March 16, 2006

reaffirming preemption

In his September 13, 2002 letter to President Bush, then US Catholic Bishops Conference President Bishop Wilton D. Gregory asked some very prophetic questions:

Is it wise to dramatically expand traditional moral and legal limits on just cause to include preventive or preemptive uses of military force to overthrow threatening regimes or to deal with the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction? Should not a distinction be made between efforts to change unacceptable behavior of a government and efforts to end that government's existence? ...

Would preventive or preemptive force succeed in thwarting serious threats or, instead, provoke the very kind of attacks that it is intended to prevent? How would another war in Iraq impact the civilian population, in the short- and long-term? How many more innocent people would suffer and die, or be left without homes, without basic necessities, without work? Would the United States and the international community commit to the arduous, long-term task of ensuring a just peace or would a post-Saddam Iraq continue to be plagued by civil conflict and repression, and continue to serve as a destabilizing force in the region? Would the use of military force lead to wider conflict and instability?
Why do I bring this up? Because I read in the Washington Post that our President has deemed fit to mark the 3rd Anniversary of the Iraq invasion by reaffirming our national commitment to the "doctrine of preemptive war against terrorists and hostile states with chemical, biological or nuclear weapons," as teh Post article says, "despite the troubled U.S. experience in Iraq."

"If necessary, however, under long-standing principles of self defense, we do not rule out use of force before attacks occur, even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy's attack," the document continues. "When the consequences of an attack with WMD are potentially so devastating, we cannot afford to stand idly by as grave dangers materialize."
It seems so clear to me that the only dangers in question are dangers to OUR citizens on OUR soil. Who cares if we throw the rest of the world into chaos and turmoil?

From the Catholic perspective this is wrong at its core … our brothers and sisters are ALL God's children, not just those with a US passport. But from a broader perspective it is also short sighted and counter productive. One need only look at the experience these past 3 years in Iraq (foreshadowed in Bishop Gregory's prophetic questions) to wonder if maybe, just maybe, our President's plan is not so wise, let alone just or even humane:
"We fight our enemies abroad instead of waiting for them to arrive in our country. We seek to shape the world, not merely be shaped by it; to influence events for the better instead of being at their mercy."
Is that what we've done, influenced events for the better? From this distance, it's hard to see how the daily lives of Iraqis are any better today than they were 3 years ago. And while massive terrorist attacks have not yet hit American soil, they will. And perhaps because of not in spite of our activities in Iraq. That's what I thought yesterday when I read this in an Associated Press Article:

The question of who is to blame for the Iraqi deaths has long been controversial. Some critics argue that with the United States and its allies unable to maintain order, Iraq has become a deadlier place for ordinary civilians than it was under Saddam Hussein. Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, a military spokesman, acknowledged that possibility, but said future generations would enjoy better lives because of Iraq’s current hardships.
Hmmm… well if your home, neighborhood, school, workplace, family, friends, etc… were destroyed by American bombs and you faced chaos, death and destruction each day from the civil unrest left behind, I think it might be hard to think that way. Instead I think you'd be inclined to think like Sarmad Ahmad al-Azami, a 35 year old engineer quoted in the article.
His father died of a heart attack suffered during the U.S. bombing of a government palace next to his home in Baghdad’s Azamiyah section. A year later, al-Azami’s mother, 59, was killed in a car bombing. “Our family has been devastated,” al-Azami said. “Iraqis were living hard lives before this, but now things are much worse.”
Preemptive war …. something worth reaffirming?