Professors discuss Christian, political justifications for war

A panel of professors discussed the validity of the Iraq war from both a political and a Christian standpoint at the Searchlight Symposium on Thursday.In front of about 80 students, professors Nadia Lahutsky, Eric Cox and Mark Gilderhus addressed the questions, “What is a just war? Are we in one?”

Lahutsky, an associate professor of religion, opened the discussion with a description of the “just war’s” evolution within the Christian faith.

She said early Christians objected to war on the principle that violence is fundamentally wrong.

Lahutsky said as time passed, the Christian community became increasingly open to the secular, including warfare.

She said Christians held that war could be waged after all other avenues had been exhausted and if there was reasonable hope for success. She said they stipulated that minimal force should be used and prisoners should be treated humanely.

Lahutsky said the Iraq war is unjust because it violates these traditional Christian values.

“I do not think we’re safer from terrorists than we were in 2003,” Lahutsky said. “I am not persuaded that this has nothing to do with our insatiable appetite for oil.”

Cox, a political science professor, tackled the question from a legal perspective.

He said the laws governing pre-emptive warfare, as stated by the United Nations Charter, are similar to those established by ancient Christian tradition as Lahutsky described it.

Pre-emptive warfare is acceptable only if the danger to the country is imminent and all other diplomatic solutions have been exhausted or on the grounds of humanitarian intervention, Cox said.

Cox said the country was not under an immediate threat of danger from Iraq when war was declared, and that the Bush administration’s justifications have changed multiple times in the nearly four years that troops have been there.

“I firmly believed that he (Saddam Hussein) had weapons of mass destruction … but hindsight is 20/20 and it’s clear there never were any,” Cox said.

He said as it became increasingly obvious that weapons of mass destruction would not be found in Iraq, the administration began to promote the removal of Saddam as the cause of war.

Now that the war is officially over, the American occupation of Iraq continues as a “humanitarian effort,” Cox said.

Gilderhus, chair of the history department, said he is adamantly against the Iraq war.

When interviewed prior to the symposium, he said he disagreed with the way in which the occupation of Iraq has been conducted and agreed with Cox in saying it conflicts with the basic principles of pre-emptive warfare.