Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Straight Answers to Tough Questions Iraq



I am a pro-life practicing Roman Catholic and registered Republican who will likely vote for John Kerry in the 2004 election. I am flabbergasted by fellow conservatives and Catholics who buy into Bush's foreign policy and think Bush's arguments have more substance than Kerry's.

To lay the groundwork here, these are MY OWN thoughts that I have argued consistently since June of 2002 when the first rumors of war in Iraq began. Indeed, in my conclusion, I provide links to places on the web where I had made similar arguments. If John Kerry happens to agree, that just shows why I am coming to like the guy.

Throughout, I refer to myself as "jcecil3" which is an email handle that was used in web debates and the initial set up of my blog. If it adds any credence to my beliefs, my name is actually Joe Cecil. Some biographical information is available on my homepage.

In the Fall of 2002 and Spring of 2003, was Saddam Hussein a grave threat to the world and America?


Saddam Hussein had made his intentions to building up the capacity for weapons of mass destruction known for decades. He was behind an assassination attempt on former President George H. Bush. He had forced U.N. weapons inspectors out of Iraq in 1998.

Should the President have been authorized to use force to bring weapons inspectors back into Iraq?


This said, I do have differences with both President Bush and John Kerry on this.

John Kerry voted against the first resolution authorizing the President to go to war because it permitted the President to go to war for other reasons than an imminent threat or disarmament of Iraq. The second resolution did limit the authority to these two reasons.

However, the second resolution, while clearly stating that the justification for disarmament would be to enforce the United Nations resolutions, did not clearly state that the President would act within the context of the United Nations in defending the resolution.

When Kerry cast his vote, he stated clearly that he would not support the resolution were it not for the President's promise to work with our allies in the international community.

I would have wanted this in writing, and therefore would have voted against the second resolution and asked for a third draft.

I would have insisted that the resolution clearly state that if the purpose of war is not an imminent threat, but the enforcement of U.N. resolutions, the President must act with the United Nations.

Yet, I would permit the language in both versions that went before the House to give the president the authority he already possessed to defend America from an imminent and grave threat if necessary.

Was Saddam Hussein an IMMINENT grave threat to America on March 19, 2003?

Absolutely not.

The united voice of the American people that we were willing to go to war if he did not permit weapons inspectors back into Iraq had succeeded.

Hans Blix's team was in Iraq, and confirmed that Saddam Hussein had actually complied with the United Nations resolutions - much to everyone's surprise.

WHOA! Wait a minute! Are you saying that Saddam could not have become a threat to the United States or its allies in the future?

Maybe he could have.

However, our mission was accomplished with the U.N. sanctions already in place for a decade, the enforcement of no fly zones, and the assurance of the U.N. weapons inspectors that Iraq possessed no weapons of mass destruction.

But what if he had the WMDs hidden somewhere?

There was no evidence this was true - and I held this position before the war began.

The war has proven I was correct.

The point so-called liberals and so-called "flip-floppers" are trying to make is that you do not go to war because nation might have illegal weapons of mass destruction hidden somewhere. You go to war if you know a nation has illegal weapons of mass destruction based on solid evidence that would hold up in a world court.

Even then, if the issue is violation of international law, rather than self-defense, you must go through the international institutions that made the international law.

WHOA! Are you saying France has the right to veto our ability to defend ourselves?

Absolutely not!

When we speak of America defending itself, we are speaking of an IMMINENT threat or an actual attack that has already occurred. No nation has the right to veto an American President from exercising the defense of America.

But weren't we defending America when we went to war with Iraq?


Iraq had not attacked us. Iraq had no capability to attack us - and the weapons inspectors assured us of that. Iraq was not tied to 9/11.

While we can agree that Iraq was a threat in the sense of wanting to build the capability to attack us, they were not an IMMINENT threat, as demonstrated by the weapons inspections.

Wait a minute! We WERE attacked on 9/11 of 2001!

There was absolutely no evidence that Iraq was tied to the events of 9/11 on March 19, 2003 when the war in Iraq started.

I said so, as did many others. The President never even made this claim directly. The 9/11 Commission has subsequently proved all of us right.

What about the atrocities of Saddam Hussein against his own people? Doesn't this justify the war?


Plain and simple, the Christian tradition does not advocate violent means to intervene in the governance of another nation. Neither does international law allow one nation to wage war against another nation for humanitarian purposes.

We DO have a moral obligation to help the oppressed, but that obligation does not permit unilateral violence under any circumstances.

We must use diplomacy, humanitarian aid, economic incentives and economic sanctions and other non-violent means. If we deem military force is necessary because of the gravity and urgency of evil, we must go through an international institution.

If we feel international agencies are not effectively acting with the necessary urgency to address humanitarian concerns, the answer to this dilemma lies in reforming those institutions rather than acting unilaterally.

There you go again saying that France or other foreign powers have the right to veto our right to defend ourselves?

I did not say that at all.

If our reason for going to war is defense against an imminent threat or an actual attack that has already occurred, we have every right to defend ourselves. No foreign power can veto this.

If our reason for going to war is to effect social change - even what we perceive as positive social change - it must be done through the international community.

It is not John Kerry or I who are flip-flopping on the issue of war. Rather, George Bush has been flip-flopping on the reason for war since June of 2002.

The justification for any particular war is context specific and the reason for war matters greatly. One reason may justify war at a specific time, while another reason does not.

Because Bush has refused to clearly and consistently hold to a single reason for war, those who say yes in one context and no in another are accused of flip-flopping.

What we are saying to the President is that if he wants us and the rest of the world to support a war, he must hold consistently to a single reason for it and demonstrate that this single reason applies at the specific point in time he wants to use force.

Furthermore, in some contexts, the authorization for war does not rest in the hands of America, but instead resides in the hands of international institutions such as the United Nations.

WHOA! You dare to call Bush a flip-flopper! Are you kidding? Are you calling him a liar?

I cannot know his heart or mind to know if he has intentionally lied, but he has been less than candid about all the reasons his Administration wanted to go to war in Iraq.

Cheney, Rumsfeld, Fieth, Libby, Wolfowitz, Bremmer and almost everyone in his Administration sought throughout the 1990's to have a war of aggression in the Gulf to set up a permanent U.S. presence in the Gulf region for the purpose of controlling oil and asserting American economic and military dominance over the United Nations and the emerging European Union. They all wrote this stuff down.

The U.N. is a toothless organization. Why do we have to turn to them?

Very simply: Wars of aggression by one nation against another are intrinsically evil according to Church teaching and illegal under U.N. law for very good reason understood through natural law theory.

Natural law theory - which is a doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church - indicates that certain principles are written on the human heart and discernible by all people through reason, regardless of culture or religion.

Passing a "global test" means that a war meets the criteria of natural law in regards to just war.

You do not strengthen the U.N. by violating its laws. The ends do not justify the means.

The United States and a handful of other nations declaring war unilaterally to enforce a U.N. resolution is the moral equivalent of Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico declaring war unilaterally on Mexico without U.S. Congressional support.

One of the principles of just war doctrine is that it is declared by the proper authority. If the reason to go to war is to enforce a U.N. resolution only the U.N. or a similar body is authorized to declare such a war.

But the issue is not just a U.N. resolution. Saddam gassed his own people. The mission is humanitarian!

Only the U.N. is authorized to act as a global police force using military power in issues that do not involve defense against attack or imminent threat to the nation declaring war.

The humanitarian goal of regime change must be accomplished through other means if the United Nations does not support it.

What if the imminent threat or attack is to one of our allies instead of directly to us?

Just war doctrine and international law recognize an attack against an ally as an attack against your own nation. Iraq had attacked none of our allies.

By calling the war unjust, you are emboldening the enemy, dishonoring the troops and putting them in harm's way.

I am not the one who sent the troops into harm's way. President Bush did that when he sent them into war without just cause.

I support our troops, pray for them, and want them to come as quickly as possible. I admire their courage in battle, and grieve for those who made the ultimate sacrifice for a mistake. In critiquing the decision makers who sent the troops into harm's way unnecessarily, I am fighting for our American troops.

What should we do now that the war already started?

Apologize to the nations we insulted and ask for help to fix the mess we made.

Why not go it alone now that we are there?

Because anyone paying half attention to the news knew back in 1991 that the Kurds, Sunnis, and Si'ites hated one another and that there would be chaos in this region controlling our oil if Saddam were removed.

Now that we have removed Saddam, we owe it to the Iraqi people to bring stability. But these groups hate each other, and have for close to a thousand years. It will take at least twenty years of occupation to bring stability to the region.

The U.S. has never been good at long term occupation, and the Arabs would hate us for it. To bring legitimacy to a twenty year occupation, we need international assistance.

There is a difference to the Arab world whether Americans are trying to uphold the law for the sake of stability, or whether an international body that includes Arab soldiers and an Arab voice is trying to uphold the law for the sake of stability.

Jcecil3, you are living in a pre 9/11 world. Wake up!

Terrorism has been around through all of history. America is not the first nation to experience terrorism and it won't be the last. We Americans tend to act this has never happened before.

World War One stared because of an assassination. The American revolution started with the vandalism of tax evaders throwing imports into the sea, and then shooting those who tried to arrest them!

One person's terrorist is another person's freedom fighter. Yet, what can differentiate terrorism from other military action is just war doctrine.

The rules of just cause and just conduct in warfare are eternal and unchanging. Terrorism on 9/11 does not change this.

What do you think of the war in Afghanistan?

Though I would have preferred some other solution, the war in Afghanistan probably met the strict requirements for a just war. The Church never criticized this war. Nor did I. Nor did John Kerry.

What is a colossal error of judgment was diverting forces away from the critical task in Afghanistan of capturing Osama Bin Laden and moving those forces to an unjust war in Iraq.

The end result is that we have left Afghanistan as a recruiting ground for terrorists and Osama Bin Laden has not been brought to justice.

Jcecil3, admit it, you are a pacifist.

Actually, I am not.

I am a believer that before just war doctrine is invoked ALL other means of achieving a just and equitable settlement MUST be exhausted.

By ALL means, I DO intend to say that the non-violent techniques of effecting change tried by Jesus, Saint Francis, Gandhi and Martin Luther King Junior must have been tried and failed before going to war.

I do think assistance should have been given to groups like the Kurds to help them lead non-violent protests against Saddam Hussein. If this lead to regime change, the world would have been better off.

Only after this failed should war have been contemplated, and then, only through an international body.

John Kerry would not go this far in his prudential judgment.

George Bush is not even close to me on this, and he isn't even close to the Pope, who likely closer to my point of view that he is even to Kerry's.

John Kerry's view is the more correct view from the viewpoint of just war doctrine, and meets all of the minimum requirements of a just war.

George Bush states that we attack threats before they materialize, which is always and everywhere an evil act that has never been sanctioned in Christian thought.

Even when Thomas Aquinas speaks of wars for just cause other than defense against an aggressive nation, the context is the authority of the state to put down sedition and rebellion.

Aquinas wrote in an era when wealthy mercantile classes were forming private armies that challenged the state, and his thought on just cause needs to be read in that context.

Jcecil3, you keep referring to just war doctrine. According to the CCC, the "prudential judgment" to declare a just war lies with the authority of the state.

In a representative democracy, we the people are the state. Yet, George Bush ultimately made the decision to go to war in March of 2003.

In this election, each of us must decide whether George Bush exercised prudent judgment in that decision.

Furthermore, given the threats which are real, but not yet imminent, posed by Iran and North Korea and other nations, our own judgment of Bush's decision may be the most important electoral decision we have ever faced, and it may be the most important decision we will ever face in our life-times.

I believe it is imprudent to rush to war without clarity on the fundamental reason for war. I believe it is imprudent to rush to any war that is not a last resort. I believe it is imprudent violate the clear principles of just war doctrine outlined by the Church's tradition, natural law, and international law.

Jcecil3, what about Kerry's flip-flop on the $87B to help the troops - he voted for it before he voted against it? Doesn't this prove Kerry is less consistent than Bush?

I am a registered Republican because I believe in balanced budgets, and the Republican party once stood for that.

Kerry also supported balanced budgets long before it was ever popular with Democrats.

Kerry supported the $87B to the troops so long as it was paid by a repeal of Bush's tax cuts. When the Republicans blocked any tax increases to pay for the $87B, Kerry withdrew his support.

Kerry has since called his own explanation of this an "inarticulate moment". I actually thought it was a very clever play on words at the time he said it, but we can all agree it backfired politically.

At any rate, I agree with Kerry's vote. The tax cuts should have been repealed as a condition for passing the $87B increase in spending.

Jcecil3, what about Bush's pro-life record? Doesn't this outweigh the issue of whether the war in Iraq was just or not?

I am pro-life and would support an Amendment to the Constitution protecting the unborn child from all direct abortions.

First, the abortion rate has risen under George W. Bush. He is inconsistent on the issue, and the President has little to no authority to change abortion laws. G.W, mostly pays lip service to this issue, and what symbolic victories he has won for us have not stopped a single abortion.

Second, when the state acts as the agent of killing people unjustly, this is a graver evil than the state merely permitting murder to occur. Because we live in a representative democracy, we are the government. When the state kills unjustly, we all participate in some way. When the state is the agent of death, it sins by commission, rather than omission.

It is true that we could sin by omission in allowing abortion. However, if we work in other ways to reduce abortions after voting for a pro-choice President, we are not committing any sin of omission. Even God allows evil to occur, without sinning by omission. Allowing an evil to occur while working through some other just means to stop it is different and less evil than committing evil.

If we personally judge the war in Iraq an unjust war, this issue alone would present what Ratzinger called proportionate reason to vote for a pro-choice candidate whose stance we do not accept.

Third, we need to be consistently pro-life. I oppose the war in Iraq for the same fundamental reasons I oppose abortion. For these same reasons, I oppose euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research (which both Bush and Kerry support), the death penalty, etc....Weighing all the issues, John Kerry is more pro-life than George Bush even if I consider him very wrong on abortion.

I just don't feel safer when I consider a Kerry Presidency than I feel with a Bush Presidency. How would you respond to that?

I respond with faith in the God revealed in the Bible. Unjust violence begets more violence. If the war in Iraq is unjust, it is revealed through the prophets that the circle of violence will escalate. There are secular social and economic theories that confirm this insight.

Acting with justice could be termed enlightened self interest. If the assurance of safety is your motivation in selecting a President, Bush is an unsafe choice.

What about other issues I agree with in the Republican platform, such as Bush's tax cuts to stimulate the economy? Isn't this as important as foreign policy?

The number of people below the poverty line has increased under the Bush Presidency. One million less Americans are employed than when Bush took office. The federal deficit is nearly a half trillion dollars. Government interference in our lives trampling on our civil rights has increased through such legislation as the Patriot Act.

Classic Republicanism is opposed to this type of governance.

While John Kerry is a social liberal, his economics are moderate and more pro-business than most of the left. Like Clinton, he represents the wing of the Democratic party that believes in balanced budgets and understands how business works.

I'm a social conservative opposed to abortion and gay marriages. There's just no way I can bring myself to vote for Kerry because of these issues.

I believe these issues are outweighed by the issue of the war in Iraq, but here are my thoughts anyway.

Ultimately, protection of the unborn would be secured by a Right to Life Amendment. Likewise, it would take an Amendment to the Constitution to make gay marriage illegal throughout the land.

The Office of the President has no part whatsoever in the Amendment process. The President does not need to sign an Amendment, nor does he have veto power over it.

This said, I make no secret of the fact that while I oppose abortion on demand with other social conservatives, I would support gay civil unions and Church blessings of those unions. I find myself in agreement with Kerry's position on the issue of gay marriage, despite objections of the Church.

I simply fail to see how permitting gays these legal rights would threaten heterosexual marriage. If we want to save marriage and family, it seems to me we should focus on divorce laws and economic factors that make marriage difficult to sustain.

Why are so many Bishops and Priests saying the opposite of what you are saying?

In truth, only a handful of outspoken conservative priests and bishops are taking a hard line against John Kerry. The vast majority of the USCCB and the vast majority of priests have strong leanings toward the Democratic party on almost all issues but abortion and gay marriage.

Most of the bishops are asking us to avoid single issue voting and look at the full spectrum of issues. The bishops have been quite critical of many aspects of Bush policy, including the war in Iraq. While not endorsing John Kerry, they are definitely not Bush fans. The Church seems to be saying that good Catholics could have good reasons to vote for either candidate.

The Pope has sent the same mixed signals as the USCCB indicating a deep ambivalence about the war and a reluctance to place abortion over the war, or the war over abortion.

Jcecil3, I just think you are a flip-flopper just like Kerry?

If that's what you think, so be it. All I can say is that I have thought all of this long before I ever paid attention to John Kerry's thoughts on the subject. I have never wavered on this, and I have held these positions consistently.

If unwavering commitment and passionate belief are the measure of truth (as Bush supporters seem to think), I have been unwavering and passionate about all of this.

Here is a threaded web discussion I started on September 23, 2002 on these matters to prove I have held this position even before President Bush lead us to war in March of 2003.

Far from being "flip-floppers", people like Howard Dean, John Kerry, Wesley Clark and myself have been holding a consistent position that is in accord with the Pope, Ratzinger, the USCCB, the British Bishops' Conference, and the Iraqi Bishops.

George Bush's doctrine of preventative war trying to justify attack by one nation against another before a threat materializes is gravely immoral!

PEACE and Blessings!
Joe Cecil (jcecil3)

Readers may contact me at jcecil3@attglobal.net