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Friday, June 23, 2006 

The Iraq War, a Moral Essay

The Iraq war is possibly the most contested issue in modern American politics. While pundits and politicians attempt to push hot-button issues like gay marriage and global warming to the forefront as important issues (because they are easy vote getters), we are allowing our politicians to ignore the real significance and morality surrounding the war. This is partly due to the fact that many people have made up their minds about the way they feel towards the war. It may also be due in part to people’s desire to remain on a shallow level of directness towards something as complicated as the current war campaign the United States is involved in.

I regularly try to examine those things I consider to be part of my belief structure. I try to essentially debate myself over the topics that hold more implications than simply being right or wrong. Recently, one of these items has been the Iraq war. I do not believe it to be a black or white issue, as many in the political circles have tried to portray. I think that the morality of the issue is something even more complex.

Essentially, all of us (psychos not withstanding) have a basic premise that murder is wrong (regardless of your religious stance). War is essentially government sanctioned murder en masse. However, again, it is not that simple. While murder is wrong, killing someone in self defense, or defense of others is considered right, or at the least, understandable. Does God see this same rational for the breaking of His law? Does God give stipulations and classifications to His law? While I understand that every infraction is forgiven through the Christ, does He address the issue of “Do Not Kill Another Person” with escape clauses?

I think that he does not. I think that unless God Himself commands you to kill someone (as the Bible gives example of), you are essentially dictating your own will above that of what God has told you to do. Now, all of human history, even devout stories in the Bible have examples of man creating stipulations and clauses surrounding those basic morals we hold true. Stealing is ok if it is life or death for you or your children. It is ok if it is one nation taking from another. It is ok if general consensus agrees.

Lying is ok if you are doing it to save someone else’s feelings. It is ok if it is to protect someone else. It is ok if your country is trying to keep some secrets in the name of “national security”.

So it is with man; we are the ultimate rationalizers. We can essentially convince ourselves of anything given the proper motivation. Give a man a choice to kill or be killed, he will kill, and then clear himself of any wrong doing without societies approval. Nations and states act no different. They act in self interest and self preservation, then use various rational to explain away and exonerate themselves from any debt of guilt of consensus “wrong doings”.

Back to the topic: the Iraq war presents many intricate dilemmas in this arena. While the original premise of the war was widely accepted by Americans, and thus justified by common consent, the effort to preempt Saddam’s dispersal of WMD has proved fruitless. In it’s steed, and to continue the rationalization of our actions, the reasoning has now morphed into liberation of oppressed Iraqi citizens from the brutality of an oppressive and violent regime.

However, this presents yet another dilemma: why do we chose to use military force, to sacrifice our men and women in an effort to liberate an oppressed people at one location, but then neglect the same crisis in another? As we pour millions of dollars, hundreds of lives, and political turmoil into Iraq, we neglect places like Colombia, Darfur, China, North Korea, and others. We invade one country, topple their government, put their former leaders in trial, and then pay for the reconstruction (of the damage we caused). We do all this without general consent via the UN.

Yet we then stand ideally by as thousands are brutalized in Darfur waiting for this same UN to take action. We suddenly choose not to use our military force or resources, general consent or not, to end the oppression and brutalization taking place. This begs the question of why? Why would America, the land of the free, the home of the brave, the beacon of freedom, justice, and liberty chose to only right specific wrongs it perceives in the world, but then to ignore others?

Again, the nasty trait of self-interest and self-preservation enter into the fray. Our government, given the specific charge of protecting America and her interests is doing exactly that. We are in Iraq for a two-fold reason, both of which serve the purpose, morally acceptable or not, of serving the best interests of the United States.

While I do not expect my government (a conglomerate of people and bureaucracies) to act with a specific moral compass, I do expect the individuals surrounding it to act and direct their leadership in a fashion that doesn’t belie their professed morals and standards. If we were a nation of compassionate and understanding people, of hard working and reasonable citizens, we wouldn’t allow our government to act on our behalf in a fashion that we would condemn if it were someone else.

This statement applies both ways. Political operatives on both sides promote and act in ways that may be the best solution to the predicament of self-service, but then contradict the very ideals that we are supposed to hold dear.

We are, every American, unwillingly or willingly, unknowingly or knowingly, engaged in a fight against radical Islam that uses terrorism as its main weapon. Our global war on Terrorism is really a war against the radical faction of Islam that uses said “Terror” to achieve their goals.

In this effort, there are many that are politically aligned against it. They act, say, and do things to undermine the efforts in a self-service mentality, and against all moral standards and ideals. They readily sacrifice their conscience to achieve a political goal, and in the process hurt those they profess to represent.

On the other hand, we have many Americans that have political commitments towards this war. They have essentially seeded their crops in this field, and cannot afford to pull them out. They will sacrifice their conscience to rationalize any and all actions that maintain their grip the political power and the self-service that being in Iraq serves.

The comment that “Iraq is about oil” is true. While it is very shallow in its understatement, it is none the less true. My previous question of why Iraq but not Darfur is answered in oil. Not barrels of oil, and not the dollars behind the oil, but the strategic and significant power that control of oil represents. Let’s not fool ourselves, oil isn’t just about paychecks and cars, it is the lifeblood of the world. Without it, the most powerful nations in the world would be reduced to third world status. Ignoring this fact is naive at best, deceptive at worst.

However, the question I am asking myself is over the morality of allowing, even supporting our government’s blatant moral lapse in acting towards our own self interests. We are not in Iraq for any great ideal or principle other than advancing American interests. Does that deserve my support and confirmation? If I have to rationalize it out, is it still the right thing to do? When do we draw the line of acting in self-interest, and actually abiding by our self appointed ideals?