Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
January 29, 2007
Immoral war deserves moral reparations
From the beginning, the Vatican and the U.S. Catholic bishops had grave moral concerns about the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq and its potential for uncontrollable negative consequences. Church concerns about the basic morality of the invasion focused around the lack of United Nations' authorization and the attempt to impose democracy by military force.
The U.S. claimed that the invasion was needed to corral Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction - weapons that have never turned up - and the need to control terrorists. There was no basis in 2003 for seeing Iraq as a terrorist base. But the predictions of Vatican officials that an invasion would be counter-productive in the war against terrorism have proven to be true. The world's greatest school for terrorism is now in the streets of Baghdad.
Today, the worst fears of the opponents of that invasion have been borne out. Iraq is a society in total collapse. The country's middle class - an essential element for building a better future - is fleeing by the tens of thousands. The UN found that more than 34,000 Iraqi civilians were killed in 2006 alone.
The New York Times called that death toll "a vivid measure of the failure of the Iraqi government and the U.S. military to provide security."
Yet, on Jan. 10, U.S. President George W. Bush announced that his country will add 21,500 more troops to the 130,000 already in Iraq in an effort to provide stability.
On one hand, military analysts say the U.S. would need to nearly triple its occupying force in order to stabilize the situation. On the other hand, it is not clear that any number of troops could provide the basis for permanently stabilizing a society undermined by decades of despotic rule and recent Western attempts to impose order.
Iraq needs to restore its moral culture. The continuing presence of Western military is the biggest obstacle to that happening. Troops can overthrow governments. They cannot change hearts and minds, except negatively by inciting resentment.
When Pope Benedict spoke to the Vatican diplomatic corps Jan. 8, was anyone listening? "The Holy See will never tire of reiterating that armed solutions achieve nothing," the pope said. "It is by respecting the human person that peace can be promoted."
Nevertheless, through their immoral invasion of Iraq, the U.S. and its allies have acquired a serious moral responsibility to the Iraqi people. They will not be able to discharge that responsibility by sending in more troops, but only through cultural and economic development.
Some argue that by bringing the troops home, the U.S. would permit a firestorm of a civil war? Well, hello! Just what is going on there today? And is it at all likely that the bloodbath would be any less if American troops stayed another 20 years in Iraq and then left?
The Bush plan for Iraq includes an increased emphasis on economic development. This is an essential part of salvaging what is left of Iraq society. But previous U.S. efforts at "economic development" in Iraq amounted to little more than filling the money trough for major U.S. multinationals such as Halliburton. Real economic development would focus on education, small-scale local enterprises and enabling the Iraqi people to rebuild the country's infrastructure.
It is an open question as to whether the world's greatest military and economic power is capable of fostering that sort of development. But if it isn't, it must learn how.
U.S. politicians of all political stripes now appear to want a way out of Iraq that minimizes the cost to the U.S. But a clean break is not morally acceptable. The U.S. should remove its invading force through a staged withdrawal, but make a major contribution to locally-run efforts to building a new Iraq (or Iraqs) as the dust settles.
- Glen Argan
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