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Hussein’s behavior demands forceful response, Land says

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Secretary of State Colin Powell’s presentation to the U.N. Security Council Feb. 5 left Southern Baptist ethicist Richard Land more resolved than before that military action against Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi regime is justified and necessary.

An increasingly large mountain of hard evidence reveals daily and weekly cooperation between al Qaeda and Hussein, said Land, president of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, noting that the findings have pushed once-hesitant members of the Bush administration to support wholeheartedly the president’s policy.

“Al Qaeda cells and operatives have been moved by Hussein into northern Iraq to try to destabilize and assassinate the Kurds who oppose the Hussein regime. It is only a matter of time in a quid pro quo that weapons of mass destruction will be given to al Qaeda for brutal services rendered to Hussein — weapons that could and will be used against the United States,” Land had said Jan. 31 during a televised public affairs program in Nashville, Tenn. “No president and no government should allow that to happen. We have a right to defend our allies and ourselves.”

The Bush administration has stated its desire for U.N. support in undertaking any military action against the Iraqi government, Land said, recalling President Bush’s September 2002 speech before the U.N. in which the president stated that the Iraqi crisis places the U.N.’s integrity.

“Yet do not be confused,” Land said. “We have the right to defend ourselves. We have not surrendered our sovereignty to the U.N.”

While the “just war” theory for military engagement demands that a legitimate authority approve the use of lethal force, Land said, “The legitimate authorizing agent for the armed forces of the U.S. is not the United Nations; it is the elected government of the United States.”

As to the recalcitrant members of the U.N. Security Council, Land said when allied forces finally move into Iraq “even the French and the Germans will be on the train when it leaves the station. They will join the rest of what Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has called the ‘New Europe.’

“Eight countries in Europe have already said, ‘Here are our troops. We are ready to help in whatever way we can.’ Only Germany and France are sulking over the fact that no one really cares what they think on the issue,” Land suggested.

“It is a sad fact that unless the U.S. gets on the locomotive and fires up the engine, the world is supine in the face of evil, such as was the case with the genocide that was occurring in the former Yugoslavia that prompted U.S.-led action in 1999,” he continued.

“The United States must be a force for justice and freedom in the world,” Land said, recalling Bush’s words in his most recent State of the Union address, “The freedom we prize is not America’s gift to the world; it is God’s gift to mankind.”

“The U.S. does not come in as conquerors, we come in as liberators,” Land said. “Iraq is the best chance we have in the Middle East of a stable representative government in the Arab world.”

Land said Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein presents a very real, immediate threat to the world.

“He really is like Hitler. His personal hero is Stalin and he is rabidly anti-Semitic,” Land said, noting Hussein’s perspective is that either he is going to triumph in his brutal goals or he will attempt to bring everything down around him when he falls.

“We are talking about a man who, if he lived in a normal society, would be institutionalized,” Land said. “He is a sociopathic psychopath.”

As Martin Luther King Jr. once advised, Land noted, “If your opponent has a conscience, then follow Gandhi and nonviolence. But if your enemy has no conscience, like Hitler, then follow Bonhoeffer.

“Saddam Hussein has no conscience. Martin Luther King Jr. understood that when you are dealing with someone who has no conscience, that like Bonhoeffer, who had been a pacifist, you finally come to place where your understand that your obligation is to use force to defend others, Land said.

“Our choice is to pay less now and deal with this problem or we can pay a lot more later and deal with the problem,” he said.

According to Christian tradition, a just war must always be a last resort, never having the intent to destroy the enemy, but instead seeking to treat enemies humanely and to minimize civilian casualties, Land said.

Some argue against war in any event, he said, noting those favoring pacifism look only to Jesus’ teaching that we should love our enemies. “Jesus tells me in the Scriptures that if someone hits me, I am to turn the other cheek,” Land said in agreement. “But if someone kills my wife, I don’t have the right to take personal vengeance. Romans 13 tells me I should expect the civil magistrate which is ordained by God to punish with lethal force one who kills a member of my family.

“Jesus is telling us we don’t have the right to take violence into our own hands. The just war tradition says while we don’t have the right to personally kill somebody, we understand that the civil magistrate has been ordained by God to punish those who do evil and to reward those who do that which is good,” Land explained.

Martin Luther said he wasn’t certain he had the right to use physical force to defend himself, but he was absolutely certain he had a moral obligation to use force to defend others who were being attacked, Land noted.

The object of just war is not war, but a more just peace, he stressed.

“If the Allies had had the spine to resist Germany’s reoccupation of the Rhineland in 1936, we now know from declassified documents that the German general staff was prepared to remove Hitler from power in 1936 if the Allies stopped Hitler from reoccupying the Rhineland in violation of the Versailles treaty,” Land said.

“The British and French would have prevailed at that point and time if they had determined to stop Hitler, but instead they appeased him. They thought peace at any price was better than armed conflict. We could have saved tens of millions of peoples lives if we had understood that sometimes war is an ugly thing, but it is not always the ugliest thing.”

It was philosopher John Stuart Mill who said over a century ago, “War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse,” Land recounted.

Land said the United States sidestepped another chance to stop the German killing machine. “Franklin Roosevelt and General George Marshall knew about the death camps in 1942. They should have bombed the rail lines, at the very least, and I think they should have bombed the death camps. While some inmates would have been killed, it would have stopped the German’s ability to kill 10,000 people a day.

“Marshall convinced Roosevelt not to do it because he didn’t consider the camps a legitimate military target,” Land said, adding, “Now that’s just wrong. That was a very bad, if not immoral, decision.”

Likewise, Land said, Saddam Hussein’s grisly record reveals him to be a man devoid of conscience who is committed to killing his enemies at any cost. “He will only respond to force, and the time for force appears to have now arrived,” he said. “We dare not make the same mistake of looking the other way as a threat of terror turns to reality.”

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  • Dwayne Hastings