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Land: Military action against Iraq meets ethical standards for war

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–There is just cause to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq, Richard Land said in comments to Baptist Press Sept. 9.

Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, listed a number of reasons why military action, as envisioned by President Bush against Hussein’s Iraqi regime, would be justified under “Just War” ethical standards.

Among them:

— “Saddam Hussein is developing at breakneck speed weapons of mass destruction he plans to use against America and her allies.”

— “He has broken all agreements that were a condition of the ceasefire in the Gulf War, including allowing arms inspectors in his country.”

— “The U.S. was attacked on Sept. 11,” Land stated. “This was an act of war and there is a direct line from those who attacked the U.S. back to the nation of Iraq.”

— “Saddam Hussein attempted to assassinate President George Bush, the 41st president of the U.S.”

Said Land, “If you are looking for just cause, we have already passed that threshold.”

The issue of Iraq’s potential for weapons of mass destruction was heightened Sept. 6 when a team of about 15 experts at the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna had found “new construction and other unexplained changes,” as The New York Times paraphrased it, at several nuclear-related sites in Iraq from satellite photography, compared to U.N. inspectors’ reports the last time they were in Iraq four years ago.

Also, Iraq has discontinued required reports to the United Nations on “dual-use” imports — materials that could be used for nuclear fuel and weapons development, the head of a U.N. biological and chemical weapons team had noted in a report, according to The Times.

Meanwhile, opposition voiced by two mainline leaders against U.S. military action has drawn fire from the Institute for Religion and Democracy, a Washington-based organization seeking to reform mainline denominations “in accord with biblical and historic Christian teachings.”

“In the coming days our country will have a vigorous discussion about the merits of war with Iraq,” IRD President Diane Knippers said in a Sept. 4 news release. “But these church officials” — United Methodist Board of Church and Society General Secretary Jim Winkler and National Council of Churches General Secretary Bob Edgar and members of the World Council of Churches’ Central Committee — “cannot be relied upon to contribute intelligently to that debate.

“Their vision of the world is largely divorced from historic Christian teachings about the use of force and from the realities of the world, pre- and post-Sept. 11,” Knippers stated.

According to the IRD news release:

— Winkler had issued a statement declaring it is “inconceivable that Jesus Christ … would support this proposed attack.” It would be “unprovoked” and “an unprecedented disregard for democratic ideals,” Winkler said. “No case can be made that a war against Iraq is justified for the self-defense of the United States,” the United Methodist exec said.

— Edgar and other members of the World Council of Churches’ Central Committee, in a statement titled, “Call to Stop the Rush to War,” “did at least call for Saddam Hussein to halt his development of weapons of mass destruction,” the Institute for Religion and Democracy acknowledged in its news release. “But the WCC officials said the United Nations has responsibility to address Saddam Hussein, without explaining how the unarmed diplomats of the U.N. would impose their will upon him. The WCC officials oddly referred to a ‘rush to war’ against Iraq, even though over a decade of nearly continuous military confrontation with Iraq has ensued since its 1990 invasion of Kuwait.”

Land, in his comments to Baptist Press, voiced a number of observations about the possible use of U.S. military force against Hussein’s Iraqi regime:

— “Military action against the Iraqi government would be a defensive action. … The human cost of not taking Hussein out and removing his government as a producer, proliferator and proponent of the use of weapons of mass destruction means we can either pay now or we can pay a lot more later.”

— “Military action will be a last resort. History has proved that Saddam will not keep any promises he makes. He is an international outlaw beyond the reach of all international sanctions. Saddam is one of the major links in what President Bush termed ‘the axis of evil.’ The only way we will remove the threat is to remove Hussein. … It would be a strategic and sizable blow to terrorism to remove Saddam Hussein and his Hitleresque administration from power.”

— “Any military campaign authorized by President Bush would not seek to destroy the Iraqi civilization but would aid the Iraqi people in constructing a self-governing, representative democracy that would respect the rights of all its citizens and neighbors. This would not only strike a blow against terrorism but for freedom in the region. The establishment of a stable democratic Iraq would have a wonderfully liberating and stabilizing effect on the whole Middle East. It would suggest to Iranians, Saudis and Syrians that they too could have such a government of the people, by the people and for the people. That would be real peacemaking. … Our goal is not to kill the Iraqi people. Our goal is not to impose a government on the Iraqi people. Our goal is not to conquer and subjugate the Iraqi people. Our goal is to remove a really atrocious, war-crimes-committing dictator who terrorizes and enslaves his own people.”

— “If it has to be Britain and America alone defending civilization against a gangster masquerading as a government leader for the second time in a century, then so be it. It was the United Kingdom and America against Hitler. Most of Europe is delighted the U.S. took up that fight, including the Germans. The U.S. should not sit idly by waiting for her allies in Europe to indicate their support for this military action. While the world waits, Saddam and his henchmen are rushing to develop even more deadly weapons. No offense intended, but we have had to extricate the Europeans from conflagrations of their own making twice in the last century. I would rather trust our judgment rather than theirs. America and Britain will do most of the fighting and dying in any military campaign against Iraq, as was the case in the Gulf War. Having support from our allies and the United Nations would be nice but the only legitimate authority for sending America into combat is the U.S. government, not the UN and not NATO.”

In comments to Christianity Today Sept. 4, Land compared action against Hussein to steps his hometown of Houston took years ago to control its battles with mosquitoes.

In a recent visit to Houston, Land said he “didn’t see one solitary mosquito, which is amazing if you knew how Houston was.”

“Like mosquitoes, if you’re going to deal with terrorists you can’t just swat them or use insect repellent,” Land continued. “You have to drain the swamp. Saddam Hussein is one of the major swamps. The U.S. would be doing the world a favor and acting in the best interest of future citizens of the U.S. by removing Saddam from power.”

Among other evangelicals responding to CT’s query about whether military action against Hussein’s Iraqi regime can meet “Just War” ethical criteria:

— David Gushee, associate professor of moral philosophy at the Baptist-affiliated Union University in Jackson, Tenn. “The burden of proof is high for anyone who would claim to act preemptively,” Gushee told CT. “Just-War theory is a paradigm to make resorting to war law-governed and debatable in a public setting. It establishes the basic perimeter that use of force must be the last resort. You never initiate an attack. It is a defensive theory.”

To strike first, a nation must have irrefutable proof of “hostile intentions, massing of forces, or otherwise clear evidence you are about to be struck,” Gushee said. That threshold, he said, “has not been reached. In fact, I think that the U.S. or Israel is more likely to suffer a catastrophic use of weapons of mass destruction if we attack Iraq first than if we were to use nonmilitary means to accomplish our goals.”

— Robert McGinnis, the Family Research Council’s vice president of policy. McGinnis listed two conditions that would justify an attack on Iraq: irrefutable evidence linking Hussein to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 and certainty that Iraq is producing weapons of mass destruction for imminent use.

“If you fulfill these, an attack is justified because we have been struck and will be struck again,” McGinnis told CT. “The president has an obligation to communicate why he is asking our nation to sacrifice, as well as why he is willing to sacrifice combatants and innocents on the other side.”

— Rich Cizik, the National Association of Evangelicals’ vice president of government affairs. Hussein’s links with Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda terror network provide justification for attack, Cizik said. But, before an invasion, Cizik said Congress should concur and the United States should have the support of a coalition of allies.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: BUSH & BLAIR.

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