A Just Peace

Saddam Hussein's regime has been toppled. For the first time in decades, Iraqi citizens are free from tyranny. As we know, the country is still experiencing violence and disorder. But as writer Angela Phelps put it, "Sure, things aren't perfect . . . But there's hope -- and that's something that Iraqis haven't felt in nearly forty years." But if we don't quickly take action against a new threat arising in Iraq, that hope could still be destroyed. Right now the U.S. government is heavily involved in helping Iraq construct a new government. But the American officials in charge don't seem to fully appreciate why it is so important that democratic values be incorporated. They are conceding far too much authority over the process to extremist groups of Shiite Muslims who would impose Islamic law as the law of the land, and they are ignoring more moderate Iraqi voices who are calling for respect for all religious traditions. Already, according to the Center for Religious Freedom, we have "turn[ed] over the administration of certain hospitals, neighborhoods, and even towns to Shiite clergy who rule according to their own narrow interpretations of Islam." Our government has taken too lightly, many believe, the danger that this might give rise to another Islamic dictatorship in the Middle East. In fact, when U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz was asked at a Senate hearing about religious freedom in the new Iraqi constitution, he replied that the Iraqis will draft their own constitution, and "I cannot say what the outcome will be." That is, consensus among the Iraqis is more important than the most basic of human rights -- religious freedom. The idea that we would send troops to Iraq, get rid of a tyrant, set up an independent structure for a new constitution, and not demand certain fundamental rights for the people we've set free, is unthinkable. It is not up to us to establish a new constitution, but I can't imagine that we wouldn't demand the human rights embodied in our own Declaration of Independence. And remember, too, that there are hundreds of thousands of Christians in Iraq. As Center for Religious Freedom director Nina Shea said, "There should be a raging debate in the United States government and the UN about the challenges . . . to religious freedom and individual rights posed by Islamic extremism." Instead, it seems that our officials are so eager for a solution that they'll throw a bone to whatever elements of Iraqi society are making the most noise, regardless of the principles at stake. We should not be party to a process where people have no guarantee of the most basic human rights. As I've said before, I believe that the war against Saddam Hussein was consistent with the Augustinian formulations of just war. But I'm also concerned with establishing a just peace, and the failure to guarantee the right to religious liberty could make that impossible. Our government officials, sworn to protect and defend the Constitution, are paying, I'm afraid, only lip service to some of its principles. In so doing, they are endangering the Iraqi people's most fundamental human right, setting the stage for yet another tyranny that, if history is any guide, would threaten not only the citizens of Iraq, but the rest of us as well. For further reading and information:
  1. James Woolsey, Penn Kemble, and Nina Shea, "Submitted Testimony on 'Constitutionalism, Human Rights, and the Rule of Law in Iraq,' Before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary," Center for Religious Freedom, 25 June 2003.
Read the White House report "Results in Iraq: 100 Days Toward Security and Freedom," 8 August 2003. See "100 Days in the New Iraq: Images and Voices" at the U.S. State Department website. "Religious Freedom in Post-War Iraq," Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, PBS, 1 August 2003. Nicholas Birch, "Rise of Iraq's Shiites could pose threat to Iran's clerical rulers," Christian Science Monitor, 8 August 2003. Condoleezza Rice, "Transforming the Middle East," Washington Post, 7 August 2003, A21. Scott Lindlaw, "Rice Touts Democratic Hopes for Iraq," Washington Post, 7 August 2003. Nicholas Kristof, "Cover Your Hair," New York Times, 24 June 2003. (Archived article; costs $2.95 to retrieve.) Paul Marshall, "Dangerous Waters," National Review Online, 7 March 2003. Adam G. Mersereau, "Toward Real Freedom," BreakPoint Online, 9 June 2003. Martin Kramer, "Jihad Is Over (If Noah Feldman Wants It),", 22 May 2003. Read an excerpt from Feldman's latest book, After Jihad: America and the Struggle for Islamic Democracy (Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2003). BreakPoint Commentary No. 030724, "Inviting Trouble: Iraq, Terrorism, and the Media." BreakPoint Commentary No. 030619, "What Next in Iraq?: Women in Transition to Democracy." Angela J. Phelps, "Chill Out," National Review Online, 1 August 2003. (Also see "Bad-News Networks.") Ravi Zacharias, Light in the Shadow of Jihad (Multnomah, 2002). "Is the Father of Jesus the God of Muhammad?" -- In this "BreakPoint This Week" special broadcast, BreakPoint Managing Editor Jim Tonkowich and Dr. Timothy George, a member of the Wilberforce Forum's board of reference and author of the new book, Is the Father of Jesus the God of Muhammad?, discuss the differences between Christianity and Islam and the implications for the Church in today's climate. William Bennett, Why We Fight: Moral Clarity and the War on Terrorism (Doubleday, 2002).


Chuck Colson


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