General Christian Discussions

more food for thought – klumsy



Posts: 1061
From: Port Angeles, WA, USA
Registered: 10-25-2001
'Just War' or Is It Just a War?
by Susan B. Thistlethwaite

President Bush has gotten his congressional mandate to launch a war on Iraq. America will, for the first time in its modern history, attack someone who has not attacked us or our allies first. We will exercise a first-strike option, something the United States did not do even at the height of the Cold War.

We now abandon any pretense that this proposed war against Iraq is just. It cannot be justified.

We will strike not because Iraq has attacked us, not because there is any direct proof Iraq harbors those who have attacked us, not because Iraq has attacked one of our allies, but because we think maybe, just maybe, Iraq might do something we really won't like in the next couple of years.

Studs Terkel called World War II "the last good war." And perhaps it was.

But that hasn't kept presidents from arguing that wars they wanted to wage since then are good and are justified. The first President George Bush went to great lengths in 1991 to argue before religious broadcasters that his proposed Gulf War fulfilled every tenet of the long-standing Just War theory.

Why did he bother?

He bothered because war is horrific. War wreaks havoc on societies, destabilizes fragile balances of power, provokes others to join the violence and sears itself into the memory of those who survive. It takes a lot to justify going to war. Presidents before George W. Bush seemed to know that.

Ethicists and theologians, military strategists and politicians have spent almost 2,000 years working out a theory of how you can justify war when it is so horrific. It is called, aptly enough, Just War theory. Taught at the War College in Washington, D.C., in Christian seminaries and political science departments, Just War theory is the major thinking of most religious traditions and military strategists on how to justify war.

Just War theory first began with the agonizing reflections of a saint. St. Augustine looked at the horrors barbarian invaders were inflicting on the Roman citizens and he asked himself if a Christian could ever justify going to war. He answered a very qualified "yes." A Christian can go to war if it is to "defend the vulnerable other." His version didn't even include self-defense. Self-defense was added about 500 years later by another saint, Thomas Aquinas. You have a just cause, said Aquinas, when you are defending yourself. You have to have right authority (be a government), you need to have a right intention (not just love violence), you need to have a good outcome (more good should result than the evil of violence), you need to be proportional (not use more force than necessary), you need to have a reasonable hope for success (peace should result), and it must be the very last resort (all diplomacy must be exhausted).

We can see that no part of Just War theory supports a first-strike option.

To have a just cause, you have to be defending yourself (or defending someone else from attack). Not in this proposed war with Iraq. We just think somebody sometime might get attacked by Iraq. Vice President Dick Cheney's 1992 white paper calls this "anticipatory action to defend ourselves." That means, "hit 'em first and then hit 'em back." That way you cover all the bases. It is immoral.

And we sure haven't exhausted every diplomatic measure. As retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, former head of Central Command, was quoted as saying in the Oct. 11 Chicago Tribune, "I believe he [Saddam Hussein] is ... containable at this moment. War and violence are a very last resort." Clearly the general has studied his Just War theory.

St. Augustine wanted to know if Christians could resist barbarians. If the United States strikes first against Iraq, then it is Americans who have become the barbarians. We have learned nothing in more than 1,500 years of moral reasoning.

Susan B. Thistlethwaite is president of the Chicago Theological Seminary, where she also is a professor of theology

Copyright © 2002, Chicago Tribune

Husband of my amazing wife Aleshia


Posts: 85
From: Palatine, IL, USA
Registered: 02-11-2001
She seems to oppose removing the government/dictator of Iraq because we only believe that he will attack someone sometime, that we should let Iraq strike first. ??? Letting them strike first is all fine and dandy if all you’re talking about is a few tanks rolling into a neighboring country but if its nukes? The concept of nuke wasn't in any of those theologians understanding. The proportion of the threat is soo much greater than a few psycho barbarians with bad hygiene. Shouldn't the greater threat dictate a greater need to disarm Iraq? She probably opposed missile defense too.

Now perhaps for instance a man would arm himself with guns he could (because in the USA the 2nd amendment gives us a right to bear arms), but if that man shot in the direction of the police should not the police arrest him? The police would shoot back and probably kill him. Iraq has shot numerous times at our planes patrolling the no fly zone in violation of UN mandates.

John Adams (the second president of the USA) believed that US diplomacy should be like the national seal which is on the quarter, an eagle with one claw grasping arrows and the other grasping the olive branch with the head pointing towards the olive branch. The nation saying to the other there are two choices if you do this you chose war if you do this you chose peace, chose peace. Diplomacy in this case (Iraq's weapon development) has no effect if there is no threat of war. And believe me in the cold war there was threat of war. Kennedy (though I don't admire him for hiring women to seduce Martin Luther King) did maintain a massive threat of total nuclear war throughout the Cuban missile crisis our B52's were orbiting above the north pole loaded up with nukes.

I suppose as a Christian I would want the president to minimize the total number of casualties. And perhaps act in a way to open the country for Christian Aid ministries. I'm glad I'm not making the decisions. And I hope to GOD that GOD is. Pray for our president.

Love in Christ,


Junior Member

Posts: 6
Registered: 11-13-2002
I thought President Bush was now able to go in with inspectors...
What's this about getting ready for war?
Now, if Hussein refuses to let the inspectors inspect, then there's definitely a question as to his intentions, and I think that this is where the talk of war starts as far as the resolution goes, right?
The whole test in in whether Hussein cooperates with the new UN resolution for weapons inspectors to come in...but wait! Hussein already hasn't cooperated with a lot of UN resolution..right? So why do we need this test of his cooperation, if he's already defied the UN's agreement with him under which he is bound already? Is Hussein's action in breaking his agreement with the UN grounds for war?
If it's not, don't we already have grounds for war? Remember, God led the Israelites into war under a "first-strike" situation. Now, of course that was God leading them, but are not our government officials placed in office by God? Won't God lead our officials, especially with our earnes petitions for Him to lead them? Bottom Line: Hussein in dangerous as has been proven over and over again for many years. If the US proposes to fight a war on terrorism in the first place, then this is one of the major targets they should go after right along with Ben-laden and Arafat. If it's okay to fight a war on terror in the first place, then the Just War theory doesn't apply anymore anyway, because fighting terrorists IS preemptive, especially when they don't hesitate to kill themselves when they attack......... who are you going to attack when each attack on you kills that person who just attacked you? that is, unless you "technically" have first-strike-type of action against the known enemy.