The Evils of the Iraq War Keep Coming

The Evils of the Iraq War Keep Coming January 4, 2011

At the time, it was clear that the just war conditions did not apply in Iraq. Most obviously, there was no way it was a last resort, and the arising “disproportionate” evils had the potential to be catastrophic. Alas, as the years pass, the true horror of these evils is still coming to light. We are witnessing the complete destruction of the Christian presence in Iraq, with the ancient and veritable church of the east facing extinction. Our Christian brothers and sisters live in terror, and fear for their lives, all because of that wicked war. As Bishop Warduni of Baghdad noted, “That the great saint Karol Wojtyla was right to condemn the war in Iraq. It created far more problems than it resolved. Given how it’s ended up, it would have been better not to intervene. The recourse to force has simply meant destruction, without producing any benefit for the country.”

The attack on churches has now even reached Coptic Egypt, after the Saints Cathedral in Alexandria was attacked by a Sunni extremist group called the ‘Islamic State of Iraq’. It is important to note that all shades of mainstream Muslim opinion in Egypt has condemned this attack, from the rector of Al-Azhar seminary, Ahmad al-Tayyib (one of the leading authorities in Sunni Islam), to the Muslim Brotherhood. The radicals responsible for the attack see local Christians as collaborators with the United States, a charge that could not be more false.

What I want to know is this: where are George Weigel and the Catholic neo-cons who gleefully cheerleaded this war, building all kinds of spurious justifications for it, and ignoring the stance of two popes on the issue? Should they not apologize for getting it so wrong? Do they feel no shame for what has been unleashed upon their Christian brothers and sisters? Sadly, Weigel is all-too predictable. He will surely blame these attacks on the nefarious Islamists, completely blind to the radical upheaval rendered by his war that made all this possible. I hope that some day, George and his friends will experience a change of heart.

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  • “He will surely blame these attacks on the nefarious Islamists”

    You mean he’ll lay blame for the attack on the attackers?

    • Zach – If you torment a man until he lashes out blindly, killing an innocent, who is to blame for the death?

      • That is or is not analogous, depending on what you mean by torment.

        • Zach – I would say that under any reasonable definition of “torment”, the analogy holds.

          The one question from 9/12/2001 that no one has ever seemed to want to answer is, “Why do they hate us?”

          Terrorism, especially terrorism which has some level of at least tacit support among a population, doesn’t just spring from nowhere.

          • Matt, I agree with you.
            The roots of terrorism are not all that hard to discern. They are to be found in the “endless trail of resentment and hatred” which soon becomes apparent when we return to that stark and eloquent question which arose from the wife of one of the victims in the twin towers of 9/11: “Why do they hate us so much?”

            It’s mostly about the history of American foreign policy.

            Empires tend to lay these poisonous toxins along their predictable rush to hegemony.

            It’s another case of the decline and fall of empire.

            When will we ever learn?

    • So you are ruling out any cooperation with evil aside from the most direct acting agent themselves? By this view, blame for abortion lies only with the woman and the doctor, and certainly not with those who put the legal framework in place that allows abortion, and absolutely under so circumstances could any blame whatsoever be imputed to those who adopt Weigelonian positions (cheerleading from the sidelines).

      • Bruce in Kansas

        During the violent turbulence of the US civil rights movement, there were some who held that things were better off for southern blacks by keeping the status quo ante. We certainly don’t blame civil rights policy makers like Robert Kennedy and their supporters for attacks by the KKK during the civil rights era.

        I certainly don’t speak for “Zach”, but it does not seem unreasonable to lay blame on those who actually commit violent attacks.

      • This is not what I was saying.

  • phosphorious


    The subject is IRAQ. WE are “the attackers” THEY are the defenders.

    If it helps, blame Obama for us being there, but please don’t pretend that we are the victims.

  • K

    Weigel has the abililty to arrive at a conclusion about the legitimacy of a particular war, and even if that conclusion differs from the one offered by John Paul II or Benedict XVI, it certainly isn’t evidence of “ignoring” such men. It’s evidence of disagreeing.

    Should he apologize for getting it wrong? It’s not apparent to him (and not only him) that he did.

    • Kelly,

      Would you say it is incumbent on Catholic proponents of the Iraq War to continue to address additional evils produced directly and indirectly by the war with the framework of the Church’s just war teaching? In other words, if they still hold the war to be just, do they have an obligation to explain why it continues to be just with each new evil that emerges or comes to light?

      • K

        Hi Kyle,

        It seems to me the rationale offered originally is one point of discussion, while the implementation of the war can be quite another. As to whether the war continues to be just, that is different then whether it was when it was in theory-mode, all of which makes Iraq a very complicated situation.

        A recognition of this complexity does not appear apparent in the author’s characterization of “gleefully cheerleading” the war, “building all kinds of spurious justifications” in its favour, and “ignoring the stance of two popes on the issue.”

        It’s not apparent to me that this is what happened.

  • doug

    I’m not going to in any way defend the invasion of Iraq, because it was a stupid thing to do. However I find some of the reasoning on this site equally troubling. If a person bombed an abortion clinic, would you blame Roe vs. Wade for creating the slaughter of a billion people worldwide, 50 million in the United States, and causing demographic suicide in the West? Of course not, no matter how angry or frustrated it might make someone. You would blame the bomber. And that would be where the blame lies. But not in this case, if there’s an opportunity to pin it on your political opposition. Yes, the invasion of Iraq was a stupid thing to do that had a horrible result. That said, bombers are guilty of their own bombings. The blame lies squarely with them.

    Muslim extremists have been attacking Christians long before the U.S. was involved in the Middle east. I had a history teacher in junior high whose grandmother fled the Armenian genocide despite Turkish denials that it took place, and Copts were being killed in Egypt even before the Gulf War. At one point the Ottomans considered exterminating the entire population of Coptic Christians. It has been an ongoing problem, and the Iraq war only provides a convenient pretext for what would be happening anyway.

    • I’m not sure this narrative really fits the facts. If I remember correctly, at the end of the Ottoman period, the Christian population of Istanbul was about 200,000, and now it is only 2000. This occurred under the aggressively secular Turkish nationalists, about as far from Muslim extremists as you can get. The same is true with the Armenian genocide. And as I noted in my last post, the Christian exodus from Palestine is being driven by the policies if the Israeli state. And yes, the Copts have faced persistent discrimination but were always an accepted minority. This Iraqi affiliated group represents a new and dangerous departure, and it can all be traced to the demons unleashed by the Iraq war. The Weigels of the world are the unwitting allies of these Islamic extremists, as they push for aggression over accommodation, and thus play into the lie that the Christians are a tool of the western invaders.

      As for your other point, culpability extends beyond the acting moral agent. As any moralist can tell you, there are degrees of cooperation with evil. If you give your car keys to a drunk, you are partially responsible for what might happen. And if you invade a country and unleash chaos, you are also responsible for this.

      • Also, see the abortion point I made to Zach. Funny how people like Weigel like to expand the circle of guilt when it comes to abortion, but shrink it dramatically when it comes to the murder of Christians in the middle east.

        • Thales

          Your abortion analogy can be distinguished: those who put in the legal framework that allows abortion and those who “cheerlead” abortion, have an intention in favor of the abortion structure. Even assuming that Weigel’s support for the Iraq war was immoral, Weigel doesn’t have an intention in favor of attacks on local Christians.

  • Could someone explain exactly what Weigel did to “cheerlead” the war? Thanks!

    • That’s easy. Weigel has left a long trail on neo-conish writing claiming that the Iraq war was just, and that the US has a mission to bring “freedom” to the world, and fight the “jihadists”. He’s Bill Kristof with a bit of Latin.

      He really hit the bottom of the barrel when he blamed the results of the 2008 election on “President Bush’s unwillingness to use the presidential bully pulpit to help the American people comprehend the stakes in Iraq”.

    • Morning’s Minion considers it an a priori truth that the Iraq War was unjust, and so anyone who attempted to make such an argument is an evil cheerleader possessed by demons.

      I don’t support the war in Iraq or Afghanistan; I also don’t support spurious reasoning driven by jealousy and intentional obfuscation.

      • Not a priori, a truth based on circumstances, extrinsic rather than intrinsic evil, but evil nonetheless.

  • I guess I’m a little unclear how this exercise in rhetoric is meant to accomplish anything other than the moral preening of those who were against the war.

    If Weigal at this point says he was wrong to have supported the war, given what he knows now, does that actually change anything, other than allowing MM to grin for a while? Does it save the lives of any people actually in the Middle East?

    Perhaps you would say that this would allow the US to pull out more rapidly, and that this would make the region more peaceful — but although it’s possible that Obama is waiting for the “all clear” from the war’s original supporters in order to pull entirely out, it’s also possible (indeed, I would think, more likely) that the moral calculus of pulling out is different than is the moral calculus of going in. It’s entirely possible that things would have been better had the US not invaded Iraq, and yet at the same time that it would be more destructive for the US to suddenly cease its support of the new Iraqi government rather than continuing to provide it with support.

    I guess I’m also a bit unclear as to whether every occurance of an evil associated with a war is necessarily an occasion on which those who supported it should apologize — even if that evil is totally unforseen and contrary to their wishes. For instance, John Paul II supported the military “peacekeeping” intervention in the Balkans. Should he thus have issued an official apology when the US accidentally bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, killing innocent people? Should the Vatican issue an official apology every time there is some crime or outrage in the Balkans which might possibly be traced back to the bad blood generated by the UN intervention?

    It’s certainly possible, perhaps even likely, that on the net the Middle East would have been better off have the Baathist dictatorship been left in place — or at least it would have allowed Westerners to more comfortably ignore what suffering occurred there (or blame it on Israel) on the theory that it wasn’t “their fault”. But it’s less clear to me what objective all the post-hoc preening achieves, other than stoking the egos of those involved.

    • This is not just a backward looking exercise. Weigel has not learned his lesson. Today, he is still calling for a more aggressive stance against Islam, and his highly critical of what he sees as the accommodationists in the Vatican secretariat of state. His neocon instincts display the same problems of all neocons. As I said, he’s basically Bill Kristol with a bit of Latin.