
It's amazing how quick we can be to say that those who disagree with us are not only wrong, but wicked. This allows us to substitute slogans for arguments and invective for reason. There are serious reasons that opponents of the war can use to make their case. (Just there are serious reasons available for supporters of the war.) Christopher cites none of them. He assumes that his passionate certainty about the injustice, immorality, and illegality of the war means that no honest, thoughtful, informed person can fail to share his certainty. Once he has convinced himself that anyone who disagrees is blind to the truth, or even willfully distorting it, he is absolved of all responsibility for granting any assumtion of good faith or engaging in respectful argument.
Written by Charlotte
Quote(4) Reasonable disagreement?
Sorry, but there are no more grounds for "reasonable disagreement" on this issue than there are grounds for "reasonable disagreement" as to whether abortion is immoral. Too bad so many Catholics have lost their moral compass.
Written by Mark
Quote(5) Can't disagree here
Third, the war is unconstitutional. That both major parties ignore the Constitution is just one more testimony to their bipartisan corruption.
There's only one candidate talking about the war in these terms and the rest laugh at him(Ron Paul). It's an illegal war. All those who sanctioned it in Congress and the Oval Office should have no credibility.
Written by Marshall
Quote(6) In my heart I know he's right
In a world of WMD, it's a tough call as to when a preemptive strike is "withstanding a blow".
So, we can set Aquinas aside for the moment, for there was no WMD in Iraq when we struck, and there was no evidence of it in Iraq's future either.
The Bush Administration lied us into this war. In this war we have misused time, talent and treasury, while the putative mastermind of the "change of everything" event remains untried for the crime.
Sayed Qutb, the reported genesis of the discontent of modern Muslims, left the "pagan" west in disgust and concentrated his theories and violent means in his homeland, Egypt. He didn't care much for or about the United States, except for the importation of its culture by Arab governments. He blamed the Arab governments, and directed his wrath at them, not us.
If we just practiced a non interventionist free trade policy with all governments of the world, none of this violence need blowback on us. Let them decide what being a Muslim really means. We have enough problems with "Christian", for several centuries now.
Written by John
Quote(7) A Question of Morality
The American war upon Iraq demonstrates another failure of the Catholic Church and every other Church to uphold their core principles. All the discussion regarding Iraq focuses on the viewpoint of the American Government not upon the suffering of the Iraqi people. This war and its prior embargo have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi men, women and children. It has destroyed the Iraqi economy and made homeless millions more.
The Iraqi government may or may not have been a threat to the United States. The Iraqi people who have suffered and died were never a threat. Yet, the Military Archbishop felt that it was within his authority to bless the destruction of these people and let history decide the righteousness of his action. What will those in the military who have killed Iraqi men, women, and children say at their Judgment? I was blessed by the Archbishop, I was only following orders, I did not believe killing other children of God was wrong, or I did not have time to use the Reason given to me by the Creator?
The last one hundred years has had more wars and death than any other. And yet what has been learned? More importantly, where was the combined raised voice of the Church against any of these wars? The answer, sordidly, is that they cheered them on.
Written by George Hartman
Quote(8) Iraq War
I'm not sure we will ever know the true reasons we attacked a country and people who never attacked us and were (are) completely incapable of it now. Thousands of innocent people have died or been displaced by our actions. Are we simply to ignore our Supreme Pontiffs when they have spoken out against this immorality? Are we to assume they simply don't know what they are talking about? I truly hope Catholics take their words to heart and stop rationalizing a tragic, unjust, immoral act of aggression on the part of our U.S. government.
Written by Samuel F. Dominguez
Quote(9) Church Or ReichsChurch
An accurate appraisal of the war and the problem confronting Catholics because of it. The wholesale reduction of the faith to ideology by those claimimg to speak for orthodoxy - the Neuhauses, Novaks and Weigels - and their megaphones on the web - the Blossers, Akins and Peterses - offer us more the vision of ReichsChurch than Church. The subtle encouragement given by them to a kind of "national Catholicism" and to the casual discussion of no less worthy subjects than the so-called "ticking bomb scenario" and torture leaves little doubt as to the extent of the contamination. You are right as well to point to the disintegration of the pro-life movement and for the very same reasons. When as influential a voice as is Neuhaus's can't be raised against the Bush stem-cell compromise of 2001, we need a consultation with Martin Neimoller.
Written by John Lowell
I think this is an illegal war as someone who has fought in it. Furthermore, while I understand the idea that we made the mess we need to clean it up, this is unthinkable because of the American lives that are being lost due to this theory. Innocent lives who wanted to defend this country, not fight preemptive illegal wars. If you believe we need to stay to help clean up the mess we made, please request that the senators and presidents who sent us their in the first place go in the shoes of our young men and woman fighting and dying in the big sand box.
Written by David Shatto
Quote(11) There is no argument!
To "Situation Ethics", "If we leave Iraq, things will get even worse, so we must stay."??? That's not just a sophomoric argument, it's absolute stupidity! Intelligent people know when to quit and cut their losses, only an idiot continues to waste time and money (and in this case, human lives) polishing a damn turd!
And to "Reasonable disagreement". Nice try, yet only another sophomoric argument, sidestepping the real issue. Why is it, ALL of my Viet Nam and Gulf vet friends see 9/11 and the entire unfolding of sequential events as a blatantly obvious scam, yet my fellow Americans seem to quietly remain in their living rooms, removed from the real situation and comfortable in their media generated opinions?
To quote one of my Viet Nam vet friends; "With all due respect, if you weren't there, you don't know, SHUTUP!"
We are American sheep, we have no clue as to how our perspectives are being manipulated.
Written by Observer
Quote(12) Catholics and War
I have a hard time understanding how any practicing Catholic can support this war. There is no question it is immoral---hundreds of thousands of people (should I have to say innocent people) have died. War opens up all of the immoral behavior that comprises our Ten Commandments. I believe that some people, if they could, would vote for a change to "Thou shalt not kill unless wearing a soldiers uniform".
This war violates every principle of "Just War Theory". Twist and turn the facts all you want, it doesn't make it true. If you believe that this war is just, then you must not be listening to the moral leaders of our church, but a false teacher. Read their writings, even though they are not infallible in these particular teachings, they are morally correct.
There is no question that it is unconstitutional.
This country makes it hard to live a Catholic life, simply because the Protestant ideas of Scripture Alone and Faith Alone predominate. If you can twist God's words to mean anything you want them to mean, then you certainly can twist a Constitution, a statutory law, just war theory and any news event. If all you have to do is believe in something and not have to practice it, then you can make any organization, including the U.S. Government your shepherd.
I hope that Catholics will stop following the teachings of man and start following the teachings of the Church and stop pledging allegiance to the flag and start pledging allegiance to Christ.
Written by Paul B
Quote(13) Jeannine - There can be no uncertainty!
What Mr. Manion winced at was not the twisting application of just war to the Iraq war in particular, but to "PRE-EMPTIVE WAR" in general, which is the gift of modern America to the world. How do you justify this concept under Just War?
Quote(14) The author responds, Part One
[This is the first part of the response]
Thank you for your comments and criticisms. I appreciate them.
As far as the “lies,” yes, that is a charged term, intentionally so: “Curveball,” Ahmed Chalabi, and countless others deliberately fed lies and disinformation into various U.S. government channels to provoke the U.S. invasion. After the “false facts” were processed (we will not read hearts, just facts), our government swallowed them whole For instance, Mr. Bush on February 8, 2004, bragged to Tim Russert that the new Iraq would have a pluralistic, secular government because Chalabi had promised him in the Oval Office that it would be.
Pope Benedict had to point out – gently, I’m sure – to the president that Mr. Bush was sadly mistaken in this fixation. When he met with the president last June, the Pope raised the issue of the persecution of Christians in Bush’s new Iraq.” In fact, Father Ragheed Ganni and three deacons had just been murdered in front of the Church of the Holy Spirit in Mosul on June 4.
Mr. Bush met with Pope Benedict XVI a few days after the murders. The president said that “He [Pope Benedict] was concerned that the society that was evolving would not tolerate the Christian religion.” My, the president must have been shocked! After all, he has told us that he does not read the papers.
The obduracy of the president, for the reason of your choice, might be understood, if not forgiven. But I repeat, why have pro-war Catholics not been outraged at the extermination of Christianity in Iraq? Are these four murdered religious just collateral damage?
The people who processed the outright lies and delivered the misinformation, whatever their motives, were at least incompetent. But instead of firing them, Mr. Bush gave the green light of his full faith and credit when he gave CIA Director George Tenet the Medal of Freedom. Again, this might have been done out of innocuous stupidity, but the results have been equally disastrous.
I am sure some people still believe that there **was** WMD, that there will still be “cheap oil for 50 years,” and that it was a “cakewalk” after all. No, I do not expect to persuade them. Their problem is with reality, not with me.
“We made this mess, so we have to clean it up.” That implies a moral burden, past and present. But who is “we”? The government is not the people. Our Founders told us that the government, not foreign monsters, is the greatest threat to our liberties, and that the government would most aggressively curtail those liberties in wartime. “We the people” have both the right and the duty to remove an incompetent government (it is bipartisan, by the way), and to cease and desist from its immoral and illegal wars. **That** is how we “clean up the mess.”
Written by Christopher Manion
Quote(15) The author responds, part two
(continued from previous post)
Let’s face it: pro-war advocates will never apologize for what they are now willing to call a “mistake.” Yet that is the moral burden they bear. Maggie Thatcher is a heroine of the pro-war party. Well, did she “clean up” Zimbabwe-Rhodesia after she gave it back to Mugabe? It was a horrendous mistake, wrought a thoroughgoing disaster, and her ill-considered decision led to “quite a mess,” but the Iron Lady wasn’t about to apologize, much less clean it up. More collateral damage, I suppose. Mugabe rules.
The UK does not have a Constitution, we do. Our moral duty is to clean out the people who caused the grotesque “mistakes,” who “made this mess,” not to congratulate them. I note with interest that Col. Sharp’s piece does not mention the Church, the Christians in the Middle East, the opposition to the war of the Holy Father past and present, or the Constitution. Are those just messy details for a Catholic magazine? Col. Sharp addresses the war as if it were taking place in a vacuum, with the U.S. government empowered to do whatever it pleases; it depicts our undefined enemies as animals. Of course, I profoundly disagree. Col. Sharp is a former British military officer. Is that why he ignores the U.S. Constitution, which was written after the United States, for good reason, declared and then fought to win its independence from Great Britain?
Yes, there certainly **is ** room for disagreement, rather than branding as traitors those of us who opposed the war on moral, constitutional, and Just War grounds from the beginning (viz David Frum, proud author of “Axis of Evil,” in National Review).
I think it is clear that our arguments have proven true. But in case they are false, I have offered supporters of the war the perfect legal, moral, and Constitutional opportunity to have such a rational discussion and to air such disagreement: a Constitutional debate that would precede the enactment of treaties and a Declaration of war that would make this war legal (for the first time) and give the president a chance to acknowledge his mistakes (he would have to, or he wouldn’t get the votes).
But strongarm war advocates do not **want** to admit their mistakes. Is that why they ignore the Constitution? Is that why Mr. Bush wants generations of the future, instead of us, to acclaim him? Again, we cannot divine motives, but we have to face the facts. And the facts are: the war was fed on lies; “preemptive” war is simply impermissible under Just War theory; and the war was, and still is, unconstitutional. That the Bush administration rejects the constitutional path to legitimizing the war and reconciling the nation might well give us cause to wonder about its motives, but we will know them fully only at the Last Judgment. In the meantime, we must end this ill-begotten war right now.
Written by Christopher Manion
Quote(16) The Iraqi war strategy of Colonel Sharp and the dominant Republi
The current Iraqi war was justified by bogus intelligence but it did have an element of moral justification. When I read the 19th chapter of Deuteronomy I get a sense that a murderer should not be allowed to get away with the crime by hiding behind the autonomy of a nation. Saddam Hussein certainly did that. However I do not believe the evils of Hussein were sufficient justification for a war based on time-honored principles of the Christian Just War theory.
So how can the allies make the best of the situation. Colonel Sharp and the dominant Republican US presidential prospects seem to have a one-dimensional view of how to proceed: Resolve to win and stay there indefinitely or give up and lose. I believe the correct approach must be a flexible strategy managed by someone with broad capabilities. Saints Paul and Barnabas did not resolve to beat a dead horse to perform their mission. Their repertoire included “brushing the dust off his feet” (and leaving) where their mission was not appreciated. The folly of stubborn dumb determination is what passes today as the current majority “strategy”. There are workable alternatives.
Suppose the US President would authorize the allied generals in Iraq to act like Paul and Barnabas? They would have to demand political progress with the threat of a “dust shaking” departure on a hair trigger. The current lack of incentive among the Iraqis to support political progress and the central government is a recipe for a life of chaos when the allies are gone. Pushing for political progress without that hair trigger guarantees both failure and dependency.
A situation comes to mind when my 5 and 7 year old boys were playing. Suddenly an angry dispute arose about a toy and it was clear they were depending on me to resolve it. My response was to immediately send them to a room and to tell them to stay there until the issue was resolved. They never got to the room; the conflict vaporized when they realized they could not use anger to avoid responsibility for their own conflict resolution.
Leave the Iraqi created problems to the Iraqis and they just might decide they no longer have the luxury of a comfortable warlord centered lifestyle. They just might solve those political problems by themselves if the cost of not solving them is seen as unacceptable.
Written by Virgil Banowetz
Quote(17) The dominant Republican strategy is amoral (continuation)
Among the US Republican presidential candidates, only Ron Paul has a wide perspective approach to governing driven by a combination of morality, constitutional law, and common sense. That view showed most clearly in his analysis of the American civil war. His attitude is not fed by a passion to feel good about the deeds of our forefathers; It is based on fundamental decency. After all, where does it say in any good book that it’s ok to kill your brothers if you disagree about where the boundaries of you country should be. Why must we feel good about being the only country failing to end slavery without resorting to a major civil war. A president who thinks like this could be good for our country and the world. We need a smart way out of Iraq and Ron Paul is the only one showing signs of wisdom.
Written by Virgil Banowetz