Michael Novak Defends U.S. Position on Iraq

American Theologian Describes the War as Defensive, Not Preventive

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ROME, FEB. 11, 2003 (Zenit.org).- U.S. theologian Michael Novak insists that a military intervention in Iraq can be justified by the principles of legitimate defense, rather than the concept of preventive war.

Novak, of the American Enterprise Institute, spoke here during a two-hour symposium Monday organized by Jim Nicholson, U.S. ambassador to the Vatican.

Over the last few days, Novak has attended meetings in the Vatican and in Italy to try to justify the U.S. government’s position regarding Iraq. He met in private with Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, Vatican secretary for relations with states, and with representatives of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

Speaking on “The Doctrine of the Just War and Iraq,” Novak said that “a possible U.S. attack against Iraq has nothing to do with a preventive war.”

“The United States is afraid that the arms of mass destruction, chemical and bacteriological — mustard gas, sarin, botulin, anthrax — that Saddam Hussein has at his disposal and that he has yet to demonstrate that he has destroyed, can be used by fundamentalist terrorists,” Novak said.

“We have seen what is was possible to do with a spoonful of anthrax. Saddam has at his disposal 5,000 liters of anthrax and we know they can be used by terrorist cells around the world,” Novak told his 150 listeners.

“We cannot allow other massacres, such as the one of Sept. 11, to take place. This is why we ask Saddam to destroy his arsenals — a commitment to disarmament that Saddam assumed in 1991 and that he has still not respected,” said Novak, who fielded questions from the audience.

In regard to armed intervention, Novak referred to the doctrine of just war, explaining that this war would be a “defensive intervention against a sure threat,” represented by a regime that “is worse than that of the Taliban” and “more cruel than that of Milosevic.”

“In moral terms, we were attacked on Sept. 11, 2001, and it is our government’s job to protect its citizens,” he said. “For this reason, we will do everything possible to defend ourselves.”

Novak referred to No. 2309 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which specifies the conditions necessary for legitimate defense. He explained that they must be framed in the different context of the “asymmetrical war” carried out by terrorists.

The damage for nations is lasting, grave and certain, and that is why “it is morally obligatory for states to defend themselves from this threat,” he said.

In response to criticisms from the Catholic world of the U.S. plan to attack, Novak said: “It is not true, as Civiltà Cattolica has written, that we are trying to make war to control Iraq’s oil.”

According to an endnote in the text of Novak’s talk, “only” 6% of the oil used in the United States comes from Iraq. “Europe, China and Russia are much more interested than we are in that region’s oil,” he said.

Asked about John Paul II efforts to avoid the conflict, Novak said: “It is right that the Holy Father should move to impede the war. I thank him for it.”

Novak also applauded a recent statement of Cardinal Camillo Ruini, president of the Italian bishops’ conference, who said that Saddam should opt for voluntary exile.

“In any case, we will be the first to accept Saddam’s effective disarmament, and we would be very happy not to fight a war that seeks to deactivate such a serious threat to the security and freedom of peoples,” Novak concluded.

Novak’s address may be read at http://www.nationalreview.com/novak/novak.asp.

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