A few days ago Republican presidential contender John McCain called the Iraq war “necessary and just.” Let’s examine the just war theory to see if McCain’s statement holds water.
First formulated by St. Augustine some 1600 years ago and later refined by St. Thomas Aquinas, the just war theory specifies very strict principles that determine when Christians can engage in warfare. Here are four basic principles of the just war theory 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 non-violent 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 non-violent 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 the big oil companies to control oil prices. There is no such thing as a just war waged for the profits of the few.
Principle #4. The weapons used in the just war must discriminate between combatants and non-combatants.