“Ignored Injustices in the U.S. Led War on Iraq,” Newsletter of the Concerned Philosophers for Peace, Vol. 11, No. 1 (Spring 1991).
Many of the U.S. injustices in the U.S.-led War on Iraq have been ignored. The American public has almost universally regarded this war as a triumph of the U.S. over the brutal Iraqi aggression of Saddam Hussein on Kuwait. While many of Hussein’s actions can in no way be morally justified, the matter is not as black-or-white as it is perceived by the American public. Many of the injustices of this war were simply ignored.
The main ignored injustice that was ignored is the motivation behind Hussein’s aggression. (Motives are often ignored in complex issues.) The prime provocation of this aggression concerns the unjust government and policies of Kuwait. This country was artificially created by Britain to keep the Arabs and other countries from controlling the Persian Gulf. The Al-Salah family which was friendly to favors from the West even though they had more money than they could ever spend was set up as the rulers of Kuwait. This family has systematically kept oil prices low. They have thus cut deeply into the economy of Iraq. To reinstate this family in Kuwait is clearly to perpetrate a huge injustice, even though Hussein and other Iraqi’s failed to articulate this. The U.S. energy policy is obviously unsustainable over a long period of time. It, too, is another ignored injustice.
The Kuwaities are considered by the Iraqis to be traitors to them and other Arab nations. This hatred can help to understand a little–although it can by no means whatsoever morally justify–the abhorrent torture of the Kuwaities and the setting on fire of all their oil wells. These were prices the Allies had to pay for ignoring the prime injustice against Iraq. This country can scarcely even speak in its own behalf because it has been kept for 1000 years by colonial powers in an uneducated and primitive condition until recently when the West has ironically made Arab nations wealthy. The hustler (as opposed to capitalist) economy of the U.S. is literally hostage to oil. The massive American suburbs (where all the efforts of the federal government seem directed these days) would come to a complete standstill without gasoline for their extremely wasteful and polluting cars. Injustices are here compounded on injustices. We ignore all of them in favor of a display of military might and propaganda against the true issues.
Arab nations are well aware of the economic injustices regarding oil prices that are literally being forced on them through Kuwait, while Americans are oblivious to them. We ignore them not so much because of a governmental conspiracy, but because as a nation we lack the ability to think critically. Our schools are woefully underfunded while we spend enormous sums on arms and the military. As David Halberstan has point out in The Next Century, the U.S. has lost much manufacturing, high technology and international business to Japan and Germany because their priorities are in those areas rather than wars. Unsustainable energy policies, forced oil prices, poor education and weakened economy that causes much hardship to all–the U.S. has leaped injustice upon injustice all over the world but especially on ourselves to the point that we are too oppressed to notice. We ignore the injustices instead.
U.S. diplomatic incompetence and poor understanding of the Iraqi language is another ignored injustice in this war. This occurred when Iraq informed the U.S. ambassador to Kuwait of its intentions to settle its dispute with Kuwait. This ambassador replied that the U.S. would not meddle in these affairs. Although she probably did not expect Hussein to conquer all of Kuwait, he is perhaps still wondering whether he was told initially that the U.S. would not interfere with his actions. The U.S. has not meddled in other recent aggressions such as China on Tibet, Turkey on Cyprius, the multi-ethnic strife in Lebanon and the 30-40 civil wars waging mostly in third-world countries. The U.S.-led War on Iraq was not a war of self-defense of our country. It does not satisfy any of the other moral conditions of a just war: Intention not to gain power, proportion of good over evil, just means and last resort (these last two conditions will be discussed below).
Another ignored injustice in the U.S.-led War on Iraq is the long-standing grievance of Israel’s occupation of Arab lands seized in 1967. Israel will be less likely to negotiate this issue now that it has been bombed by Iraq. Moslem fundamentalism and fanaticism will escalate as a result of this injustice.
The biggest ignored injustice of the U.S.-led War on Iraq is that it was totally preventable. Economic sanctions could have worked if they were given enough time. They have worked in the past if they have been used long enough. The virtual starvation of Iraqi soldiers when they surrendered testifies to the effectiveness of sanctions. The U.S. violated Geneva accords at the very outset when it embargoed food and medicine from the innocent and helpless civilians of Iraq including the sick, elderly, women and children. This violation gave Iraq permission to violate other Geneva accords regarding rules of a just war such as not bombing civilian targets in Israel and not torturing captured Allied prisoners of war–although neither of these actions can be morally justified in any way.
Another just alternative to the U.S.-led War on Iraq is negotiations. Petulant President Bush undercut all attempts to negotiate a peaceful settlement, whether they were by the United Nations, France or the Soviet Union. Perhaps President Bush had reliable information that the pathetic condition of the Iraqi military would mean an easy victory. The hundreds of thousands of unwilling Iraqi soldiers and civilians who were killed in this war is a huge ignored injustice. Radio writer and performer Garrison Keillor has recently satirized “this wonderful war” in which no many people on our side were killed. This injustice was of massive proportions because it could have been prevented by sanctions and negotiations. Winning a war by a slaughter of the enemy does not make it just.
Hussein’s injustices were deservedly well-publicized. To defend his injustices would be worse than even he is. However, to ignore all the other injustices of the U.S.-led War on Iraq will prove even worse than that.