The Iraq War Was a Just War

The Iraq War began in Iraq on March 20, 2003, at about 5:30 a.m. In the U.S., it was still March 19. So that means that it was ten years ago today that the Iraq War began.

Although the Iraq War is now officially over, it actually ended three times.

The first time was on May 1, 2003, when President Bush announced – in front of a “Mission Accomplished” banner – that “the United States and our allies have prevailed” and “major combat operations in Iraq have ended.”

The second time was on August 31, 2010, when President Obama proclaimed that “the American combat mission in Iraq has ended” and “Operation Iraqi Freedom is over, and the Iraqi people now have lead responsibility for the security of their country.”

The third time was on December 15, 2011, when a flag-lowering ceremony was held at Baghdad International Airport in which Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said: “The cost was high – in blood and treasure for the United States and also for the Iraqi people, but those lives have not been lost in vain.”

I have argued for many years just the opposite – that those lives have been lost in vain (see “They Died in Vain” and “Why They Died in Vain“). But that’s not all. I have also said that the War in Iraq was immoral, unconstitutional, unjust, senseless, unholy, unnecessary, unscriptural, aggressive, offensive, and evil. I have also said that the U.S. troops killed in Iraq did not die for anyone’s freedoms; they died for a lie.

I wrote about the Iraq War on its third anniversary in 2006 (“Weapons of Mass Distraction“), its fourth in 2007 (“Four Years, Four Plans“), its fifth in 2008 (“Five Years and Counting“), its sixth in 2009 (“What Happened to the War?”), its seventh in 2010 (“The Forgotten War“), its eighth in 2011 (“When Will the Iraq War Really End?“), and its ninth anniversary in 2012 (“A Day of Dishonor“).

But now, on the war’s tenth anniversary, I have come to my senses: The Iraq War was a just war.

In its essence, just war theory concerns the use of force: when force should be used and what kind of force is acceptable. Thetiming of force relates to a country’s justification for the initiation of war or military action; the nature of force relates to how military activity is conducted once a country commits to use force. The principle of the just war is actually many principles, all of which must be met for a war to be considered just. A just war must have a just cause, be in proportion to the gravity of the situation, have obtainable objectives, be preceded by a public declaration, be declared only by legitimate authority, and only be undertaken as a last resort.

A war that is not justifiable is nothing short of mass murder. Killing in a war that is unjust or not a war of genuine self-defense is wholesale murder.

Therefore, above all, a just war is a defensive war. As G. K. Chesterton once said: “The only defensible war is a war of defense.” This is why I now say that the Iraq War was a just war. Even President Bush once said that the War in Iraq was a defensive war.

In fact, the Iraq War was such a just war that I see no need to write anything else about it again. No more articles on the anniversary of the war. No more articles about the origin of the war. No more articles about the duration of the war. No more articles about the cause of the war. No more articles about the morality of the war. No more articles about the cost of the war. No more articles about the architects of the war. No more articles about the effects of the war. These things are all so unnecessary because the Iraq War was a just war.

The Iraq War was a just war – if you were an Iraqi.

Iraq was not responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attacks – as the U.S. intelligence community briefed Bush ten days after September 11, 2001, and as Bush and Cheney eventually acknowledged.

None of the alleged 9/11 hijackers were from Iraq. And even if one or more of them were from Iraq, that still doesn’t justify the Iraq War. If an American citizen hijacked an Air France jet and crashed it into the Eiffel Tower, that wouldn’t justify France attacking the United States.

Claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction were just a ruse for war. The speech that then Secretary of State Colin Powell gave to the United Nations in 2003 in which he gave a detailed description of what turned out to be Iraq’s non-existent weapons programs was later said by Powell to be a permanent “blot” on his record and said by his chief of staff Lawrence Wilkerson to be “a hoax on the American people, the international community, and the United Nations Security Council.” According to the Duelfer Report – the final report on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction by the Pentagon and CIA organized Iraq Survey Group – Iraq had no deployable weapons of mass destruction on the eve of the U.S. invasion in March 2003, and had not produced any since 1991.

The Downing Street Memo (2002), which was made public in 2005, showed Bush’s long-standing intent to invade Iraq and his willingness to provoke Saddam Hussein into providing a pretext for war.

The necessity of going to war in Iraq was a lie from the very beginning. A student at the University of Illinois documented in 2004 twenty-seven rationales given for the Iraq war by the Bush administration, war hawks in Congress, and the media between 9/11 and the October 2002 congressional resolution to use force in Iraq. It was “the Bush administration, and the President himself” that “established the majority of the rationales for the war and all of those rationales that make up the most prominent reasons for war.” A report prepared by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform in 2004 (Iraq on the Record: The Bush Administration’s Public Statements on Iraq) showed that in 125 separate appearances, Bush, Cheney, Powell, Rumsfeld, and Rice “made 11 misleading statements about the urgency of Iraq’s threat, 81 misleading statements about Iraq’s nuclear activities, 84 misleading statements about Iraq’s chemical and biological capabilities, and 61 misleading statements about Iraq’s relationship with al Qaeda.” But even before these, Robert Sheer proved, in his 2003 book Five Biggest Lies Bush Told about Iraq, that every major assertion the Bush administration put forward to justify the invasion of Iraq was false.

Iraq was never a threat to the United States, and no Iraqi was ever a danger to an American, until Americans invaded and occupied Iraq. U.S. troops were not liberators, peacekeepers, or patriots; they were aggressors, destroyers, and mercenaries. Iraqis were perfectly justified in using whatever means were necessary to repel an invasion and resist an occupation – just like Americans would be fully justified in doing the same. If ever there was a just war, the Iraq War was a just war.