WASHINGTON (BP)–Southern Baptist ethics leader Richard Land commended President Bush Oct. 3 for his policy on Iraq and told him military action against Saddam Hussein’s regime would be justified.
Four other Christian leaders joined Land in a letter telling Bush they believe his policies regarding Hussein’s development of weapons of mass destruction “fall well within the time-honored criteria of just-war theory.” The other signers of the letter were Bill Bright, chairman of Campus Crusade for Christ International; Chuck Colson, chairman of Prison Fellowship Ministries; D. James Kennedy, president of Coral Ridge Ministries; and Carl Herbster, president of the American Association of Christian Schools.
Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, already had told news reporters he believed a United States military campaign against Iraq would fit within the guidelines of a “just war” as outlined by Christian theologians beginning in the late fourth century A.D. Some just-war advocates have not expressed as much assurance, while numerous liberal Protestant leaders have voiced opposition to an American military effort.
“We believe that the cost of not dealing with this threat now will only succeed in greatly increasing the cost in human lives and suffering when an even more heavily armed and dangerous Saddam Hussein must be confronted at some date in the not too distant future,” Land and his cosigners said in the letter. “We believe that every day of delay significantly increases the risk of far greater human suffering in the future than acting now would entail.”
They questioned how the 20th century might have been different had Adolf Hitler been confronted earlier when Nazi Germany violated treaty agreements in the mid-1930s.
“It is at least possible that tens of millions of the lives lost in World War II might not have been lost if the Allies had enforced treaty compliance then instead of appeasing a murderous dictator,” they wrote. “We are extremely grateful that we have a president who has learned the costly lessons of the 20th century and who is determined to lead America and the world to a far different and better future in the 21st century.”
Bush is seeking congressional authorization for possible military action if Hussein does not meet United Nations demands, including the destruction of Iraq’s biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. The leadership of both parties in the House of Representatives expressed agreement with such a resolution Oct. 2, but opposition in the Senate to the Bush-supported resolution may be difficult to overcome.
Land and the other signers said Bush’s policy meets seven criteria in just-war theory:
— Just cause.
“Disarming and neutralizing Saddam Hussein is to defend freedom and freedom-loving people from state-sponsored terror and death,” they wrote. It would be a defensive war because Hussein has attacked Iraq’s neighbors and his own people and has harbored Al Qaeda terrorists, they said.
— Just intent.
“Our nation does not intend to destroy, conquer or exploit Iraq,” they wrote.
— Last resort.
Hussein has violated U.N. Security Council resolutions and other agreements for a decade while amassing weapons, Land and the others said. “[F]urther delay in forcing the regime’s compliance would be reckless irresponsibility in the face of grave and growing danger,” they wrote.
— Legitimate authority.
It was wise for Bush to ask the Security Council to enforce its resolutions, but a resolution from Congress would provide the proper authority, they told the president.
— Limited and achievable goals.
Bush’s goals of disarming Hussein, dismantling his weapons and liberating the Iraqis “more than meet those criteria,” they said.
— Noncombatant immunity.
“We are confident that our government, unlike Hussein, will not target civilians and will do all that it can to minimize noncombatant casualties,” they wrote.
The human cost of such a military campaign will be greater in the future than now, they said.
The signers said in the letter, which was sent on ERLC stationery, they could not speak for all of their constituents but they were confident they expressed the beliefs of “the great preponderance of those we are privileged to serve.” Land and the others assured Bush they were praying for him.