Vatican not opposed to removal of Saddam

Vatican not opposed to removal of Saddam

Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran said today that while the Vatican opposed the means of the Iraq war, it did not oppose the ends: removing Saddam. Instead they would have preferred weapons inspections to continue, something which I can’t understand. What do they think would have resulted from that? It certainly wouldn’t have removed Saddam Hussein from power, the end result they now say they favored.

Cardinal Tauran also said, “The Holy See is not pacifist. It is a peacemaker.” That’s true. The Church is not opposed to all war, categorically. Some wars are just. But peace is to be preferred when peaceful acts can accomplish the same goals. I agree with that. But I do think that in this case, peaceful means being proposed were not going to be effective.

Both sides agreed that war should have been the last resort. It seems that it boils down the question of whether we had reached the moment of last resort.

  • So then the war is immoral, as Tauran says: “‘’(The Vatican) understood that there was a situation that had to be resolved, but with other means,’’ he said. ‘‘It was against the war. Washington thought that the time had come to resolve it with war. We said war is the last recourse.’’

    He acknowledged though that such a ‘‘preventive war’’ had no justification in international law or in the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, which does allow for the use of military action in certain circumstances, such as self-defense. “

    Even Bush himself said that Saddam could stay in power, so long as he gave up the weapons. This is because he limited himself (explicitly in his last press conference before the war) to the self defense title, as ragarded the weapons/terrorism issue.

  • Thing is, though, a country *never* reach a *definitive* “moment of last recourse,” short of an actual physical conquest-bent invasion of the country.

    There will always be a superficially plausible argument that NOW is not the time. Why should Britain and France declare war on Germany on Sept. 3, 1939*, or the US on Japan on Dec. 8, 1941**. In some sense, war is always optional.

    And anybody who thinks, as the Cardinal seems to, that weapons inspections could have brought down the Saddam Hussein regime, needs to put his crack pipe aside. The Vatican was willing to keep Saddam in power and nothing can change that.

    * The Germans attacked Poland only, claiming self-defense from Polish troops firing on their border guards.

    ** Pearl Harbor was a raid on a military base—not an invasion. And by logic commonly used today (not that I endorse it), it was not unprovoked. We *could have* negotiated a peace promise over the oil embargo and our support for China. As I say, there are *always* options other than war for those who simply will not fight.

  • “The Vatican was willing to keep Saddam in power and nothing can change that.”

    Victor, I think your right here, and so, for one, that means that Nicholson was misrepresenting what the nature of the dispute was, which is reprehensible. The Vatican has been exposed to the asymetrical argument, the Gulf I wasn’t over argument, the subjective prudential judgement argument and obviously discounted them all. That puts Catholic war defenders at a serious disadvantage, because they must acknowledge that they are at odds with Rome on this.

    But there are some cases recently in which the Vatican was amenable to military action: Afganistan, for one, which is under Just War Doctrine as St. Thomas, the Catechism and the Catholic Encyclopedia describe it, a just action.

    What’s the difference? Prescinding from all the rhetoric about Saddam’s evil and the exigencies of asymmetrical warfare, the Vatican identifies the licit interest as non-proliferation compliance as administered by the UN. Now I think the UN is fairly far (in terms of reform) from being able to administer fairly a “proliferation” regime. For example, I wouldn’t want to subject american soldiers to ICC or UN standards on war crimes, because I think those bodies are highly politicized. Nor do I think the Vatican would want to subject citizens or nations to UN General Assembly administered coercion. (particularly given the Vatican’s own dilemmas with the UN).

    Where does that leave us? Far from the “time of moral clarity” neoconservatives would suggest.  And as Catholic, we hold that the Vatican is the sine qua non of any moment of “moral clarity” in the world.

  • That would be the “Vatican identifies the licit interest in Iraq (as opposed to Afganistan) as non-proliferation compliance. . . ”

  • He didn’t exactly come out “in favor” of it (a pope should never be in favor of a war), he did recognize the justice and necessity of it.


    Tauran agreed with Nicholson, so he’s not misrepresenting the nature of the dispute. And I didn’t remember the UN and non-proliferation compliance being listed in the Catechism’s treatment of just war doctrine. Perhaps you have a different edition. Suggestions that the UN is the “competent international authority” mentioned in the Catechism are far from the mark. International, okay. Competent and authoritative? No.

  • Al wrote:

    “The Vatican … obviously discounted them all.”

    But it’s not within the Vatican’s competence to pronounce on prudential arguments for or against war, and the Catechism says as much (2309)—“the evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good,” meaning duly-constituted governments. As Dom pointed out, in no possible sense is the UN a competent international authority.

    Further, I think you’ve not grasped the point of my WW2 analogies. If it is an argument against the justice of any particular war that “other alternatives are available,” as Cardinal Tauran seems to argue (and a factual point about the 12-year Iraq minuet that I don’t dispute), then no war passes that test.

    Afghanistan wouldn’t have either, no matter the historical question of what the Vatican said or didn’t say … the US *could* have kept negotiating with the Taliban to turn over bin Laden, pressured Pakistan and the Arab emirates to cut their support for the Taliban or make it conditional on turning over bin Laden, sent a few cruise missiles a super-duper last warning a la Clinton, etc. No war ever passes the “last resort” test.

    And it’s not even as though the Vatican has ever sought moral veto power over wars in the era of secular nation-states. Pius XII did not give his approval to the Allied resistance to Nazism. I’m not saying he *should* have (to damp down that old chestnut), but the point of fact remains. Even WW1, which I think we can stipulate was a more morally fraught and “optional” war than WW2, was *not* condemned by the Vatican, which remained neutral throughout (and Benedict XV’s first address, while lamenting the war and calling on all nations to desist, reminded Catholics of the church teaching against disobeying legitimate authority). All the belligerents’ national bishops blessed to at least some degree their countries’ participation.

  • The Pope asked for boots on the ground from NATO in Kosovo and got them.  The Pope asked for boots on the ground in Rwanda and didn’t get them.  I think that’s what meant by saying the Holy See is not totally “pacifist”.

    I think the point of Dom’s post is being missed: the inspection process was thoroughly compromised: each planned inspection was leaked in advance to the Iraqis.  After the war was over, many secret facilities and storage areas were revealed that were never considered for inspection.

  • Dom,
    Nicholson said they disagreed on means but not ends, and Tauran said right, war being the means. I don’t see how you can say they agreed (I heard Nicholson speak on this at UD’s graduation this year and he was frankly dissimulating.)

    The standard here, for assessing prudential judgement as well as the series of requisite prior efforts is right reason. That means even if there is a plausible account to the contrary (that they subjectively, or concievably might have exhausted other means) that does not suffice. The president himself gave another means he was not willing to try, but which nonetheless might have averted the war when he failed to call for the “whip count.”

    Victor, the I take the Vatican’s pronouncement here as “If this is your calculus (preventative) than this is illicit.” Without an extent threat the difference between preemptive and preventative is admittedly thin, but it is not simply the province of discretion. There’s a real difference, and everything the administration showed at the time (and said) indicated it was willing to go to preventative war. The Vatican took them at their word.

    As for the “international authority of the UN” if that’s the case, then 1441 is binding on no one, not even Saddam.