A Philosopher's Blog

The Moral Irony of the Iraq War

Posted in Ethics, Politics by Michael LaBossiere on June 26, 2007

When the Coalition forces invaded Iraq, the justification was that Saddam had WMDs. From a moral standpoint, if the invasion of Iraq was justified because Iraq was believed to have WMDs, then attacks on the United States would also be justified-after all, everyone knows that we have WMDs.

When it turned out that Iraq did not have WMDs, the justification switched to terrorism. That turned out to be mistaken at the time, but is true now. Thanks to the invasion, Iraq is now a hotbed of terrorist activity. There is a great deal of irony in creating exactly the situation that was used to justify the war. This almost seems like picking a fight and then saying that it was justified because the other person started swinging back.

After the terrorism justification came the “Saddam is a bad man” line. It is true that he was a bad man. He employed secret police and used brutality and fear to rule the populace. Torture and imprisonment were regularly used by the state. Ironically, after the United States invaded, the torture and imprisonment continued. This time, however, it was Americans who were imprisoning and torturing people. In the United States, Bush continued to use fear and secret police tactics (domestic spying, etc.). So, the irony is that if we were justified in taking Saddam out for being a bad man, then if someone took out our government, they would be justified on the same moral grounds.

There is a terrible moral irony in the fact that the moral justifications for the Iraq war would also seem to morally justify attacks on the United States.

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4 Responses

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  1. magus71 said, on June 26, 2007 at 11:10 pm

    Sometimes defending yourself has more to do with not wanting to die than morals. Ultimately when all is said and done, the prize goes to the most powerful actor–that’s us. Just because we are powerful does not mean that we must for the reason of fairness allow ourselves to be threatened. And I can come to no other conclusion, despite all of America’s faults, that we are the most moral state that has ever existed on this earth.

    Cops have guns, criminals have guns and citizens have guns. Not all of them are by law entitled. International law, ratified by the UN, stated that Saddam could not possess WMD. He was a criminal and force was needed to not only enforce the law, but to ensure our own safety. America acted when others looked in the other direction in hopes that the problem would go away. We did in fact find caches of WMD, just not the shiny new stuff that everyone expected; it was left over from the Iran-Iraq War=the proverbial Saturday Night Special of mass annihilation.

    We must be specific if we are to compare the torture used by Saddam with that of the US. Our actions during this war are much less severe then our actions in other wars. I have seen photos of Nazi soldiers tied to firing lines and American soldiers ready to pull the trigger. Why? Because the Nazis were not fighting in uniform and thus violated international law. They were sentenced to death and quickly executed. This would not happen now. Instead we hold them in prisons so that CNN can broadcast images of men kneeling in blindfolds. Yes, that is what we do to prisoners of war. None of which were fighting in uniform.

    Douglas Moore

  2. mlabossi said, on June 28, 2007 at 6:31 pm

    Doug,

    As always you are both insightful and mistaken. :)

    While self-defense can be seen as a purely amoral matter of survival, the irony of the war comes from the fact that Bush and his minions justified the war on moral grounds. But, if the war is justified on those grounds, then those same grounds can be used to justify attacks on America-hence the irony.

    While American torture and imprisonment has been less severe and pervasive than that conducted by Saddam, this does not change the fact that it is still torture and imprisonment. We are less evil, but lesser evil is still evil

  3. magus71 said, on June 29, 2007 at 11:48 am

    Mike,

    I respect your unabashed hatred of Bush, but WMD was not a moral issue. It was law and safety. Granted, afterward, other reasons were given.

    Imprisonment is not evil. Recently we let a guy out (2004 actually). The Russians just killed him in a shootout. Guess we need to toughen up some and stop letting Al-Queda members out so they can kill more people.

  4. mlabossi said, on January 18, 2008 at 6:47 pm

    Everything is a moral issue. :)


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