A Christian Defense of the War
in Iraq

Removing a dictator, introducing democracy, staying the course in difficult times--it's right, noble, and it's just.

Continued from page 2

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, I had a chance to spend about an hour with the speaker of the Iraqi Assembly, who is a Sunni Muslim, and he was very optimistic about the future. He went out of his way to say thank you. He said, "I want to thank you and your country for all the wonderful young men and women that you've sent and continue to send to help us secure and defend our freedom. We are very grateful."

Somehow that doesn't seem to make it on CBS and ABC and NBC and CNN and The New York Times. But many of us have other sources.


I think the president is saying there is another reality than the one that is being presented by our national news media. Something has to account for more Iraqis having a positive view about their nation's future than Americans have a positive view about their nation's future.


Over the course of the war, has anything changed about your support for it?

No, I don't think so. In hindsight, I think there are things that could have been done differently, but that always happens once armed conflict begins. There are some strategy issues that could have been done differently. I think we should probably have put more troops in to present overwhelming force, as we did in Germany and Japan after World War II. I think we should have put more troops in, certainly in the immediate aftermath to keep the looting from taking place in Baghdad, when I think we lost a lot of confidence from individual Iraqis at the very beginning that we were going to be able to provide security.


I profoundly wish that the Abu Ghraib atrocities had not taken place, and I am grateful that our government has prosecuted the people responsible to the fullest extent of the law. Some of them are in prison now, as they deserve to be, for having dishonored their country and dishonored their uniform and having committed human-rights abuses that are grotesque in nature. I wish we had gone to more training of the military and police forces in the way that we're training them now earlier, but then again, those are the kinds of things that are the benefit of hindsight. You don't have the benefit of hindsight when you're making decisions in a war zone.


What about in the area of justification for the war?

My justification for the war was not based upon weapons of mass destruction. To me, and I said so at the time, this was a continuation of Gulf War I, which was an act of aggression by Saddam Hussein. We did not have a peace treaty after Gulf War I, we had a cease-fire. And the cease-fire was predicated upon Saddam Hussein complying with U.N. resolutions, which he did not do for 12 years. So finally, after 12 years, we continued the war against the man who was a very dangerous and de-stabilizing influence. We're seeing now, with the release of these documents that have just been released to the public, that the connections between Saddam Hussein and terrorists were far more extensive than some had believed.


Whether he had weapons of mass destruction, and of course everybody believed that he did—every intelligence agency in the world believed that he did—he certainly, it seems, was trying to keep the ability to reconstitute those weapons as soon as the pressure was off. The idea that he could reconstitute these weapons, and because of the extensive contacts and relationships and the thousands of terrorists he was personally allowing to be trained in his country—we now know from the Iraqi secret-service documents that there were extensive connections there—that at some point, for a quid pro quo, that he might give some anthrax or some ricin or some other biological weapons, which could be used against the United States, to terrorists,. Given a post-9/11 world, I don't think that's something we can allow to happen before we respond.


For me, the overriding argument was always the President's argument that after 9/11, we had to acknowledge that the way we'd been doing business in the Middle East for the last 50 years, under both Democratic and Republican presidents, was erroneous and wrong. We had been supporting fascistic and oligarchical regimes, first in the name of anti-communism, and then in the name of stable oil supplies, but these repressive and terrible regimes were the breeding ground for terrorism.


The only way to adequately address long-term the question of radical Islamic jihadism was to help build stable democracies in the Middle East. The idea that Arabs don't want stable democracies is, in my opinion, at root a racist belief. I think human beings anywhere, given the choice, will choose governments that are accountable to them, and not governments that feed the ambitions of megalomaniacal dictators.


And you feel that Christian tradition supports that belief?

I do. We didn't go into Iraq to conquer Iraq, we didn't go into Iraq to subjugate Iraq, we went in to liberate Iraq. We turned over sovereignty to a provisional government, and now there's an elected government that is in the process of forming a constitution. We are there as guests of the Iraqi government. If the Iraqi government asked us to leave, we'd leave. But the last thing the Iraqi government wants is for us to leave. They want us to leave when they're able to defend themselves and they're able to defend their society. We're helping them to do that, and when that's done, we'll leave.

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Richard Land
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