The question of what sins were committed in the war on Iraq is a complex one, raising the issues on the nature of war, whether war is sinful, and whether the war on Iraq was sinful or not, as well as the issues concerned with the actual conduct of war. This essay will attempt to address the issue of a just war and the background to the war itself, before coming to some conclusions as to the sins committed in the war on Iraq.


The concept of a "Just War" (jus ad bello) is intricately bound to the events of the social and political upheavals, and consequent military actions, in Europe in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. It found its complete expression in the Treaties of Westphalia which ended the 30 years war in Germany in 1648, and which provided the legal and moral frameworks for the foundation and common understanding of both the concept of the nation state, and the conduct of military operations.

The definition of a "Just War" is actually quite simple, and has remained largely unchanged since it was first formulated. I quote the US Catholic Bishop's Conference (See Appendix I for the full text)

First, whether lethal force may be used is governed by the following criteria

These criteria (jus ad bellum), taken as a whole, must be satisfied in order to override the strong presumption against the use of force.

Second, the just-war tradition seeks also to curb the violence of war through restraint on armed combat between the contending parties by imposing the following moral standards (jus in bello) for the conduct of armed conflict

The above definitions give some clear guidelines as to what conditions must obtain if a war can be said to be morally just. However, as noted in the introduction to this section, this definition is rooted in a 17th century world view which may not address the issues facing a 21st century world.


The Treaties of Westphalia established the idea of the nation state, and also introduced concepts of how wars are fought that have largely determined public and private perceptions of how wars are fought since that time.

Wars may be said to be Trinitarian. That is, military operations are fought between states, who use armies to conduct military operations. The civilian population of the opposing sides is not expected to participate in military operations, and military organizations are expected to conduct their operations with minimum disturbance to civilian life. In many cases, these three characteristics of armed conflict are backed by the sanction of law, whether international or national. The point is important in understanding how the nature of war has changed since 1945.

In order to explain more fully, let me use some examples. Terrorist warfare, for example, like the World Trade Center bombing, is both morally and legally unacceptable. Please note that militarily, there is nothing to either recommend it or to prevent its use. It is simply another way of fighting a war, and, given the right circumstances, a military officer may choose to use this means of fighting the enemy, rather than another means - this seems to be the tactics adopted by the Palestinian people during the Intifada..

It is critical to an understanding of the triune nature of war that in the case of the World Trade Center bombings, a military action was carried out by people who were not members of a military organization, and who were not sanctioned by any state. Furthermore, civilian citizens of the opposing state were intentionally targeted by the terrorists. In this case, none of the three of the fundamental characteristics of the way that western man understands military conflict were present, and the reaction from people in the western world was, perhaps, predictable.

The case of suicide bombers in the Intifada is another case that illustrates western views of the way wars should be fought. There is more acceptance of the Palestinian suicide bombers because Palestine is under Israeli occupation, and the Palestinians are not allowed to have an army. However, the issue is still contentious, because the suicide bombers target civilians. That said, there is some sense that Hamas and other terror groups represent the Palestinian "Army", and so they are more acceptable than Al Qaeda are.

It is very important to note the relationship between State, Military forces, (both formally constituted) and the people in western understanding of the nature of war. This understanding of the nature of war includes one other very important facet, which first found its expression in Clausewitz, the 19th century Prussian military scientist, whose work has been so influential in western military thought and popular understanding of war.

Clausewitz's understanding was that the aim of war was to serve political ends. As John Keegan notes in "A History of warfare", though, it is in the very nature of war to serve only itself. What I mean by this is that once war commences, the original reasons (political or otherwise) that justified the war soon become forgotten. The best example of this is World War 2, where Britain and France originally went to war with Nazi Germany to defend Polish sovereignty. During negotiations with the Russians, who became Allies after Germany invaded Russia in 1941, the Poles were relegated to becoming a Soviet vassal state.

In a similar way, the nature of military operations is such that any rules on the conduct of war are observed only for as they are practical. Under certain circumstances any and all of the rules of war can and will be broken in order to achieve victory or stave off defeat. Officers are not paid to lose battles, and neither are they paid to be fair. They are paid to win wars. One of the reasons why Britain and France lost so heavily against Nazi Germany in the early years of the Second World War was that their military had preconceived notions about how the next war would be fought.


Since the end of the Second World War, the nature of war seems to have been changing. With the advent of Nuclear Weapons, major states, who have the resources to field vast military organizations, are too aware of the consequences of nuclear war to engage in direct and open conflict. It is a very strange but true observation that nuclear weapons keep the peace, simply because every one who possesses them is too afraid to use them. On top of that, their destructive power makes them militarily useless.

This process has seen the rise of conflicts that are not easily understood in the traditional western triune analysis of warfare. Almost every conflict since the Viet Nam war, with the exception of Israel and Iraq, has been non - conventional warfare. Sri Lanka, Central Africa, Somalia, Palestine, Central and South America, Yugoslavia - the list is very long. It is also important to realize just how lethal these wars are - 4 million people killed in Central Africa over the past four years, for example.

These wars, in modern military understanding, mark the demise of the triune, western, war, and the rise of low intensity conflict waged in ways completely outside our way of thinking of war. The first difference is that, very often, these wars are not fought for political goals. The motivation might be nationalism, or religion, or control of resources. An example is the "Cocaine Wars" in Columbia, or the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the Middle and Near east. The second difference is that very often these wars are not fought by States - the Tamil Tigers of Elam is one example, the PLO is another, the Columbian drug lords are another, the various tribal chieftains in Somalia are another. The third thing to note is that these wars are not normally fought by conventional military units in uniforms and with a recognized structure. Finally, in these kinds of conflict, the civilian population is an integral part of the war, either as the target (the World Trade Center) or as active participants in the conflict - as in Ceylon.

While the west sits in splendid isolation, the third world is becoming a far more dangerous place. However, even in the west, the way the nature of war seems to be going is starting to affect countries that previously felt themselves to be invulnerable. The rise of right wing Militias in the United States, the Baader Meinhof gang in Germany, the conflict in Northern Ireland, Yugoslavia and Kosovo have all brought home to people living in safe and civilized countries the fact that military attacks can happen without those making the attacks having access to conventional military forces, or, indeed, even being representative of a formal state at all.

The problem facing democratic countries and their military organizations is how to defend their countries in the new paradigm of war. Western military organizations have, by and large, been spectacularly unsuccessful in waging war in the second half of the 20th century. Everything has been tried - conventional forces (Viet Nam), overwhelming force (Algeria in the 1950s and 1960s), repressive state regimes (South Africa in the 1980s). All have, eventually, had to come to terms with and negotiate with people once characterized as terrorists. While conventional military machines, like the US army, for example, have, by and large, had great successes on the field of battle, the political victory has in general been won by the opposing forces.

It doesn't help to fight these kinds of wars in the same way as "the enemy" fight them. Repression or brutality seems to exacerbate the fundamental underlying problems - wars in Israel (the Intifada), South Africa, Algeria and Central America all show similar or the same results. What needs to be done, it seems, is that the society itself must be changed, so that wars are fought on western terms, if at all. The end result of military thinking on the matter is not, in fact, that wars are fought; but that an international situation is brought about where wars no longer need to be fought.

The attack by Al Qaeda on the World Trade Center in 2001 brought this home to American military thinkers and Defence department personnel as no other single act could. Their reaction was that the demand to find some way of defending western democracies against low intensity conflict had now become extremely urgent.


Al Qaeda targeted the US because the US has based troops in Saudi Arabia, home to Mecca and Medina, since the first Gulf War in 1991. As a fundamentalist religious group, Al Qaeda seems to view this much as the present Pontiff would have viewed Soviet troops being stationed in the Kremlin.

The effects of the September 11 attacks have been interesting to note in terms of international relations, warfare, and military ethics.

In terms of international relations, the United States moved from an isolationist position that had been quite well publicized during Bush's campaign for the Presidency, to an aggressive interventionist policy, based on the military concept of pre - emptive action. The US decided to play from a position of strength, and not to rely on diplomacy or economic sanction, but rather to rely on their own military resources and power. While they would gladly use other nations military resources, the world was left in no doubt whatsoever that the ensuing military operations were primarily United States operations, to protect United States interests.

The change in military ethics is an interesting one, and is indicative of changing US public mores. The best example of the way that US military ethics have changed subtly is in the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo bay. These prisoners are not prisoners of war, and nor are they prisoners of the judicial or legal system. Since they have no legal status, they have no rights either. They will be charged and brought before a US military court, where I believe they will have a court appointed defender.

The denials around alleged atrocities committed by or with the connivance of US Special Forces in Afghanistan is another example of the change in US military ethics, as, I believe, is the neglect by US forces in restoring civil order in occupied areas in Iraq. All of these, I believe, are indicators of how the US in general is thinking about the nature of the war they are fighting. They are quite prepared to let any rules fall by the wayside in pursuit of their goals. Which is in the nature of war itself.

It also supports my view that the US, in general, feels itself to be under attack. This is a very important observation, which explains much of US reaction, from the general public and from the US administration, since September 11. It is precisely when people feel under attack as a country - i.e., when they feel that all America is under attack (or, to use another example, all Palestinians) that they will tend to extremes.

It is my observation that this feeling of threat has been building for many years, and covers things like the hostages in Iran in 1979, the car bomb that killed 243 US Marines in the Lebanon in the 1980s, US involvement in Somalia, as well as more generalized anti - US feeling. This feeling of threat was exacerbated during the run - up to the Iraqi war, as well as international opposition to President Bush, and, finally, the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, which sees the US as the antithesis of everything it believes in.

The anti - US sentiment expressed by many Islamic radical groups is partly due, I believe, to the nature and structure of American society, which these groups see as intrinsically evil, and partly due to US support for Israel, for which many Islamic groups of this nature have an almost irrational hatred. This hatred is easily spread in areas, like Afghanistan and the Tribal areas of Pakistan, where there is large scale poverty and ignorance, and where there is the absence of democratic tradition or where the nature of the society does not encourage diverging points of view.

It seems to have been Paul Wolfowitz, an important figure in the hierarchy of the White House (now the Deputy Secretary of Defence), who first applied this to the middle east several years ago, shortly after the revolution in Iran. At about that time, he was joined by Donald Rumsfeld, the present US Secretary of Defence, in formulating an American approach to this problem. As this theory goes, the key to peace in the middle east is the instituting of a democratic and capitalist society, where pluralism and divergent points of view are encouraged. A haven, if you will, for democrats throughout the area.

Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld realized that one way of fighting the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the Middle and Near east would be to change the societies that gave rise to this kind of desperation. It had become, in military terms, a strategic necessity to address the issues of hunger, poverty, disease, oppression, greed and abuse, before the people surviving in those conditions looked to the west and attacked it, either out of rage and frustration, or out of some other, less definable motivations.

For the originators of this strategy, the real enemy isn't Islamic fundamentalism. The real enemies are poverty, ignorance, greed and oppression - and in this I am certain that many people would agree with them. Where there is a difference, however, is in the approach. These strategists see the formation of a democratic and economically successful society as the key to their plans, and there are a number of reasons why other countries are less suited to this kind of social engineering than Iraq. Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia have never been democratic, and, in addition, any such action in Saudi Arabia is fraught with risk, given the importance of Mecca and Medina to Muslims.

Other countries have similar problems - Yemen is too remote, Jordan is landlocked and difficult to get to, Pakistan has nuclear arms, Iran isn't wealthy enough to ensure economic success, Afghanistan is too poor and too remote. The key to all of this is Iraq. Once the US had completed military operations to settle Afghanistan, the attention turned, almost naturally, to Iraq. For the US, this was a way of addressing the strategic threat that poverty, ignorance, greed and oppression pose to the United States, and they felt that the sooner action was taken, the better.


In 1998, when the UN withdrew from inspections in Iraq (due to US air raids), Iraq still possessed, by UN count several thousand liters of biological weapons, as well as various nerve gasses. Iraq had also been working on a nuclear weapons program, which was in abeyance after the Israelis destroyed the Iraqi nuclear reactor. There is no question that Iraq once possessed Weapons of Mass destruction (hereafter WMD), and was prepared to use them, as she had during the Iran - Iraq war between 1985 and 1988, or against separatist Kurdish tribesmen.

The issue of WMD was seized upon by Washington to justify a war against Iraq. While there may have been other reasons, the key issue became WMD, and was settled on by Washington as the reason for the war on Iraq.

Here's part of a transcript from an interview with Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, which illustrates the points made previously

Wolfowitz The truth is that for reasons that have a lot to do with the U.S. government bureaucracy we settled on the one issue that everyone could agree on which was weapons of mass destruction as the core reason, but -- hold on one second --


Kellems Sam there may be some value in clarity on the point that it may take years to get post-Saddam Iraq right. It can be easily misconstrued, especially when it comes to --

Wolfowitz -- there have always been three fundamental concerns. One is weapons of mass destruction, the second is support for terrorism, the third is the criminal treatment of the Iraqi people. Actually I guess you could say there's a fourth overriding one which is the connection between the first two. Sorry, hold on again.


Wolfowitz To wrap it up.
The third one by itself, as I think I said earlier, is a reason to help the Iraqis but it's not a reason to put American kids' lives at risk, certainly not on the scale we did it. That second issue about links to terrorism is the one about which there's the most disagreement within the bureaucracy, even though I think everyone agrees that we killed 100 or so of an al Qaeda group in northern Iraq in this recent go-around, that we've arrested that al Qaeda guy in Baghdad who was connected to this guy Zarqawi whom Powell spoke about in his UN presentation.

Q So this notion then that the strategic question was really a part of the equation, that you were looking at Saudi Arabia --

Wolfowitz I was. It's one of the reasons why I took a very different view of what the argument that removing Saddam Hussein would destabilize the Middle East. I said on the record, I don't understand how people can really believe that removing this huge source of instability is going to be a cause of instability in the Middle East.

The world was told that Iraq possessed WMD, and was preparing to use them, and that these WMD posed a direct threat to the west. There were, as the above quote illustrates, also suspicions that Iraq was harboring Al Qaeda operatives; but this was never really seized upon by the US administration as a causis belli. In terms of a Just War, either WMD (a direct threat to the west) or Hussein's own brutality could conceivably be given as "Just Cause".

In terms of a just war, the reasoning was that the west was faced by a clear and direct threat, and that military action should be taken immediately. The United States, together with the United Kingdom, started putting pressure on the United Nations to pass a resolution calling for inspections of Iraqi WMD sites, with some sort of deadline for compliance, and demands that the resolution require Iraq's full compliance in inspections of its WMD programs.

Late last year, UN Security Council 1441 was passed, calling for weapons inspections under a UN mandate, for full compliance by Iraq with the weapons inspectors, and requiring that the weapons inspectors report back to the UN Security council, who would decide what action to take next. The United States and the United Kingdom started applying pressure on the UN and Iraq, insisting that deadlines be made shorter and that the weapons inspectors work faster. In the beginning of this year, war became inevitable.

It is interesting to note, at this stage, the almost world wide opposition to the war, from many countries and from people in all walks of life. In South Africa, although there was some support for the war in the white community, I have seldom seen an issue that so united people. It is morally significant that the US and the UK were going against the voice of the people, and claiming that the protestors were deluded. While the voice of the people is not always right, it is significant that large numbers of people from many different cultures all believed that it was the US and the UK who were in the wrong, not the UN and Iraq.


The Roman Catholic response, from both lay people and the Church itself, mirrored the widespread opposition to the US and UK actions and threats. There were a few articles written by Roman Catholics in support of the war, some of them containing some very complex theology. But, in general, the Church as a whole opposed the war.

The most important opposition came from the Holy Father himself. The following quote illustrates his attitude

From the Pontiff's address to the Diplomatic Corps, 13 January 2003 (Appendix II)

"NO TO WAR"! War is not always inevitable. It is always a defeat for humanity. International law, honest dialogue, solidarity between States, the noble exercise of diplomacy these are methods worthy of individuals and nations in resolving their differences. I say this as I think of those who still place their trust in nuclear weapons and of the all-too-numerous conflicts which continue to hold hostage our brothers and sisters in humanity. At Christmas, Bethlehem reminded us of the unresolved crisis in the Middle East, where two peoples, Israeli and Palestinian, are called to live side-by-side, equally free and sovereign, in mutual respect. Without needing to repeat what I said to you last year on this occasion, I will simply add today, faced with the constant degeneration of the crisis in the Middle East, that the solution will never be imposed by recourse to terrorism or armed conflict, as if military victories could be the solution. And what are we to say of the threat of a war which could strike the people of Iraq, the land of the Prophets, a people already sorely tried by more than twelve years of embargo? War is never just another means that one can choose to employ for settling differences between nations. As the Charter of the United Nations Organization and international law itself remind us, war cannot be decided upon, even when it is a matter of ensuring the common good, except as the very last option and in accordance with very strict conditions, without ignoring the consequences for the civilian population both during and after the military operations.

The Holy Father mirrored the thoughts and feelings of very many people, not only Roman Catholics, when he highlighted the unwillingness of the US and the UK to neither work within the boundaries of international cooperation, nor exhaust all methods of solving the crises.


By the second half of February / first half of March, the calls for war from the US and the UK had become more strident, as had the threats of unilateral action and the insistence that Iraq was not complying with the terms of UN resolution 1441. This was despite the leader of the weapons inspection team, Hans Blix, reporting that co - operation was satisfactory or improving, and that, in the final week before the war, the Iraqis had started destroying SCUD missiles (also banned under the UN embargo). Mr Blix complained that the US and the UK were not sharing information with him on the location of WMD, and it seems that this did not improve as time went by. By the beginning of March, the US and the UK had some 270 000 soldiers stationed in Kuwait, with special forces troops operating inside Iraq already. Sadly, war now became inevitable.

At the beginning of March, the US and the UK started applying pressure for the UN Security Council to pass a new resolution on Iraq. They wanted this resolution to provide for an automatic authorization of war - something which the rest of the Security council, especially France and Russia, were opposed to. Even China, who normally remains abstains from Security Council resolutions, announced that she would oppose any such resolution.

Failing to justify their case to the UN Security council, the US and the UK didn't even put it to the test of a democratic vote, but proceeded forthwith with the invasion of Iraq.

It is important to understand the effects of this action has had on the United Nations. There has, for many years and lasting through different US Governments, been a general antipathy to the United Nations from the United States. This has intensified since the end of the Cold War and the collapse of Communism. The US, generally, views the UN as a refuge for dictatorships and left wing ideologies, ineffective at addressing real issues around the world,. slow to make decisions, and reluctant to enforce those decisions. The recent election, for example, of Libya to the Human Rights chair of the UN precisely illustrates all that many in the US view as being wrong with the UN.

However, the UN is not viewed as such in the rest of the world, particularly in the Third World. These are countries that are often still recovering from the effects of the proxy wars fought between the US and the Soviet Union, which have very often been left impoverished by the conflict that has affected them for so long. In terms of humanitarian aid alone, the UN occupies a very soft spot in the hearts and minds of many in the third world.

The reason for the founding of the UN was not to give the strong a platform to exercise their power; but was a community of nations united to protect the weak from the power of the strong. By willfully going against both the Security Council's decision, the US has destroyed the institution that it helped to set up during the Second World War. More importantly, by showing the world that it (the US) is prepared to exercise its power against the weak, without recourse to international diplomacy, the US has made the world a more dangerous place. The foundation of international relations since the Congress of Vienna, which ended the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, has been a system of alliances and checks and balances. There is nothing to protect the weak against the US, and this means that nations would do well to arm themselves in case the US does decide to exercise its power.

Finally, the argument and vituperation between the United States and the United Kingdom, on one side, and France, Germany, and Russia on the other, has called into question the way the United States intends conducting its foreign affairs from now on. In the case of the United States, she abrogates the right to take unilateral action as she sees fit, without any recourse or heed to what others may think. This is so even in the event of her having previously agreed to follow certain procedures - as happened in the case of the Security Council debate. In other words, the United States reserves to itself the right to make agreements and not to honor them.

It is difficult to see how this can bring peace to the world, unless by "peace" is meant American world wide hegemony. No nation can afford to commit itself to agreements with any entity who makes no commitment to the process, or to honoring that agreement. Furthermore, recent events (the G 8 summit, the gathering of world leaders in St Petersburg) have not resolved any issues between opposing sides. The democracies of the world have no agreement on dispute resolution, and no commitment to follow a multilateral, rather than a unilateral road to peace. It is of little use President Bush saying that "the leaders of the free world are united in the war against terror", if there is no agreement as to how it should be conducted, and no agreement on how disputes should be settled.

By taking such unilateral action against an organization that they themselves had set up, and a process that they themselves designed and agreed to, the US and the UK have destroyed the UN.


The conduct of the war was nothing to remark on - for a war, that it. Civilian casualties were light, if one compares this war to other wars, and I believe that the coalition did try to limit civilian death and hardship.

The war itself was, however, remarkable for a few things.

The collapse of civil infrastructure after the fall of various cities was to be expected. However, and far more seriously, the failure of tha coalition (especially the US) to restore civil order, a problem which I understand is ongoing, six weeks after the fall of Baghdad, has severe consequences for the Iraqi people, and calls into question one of the minor justifications for the war - the freeing of the Iraqi people from the rule of a corrupt and evil despot.


A particular feature of the war on Iraq has been the coalition's inability to find any WMD or, indeed, any evidence that Iraq possessed WMD. The search for WMD has now gone on for 45 days, with coalition forces in control of all of the country. Of the 900 sites believed to be WMD sites, some 300 have been searched, to no result. The coalition had control of the air from the early days of the war, they had special forces troops on the ground in Iraq searching for WMD, they had access to electronic intelligence, human intelligence, defectors and, increasingly, captured or surrendered Iraqi officials of various rank, including people who had been working on the WMD programs.

The failure to actually discover any WMD raises some very interesting questions. It either represents a total failure of western intelligence services, or the political leaders of the US and UK twisted the available data to suit their own interpretation of the situation, or it was a blatant lie by those same leaders. In any event, it represent either incompetence, or foolishness, or venality and pride. The one thing that they themselves stressed during the run - up to the war has not been found; nor has any credible evidence of WMD been found. This was indeed the one thing that could have made some justification of this war possible. However, with every passing day, the likely hood of any such weapons being found becomes more remote.


The coalition response has been to insist, somewhat stridently, that WMD will be found. However, as time passes, their arguments, more and more, lack any substance. A marked change in the justification for the war began, and was continued, shortly after the war began. Instead of becoming a war to disarm Iraq of its WMD, it became "Operation Iraqi Freedom", a war to liberate the Iraqi people. The justification has now become the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein, with the emphasis being placed on the "new life for all" that the Iraqis will soon be enjoying.

This is a disingenuous argument. The coalition leaders stressed Iraq's actual possession of WMD, the threat this posed to the world, and the UN's failure to disarm Iraq as reasons for taking unilateral action. The key to all of this is Iraqi possession of WMD. Furthermore, to claim some justification for freeing the Iraqi people is, as the interview with Paul Wolfowitz shows, not high on the US agenda at all - in fact, I would say that it formed a very small or no reason for the war on Iraq.


So, what conclusions can we come to regarding the sins committed during the Iraq war? Firstly, let us examine whether the war itself was just or not, using the definition given by the US Catholic Bishop's Conference :

Well, as far as Just Cause goes, the interview with Paul Wolfowitz makes it clear that the suffering of the Iraqi people was only a marginal intention for the war on Iraq. Had Weapons of Mass Destruction been found, then there may have been a just cause in disarming Iraq, although even that would be open to doubt. In fact, there is some reason to believe (especially with the non - discovery of WMD) that it is in fact the coalition who are the agressors.

As far as I understand it, there was no injustice suffered by the American or British people that could be linked to Iraq at all.

  • The legitimate authority in this case was the United Nations, so the United States and Great Britain acted without the sanction of the legitimate auithority.

    Well, what was the intention? To liberate the Iraqi people? To disarm Iraq? Those would be the only two intentions, I believe, that would be acceptable under this definition. However, even if the intention was to disarm Iraq and the coalition forces found WMD, it is clear from the explainations above that the intention was to protect and serve American strategic interests, and that the democratization of Iraq was one side effect of that. I would venture to say that if the United States was satisfied that a dictator would bring peace to the region, they would support him - as the US has previously done to Hussein and is presently doing in Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

    The first section where the war may be said to be just. While the display of coalition firepower was awesome, it was nothing special in terms of warfare. I do not believe that overwhelming force was used - there were fewer cruise missiles used than, for example, during the first Gulf War in 1991.

    Is civil disorder as the result of the use of force counted as part of the destruction resulting from that use? I would say so. I would then add that the US and UK failure to establish the rule of law or to protect the Iraqi people from the chaos that inevitably results from war represents a very grave failure to limit the effects of destruction that result from the use of force.

    No matter how much any of the other points is argued, coalition action in Iraq as a just war fails on this point alone. By their failure to use the agreed upon procedures, and their failure to allow the UN weapons inspections to complete their course, the coalition took action some time before all peaceful alternatives had been exhausted.

    As far as the conduct of the war is concerned, I believe the biggest failure of the coalition forces has been in terms of right intention.

    (From the Catholic Bishops' Conference definition)

    In this sense, the war has not been fought justly because of coalition failure to protect the Iraqi people amidst the collapse of their civil structures. So both in terms of the just war, and in terms of a war justly fought, the war on Iraq cannot, in my view, be said to be a just war. At least, not in terms of Roman Catholic doctrine - and I suspect not in terms on international law either.

    I am not sure what sin it is to fight an unjust war. I suspect that a whole bunch of sins have been committed. If the war itself is unjust, then at the very least, the US and the UK can be said to be guilty of murder. But I am sure that there are many others - coveteuosness (of the land of Iraq) and pride (that the US and the UK feel that they can override international opinion and are right) are the two I can think of immediately.

    There is one sin in particular that I would like to highlight, because I believe that it is the one that will have the longest lasting and most severe results. This is the breaking of the trust relationship that occurred when the US and the UK took unilateral action and acted outside the UN's mandate. For any country to do this, except in exceptional circumstances, is bad - but for the leaders of the free world to do it is a very grave injustice indeed. In many places in the Bible, it is noted that higher standards of behaviour are expected from the shepards of the flock, and I believe that the leaders and instigators of this act will be severely called to account.

    There are religious implications to this unilateral action that go beyond the waging of an unjust and aggressive war. The salvation history is a history of peoples coming together, of salvation and community being extended to more and more people, of the death of exclusivity, race, and all the things that divide us. As imperfect as it was, the United Nations was one expression of this move among God's creation towards a kingdome here on earth. By taking the action that they have, the US and the UK have directly attacked one of the key principles of salvation communities, and have simultaneuosly broken the trust relationship that states had been forming and working on since the 1815. I am not sure what sin this is, but feel that it is probably a very grave one indeed.

    Tim Ledgerwood
    Cape Town, South Africa
    June 2003


    A statement by the United States Catholic Conference, November 1993.

    The just-war tradition consists of a body of ethical reflection on the justifiable use of force. In the interest of overcoming injustice, reducing violence and preventing its expansion, the tradition aims at

    (a) clarifying when force may be used,
    (b) limiting the resort to force and
    (c) restraining damage done by military forces during war.

    The just-war tradition begins with a strong presumption against the use of force and then establishes the conditions when this presumption may be overridden for the sake of preserving the kind of peace which protects human dignity and human rights.

    In a disordered world, where peaceful resolution of conflicts sometimes fails, the just-war tradition provides an important moral framework for restraining and regulating the limited use of force by governments and international organizations. Since the just-war tradition is often misunderstood or selectively applied, we summarize its major components, which are drawn from traditional Catholic teaching.

    First, whether lethal force may be used is governed by the following criteria

    Second, the just-war tradition seeks also to curb the violence of war through restraint on armed combat between the contending parties by imposing the following moral standards (jus in bello) for the conduct of armed conflict