Why the "War on Terrorism" was wrong
Why the "War on Terrorism" was wrong
The Criteria of a "Just War"
On September 11 2001, terrorists hijacked four aircraft and crashed them into the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon, with the fourth crashing in a field in Pennsylvania. Approximately 3000 people were killed, mostly in the upper stories of the two World Trade Center towers. The World Trade Center crashes and collapses were seen live on television around the world.
It quickly became apparent that these attacks were the work of Al-Quaeda, an Islamic terrorist group headed by Osama bin Laden, which was based in Afghanistan. It was also clear that this group had ties to the Taliban, the hardline Islamic government of Afghanistan.
Nevertheless, just because the Taliban hosted Al-Quaeda, it did not follow that they agreed with everything Al-Quaeda said or did. The Taliban immediately condemned the terrorist attacks, and offered to hand over Bin Laden to a neutral country if the US would provide evidence of his guilt.
But the US did no such thing. President George W. Bush issued a set of ultimatums to Afghanistan which were impossible to comply with. Nor did they, to my knowledge, ever provide the Taliban with any evidence of Bin Laden's guilt. There was no attempt to dialogue. The US simply prepared for war.
Everything seemed motivated by the need to avenge the deaths of the 3000 who died on September 11. Sure, this was a terrible crime. But I can't help feeling that the reaction would not have been the same had the deaths not been (a) Americans, and (b) seen on TV.
The US (and UK) also began speaking of the terrible oppressive government in Afghanistan, and the need to free the Afghan people from it. This was well and good, except first, they had not shown this same concern before September 11; and second, they were not speaking out against similar oppressive governments around the world.
There was little debate about what casualties this might bring among the Afghan people. As it turned out, the number of civilian deaths exceeded the 3000 who died on September 11; not to mention probably tens of thousands of Afghan soldiers, mostly doubtless young men who believed they were simply defending their country.
In short: while it may be argued that a Christian may support war in certain cases of self-defence, so long as the "Love Your Enemies" principle is preserved, the war in Afghanistan was no such a war. It was not self-defence, and there was little or no concern for the enemy.
Although I do not subscribe to the usual Christian criteria of a "Just War", it is interesting to note that the war in Afghanistan did not meet these criteria anyway. I list the eight classic guidelines for "Just War" below in italics, then rate how the "War on Terrorism" matched up to these guidelines.
2/10. Did not meet this criterion, because the US was under no direct attack.
5/10. While the intention has been to restore peace to Afghanistan, it is distubing how quickly the Taliban was condemned, despite condemning the terrorist attacks and offering to hand over Osama Bin Laden.
0/10. The USA scores a big fat zero on this one. Absolutely no meaningful attempt at negotiation was attempted.
8/10. Kind of meets this criterion, because the war was waged by the government of the USA. But it should be noted that the USA did not attempt to use the United Nations.
10/10. One of the few ways in which this war has been commendable.
3/10. The attacks on the Taliban have been out of all proportion. Remember the Taliban did carry out the September 11 attacks - it was Al-Quaeda. The Taliban's crime has been to not take the USA's word for it that Bin Laden and Al-Quaeda were responsible. So, in response to a single (admittedly very large) terrorist attack, the US overthrew the government of Afghanistan. At the same time it killed thousands of young Afghan men who had nothing to do with the terrorist attacks, but were simply defending their country.
2/10. Thousands of civilian deaths from US bombs. There was little evidence that the US cared about the occasional bomb which missed its intended target.
5/10. Defeated the Taliban, but is unlikely to stop terrorism. The resentment caused by the many innocent deaths is more likely to cause an increase in terrorism in the long term.
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