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Not Another War Based on Suspicion


Before I make the case for why we should not attack Iran, I would at first like to apologize. When I was in high school, I, like many conservative Christians, had supported the Iraq war. Like many Christians I had fused my religion with neoconservative ideology thus blinding myself to the evils of war with "patriotic" rhetoric, and a messianic faith in the American state. When I went to college I had delved deeper into the pro-life philosophy and discovered the consistent life ethic. I realized that the continuation of the pro-life philosophy can only result in opposition to war. Now I see our country heading down toward the same mistake in Iran. Attacking a country based on suspicion. Some neoconservative commentators have even had the nerve to dust off the phrase "Weapons of mass destruction" as a reason to preemptively attack Iran. As a matter of penance, I cannot be silent, because as Martin Luther King Jr. said when he spoke out against the Vietnam war, "A time comes when silence is betrayal." [1]

First I would like to examine the ethics of war itself, and in doing so I will largely draw from Murray Rothbard's famous essay "War, Peace, and the State." [2] Let us say that Jack attacks Patrick and attempts to do lethal harm to him. Now alas, I am not a pacifist (yet) and I would actually agree that Patrick has a right to defend himself, even if it means killing Jack. However, let us say that during this conflict, Jack escapes and hides in a crowd of people. Is Patrick morally justified in spraying a machine gun in the crowd to kill Jack? Is he morally allowed to throw a grenade in the crowd to kill Jack? The answer is no. Killing innocent human beings is an absolute moral evil. It is the reason why Patrick felt he had a right to defend himself in the first place. This is something that we as prolifers should understand. It would be wrong to think that the State is above this type of moral law. For the State is made up of individuals like Patrick and by that logic, is bound by the same moral law as he is. Thus the moral problems of war are exposed. The innocent civilians killed are not part of some utilitarian price to pay for some greater good. Their deaths are the result of an immoral act. It should be noted that in condemning the killing of civilians in war I am not intending to show malice toward our soldiers. Their lives are just as threatened by war and several veterans have joined the anti-war movement due to seeing at first glance, war's evils.

Now I have not even touched on the flaws of preemption. Which is comparable to a case where Jack has not even attacked Patrick, but Patrick suspects he will and thus blows up Jack's house, killing him and his family.

Some Christians are stating that we must go to war for theological reasons. Stating that Israel is God's holy nation and thus we must align our foreign policy to Israel's and whenever Israel goes to war, we must join them. I am not going to debate the theological status of Israel. That has been the subject of debate in Christendom for centuries. What I will argue is that there is no theological imperative for Christians to fight and kill for any government, any race, or any nationality. There are several more theological imperatives to live in peace with all people (Hebrews 12:14). Indeed the early church, many of whom were Jews, refused to kill in war for three centuries. Thus as a Christian myself, I think the quasi-theological reasons for killing our Iranian brothers are deeply flawed, if not totally contradictory to the test of Christians set forth in 1 John 4:20.


Photo by Debra Sweet; some rights reserved.

What about Iran itself though? Do we know that they are making nuclear weapons? Would that really justify a preemptive attack? Has the leader of Iran really said that he wants to "wipe Israel off the map"? The answer to the first question is that we don't know whether or not they are developing nuclear weapons. We suspect that they are making nuclear weapons; perhaps that suspicion is true, perhaps it is not. However, from this vantage point it is not justified to launch a war killing massive amounts of innocent people based on a suspicion. The fact of the matter is, the U.S. has not even begun to engage in diplomatic efforts with Iran, and we should not demonize diplomatic efforts as somehow "caving in" to evil demands. Ronald Reagan had engaged in diplomatic efforts with the Soviets, who we knew had nuclear weapons. Talking with a country that might be trying to make one is not as crazy when compared to negotiating with one that made stockpiles!

In regard to Iran's "leader," the media's inflation of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's "presidency" is quite laughable. The Iranian president is ranked 14th in power in their government. He does not have much decision-making power over foreign policy and is easily outranked by the "supreme leader" of Iran. In regard to Ahmadinejad's statement about "wiping Israel off the map," this is also an exaggeration. The original translation of the statement was that "the regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time." [3] Ahmadinejad's power irrelevance combined with the vagueness of his buzz line statement further weakens the case of launching an attack on Iran.

Finally, the confusion over just war theory must be dealt with. Just war theory does not make every war just. There are several obstacles that must be exhausted first. It is meant to limit war, not to make us quick to it. We have not even begun to exhaust diplomatic resources with Iran. The threat is not assured. Attacking a country based on suspicion can hardly be called defense. Finally, innocent people will be killed if we launch another war on a third world country. To advocate such a war so carelessly does not show a proper respect for the sanctity of human life.


[1] King, Martin Luther, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence”, speech delivered at Riverside Church in New York City, 1967

[2] Rothbard, Murray, “War, Peace, and the State”, The Standard, 1963 <>

[3] Steele, Jonathan, “Lost In Translation”,, 14 June 2006, <>

Disclaimer: The views presented in the Rehumanize Blog do not necessarily represent the views of all members, contributors, or donors. We exist to present a forum for discussion within the Consistent Life Ethic, to promote discourse and present an opportunity for peer review and dialogue.

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