The Moral Duty to Cut and Run
Why America Must Lose the War in Iraq
Friday, October 10, 2008
Then conquer we must,
when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto:
'In God is our trust.'
Francis Scott Key
Aboard the HMS Minden
September 16, 1814
John Pittman Hey
What is a patriot to do when his country's cause is unjust? Since our government's invasion of Iraq in 2003, that question has been smoldering in the hearts and souls of many thoughtful and patriotic Americans.
Nobody loves this country more than do members of the America First Party. We will defer to no one in our loyalty and love for its Constitution, the spirit of its Founders, or the overflowing blessings which God has bestowed upon it. America is unexcelled in wealth, beauty, majesty, and goodness.
But we are not blind to the faults that have developed of late in our nation. That is why our party fights for our country - to preserve its heritage, to restore those things in need of repair, and to maintain it as a bastion of liberty, opportunity, and greatness. We put our trust in God, that He will be our Helper in this noble enterprise.
Nobody loves this country more than do members of the America First Party. We will defer to no one in our loyalty and love for its Constitution, the spirit of its Founders, or the overflowing blessings which God has bestowed upon it.
But we dare not call upon God to uphold our country in wickedness and injustice. We ought not seek to conquer when our cause is unjust.
So the threshold question about our invasion of Iraq is this: Is our conduct fundamentally moral and just? Can we justify all the mayhem and destruction and killing we have carried out in Iraq? There are many arguments that have been raised against our conduct in Iraq, but all of them avoid this fundamental question of morality.
Some Secondary Considerations
Pentagon policy bars media coverage of returning coffins of our soldiers cut down in the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. This photo was smuggled out and widely republished all around the world.
For example, there can be no doubt that combat operations in Iraq are unlawful under our nationís Constitution. There is no grant of authority to the President to order armed combat without a Declaration of War by Congress. Neither does Congress have the authority to approve the use of military force without such a war declaration. Since there has been no congressional war declaration against the country of Iraq, there can be no doubt that our invasion and occupation of Iraq is unlawful per se.
It is also true that our actions in Iraq have destabilized the Middle East and created a breeding ground for terrorists. For all his monstrosities, Saddam Hussein was a bulwark against Al Qaeda, which were the mortal enemies of his secular state. Iraq was also a natural check to the ambitions of the Iranian theocratic government, which is now set free to cause additional trouble.
Furthermore, our actions in Iraq, whether moral or not, have enraged many of its citizens, as we ought to have predicted. People naturally hold a grudge against countries that invade their homeland, destroying so many lives and so much property. Around one million Iraqi citizens have been killed as a result of our invasion, with several million being driven out of their country as refugees.
Since there has been no congressional war declaration against the country of Iraq, there can be no doubt that our invasion and occupation of Iraq is unlawful per se.
It is also true that this war has cost our country many of the precious lives of our people. Almost 5000 of our men and women have lost their lives, with tens of thousands suffering permanent maiming, and hundreds of thousands suffering from head trauma-related brain injuries and psychological damage.
Our conflict in Iraq has also cost us trillions of dollars in direct expenses and economic disruption, including the destabilization of the oil production of the Middle East with concomitant skyrocketing in energy costs, crippling our entire economic system.
United States Army photo from Abu Ghraib prison showing Pvt. Lynndie England holding a leash attached to a prisoner collapsed on the floor, known to the guards as "Gus."
The conflict in Iraq has been used to justify a vicious assault by the President and Congress against our precious constitutional liberties. We are treated like suspects whenever we travel; our personal and private information is rifled through by a government that spies on us without court authority; our conversations are unlawfully intercepted and analyzed; our people are subject to kidnapping, rendition, torture, and the denial of basic habeas corpus rights; our courts have been converted into star chambers in which the accused is not permitted to see the evidence or even read the arguments made against him; and our citizens are denied access to the courts by the so-called "state secrets privilege" to obtain relief from the spying, kidnapping, and torture ordered by the President and carried out by his agents.
Finally, the conflict in Iraq has driven a degradation in the morality and conduct of many of our country's officials, police, attorneys, military officers, and enlisted men, as they are led to engage in disgraceful and immoral conduct while carrying out the unlawful orders of the President. The blackening of the hearts of so many hundreds of thousands of government personnel under the leadership of our President and Congress will bear bitter fruit in the years to come, as these people turn upon the civilian population with all the fury and rage that persistent violent and unconscionable conduct brands upon the human psyche.
The blackening of the hearts of so many hundreds of thousands of government personnel under the leadership of our President and Congress will bear bitter fruit in the years to come, as these people turn upon the civilian population with all the fury and rage that persistent violent and unconscionable conduct brands upon the human psyche.
The Fundamental Moral Question
But all these arguments sidestep the root issue: that our invasion and occupation of Iraq, with the concomitant violence, bloodshed, and destruction, are fundamentally immoral and dishonorable from the very beginning.
If this is true, then we should view all the horrible consequences and practical objections previously cited against our government's actions in Iraq to be but the judgment, the temporal punishment, and the bitter fruit that comes from our government's fundamental immorality and injustice in this matter.
That our government's actions in Iraq are fundamentally immoral and unjust is simple to deduce. It is a basic tenet of the Judeo-Christian moral tradition that murder is prohibited as unjust and immoral. The Scriptural basis for this may be found in Genesis 9:6, where the Lord God commanded Noah and all his progeny that "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image" (English Standard Version). All men everywhere know the evil of murder, for it is the law written upon the heart.
From this it is readily deduced that war, which is the taking of many lives and the destruction of much property, may only be justified as a defense and response to aggression that threatens the lives and liberty of a people. Wars of aggression and conquest are merely mass murder writ large. Indeed, this is why wars of aggression have been called the ultimate war crimes.
We repudiate the notion that simply because our government wages a war of aggression, it should somehow be called something more euphemistic than the mass murder and war crime that it is.
There can be no reasonable doubt that our invasion of Iraq is a war of aggression against that nation, for Iraq posed no imminent threat against our country or its people. It had not the ability, nor even the intent, to jeopardize our existence. We had no serious cause of disagreement with Iraq to justify war.
Failed Justifications for Aggression
Quibbling over some minor infractions or extravagant talk by Saddam Hussein does not overcome this objection. Bloodshed of any sort must always be the last resort in time of dispute or even violence. A nation may only resort to war when it is the last possible alternative to death or enslavement. This is especially true when the war will result in the death of many innocent civilians.
Nor does Iraq's supposed pursuit of so-called "weapons of mass destruction" let our nation off the hook, for a country is entitled to obtain such weapons when necessary to prevent an attack from its neighbors. The fact that one country would like to prevent another country from arming itself is an insufficient reason to resort to mass murder to achieve that goal. In the end, there are dozens and dozens of countries with weapons of mass destruction today, including some that are hostile to the United States, but that provides us no excuse to launch a war of aggression against them. The bleak irony is, the United States assisted Iraq in the acquisition of chemical weapons and encouraged their use against Iran during the 1980s.
Wars of aggression and conquest are merely mass murder writ large. Indeed, this is why wars of aggression have been called the ultimate war crimes.
The fact that Saddam Hussein was a tyrant and butchered many of his own people does not excuse an invasion and occupation of Iraq. Were that the case, there are plenty of other countries that would be at the head of the line for attack before Iraq.
Indeed, following such a line of argument, Iraq would have been morally justified in invading the United States and deposing our government, which has arranged the butchering of over 40 million helpless babies in the last 35 years. Our own Supreme Court is arguably the most destructive terrorist cell presently roaming free inside our borders, completely eclipsing in malignity any straggler terrorists that may have operated under Hussein's nose in Iraq.
In the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, President Bush and his warmongering lackies played the classic "burning bucket" con on the American people. They claimed to have all sorts of intelligence about Saddam Hussein's big plans regarding weapons, and they hinted darkly at some connection between Iraq and 9/11. The war hawks had us so agape at all these monstrous claims that most of the country failed to ask the essential question: so what?
So what if all the intelligence was as Bush claimed? So what if Hussein tried to buy yellowcake? So what if he had portable anthrax labs? This evidence and these reasons, even if they were true, were not sufficient to justify the launch of aggressive war.
How humiliating for our countryís honor that, in the end, almost all of the intelligence claims used to justify the invasion of Iraq were false. Indeed, many of them, it turns out, were known to be false by the administration at the very time they were breathlessly repeating them to a gullible electorate.
All along, our nation was preoccupied with the wrong question, and therefore never noticed the unstated, untrue undergirding assumption: that our nation is morally entitled to invade another country on the other side of the globe and kill countless people who pose no viable threat to our nation's existence and safety.
We declared that the President's plan to launch an unjustified war against Iraq - is repugnant to our Constitution, to the principles and ideals of our nation, to basic principles of morality and justice, and to the peace and security of the United States.
Our Party Opposed the War on Moral and Legal Grounds
The America First Party's opposition from the very beginning was always rooted in this fundamental moral argument. On August 10, 2002 at its founding convention in Orlando Florida, party leaders adopted a resolution condemning the proposed invasion and occupation of Iraq.
Our party stated at that time "that the making of war by the United States of America may only be justified when the safety and security of our people and our homeland are imperiled." The party mourned prior wars in which we had "shed innocent blood." We concluded that "this nation has no cause for war with Iraq, her people, or their leaders, unless they seek to harm our people or this beloved land." We further held that "unless and until the nation of Iraq lifts its hand against our people, our homes, or our countryland, there can be no just, moral, legal, or practical cause for armed conflict between us." We declared that the President's plan to launch an unjustified war against Iraq "is repugnant to our Constitution, to the principles and ideals of our nation, to basic principles of morality and justice, and to the peace and security of the United States." We promised that, should the President proceed with his unlawful and immoral plans, we would call for his immediate impeachment and removal from office. And in October 2003, we did just that.
False Arguments for Aggression
Three particularly insidious ideas that seek to mitigate the clear moral argument against wars of aggression need to be swatted down.
First, some seek to justify aggressive wars by recasting them as "pre-emptive wars" - that is, by claiming that it is proper to start a war to forestall potential attack in the future. This justification, however, ignores the requirement that massive bloodshed may be resorted to only as a last resort to resist annihilation and enslavement. The justification of pre-emption has long been the fig-leaf of respectability snatched up by bloodthirsty men to adorn their wars of naked conquest and aggression.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt put it this way: when you find a rattlesnake in your yard, you crush its head immediately, before it can strike out at your little children at play. FDR, well known for his inability to distinguish right from wrong, apparently failed to notice that rattlesnakes were not created equal with all men, nor were they endowed with the unalienable rights of man.
At its root, pre-emption seeks to upset the equipoise that exists between the natural rights of all men everywhere. There can be no moral basis for waging war out of fear of future attack. If there were, Iraq would be entitled to attack the United States pre-emptively for fear of our pre-emptive attack against Iraq for fear of the possibility that one day Iraq might attack the United States. This is a recipe for an endless regress of perpetual war. Only an imminent threat of attack and invasion could morally justify a country striking first in war.
A second, perhaps even more despicable justification often raised for this war of aggression against Iraq is that it is better to fight the terrorists in Iraq than have them come to fight in our own country. A simple analogy will reveal the depravity of such an argument.
Suppose you do not get along with your next door neighbor. There has been a dispute about a fence, and words have been exchanged, and mean looks traded. Then one day, a household of thugs moves in across the street and the next thing you know, they have shot out your front window.
Your response? Collect your guns, call all your friends, stockpile supplies, and then one night, head next door to your neighbor's dwelling, kick in the door, kill his wife and children, and commence to blaze away from his living room window at the thugs across the street.
After all, better they should fight you at your neighbor's house than to trash and destroy your own house and threaten your own family!
There is no doubt that our presence in Iraq has attracted many terrorists to fight against us there. The terrorists have killed many times more innocent Iraqi civilians than American soldiers, and it is all our fault for bringing them there. We invaded a sovereign nation, destroyed its infrastructure and government, killed many of its people, and made it into a battlefield for a dispute that did not even concern the people of Iraq.
It has been piously claimed by supporters of the Iraqi invasion that America never seeks the land or resources of the countries she fights. In Iraq, we have put the lie to that defense, for we have taken a whole country without its consent and turned it into an endless killing field upon which we hope to destroy all our enemies from afar.
Our President is a mass murderer and war criminal.... [and] Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, and Condoleeza Rice all put their hands to this murder as well.
A third attempt to justify our continued occupation of Iraq is that, having destroyed law and order, we are obliged to remain until peace is restored. Of course, that also means we are "obliged" to continue killing those Iraqis who continue to resist our murderous occupation of their beloved country.
Some have put this another way: we broke it, now we own it. But that destroyed country and all those dead innocents are not just some broken piece of pottery fallen from a shelf due to our carelessness. That is a country we stole; those are people we murdered. There is no moral basis for our remaining to continue the lawless course we first set out to achieve.
America is Without Excuse
President George W. Bush
Vice-president Dick Cheney
Former SecDef Donald Rumsfeld
Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice
There is only one possible conclusion to be drawn from this: that the United States government has engaged in an unlawful, immoral, and unjust war of aggression against the people of Iraq and continues to do so to this day, murdering countless innocents and destroying hundreds of billions of dollars in property.
The moral and legal consequences of this conclusion are staggering and soul-sickening. Our President is a mass murderer and war criminal. And Bush is not alone in his genocidal bloodguiltiness. Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice all put their hands to this murder as well.
The leaders of the House and Senate, and most of the members of those two bodies, passed an illegal resolution purporting to enable this act of aggression and murder. Most telling is their continued culpability in authorizing funding to keep the bloodshed and mayhem going.
At Nuremberg, the nations of the world established that execution is the only just penalty for those leaders who wage wars of aggression. It is unlikely that we will ever see justice brought down on the heads of any of these people - at least in this life. However, there is a Judge whose Court they will not escape.
In the meantime, there are other consequences almost too painful to face. For one, each of us bears some portion of the bloodguiltiness, because under our republican form of government, those who authorized the murders are our servants, and we therefore share in their culpability.
This debacle also leaves the members of our armed forces in a horrible moral and spiritual conundrum. Though they followed orders, mostly in good faith, they may be charged with a measure of responsibility for the murders, to the extent they were aware of the unjustified nature of the war. Certainly, any soldier who reads and understands this essay can no longer avoid moral culpability should he continue to participate in the killing and destruction of Iraq.
At Nuremberg, the nations of the world established that execution is the only just penalty for those leaders who wage wars of aggression. It is unlikely that we will ever see justice brought down on the heads of any of these people - at least in this life.
As invaders in an aggressive war, our fighting men have no moral right to defend themselves or their comrades from the justified attacks by Iraqi citizens fighting to defend their homeland and their families. Just as a robber has no right to self-defense from an enraged and frightened homeowner, so our soldiers are bereft of any moral cloak for their own actions of self-defense.
The Morally Required Response
What is the proper response of a nation which finds itself engaged in the wholesale murder that accompanies an unjust war of aggression? Clearly, at a minimum, that proper response must be immediate and unconditional withdrawal. The first step a conscience-stricken mass murderer takes is to stop his killings.
Defenders of our unjust war call this "cutting and running," but such a phrase presupposes the mass murder and mayhem are somehow honorable and ought to be sustained.
The reality is, we ought to be ashamed, humiliated, and disgraced at what we have been implicated in, and our only beginning course of action should be to lay down our arms and leave Iraq at once. Most certainly, we do have the moral duty to cut and run from our illegal and unjust war against Iraq. We must lose the war in Iraq if we are to have any hope of restoring morality, decency, and justice to our nation.
After that, we have a duty to pay reparations to the country and the people we have destroyed. After that, those of us who stood against the war from the very beginning must continue to seek justice against those ringleaders and warmongers who brought us to this despicable end.
Beware those who would take comfort in the illusion that the "surge" is working. The purpose of the surge is, at least in part, the suppression of Iraqi patriots who seek to expel the invaders from their country. Were it to succeed, it would merely confirm our country in her wickedness. It would validate those warmongers among us who demand continual escalations of bloody acts of conquest. It would reward evil and encourage its repetition in the future. The failure of the surge, on the other hand, would provide our nation with a practical and salutary serving of the bitter fruit of waging wars of aggression.
During the early days of the American Revolution, the great patriot Patrick Henry assured his fellow-countrymen that "there is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations." How sad it is for America that such a declaration today can only bring to us the dread and fear of judgment, not of salvation.
The America First Party has stood bravely, if feebly, from the beginning against the war hysteria, and has raised a moral standard against murder and lawlessness in the matter of Iraq. But without a renewal of the principles and values upon which America was founded, all hope is lost for our beloved land.
That is why we must continue to build a strong party, a party that can fight to put America First, so that maybe next time, we will be able to stop our government before it kills millions more in some future unjust war of aggression.