War on Iraq: Is it Just?

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by Bruce Duncan CSsR
Sydney: Australian Catholic Social Justice Council, [March] 2003, pp.56.
Catholic Social Justice Series no. 47.

The debate about whether western countries should intervene militarily in Iraq has been difficult, even at times heated, with powerful vested interests and political careers at stake, not to mention the lives of tens of thousands of people hanging in the balance.

The old adage that truth is the first casualty in war should alert us to the difficulty of finding out the truth, especially in an age when media management and interpretation of events, or “spin”, have become such an important part of maintaining political support for war. Australia’s historical experience, especially in the Vietnam War, should alert us to the pitfalls here.

Before committing to a war, especially in a democracy, citizens have the right and the duty to scrutinise keenly the reasons for war, and to evaluate them rigorously against clear ethical criteria. Fortunately, the trauma of so many past wars has given rise to cogent thinking on the morality of war, which is generally known as the western “just war” tradition, or better, traditions, since they often comprise competing views.

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