Challenging Dr. James Dobson And His Just War Theory

A friend from Colorado, a lay minister, spends a lot of his spare time listening to Christian Radio. He became quite upset when listening to a program from Dr. James Dobson and his Focus on the Family show. My friend’s concern was the inference, made on the show, that anyone who did not support George W. Bush and the war in Iraq was most obviously a liberal. My friend contacted Focus on the Family by email and received an answer that is printed below. When I saw the answer he received, I felt compelled to question the rationale listed for the war for Dr. Dobson by his agent, Mr. Masters. I emailed my response, also listed below to Mr. Masters. I have yet to receive a reply.

Reply from Focus on The Family

Dear Mr. King,

Thank you for writing to Focus on the Family. Your interest in our ministry is appreciated, and we’re pleased to have this opportunity to respond to your questions and concerns.

We were sorry to learn that you took offense at the title and content of Terry Phillips’s CITIZENLINK article, "Left Says Iraqi War Unbiblical." In response to the points you’ve made, I think it is fair to say that Mr. Phillips never meant to imply that anyone who disagrees with President Bush should be labeled a "leftist." Instead, he was merely pointing out that the vast majority of those religious leaders who have criticized the war in Iraq do represent a liberal perspective on biblical and theological as well as social and political issues. This, as far as it goes, is a matter of plain fact.

Where the Iraqi conflict itself is concerned, Dr. Dobson wants it known that his feelings on the subject are intense and deeply held. He realizes that there are many American Christians who do not share his point of view. Nevertheless, his own position is absolutely non-negotiable. As an adherent of the classic Augustinian "just war" theory, he is convinced that this is a case where the biblical and theological justifications for the use of force are fairly obvious. You may be right in asserting that the U.S. invasion of Iraq was not "defensive" in the strictest and most narrowly defined sense of the term. However, viewed within the larger context of the global War on Terrorism, the defensive nature of America’s pre-emptive strike against Hussein seems indisputable. Please don’t misunderstand. Dr. Dobson doesn’t like war and killing any better than you do, but he believes that this may be one of those moments in history when we are forced to settle for a trade-off: the lives of the few in exchange for the lives of the many. This is always tragic in the extreme; and yet we must face the fact that even more deaths and greater sufferings would probably have ensued if Saddam had been allowed to pursue his mad course of oppression, aggression, and self-aggrandizement.

We hope this reply has helped to clarify our position for you, Mr. King. Thanks again for taking the time to get in touch. Don’t hesitate to let us know if we can be of any further assistance. God bless you.

Mr. Timothy Masters Focus on the Family

My response to Focus On The Family


Mr. King sent me a copy of your response concerning what you and Dr. Dobson refer to as a "just" war in Iraq and I felt compelled to respond. It is my hope that you will take the points of contention against your assertions in the spirit in which they are offered. I would also strongly suggest that both you and Dr. Dobson take the time to review the 5 tenets of St. Augustine’s work on a "just war" theory.

In your email you stated:

Where the Iraqi conflict itself is concerned, Dr. Dobson wants it known that his feelings on the subject are intense and deeply held. He realizes that there are many American Christians who do not share his point of view. Nevertheless, his own position is absolutely non-negotiable.

Sir, do you mean regardless of any facts that might be presented, Dr. Dobson will not change his mind? I think that is the meaning of non-negotiable. I question anyone who has reached a point to where facts are ignored.

However, viewed within the larger context of the global War on Terrorism, the defensive nature of America’s pre-emptive strike against Hussein seems indisputable.

Sir, as one who has retired from many years of military service, I can assure you it is impossible to wage a war on a tactic. You cannot wage war on terrorism because you cannot define it nor is it confined to any one enemy. Governments desire to have its citizens in fear of something that cannot be defined or defeated. This leads to continual wars and suppressions of freedoms on that government’s citizens. A thorough study of Nazi Germany is rife with examples. As a matter of fact, waging an aggressive war was the first indictment against the Nazis at the Nuremberg trials. It was deemed to be even more egregious than their crimes against humanity!

As will be further demonstrated, there was nothing defensive about our strike against Saddam.

As an adherent of the classic Augustinian "just war" theory, he is convinced that this is a case where the biblical and theological justifications for the use of force are fairly obvious.

To understand your contention that this is a just war, one must examine the 5 essential tenets to a just war as stated by St. Augustine of Hippo.

Number 1.

Just Cause: War is justified “only by the injustice of an aggressor.” War is not justifiable ad vindicandas offensiones (to punish someone for offending behavior) but only ad repellendas injurias (to repel injury and aggression).

When one examines the alleged "injustice of the aggressor" in the Iraq war, Saddam Hussein, there appears there were a myriad of contradictions to the set of accusations as set forth by the Bush administration. It appears there were a whole series of prevarications that led to this war. Bush is currently blaming the CIA, but regardless he is the man in charge. It was his responsibility to check and double-check this information. Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski, a retired officer who worked in the Pentagon at the Middle Eastern affairs desk, and hardly a liberal, has stated that any evidence that did not conform to the desired intelligence needed to go to war with Iraq was routinely ignored. You might want to read up on the Office of Special Plans.

We know that one Ahmed Chalabi, an embezzler of huge amounts of money from Middle Eastern interests, and a man with aspirations of becoming ruler of Iraq, had been involved in feeding our government false information about Saddam for years. In so doing, he was enjoying the fruits of millions of dollars of US Taxpayer money. Now it is learned, that in fact, Chalabi was an agent for the Iranian government and was most likely feeding us false information so that we would depose the Shiites mortal enemy by war — none other than Saddam. Chalabi was also transferring some of our top-secret intelligence to the Iranians.

CIA and other government intelligence agency documents exist that have provided proof that it was not Saddam who gassed the Kurds, but more likely the Iranians. As a matter of fact the United States Army War College wrote a decision on this in the late 1980’s totally debunking the claim Saddam had ordered this gassing.

Ironically, it was the United States that provided Saddam with many of his chemical and biological weapons during the Iraq-Iran war.

If this contention alone is justification for war, then we should prepare ourselves for attacks by other countries, Mr. Masters. Was it not the US government that gassed its own citizens in a place called Waco? There could be no question about the evidence in this matter. It was broadcast for all to see by our own media networks.

Also consider this quote from AP/CBS by Bush himself

(CBS/AP) Distancing himself from remarks by Vice President Cheney, President Bush said Wednesday there was no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 — disputing an idea held by many Americans.

Considering all of the above, it would appear the first criteria for an "Augustinian just war" was certainly not met.

Number 2.

Right Intention: The objective of state violence must be to establish or to restore a just peace. The intention must not be mere vengeance or vendetta.

Would you go so far as to say now that we have established a "just" peace in Iraq? My intelligence from folks who are actually serving there in the US military tells an entirely different story. One would have to be beyond naïve to believe that the resistance we are meeting there is from a "few insurgents" as has been claimed by our government. If one is not ignorant of history, they would know that Arabs in the region do not acknowledge the borders that were arbitrarily established by the US and UK at the end of WWII. They believe those countries did not have the power to do so.

Mr. Masters, if we had the "right intention" in our invasion of Iraq, why was it necessary to bombard the American people with so many lies to justify this war?

As for vengeance or vendetta, one must remember the words of George W. Bush as he spoke of Saddam, “That guy tried to kill my Dad!”

Looks like tenet number 2 has not been met.

Number 3.

Comparative Justice and Proportionality: Parties to a conflict must limit their objectives to the relative gravity of the injury being redressed. Violence must not pass a point where it exceeds in injustice the original injury incurred.

Well, this one is a doozy, with the evidence of the tortures that took place at Abu Ghraib prison and elsewhere; we have certainly not met the requirements of this tenet. And it would be well to notice that the most egregious photos and acts that were perpetrated on the Iraqis have been kept from the American public by the government of this country.

Estimates vary as to the guilt of many of those being "detained" in Iraq. One of my former soldiers has told me that the majority of those being detained are for "DWI"-Driving while Iraqi! Has anything the Iraqi people done deserved this type of treatment, Mr. Masters? Would you call this Christian? Please take into consideration the tens of thousands killed by our bombings and economic sanctions. Would you welcome with open arms a country that had imposed an embargo on your nation that denied medicines and chemicals to clean water that led to the deaths of over 250,000 INNOCENT people, the majority being infants and elderly? Would you believe for a moment they actually cared about you having a “democracy” — when they did not care about your life?

Do the casualties we have inflicted on Iraq’s citizens exceed the number of casualties inflicted on America by Saddam? The answer to that question is obvious; as a matter of fact the US has inflicted more casualties on innocent life in Iraq than even Saddam ever did! Seems we have failed miserably tenet number 3!

Number 4.

Last Resort: Even when necessity demands it, war is a tragedy to be avoided at all costs, save justice. An offended nation must not rush to war, but must instead exhaust every peaceful means to secure justice, e.g., diplomatic negotiation and extended inspections, before resorting to physical combat. Augustine wrote that the greater glory in militarism was “merited not by killing men with swords, but by waging war with words, and by achieving peace by peace itself.”

Obviously, we would not receive a passing grade on number 4. Bush went to the UN to receive their endorsement for the war against Iraq; when they refused he went to war anyway. Then he said to the UN that the war was fought for them. Are you confused yet Mr. Masters?

Actually, had the President insisted that the Constitution he swore to uphold and defend be followed, perhaps the process of congress debating a formal declaration of war would have ferreted out all these lies about Saddam and Iraq and thousands of lives would have been saved. This kind of fits right in there with condition 4 of St. Augustine’s tenets doesn’t it?

Now, why would the President wish to circumvent the Constitution Mr. Masters? If you rationalize this away by saying in such cases it is acceptable — then you would accept any encroachment on that document if someone felt an urgent need, right?

Did we exhaust every peaceful means to secure justice? NO. Did Bush not order the UN inspectors out of Iraq prior to our beginning bombing? Where is the "greater glory" that Augustine speaks of in number 4? Have we achieved peace by peace itself?

No, Sir. We failed miserably on number 4 also.

Number 5.

Discrimination: While in any armed conflict non-combatant civilians are killed or wounded, warring states must do all in their power to prevent the direct killing, and to diminish the risks of the indirect killing, of innocent men, women, and children. The deliberate targeting of innocents would be a criminal act, even in an otherwise just war.

Need I say more than Abu Ghraib here, Mr. Masters? If these people were not innocent then why were so many released, AFTER the photographs came out? There is no evidence any of them had been convicted of anything.

To justify anyone’s support of the debacle in Iraq by quoting the tenets of Augustine’s just war principles would require a terrible distortion of the meaning of those tenets!

Could it be that the support of FoF in this debacle is because Bush declared himself a Christian and claimed to be doing "God’s work?" I would remind you that history reveals that Hitler himself referred to Germany in many of his speeches as a "Christian Nation" and referred to himself as a man of God-doing God’s will. Hey, Bill Clinton even went to church and carried a Bible.

In lieu of the evidence, so far presented for all to see — if one would only research — rather than listen to FOX news, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, it is evident that Saddam posed no threat to this country. He had not attacked or threatened any country with attack in over 12 years.

Even the invasion of Kuwait is filled with inconsistencies. Did not undersecretary of State, April Gillespie, tell Saddam that the US had no role to play in the middle east when Saddam went to her with the evidence that Kuwait was slant-drilling into Iraq for oil? What about the fabricated stories of Iraqis throwing babies from incubators? Did not a media relations firm connected to then-President Bush handle this for the Kuwait government? What about the bogus satellite photographs of Saddam massing forces on the border with Syria in order to bring them into the coalition?

If Saddam posed no threat, was not involved in 9/11 and did not gas the Kurds, then why would we even care if he had Weapons of Mass Destruction? Do we plan to invade Pakistan, India or Israel? They all possess such weapons.

Pakistan certainly does not have a democratic government and they have been known to harbor members of al-Qaeda. Did not the leader of Pakistan’s military, Lieutenant General Mahmoud Ahmad, (A US appointee) send a check for 100,000 dollars to Mohammad Atta, one of the 9/11 hijackers? This is much better direct evidence of a connection to 9/11 than we ever had against Saddam! Yet, we have not invaded Pakistan nor do I hear the folks at FoF demanding that invasion.

Mr. Masters, over the past three years, just exactly who is it that has been pursuing a "mad course of oppression, aggression, and self-aggrandizement?" Perhaps you have heard of the Patriot Act, the prisoners at Gitmo and one Jose Padilla. I know you have seen the pictures from Abu Ghraib and all the torture and humiliation brought upon Iraqis who have been convicted of no crime. Who appeared in a flight uniform and declared the war over, it would appear now very prematurely? Who has blamed everyone for the problems of this war and refused to accept any responsibility for his own actions?

I am certainly no liberal. I did not hold any high regard for John Kerry either. In fact, I think of him with a great deal of contempt. Kerry’s only attribute is that sometimes he made even Bush appear intelligent.

I look forward to your reply.

Respectfully, Michael Gaddy Cc: Mr. King