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America has met criteria for ‘just war,’ Land says

WASHINGTON (BP)–The United States has a basis for a “just war” against terrorism, Southern Baptist ethics agency head Richard Land said Sept. 21.

The morning after President Bush spoke of the campaign to battle terrorism to a joint session of Congress and the American people, Land said, “I believe that at this point the response of the president and the Congress meets all of the criteria for a just war.”

Land, the president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, had outlined the criteria for justifiable armed conflict as applied traditionally by the church in the days after terrorist attacks against the United States killed thousands Sept. 11. As listed by Land on the website of the ERLC’s radio program, “For Faith and Family,” (www.forfaithandfamily.com), the criteria are:

— It must have a just cause. War is only permissible when it is done to resist aggression and to defend victims.

— It must have a just intent. Securing justice is the only acceptable motive.

— It must be a last resort. All other opportunities for resolution should have been rejected or have failed.

— It must have legitimate authority. In America’s case, approval by Congress is necessary.

— It must have limited, or achievable, goals. Annihilation of an enemy or total destruction of a civilization is not acceptable as a goal.

— It must be proportional to its objectives. The good gained should justify the cost in lives and injuries.

— It must have noncombatant immunity. War should not be targeted at civilians and should seek to minimize inadvertent civilian casualties.

In discussing the United States’ position Sept. 21, Land said, “This is a defensive war. We’ve been attacked, and our citizens have been slaughtered, and they will continue to die in the hundreds if not thousands unless we attack these terrorists and remove their safe havens and places of refuge. It’s not a question of whether people are going to die; it’s a question of whether innocent citizens are going to die as opposed to perpetrators of this evil and trained soldiers, sailors and airmen who have volunteered to put themselves in harm’s way to defend our nation.”

He said the purpose is justified “in that we do not intend to annihilate societies or civilizations,” only to defeat terrorist cells.

“It also meets the criterion of last resort,” Land said. “There is no way to reason with these people. What they perpetrated against innocent citizens is beyond rational conception, much less debate.”

It has been legitimately authorized by Congress, he said.

“Certainly, there will be no targeting of civilians, and there will be every attempt to minimize collateral, inadvertent civilian casualties, especially if the terrorists don’t decide to try to use their own civilian population as a human shield,” Land said.

“And I believe the question of proportionality has been met,” he said. “For we can either sacrifice lives to remove this evil or we can face a continuous loss of innocent, civilian lives over the next few months and years. Unless we deal with this problem, we can expect biological, chemical and even nuclear attacks against our civilian population.”

Land said it is time to put terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, whose coalition has been cited as responsible for the attacks, and his fellow terrorists “out of our misery.”