The talking heads are the happiest people in town, relieved that they have something to chatter about during the slow summer months. We have breathless reports hourly, from senators wanting new hearings to troops in the field complaining (as anyone who has served in the military knows, troops aren't happy unless they're complaining).
And some allege that the "just war" rationale for the war advanced by many religious leaders, myself included, is undermined.
But the critics are missing the point.
The first question is, "Would we have invaded Iraq were it not for September 11?" Of course not. September 11 was an act of war against the United States by an organized band of Islamist terrorists committed to bringing down the structures of Western society.
The administration's first response was an attack on Afghanistan to clean out the Taliban—clearly self-defense. But in the war on terrorism, one has to look beyond geographic boundaries. Terrorists are all over the world. Looking at danger spots, Iraq became an obvious next target. Saddam Hussein, after all, flouted every UN resolution, demonstrated his intent to build nuclear weapons, and had chemical and biological weapons that he used to murder his own people. There were also clear ties to terrorism. President Arroyo of the Philippines reported in a Newsweek interview that Iraq was fueling the radical Islamist terrorists in the Philippines. Our attack on Saddam Hussein has reduced terrorism in her country, she reports.
But the justification for attacking Iraq goes beyond the borders of that nation. Iraq is simply one theater in this war, as the president has said and as most observers realize.
Is the use of force morally justified? Absolutely. Princeton Professor Bernard Lewis, one of the world's leading authorities on Islam, in a recent interview with Ken Myers of Mars Hill Audio, explained the genesis of September 11. For years he noted that bin Laden and his cohorts had been saying the West was decadent, debauched, corrupt, and weak, and that America would not defend herself. Our responses to Vietnam, Somalia, Lebanon, the attack on the U.S.S. Cole, and our embassies in Africa were viewed as evidence that America would cut and run even when attacked at home. This perceived weakness, our decadence, and fear, Lewis contends, led to September 11.
In light of this, to fail to act now would be a gross dereliction of our responsibility. Lewis correctly argues that the only thing that will stop terrorism is a show of strength. In the light of what bin Laden has said, no president, Republican or Democrat, could do anything but demonstrate our resolve.
If there are nations harboring terrorists or producing weapons for them, the Western nations committed to the preservation of civilization must act. And in my mind, clearly this is within the "just war" tradition.
As for the president's critics, well, maybe they should visit Ground Zero for a few moments of sober reflection on that horror. It may concentrate their minds on what's really at stake—our survival.
For further reading and information:
See BreakPoint's Fact Sheet on Just War Theory.
"Catholic Answers Guide to Just War Doctrine," Catholic Answers.
In commemoration of September 11, EarthCam has compiled images and archived video that show many aspects of the terrorism and heroism of September 11.
Bernard Lewis, "What Went Wrong?" Atlantic Monthly, January 2002.
Bernard Lewis, What Went Wrong?: Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response <read Townhall review> (Oxford University Press, 2002).
Bernard Lewis, The Crisis of Islam: Modern Jihad and the Roots of Muslim Rage <read Townhall review> (Modern Library, 2003).
Bernard Lewis, "The Roots of Muslim Rage," Atlantic Monthly, September 1990.
Ken Myers's interview with Bernard Lewis is included in the November/December 2002 edition of Mars Hill Audio Journal.
Dana Milbank and Dana Priest, "Warning in Iraq Report Unread," Washington Post, 19 July 2003, A01.
"President Bush, PM Berlusconi Discuss Iraq and War on Terrorism," remarks by the President and Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi in Press Availability, Prairie Chapel Ranch, Crawford, Texas, White House Office of the Press Secretary, 21 July 2003.
"Press Briefing by Scott McClellan," the James S. Brady Briefing Room, White House Office of the Press Secretary, 17 July 2003. (McClellan addresses U.S. credibility in the war with Iraq.)
"Rice: 16 words dispute 'enormously overblown,'" CNN, 14 July 2003.
"Interview: Gloria Macapagal Arroyo; Philippine President," Newsweek press release, 25 May 2003.
"President Bush Welcomes President Arroyo of the Philippines in State Arrival Ceremony," remarks at State Arrival Ceremony, the South Lawn, Washington, D.C., 19 May 2003.
Visit the Presidential Prayer Team website to adopt a member of the military for prayer.
The "9/11 Worldview Resource Kit" includes Is the Father of Jesus the God of Muhammad?: Understanding the Differences between Christianity and Islam by Wilberforce Forum Board of Reference member Dr. Timothy George and When Night Fell on a Different World: How Now Shall We Live? by Charles Colson, a booklet that helps Christians gain a biblical worldview understanding of the events of the day. Also included is a "BreakPoint Weekend Special" CD including two interviews with Charles Colson, who reflects on the impact and implications of the events of 9/11 on American society and the world.