The Evasion of the Century

by | Mar 29, 2003

The most common reason I hear people opposing war against Iraq — indeed, any war initiated in defense of the United States — is opposition to “violence on principle.” This is what I hear from young people particularly often: “We have no right to use our military might against innocent civilians.” The huge, life-threatening error […]

The most common reason I hear people opposing war against Iraq — indeed, any war initiated in defense of the United States — is opposition to “violence on principle.” This is what I hear from young people particularly often: “We have no right to use our military might against innocent civilians.”

The huge, life-threatening error in this thinking is that it ignores the crucial distinction between initiation of force versus using force in self-defense against those who initiate its use in the first place. There’s a big difference between punching someone merely because you don’t like them and punching someone to retaliate against their having hit you first — or punching them in order to restrain them from hitting you further.

The same principle applies to countries. There’s a big difference, for example, between the United States invading Mexico because we don’t like their monetary policies and the United States invading Iraq or Iran in retaliation for their open and known sponsorship of terrorism against Americans throughout the world.

Many, such as the Pope, will vaguely retort that war should only be initiated as a “last resort” and that the threat posed by Iraq at present does not justify such action. What the Pope evades in his moral condemnation of the U.S. is that Saddam Hussein is a known sponsor of terrorism, including against the people he rules. If Hussein sponsored terrorism against the Vatican, perhaps the Pope’s position would be different. Or perhaps he would show the world that he practices what he preaches, meaning that he would turn the other cheek and tell Saddam, “Send on the chemical weapons.”

Speak for yourself, John Paul. I, for one, want to live.

Many Iraqi people would rather risk their lives in a U.S. led invasion if it means some hope of ending dictatorship in their country. This is a point you never hear raised by those concerned about “innocent civilians.” That’s because what they really oppose is the assertion of American strength at any place or at any time, for any reason whatsoever.

Young people, of course, are primarily influenced not by the Pope but by those in academia, Hollywood and government who, deep down, don’t like America and to some extent feel a twisted psychological alliance with our enemies as the “victims” of our own “arrogance” and “selfishness.” These trusted elders of the still-lingering 1960’s establishment, such as Barbara Streisand and Martin Sheen (who seems to really think he’s President, by the way), choose to ignore the difference between initiating force against a violent, terrorizing thug versus initiating force against an innocent, non-violent party. It’s a crucial distinction, but one evaded today on a scale never before seen in our nation’s history. Many young people are innocent in their error; most of their teachers are not.

If and when the next terrorist attack comes — and it will likely be worse than 9/11 — I hold those who refuse to make this distinction the most responsible. Those of us who are right may or may not still be alive to say, “I told you so,” but reality speaks in stronger terms than any writer ever could. Of course, I have little doubt that the Martin Sheens of the world would dissolve in a mushroom cloud still shrieking (right up to the very last moment) that it’s all the fault of the United States, not the fault of our enemies, for bringing about such destruction. Reality will never persuade such people because their prejudice against America and American values knows no boundaries. Why they continue to live in a country whose values they so despise remains an open question.

In a pre-emptive war such as that proposed against Iraq, the issue admittedly becomes a bit more clouded in the minds of decent people. “How can we use force against Iraq?” This is the question many people ask. The hard reality which they consciously or subconsciously ignore, but cannot make go away because it is part of reality, is that Iraq is one of the numerous countries that supports terrorism against the United States (i.e. 9/11 or its equivalent). Therefore, Iraq must be treated as a viciously hostile government just as Nazi Germany and Japan were treated in World War II. The fact that terrorist-sponsoring governments act in secret most of the time does not give them moral immunity and should not shield them from the full force of our military retaliation.

Even the ludicrous spectacle of the U.N. weapons inspections process has provided ever more evidence that Saddam Hussein obviously possesses weapons of mass destruction and would happily use them against innocent people in a New York minute if it served his whimsical interest. His own chief nuclear scientist — educated at M.I.T., assigned to that job by force, and who later escaped Iraq — makes the credible claim in his book “Saddam’s Bombmaker” that Saddam wants to drop a nuclear bomb unannounced on Israel as soon as it’s ready for use. He would of course do the same to the U.S. if he possessed the capability, and we don’t need a nuclear scientist to inform us of this fact.

It must also be remembered that Saddam Hussein rules his country by dictatorship. The absurd, patently dishonest reasoning that “the Iraqi people have a right to choose their own government” does not apply, since Iraq is obviously not a democratic republic like the United States, Australia, Israel or Great Britain. This mistake, by the way, is such a glaring one that I don’t judge it as innocent even when claimed by a young college student. Dictators have no moral right to continue imposing their dictatorship on their victims. If their victims are so corrupted or demoralized that they cannot or will not lift a finger to defend themselves, it is still no reason that the happy and the strong must stand by and risk annihilation.

Young people must be helped to understand the distinction between initiating violence and retaliating against the threat of violence. The first is immoral; the second is entirely moral and necessary. They must be helped to understand that just as a student on a playground has every moral right to punch a bully when the bully is coming after him, a free and happy country has every right to unleash all of its military force against an enemy who intends to drop a nuclear bomb as soon as he gets one, and who already has biological and chemical weapons in his arsenal. The politically correct public school teachers, left-leaning professors and left-wing celebrities can’t be counted on to make this distinction for these young people.

Dr. Michael Hurd is a psychotherapist, columnist and author of "Bad Therapy, Good Therapy (And How to Tell the Difference)" and "Grow Up America!" Visit his website at:

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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