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April 10, 2003, Gazette

A just war?

Katie Norman
Nineteen years isn’t an overly long time, but in my life wars have ravaged the Balkans and the Middle East, Russia got its “Vietnam” with the Afghan War and twice America has gone to war with Iraq. I have seen genocide occur in Rwanda and ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, not through my own eyes, but through the newspapers and evening newscasts. Yet somehow this current war has affected me in a way that none of the others have.

Obviously I am older and more socially conscious of the political climate around me. Past events have been as horrific, but I was simply too young to understand the implications. One might even argue that the reason such events occur is that we cannot understand our actions and the actions of others. Yet this war and its “shock and awe” effects are visible from living rooms across the country, and for that reason people are questioning that much more the implications and the purpose of the actions of the Bush administration and its allies. There has always been activism surrounding warfare, but today the media makes us all aware and we are all forced to try to decide if this war is just.

The Just War Criteria states that all wars must have a just cause involving self-defence, punishment or the prevention of aggression. It has been no secret that this is a pre-emptive war, an attempt to remove a dictator who has some potential for causing widespread harm with weapons of mass destruction, therefore it is likely that this war would be considered within the realm of the prevention of aggression. Yet the proper inspections were not completed before missiles were dropped, UN approval was not given and in my opinion that is a major infraction. It is also in opposition to UN policy to cite self-defence in a pre-emptive attack; an attack must occur before self-defence can be cited as the cause.

Secondly, war must be a last resort according to the criteria. All other means, including but not exclusive to, admonishment, sanction and political pressure must be exercised before war. Did the Bush Administration wait long enough? Or apply enough pressure before going to war? Tony Blair did provide demands for Saddam Hussein to follow if he wanted the war to be prevented, yet the act was nothing more than a media ploy to make it appear that attempts were being made to reconcile differences and prevent an attack on Iraq. The UN resolution demanded that Hussein appear on Iraqi television and tell the Iraqi population that Iraq does have nuclear capabilities and that he has been deceiving the state and the global community. Then after the public address he would produce such weapons to the international community.

The reason I feel such a request is a ploy is that it assumes that Hussein is a rational man with a concern for his population. This fact has already been refuted. He kills his people for disobeying his orders, is elected by arbitrary elections and has little concern for human rights. Central to Blair’s request is the presence of a concern for human rights; it must be so great that a dictator is willing to admit personal fault so that the civilians and resources aren’t put at risk. This was obviously a blind attempt at prevention.

This ploy not only makes a mockery of international diplomacy but also makes use of the media as a mechanism to influence public opinion. From presidential addresses to journalists following infantries through the Ad-Dibdibah Desert, we can get a daily dose of the missiles falling and the buildings collapsing. It is not only politicians taking advantage of the media to arouse public interest and rally support, but rather the media are juicing this war for every angle possible. We can watch a POW’s family speak about their daughter’s release from Iraqi forces and talk of the parties that will ensue upon her arrival home. Media pulls at our heartstrings providing an emotional angle, giving a voice to the soldiers who are fighting this war. This not only allows the stories of those on the field and in the air to be told, but it also acts as another way for the American government to rally their nation’s support.
It is no coincidence that it was Colin Powell who went on Muslim television stations to speak on the necessities of this war. Perhaps Bush’s public image would not have been viewed as favourably. In fact this attempt to use the media to get Muslim nations to back the war has ultimately backfired and has sparked even more anti-war demonstrations. The key element the Bush administration is missing in their marketing is the connection to the Muslim world and the voice of the Iraqi public. An Iraqi civilian speaking on the injustices he or she has endured would provide a more effective media broadcast. Yet the fact cannot be ignored that has not been fully determined how Iraqi citizens feel about this war.

Journalists go to war to document the stories of those on the field and those in the towns that are being attacked; yet CNN was kicked out of Baghdad making the storytelling more difficult. Kuwait City has become the journalist haven of choice, as if a Middle Eastern backdrop makes the story more authentic. The media provides immediate gratification for those thriving for minute by minute updates, yet it must be realized that in international politics everything has a hidden agenda and nothing is as simple as it appears on the surface.