4) Destabilizing and Changing International Alliances
Under Just War criteria, when weighing a military action, you also have to weigh whether it will destabilize neighboring countries or change international alliances in harmful ways.
Both have happened, in part, with the Iraq War.
For instance, insurgents throughout the Middle East are now forming alliances and fighting with the resistance movements in Iraq. Iran and Syria, according to a multitude of consistent reports, are aiding these insurgents financially and providing safe border conduits into Iraq.
As the resistance becomes more successful, it is galvanizing more and more support throughout the Arab World. Some of this support is further fueled by long-standing, anti-U.S. sentiment because of our military presence in Saudi Arabia, our extensive military backing of Israel, and our “westernized” intrusion through media and increased commerce on the traditional values and customs of many of these Middle Eastern countries. (See our position paper on Terrorism.)
Our administration would have also seriously factored in whether destabilizing Iraq might open the door to the sectarian violence we are graphically seeing today.
In Colorado Springs, Colorado, I interviewed Gene Schwarz who teaches a course titled: “Islam and the Situation in the Arab World.” He said it was common knowledge that the Sunnis and the Shiites looked at each other as religious apostates. And to destabilize Iraq could, indeed, lead to civil war.
In December of 2006, former Secretary of State Colin Powell said the United States is now losing a “civil war” in Iraq, according to a Washington Post article.
In a National Public Radio interview, Senator John Kerry said Sunnis (who are in the minority) should be equally favored for oil revenues and political power. President Bush is also recommending all in the Iraqi populace get a percentage of oil revenue.
As president, I would push for this as well. And propose several other things.
I would propose that, for a period of five years, every year the U.S. match these oil revenues as another away of amends for destabilizing and destroying so much of their country, including placing undue economic burden on almost all Iraqi citizens.
I believe more egalitarianism between the Sunnis and Shiites, the show of good faith on America’s part with more economic help across the board, and a step down of U.S. troops, would all work to de-escalate some of the tension.
Once the war has wound down, I would push for “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” (TRC) hearings throughout Iraq to deal with the aftermath. Cleveland, Ohio’s, Ed Horner told me this initiative was quite effective in stemming violence after Apartheid ended in Africa.
According to the encyclopedia Wikipedia, the TRC were court-like bodies assembled after Apartheid. Both victims and perpetrators could come forward to give testimony and request amnesty.
The commission was empowered to grant amnesty to those who committed abuses during the Apartheid era, as long as the crimes were politically motivated, proportionate, and there was full disclosure by the person seeking amnesty.
The commission brought forth many witnesses who gave testimony about secret and immoral acts committed by the Apartheid Government, the liberation forces including the African National Congress, and other forces for violence.
Horner said many people experienced tremendous catharsis during the hearings and churches from around the world had come to help counsel people in the ways of “forgiveness.”
This was generally reported as a success.
For more long-term peace in the region, I would propose initiatives like the grassroots “Ulster Project.” On a campaign swing through Northwest Ohio, I met with a host family who were involved with the “Ulster Project.” They explained that the tension and hatred in Northern Ireland has been brewing for centuries.
To help break the cycle in future generations, Ulster Project host families take in a Catholic youth and a Protestant youth from Ireland, and they live together for a year in an attempt to break down barriers and prejudices. It works, said the couple.
As president, I would propose a similar, say, “Baghdad Project” where host families took in a Sunni youth and Shiite youth to live together for a year. This is a tangible way to try to break trans-generational hate.
And this could work with host families being both United States families and Iraqi families.
(For more on these and other strategies to promote worldwide peace, see our position paper on the U.S. Department of Peace.)
5) What about Our Weapons of Mass Destruction?
There would also be a formal apology to Iraq for starting a pre-emptive war predicated on finding “weapons of mass destruction.”
Not only weren’t there weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but an even more salient point, I told the Circleville (OH) Herald, is: We have 10,000 weapons of mass destruction aimed all over the world!
“What if we let the weapons inspectors in Montana,” I posed to an ABC News reporter from Toledo.
This is such a striking duality.
That is, we are telling these, what we term “rogue” nations, that they can’t have weapons of mass destruction – while our nuclear arsenal is massive. (And the Bush administration has recently proposed spending billions to upgrade our nuclear missiles.)
Given all this, I said during a talk in Oberlin, Ohio, that outside of the U.S., “we must look like the biggest terrorist nation in the world at present.”
During a brief debate with former Secretary of State James Baker on a National Public Radio show (call in segment), I said common sense would indicate countries around the world would be racing to develop their own nuclear weaponry as protection against our threat.
As a show of good faith to Iraq, and the world in general, our administration would not only nix plans to upgrade our nuclear missiles; we would also propose a program for incremental, and unilateral, nuclear disarmament.
Omaha, Nebraska’s Fr. Tom McCaslin is a big proponent of this.
During a campaign stop in Omaha, Fr. McCaslin, who is the former Social Action Coordinator for the Omaha Diocese, said to me that we’ve funneled billions and billions of dollars in nuclear weaponry – while thousands of little children starve to death in the Third World, every day.
During an interview on WHTV Radio in Steubenville, Ohio, I said I wondered if God would consider a country that pumped billions of dollars into nuclear weapons to feel safe, while little children starved to death, as part of the “axis of evil?”
And during a talk to a youth group in Lake City, Florida, I said our administration would be tremendously focused on making “war” on things like World Hunger.
6) No to Depleted Uranium Munitions
Another duality (tragic irony) is that in looking for weapons of mass destruction, we are using limited weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
That is, we are using depleted uranium tipped armor piercing bullets and bombs.
According to a Toledo Blade article just after the start of the Iraq War, Science Editor Michael Woods wrote that depleted uranium is radioactive and formed as a byproduct in production of fuel for commercial nuclear power reactors and nuclear weapons material.
At the time of the article, Iraq was expressing concern about long-term civilian health in that country because of the use of depleted uranium.
And they were expressing it with good reason, according to Ohio Northern University Professor Ray Person. He is on the advisory board for the relatively new Global Association for Banning Depleted Uranium Weapons (GABDUW).
At a talk I attended on the subject, Professor Person said that during the 1991 Persian Gulf War, U.S. munitions released more radiation than the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, leaving a silent trail of horror.
Professor Person explained that when one of these uranium-depleted bullets pierces a tank, or a bomb penetrates a steel bunker, at the point of impact, 70 percent of the projectile’s radiation is released into the atmosphere.
Professor Person said some 300 tons of uranium were dispersed throughout Iraq, the first time.
He continued that besides the radiation now in the water and soil in Iraq from the depleted uranium, there are still highly radioactive bullets, shells and abandoned tanks lying about the region. The uranium’s half-life: 4.5 billion years.
Professor Person said this has led to a tremendous increase in cancer in Iraq. He said statistics show that in the small town of Basra, Iraq, for instance, the cancer death rate has increased “17 fold,” from 34 deaths in 1988 to 538 in the year 2000. And this increase seems to be playing itself out across the region.
As with the aftermath of the atomic bombing in Japan, babies are being born in Iraq with multiple birth defects and many young children are developing leukemia, said Professor Person. (And because of the sanctions, many of these children have had little, or no, medical aid.)
Again, this data deals with the aftermath of the first Gulf War, which was relatively short. The current Iraq War has been quite lengthy with regular use of depleted uranium munitions usage again.
The long-term effects to the health of the Iraqi people could be catastrophic, given the data from the first studies. (And there have also been articles written about the potentially negative effects of U.S. military handling the depleted uranium munitions as well.)
Our administration would immediately get behind the drive to ban depleted uranium munitions.
We would also urge providing as much long-term medical funds and medical personnel help to a populace that could be plagued for generations with the effects of this radiation contamination.
In the Toledo Blade article referenced earlier in this section, Col. James Naughton, director of munitions for the Army Material Command responded to a question about the depleted uranium:
“The Iraqis tell us terrible things happened to our people because you used it last time,” Col. Naughton said. “Why do they want it (depleted uranium munitions) to go away? They want it to go away because we kicked the crap out of them – OK?”
Our administration would take a tremendously dim view of such a response.
Also according to the Just War criteria: “Every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and man… A danger of modern warfare is that it provides the opportunity to those who possess modern scientific weapons – especially biological, chemical or atomic weapons.”
Given the “atomic” nature of depleted uranium munitions, and the potential long-term effect in the cities of Iraq, the use of these munitions would in no way line up with Just War criteria.
Note: In Canfield, Ohio, I interviewed Terry Martin who is involved with the “Children of Chernobyl” project. He and his wife have been a host family for four years. Each summer they have taken in Alexei Bogdonik. His family lives 20 miles from the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant – the area is still quite radioactive. The boy’s mother died of cancer, and each year when he gets here, Martin said the boy is “ashen white.” However, after eight weeks here, Martin said the boy is “full of color,” his immune system having time to heal.
As president, I would propose a similar “Children of Iraq” program for children who are living in the aftermath of this depleted-uranium, radioactive war zone.
7) Iraqi Refugee Dilemma
Another exponentially growing humanitarian issue is the exodus of Iraqi refugees.
There are an estimated 60,000 to 90,000 fleeing Iraq each month. Until recently, the Bush Administration had planned to resettle only 500 Iraqi refugees in the U.S. this year (2007), according to a New York Times article.
The Times also noted: “Some critics say the Bush Administration has been reluctant to create a significant refugee program because to do so would be tantamount to conceding failure in Iraq.”
Our administration would push to welcome many more Iraqis.
And we would stand in solidarity.
The day the invasion started in Iraq, I told the Lima (OH) News that I was opposed to the war because of the humanitarian domino effect that could ensue.
Later in the day, during an open-microphone community service at First Mennonite church in Bluffton, Ohio, I said that now that the bombs were falling, refugees would start fleeing, some initially into refugee camps, and the like.
I continued that the problem for the average American is that we will watch this whole war process rather antiseptically on television in the comfort of our own temperature controlled homes. So consequently, there isn’t much impetus to protest or to help.
I said that maybe what we should be doing for Iraq (Afghanistan, Palestine…) is putting up tents in our own yards – and living in solidarity.
That night our family put up a tent at the Bluffton College campus with students and town citizens who were standing in solidarity (and trying to raise funds for homes) with some 13 million refugees around the world.
As president there would be a tent on the White House lawn. And my family and I would be, at times, sleeping in it.
Note: A bulk of Iraqi refugees will naturally remain in the Middle East. As president, I would propose a division within the State Department to help them with the transition to another country, or to help them eventually resettle in Iraq. As stated above, I would also propose relaxing immigration rules for those Iraqis wanting to settle in the U.S.
8) On the Ground in Baghdad
Duluth, Minnesota’s Michelle Noar-Obed said she, too, is concerned about the use of depleted uranium munitions in Iraq, as she is concerned about a good number of issues in Iraq.
She has been to Iraq four times as part of Christian Peacemaker Teams. Her last trip was in 2006. She went to the streets of Baghdad.
Ms. Noar-Obed said the infrastructure was heavily damaged, the terror and general tension was off the charts and the majority of the sentiment toward the American government, and the American people, had devolved to “hate.”
She said the majority of Iraqis now see the U.S. as “occupiers” with alternative motives. And the U.S. presence has sparked increasing resistance backlash and civil war – putting the whole populace in jeopardy.
Ms. Noar-Obed said she believes (as do many) that part of our motivation, if not a lot of our motivation, is that the U.S. wants to control Iraq’s oil. She said the world had reached “peak oil” and it was going to become an increasingly precious resource.
I had recently attended a conference at Antioch College where experts from around the country said the world had, indeed, reached peak oil production and in declining years, nations would be scrambling to obtain as much as possible.
Ms. Noar-Obed pointed to the “Project for the New American Century” as evidence that part of the motivation in going to Iraq was for the oil and to increase our military presence in the Middle Eastern region to protect our “interests.”
According to the encyclopedia Wikipedia, the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) is a U.S. political, neo-conservative think tank based in Washington D.C. In 1997 it was established as a non-profit organization with the goal of promoting US global leadership.
Present and former members include prominent members of the Republican Party and the Bush Administration, including Jeb Bush, Dick Cheney, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, former U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz…
If, in fact, part of the U.S. motivation for being in Iraq is to control the oil, this would be in direct conflict with Just War Principle as well.
Part of the criteria reads: “One cannot go to war simply to expand one’s sphere of influence, conquer new territory, subjugate peoples, or obtain wealth (natural resources). One can only go to war to counter aggression.”
Gene Schwarz (mentioned earlier), who teaches about Islam and the Arab World, said he is convinced that America went to Iraq for the oil and not weapons of mass destruction. He said America needed to assure itself of more of a source of oil in the Middle East and that we would be welcomed as “liberators” (after the Iraq War). This would then give us, in effect, “free access to oil,” Schwarz asserted.
Note: Ms. Noar-Obed said another consistent dynamic she observed on her last trip to Baghdad was the erosion of trust between neighbors there. She said because of the war, many people in Baghdad were living in desperate poverty. Overlaid on this, the U.S. is offering rewards for information leading to the arrest of al Qaida suspects. So now it is not uncommon, she continued, for a neighbor to turn another neighbor in, even if they have no affiliation with the resistance. Ms. Noar-Obed said this is creating even more tension in the neighborhoods.
9) New Guidelines for Torture?
As the last scenario could be considered mental torture, in this war (and in the “War on Terror” in general), the Bush administration has opened the door for torture, which had been playing out in “secret prisons” throughout Europe, according to reports.
This is in direct violation with Article 17 of the Geneva Convention: “No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion may be inflicted on a prisoner of war.”
The Bush administration has argued that the insurgents in Iraq, and terrorists in general, are not “war combatants.” And thus, Article 17 does not apply.
Our administration would look at suspected terrorists as war combatants and we would hold to Article 17.
So would Winona, Minnesota’s Mike Leutgeb-Munsen.
I talked with him shortly after a trip he’d taken to Washington D.C. in January 2007, to protest torture and illegal detainment of terrorist suspects (including some from Iraq) at the U.S. Guantanamo Bay prison facility.
Leutgeb-Munsen said he is adamantly opposed to torture. He said that not only is it cruel and an affront to a person’s human dignity; but it also tears at the fabric of community-building between nations, creating even more international animosity.
As an example, the pictures of torture and degradation coming out of the Abu- Ghraib Prison scandal in Iraq, inflamed many in the Arab world and galvanized even more hate toward the United States.
According to the paper “The Iraq Quagmire” by America’s Institute of Policy Studies, with the U.S. violating the Geneva Convention in regard to torture, it will make it more likely that in the future, other nations will also ignore these Geneva protections in their treatment of civilian populations and detainees.
And this is just one of many issues that the paper raises.
10) Costs to the World
“The Iraq Quagmire” paper also points out that the focus on Iraq has diverted international resources and attention away from humanitarian crisis such as in Sudan. (What is happening in Sudan is now consistently being labeled as genocide.)
In Americus, Georgia, I interviewed Felix Lohitai. (He was here on an Earlham College (Indidana) trip to look at American Civil Rights history.) Lohitai fought with the resistance movement in Sudan. He and his family eventually became refugees.
Lohitai said the cycle of oppression and violence in the Sudan was unrelenting and extreme. He is currently a Peace Studies major at Earlham who wants to take what he is learning (in the way of peace building and reconciliation strategies) back to his people.
“The Iraq Quagmire” also points out that the $204.4 billion (2004 figure) spent on the war could have cut world hunger in half and covered HIV/AIDS medicine, childhood immunization and clean water and sanitation needs of the developing world for almost three years. By mid 2006, the War figure had reached $320 billion.
On a campaign stop in Stephens Point, Wisconsin, University of Wisconsin Environmental Professor George Kraft told me the world is running out of fresh water because man is polluting, diverting and depleting it at a startling rate. However, way more funds could be marshaled to reverse this – if the money wasn’t being “diverted” for other things, like the Iraq War.
And as far as using some of this money to curb Third World poverty in general… In Colorado I listened to a talk by Kathy Darnell who had just returned from a humanitarian aid trip to Uganda. She said she stayed in a one-room hut with a mother and three children who all had AIDS. (The husband had already died of AIDS.) They cooked on an open fire outside the hut and slept on burlap bags on a dirt floor. And this is not the exception in this country, she said.
I said to the Range News in Arizona that part of my stance was based on Vatican II teaching about “Preferential Option for the Poor.” And I told the Cheyenne (WY) Eagle newspaper that that means I believe we should be making the poor (both in the United States, and worldwide) a top priority.
And again looking at the domino effect internationally, “The Iraq Quagmire” paper points out that the U.S.-led war and occupation in Iraq has galvanized international terrorist organizations, placing people, not only in Iraq, but around the world, at greater risk of attack.
In 2002 world military spending was $795 billion. With the skyrocketing costs of the war in Iraq, worldwide military spending soared to an estimated $956 billion in 2003 and in 2004 the figure spiked again to $1,035 trillion.
Again, this is money that could have been used to significantly help stem world hunger, disease, pollution…
11) Costs to the U.S.
Here in the U.S. the Iraq War is taking quite a toll as well. The Institute for Policy Studies reports that more than 210,000 of the National Guard’s 330,000 soldiers have been called up. Of these, some 30,000 small business owners alone have been called to service and are likely to be hurt economically because of their military deployment.
In the category of U.S. budget and social programs, the Institute for Policy Studies notes the $204.4 billion appropriated for the Iraq War (so far) could have provided: healthcare for 46,458,805 American citizens; 1,841,833 affordable housing units; 24,072 new elementary schools…
“The Iraq Quagmire” paper also notes that as of May 2005, stop-loss orders are affecting 14,082 soldiers. What’s more, long deployments and high levels of soldier’s stress extend to family life. In 2004, 3,325 Army officer marriages ended in divorce – up 78% from 2003.
This is coupled with the domino of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) playing out in military families, divorce or not.
According to “The Iraq Quagmire” paper, the Army’s Surgeon General reported that 30% of U.S. troops have developed stress-related mental health problems three to four months after coming home from Iraq.
In Cleveland, I talked with Chris Knestric whose father was a decorated Vietnam Veteran. Knestric said growing up he and his siblings were continually stressed by the father’s flashbacks, mood swings, anger… The marriage eventually broke up.
As a former mental health counselor, I’ve observed how PTSD can leave children stressed and angry. The trans-generational component is this stress turns into all sorts of anxiety disorders, and for instance, attendant alcoholism or drug abuse problems. As some of these children grow up, repressed anger issues also emerge and get vented in domestic violence, or violence on the streets.
So the long-term effect of war gets played out in many generations to come and tear at the fabric of family and society in general.
And finally, Veteran’s Administration Secretary Jim Nicholson projected that 103,000 U.S. troops would return home from Afghanistan and Iraq seeking medical care.
Our administration would work stridently to make sure veterans had as quality physical and mental health healthcare as possible.
However, we would have been more considered about going to war in the first place and putting them in a position where they would need this kind of care.
12) End Note
According to Gerard Powers, Director of Policies Studies at the University of Notre Dame, even though the Iraq War may not have been considered a “Just War,” the U.S. has a responsibility to help stabilize the country – and not abandon the Iraqi people.
In an interview with a Catholic newspaper in Cleveland, Ohio, he added that leaving the country to fend for itself in the midst of turmoil and violence, would be just as immoral as invading it.
And currently (as I write this in Jan. of 2014), there is a growing Al Qaeda / Taliban insurgency in Iraq. This has been escalating since NATO pulled out at the end of 2011. And in 2013 alone, there were 7,800 deaths (and many more injuries) from the escalating violence – as these groups try to take back the country.
[The carnage is widespread. An example: On Dec. 1, 2013, the Defense Minister of Iraq reported 948 people, including 852 civilians (including children), had been killed in violent attacks across the country in the previous month. People are dying of gun shots, car bombs, suicide bombers… And, again, this is escalating from month to month.]
Can you imagine if that was happening in the U.S.?
Once again, we destabilized Iraq (good intention, or not). And, as Professor Powers notes, we have a grave responsibility to help bring stability to that country on every level.
Our administration would attempt to send troops back in to try to establish peace. And we would send troops back in to continue to train Iraqi Security forces. (As I write this, the Iraqi government has yet to finalize a “Security Agreement” that would allow U.S. troops back for training purposes. However reports indicate some of this training is going on in Jordan, over the border.)
Our administration would also step up, exponentially, the work of the U.S. Defense Department’s “Task Force for Business and Stability Operations. Creating sustainable businesses and more jobs in general in Iraq is essential.
What’s more, we would also step up, exponentially, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to help farmers there become more sustainable. And some of this aid would also go to the Iraqi citizenry in general to help them become more sustainable across the board.
As mentioned earlier in the paper… A lot of youth, and others, are drawn to terrorist groups because they live in dead-end, abject poverty. And it would seem if you wanted to deal with a large part of this at its roots, addressing poverty in Iraq would be a common sense approach.
And how would we get the additional revenue to help on this level? We would propose raising taxes in America for this kind of increased foreign aid. And we would propose that beyond this, some Americans “donate” even more to the cause.
That is, the cause of helping make safe a country we helped make more unsafe – because, in part, we were worried about our own safety.
“Our administration proposes a U.S. Department of Peace. When we get to really know people, we’re not as apt to bomb them, and much more apt to help them,” [said Schriner] –Inherit the Earth newspaper, Cleveland, Ohio.
“To decrease dependence on foreign oil, [Schriner] suggested looking at ways to use alternative sources, such as electric cars and solar homes…” – Salem (OH) News