Justified War? Am I My Brother's Keeper?

When Not Fighting is a Sin


When the war with Iraq was about to start I had no friends in the Catholic World because I was in favor of the war.  No one else was and they used moral reasons for being against it.  The Holy Father wants peace, everyone is praying for peace, the bishops of Iraq consecrated it to Our Lady, killing is a sin, it will be the Iraq people that will suffer, etc.  They sited the fact that Israel has committed more crimes than Iraq.  They accuse America of bad motives, wanting the oil or control of the Middle East.  Almost the same things were said about invading Afghanistan but the results are that the Afghanistan people are free from on the greatest oppressive government in the history of the world.  


In the bible there is the story of the good Samaritan, who helped a stranger not of his race or country.  This man was beaten up and left to die.  The Samaritan could have said "It is not my business, he is not of my country."  In this story Christ is saying that everyone is our brother and we must treat everyone the way we would want them to treat us. 


When the European  countries pulled out of Africa, warlords took over the countries and killed millions of people and more millions died of starvation as the warlords took over the farms and wealth.  The free world stood by saying, "This is not our business and not in our counties interest."


International treaties, the United Nations, NATO and other international organizations have a rule that one never interferes in the internal affairs of another nation unless that nation crosses the border and attacks another sovereign nation.   Therefore entire nations can justify looking the other way as millions of peoples are slaughtered by their own governments or lack there of.   In the Twentieth Century more people have been killed by their own governments than have been killed in all the wars in the history of the world put together - Germany, Russia, China, Korea, Cambodia, Vietnam, almost all of Africa, much of South America, Tibet and civil wars in India.  The nations that could have saved all these people stood by and did nothing.


This same mentality is seen often in the large cities of America as people are raped, robed and even killed with people watching from their windows and doing nothing, not even calling the police.   If you were being robed or raped, you would want someone to help you, you would even beg for help.  Brother's keeper?


For seven hundred years there existed a group of knights known at the Templars.  Never in these seven hundred years were the Templars ever beaten in a fight, and yet they never fought for themselves but only to help other people and never did they take money or booty for helping people. 


In the movie "First Night" King Arthur, who was the most powerful man in the kingdom and controlled the city of Camelot, reflected on the plight of the peoples around him that did not have his safety and security.  His motto was "May God grant us the wisdom to discover the right, the will to choose it and the strength to make it endure."


When reflecting on the plight of the people outside his kingdom, he said:


"Where is it written that beyond Camelot live lesser people, people to week to protect themselves, let them die.  There are laws that enslave men and laws the set them free. Either what we hold to be right and true is right and true for all mankind, or we are just another -------?  


In making the decision to go to war to help his neighbors he said, "There is a peace that can only be found on the other side of war.   In serving each other we become free."


The world is beginning to know that some human rights are right for all the peoples of the world no matter what country they are in.  International humanitarian law is a rapidly growing area of international concern.  An International Criminal Court has been established but it has no teeth since the United States has refused to join.


If the world would have come to the aid of Poland and Austria simply because it was the right thing to do and not because it was in "their national interests" there would never have been a World War II.  This can be also said of Russia's invasion of Eastern Europe.  But we are now speaking of internal violations of human rights and what obligation do we have to our brothers.


At least in the past 100 years, America has fought for ideas, principles, or to come to the aid of others around the globe.  Americans have decided to get involved because it is seen as "the right thing to do" and because if we do not act, things can grow and eventually become a threat to other nations. Americans have not fought these wars for conquest; but have most often been seen as liberators.


The moral reasons for the invasion of Iraq are that weapons of mass destruction will be eliminated, and that the people of Iraq enjoy a peace with freedom and justice. Since the Gulf War, the UN and the Catholic Church have been clear in calling on the Iraqi leadership to abandon efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction and to meet its obligations to destroy such weapons. The UN and the Church have also been clear that the international community must ensure that Iraq complies with its obligations under UN resolutions. As the Holy Father said before March 19th,  "the political leaders in Baghdad have an urgent duty to cooperate fully with the international community, to eliminate any motive for armed intervention."
The decisions made about Iraq and the war on terrorism could have historic implications for the use of force, the legitimacy of international institutions, and the role of the United States in the world. The moral significance of these issues must continue to be assessed given their importance in shaping a more just and peaceful world.


It may very well be that the United Nations and NATO have lost in this exchange because of their refusal to act, in spite of overwhelming evidence that Iraq was thumbing their nose at them.  They may be finished as influential bodies. 

I am proud of America in this action, and I was ashamed of American when they sat back and watched millions of Africans being slaughtered by gangs of armed bandits and forced governments.  When is it our moral obligation to come to  the aid of our neighbors?  First of all when the crime is clear and defined (unarmed civilians being abused or slaughtered without any defense), Second when it is clear that help is wanted and needed, Third when you know that you can help without major loss to your own people, Forth, it should be made clear to other nations that you have no other motive than to help, and Fifth, no profit should be made from this action other than the satisfaction of helping others.


Regarding number five, you will never convince the world you are right about military aggression if you gain a single thing by the action.  This is why the Templar Knights were so loved, they gained only the satisfaction of helping others and nothing else.


I am a strong supporter of former President Teddy Roosevelt, who said "Speak softly and carry a big stick."  There will always be bad people in the world and unless good people can defend themselves there will never be peace.


Are the motives of the Iraq war good?  I do not know.  We will see in time if the Iraq people are happy, if American has no major interests in the nation, and if they leave them better off than they found them. Iraq has great natural resources and with a good government could be the shinning light of the Middle East and force other countries in this area of the world to look hard at democratic free elections.  The long turn reaction of the Iraq people will tell the story and not what we see now.


I hope it sets an example for the rest of the world where help is given simply because it is needed - even military help.


Rick Salbato