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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Iraq War has U.S. further off track

    Justyn DillinghamEditor-in-Chief
    Justyn Dillingham

    As we head into the fifth year of outstaying our welcome in Iraq, it seems worth asking a question few bother asking anymore: Was the Iraq War a just war?

    Don’t laugh. The majority of the war’s supporters haven’t bothered revising their opinions since the war began, and neither have the majority of the war’s opponents. Because the war is the most important issue facing America today, the question of the war’s justness is one of the most important questions we need to ask ourselves.

    After all, when it started, serious commentators were calling it “”the noblest war in history.”” The United States had, seemingly, gone to war for no other reason than the war’s self-evident righteousness.

    And why, after all, was it a bad idea? Saddam Hussein was a ruthless and brutal dictator. We would have been justified in helping his own people overthrow him in 1991, and that we did not is surely a stain on our record. So what was wrong with finishing the job 10 years later?

    Put aside all talk of imperialism and colonialism. Forget about “”no blood for oil.”” Whatever the true motives of the war’s leaders, whatever the cost in blood and treasure, was it not at least an admirable aim?

    Is it that all wars are unjustified because they are wars? Well, all war is certainly terrible. Yet not all wars are unjust.

    The American Revolution was not unjust. Lincoln’s war to save the Union was not unjust. The struggle against fascism in the Spanish Civil War and World War II was not unjust. As George Orwell put it, to be a pacifist in the face of the Nazis was to be “”objectively pro-fascist.””

    But all of these just wars were sparked by aggression – England’s attempt to oppress the colonies, the South’s attempt to tear apart the country, the fascist takeover of Spain and Hitler’s attempt to conquer the world. In the Iraq War, the United States was the aggressor.

    This fact is not automatically compensated for by the obvious fact that the United States’ government is preferable to Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship. The rest of the world shrank from using force to confront Saddam; we seized the opportunity.

    In taking power from Saddam, we also seized the responsibility for redistributing that power to others. Because we had no concrete plan for doing that – and no serious alliance with anti-Saddam forces, as we could have formed in 1991 – the result has been chaos.

    That has been one legacy of the war. The other legacy is the degradation of domestic politics. Civil and political liberties have been eroded. The press has grown more servile and credulous. The more “”patriotic”” and “”united”” we are against a common enemy, the less say we have in our own government.

    To realize why the Iraq War was indeed a disastrous idea from the start, we must return to long-forgotten words and long-buried principles. These principles are part of our republic’s heritage, but they were best expressed by a true patriot on a long-ago Fourth of July.

    On that day in 1821, John Quincy Adams declared that America “”goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy.”” The United States “”is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all,”” but “”the champion and vindicator only of our own.””

    These words are familiar to many. They are usually used to illustrate the purity of the American empire. As the story goes, America acts only reluctantly, in the face of unavoidable conflict. (It’s just that there happens to be an awful lot of unavoidable conflict in the world.)

    But the speech did not end there. Adams went on to explain exactly why America must not seek out “”monsters to destroy”” in other lands.

    If it began to concern itself with everyone else’s business, Adams said, America’s spirit would “”change from liberty to force. The frontlet on her brows would no longer beam with the ineffable splendor of freedom and independence; but in its stead would soon be substituted an imperial diadem, flashing in false and tarnished luster the murky radiance of dominion and power.””

    Adams’ warning has come true. The American Republic has become an empire. The globe is littered with hundreds of our military bases, even as the majority of Americans fail to show up at the voting booths. We are, if not (as some foolishly charge) another Nazi Germany, certainly the heir to the British Empire – the one that the sun never set on, because it ruled everywhere.

    We do not rule everywhere, exactly. But we have essentially assumed responsibility for the safety of the entire world – and entrusted that responsibility to the commander in chief of our armed forces.

    In other words, we have elevated our president from a servant of the people to a globe-straddling emperor, sporting an “”imperial diadem”” and serving a nightmarish faction, all too willing to sacrifice countless lives to promote democracy abroad and crush it at home.

    If we are ever to escape from the Iraq nightmare, we must turn our backs on “”the murky radiance of dominion and power”” and return our government to its original, humble task – as the instrument of the people in a democratic republic.

    Justyn Dillingham is a senior majoring in history and political science and is the editor-in-chief of the Arizona Summer Wildcat. He can be reached at

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