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Just War, Christians and Iraq – Where Is the Justice in Not Attacking?
Dr Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, is one of several Christian leaders who have written to President Bush affirming that, “we believe that your stated policies concerning Saddam Hussein…are prudent and fall well within the time-honoured criteria of just war theory.”
Meanwhile, the heads of more than 60 prominent Christian organisations have also written to the president, urging him not to attack Iraq. They said that any attack would be in breach of the traditional Christian doctrine of just war.
With due respect to the sincerity of all these letter writers, it sometimes seems that, as with many other ethical matters, you first take your stand and then you look for the Christian doctrine or biblical passage that supports your position.
In any case, once you start to read your Bible you have to ask where notions of just war derive. How can any war – almost inevitably involving the slaughter of innocent victims - be called just, or biblical? On matters of war I sometimes wonder if the truest Christians aren’t the pacifists like Stanley Hauerwas. It’s hard to avoid the suspicion that Christian just war theory is simply an attempt to circumvent the clear teachings of Jesus.
Yet life itself is not just. And Christians are called to be salt to our world. We are called to restore justice.
Do you remember the killing fields of Kampuchea, when General Pol Pot initiated the massacre of any Cambodian deemed ideologically unsound? Around two million innocent people were slaughtered.
Does any Christian really think it would have been an injustice to eliminate Pol Pot?
And hands up all the Christians who think Dietrich Bonhoeffer was wrong to try to kill Adolf Hitler?
Here are some excerpts from a letter to The Australian newspaper from Dr Leanne Piggott, lecturer in Middle East Studies at the University of Sydney:
At the end of the Gulf war in 1991 the Shiites of southern Iraq rose up in rebellion against Saddam to try to shake off the dictatorship under which they had been living. The uprising was brutally crushed by the Iraqi army and Saddam’s nine internal security services. For example, in Amara (near Basra), they made the Shiites, or anyone who looked religious, lie down in the streets and then buried them alive under asphalt. Some 60,000 to 70,000 people were killed in and around Amara in 1991. During the 1990s, the regime killed about 300,000 Shiites in southern Iraq.
In the Anfal campaign in the late 1980s, the Iraqi regime destroyed 4,000 Kurdish villages in the north of the country. Between 100,000 and 150,000 Kurds were killed, some with poison gas. Around a million more people were sent into internal exile.
Since 1979, Saddam has been directly responsible for the deaths of approximately one million Iraqi citizens and a further one million Iraqi soldiers who died in wars which he instigated against Iran and Kuwait.
Between 1.5 and 2 million Iraqis have been internally displaced and a further 4.5 million Iraqi refugees are scattered across the globe. Altogether, 10 per cent of the Iraqi population has been killed or deported.
Now, I wish that the US would show some repentance about its early support for Saddam Hussein. I wish it had worked harder to stop the expansion of Israeli settlements on the West Bank. I wish it would speak out more on Tibet and East Timor and many other regions of suffering. I wish oil were not involved. I wish. I wish.
But do not the Iraqi people deserve some justice? How much longer must their suffering continue?
Christians are called upon to be salt to this world. Salt sometimes stings. Saddam Hussein is engaged in genocide against his own people. I would ask my fellow Christians: where is the justice in not removing him from power?
October 29th, 2002