Standing Against an Unjust War

Standing Against an Unjust War

A Quaker activist explains why the war in Iraq is not only illegal, but morally indefensible.


I stand here today in support of Lt. Ehren Watada, the first active duty commissioned officer to publicly refuse deployment to Iraq. Lt. Watada has courageously declared that our government’s war on Iraq is both illegal and immoral. Today I want to focus on just why this war is immoral. I am a Quaker from the Atlanta Friends Meeting. As you probably know, Quakers have always opposed war in any form. Because of our strong belief that there is that of God in everyone, we view war on any human being as an assault on the presence of God within us all.

Quakers question the concept of a “just” war but more traditional Christian theology takes a somewhat different approach by classifying wars into two types: just and unjust wars. First formulated by St. Augustine some 1600 years ago, the just war theology specifies very strict principles that determine when Christians can engage in warfare. Here are the basic principles of the just war theology and how I see them applied to the war on Iraq:

Principle 1:

A just war can only be waged as a last resort. All nonviolent options must be exhausted before the use of force is justified.

The Iraq war was not waged as a last resort. It was waged as a first choice. There were many nonviolent options that were never used before war was launched. We know that senior people in the Bush Administration had already drawn up plans to invade Iraq before 9/11 ever happened.

Principle 2:

A just war can only be fought to redress a wrong suffered.

What wrong did we suffer? Iraq was not involved in 9/11. Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction threatening us. The Bush Administration did not respond to a wrong. It created a wrong.

Principle 3:

The violence used in the just war must be proportional to the injury suffered.

The only injury suffered by America in relation to Iraq was the potential injury to the profits of our big oil companies. Iraq oil production under Saddam Hussein was threatening the ability of our big oil companies to keep oil prices high. The war on Iraq was more about controlling oil production than increasing it. There is no such thing as a just war waged for profits for the few.

Principle 4:

The weapons used in the just war must discriminate between combatants and non-combatants.

Over 50,000 Iraqi civilians have already been killed in this extended US military occupation of Iraq. Under the conditions of guerilla warfare, our soldiers cannot distinguish between combatants and non- combatants and innocent Iraqis are paying the price with their lives.

Clearly, the Iraq war fails the test of being a just war. The leaders of our major Christian denominations agree. Pope John Paul II stated before the Iraq war began that this war would be a defeat for humanity which could not be morally or legally justified. In the weeks and months before the US attacked Iraq, not only the Pope, but also one cardinal and archbishop after another spoke out against such a “preemptive” strike. They declared that the just war theology could not justify such a war.

Back in 2002, President George Bush’s own United Methodist Church launched a scathing attack on his preparations for war against Iraq, saying that they are “without any justification according to the teachings of Christ.” In July, 2004, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church/USA issued a paper that condemned the US policy of pre-emptive military action against nations perceived as threats to the United States as ethically indefensible and contrary to the just war theory that has been the basis of Christian theology on warfare.

Lt. Watada is a man of conscience who speaks truth to power. He is a man of courage who puts himself in the way of an immoral war. Lt. Watada is the true patriot who acts to bring his nation back to its moral senses. People of faith and conscience around America must stand up with Lt. Watada and demand an end to this unjust and immoral war on Iraq. As Dr. King reminded us, “the arc of universe is long but it bends toward justice.” It is people like Lt. Watada who do the bending.

Ad Policy