International Plenary Address During Annual Social Ministry Gathering Given by Dr. Cusimano Love Regarding the Possibility of War in Iraq, the War on Terrorism, Globalization, and Poverty, February 2003

Year Published
  • 2013
  • English
Dr. Maryann Cusimano Love
Catholic University, Center for International
Social Development and Dept. of Politics

Feb. 10, 2003
  2:00-2:35 Washington Court Hotel,
  Washington, DC

Jerry Powers and the USCCB have asked me to talk to you today about the possibility of war in Iraq, the war on terrorism, globalization, and poverty all in about 20 minutes.  No problem!

Here's the highlights tape in advance. I'm going to make 5 points:

  1. There are practical alternatives to war with Iraq.

  2. If war with Iraq does come, our voice remains important in speaking out about jus in bello use of force limitations during the conflict.

  3. Morality matters in the war on terrorism, [even among so-called realist thinkers who argue that we must fight this "new kind of war" as if no rules apply.]

  4. We are the new Rome.  We are living in the American Empire.  We must use our faith tradition to inform and guide our country's position of world superpower.  What do we want the legacy of American Empire to be?

  5. Terrorism seeks to globalize fear; we must seek to globalize faith, to work in our own communities to create a globalization of solidarity, and to prevent another Crusade.

1) There are practical alternatives to war with Iraq.

Last week Secretary Powell laid out convincing evidence for the Administration's case that Iraq may still be in possession of chemical and biological weapons banned since the Gulf War, that Iraq works to evade and deceive inspectors to avoid the detection and destruction of these weapons and facilities, and that Iraq still desires nuclear weapons.  However, accepting these points does not mean accepting the administration's solution to these circumstances: war to disarm Iraq, with or without the explicit backing of the UN Security Council. 

  1. One alternative to war is outlined on the front page of yesterday's Washington Post Outlook Section. Jessica Tuchman Mathews, President of  the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, outlined their approach for a tougher, more effective UN Weapons Inspection regime, including U2 overflights, greater intelligence sharing between UN member states and the inspectors, expanding the inspection teams by re-hiring the experienced inspectors Saddam Hussein evicted in 1998 (because of their expertise).  The French and Germans have been advocating a similar line: give the inspectors more time and more resources to disarm Iraq. 

  2. Another alternative to war has been advocated by General Zinni, former head of US troops in the ME region and currently special ambassador to the Middle East, General Schwartzkopf, retired commander of US forces in the First Gulf War, as well as by other retired military and some members of the first Bush administration.  This argument holds that while Saddam Hussein is a brutal dictator who would like to amass weapons of mass destruction, he has been successfully contained for the past 12 years and the US should continue this policy of containment by continuing to enforce the "no fly zone" over Iraq, enforcing a smarter sanctions policy that would better target and stop military and dual use imports, basically, continue to keep this regime in a box.  According to General Zinni, Iraq does not present an imminent threat to the US or the region.  Iraq is not the #1 threat, according to General Zinni, but ranks perhaps 6th or 7th.  Combating ongoing attacks by al Qaeda, instability and violence in the Israeli/ Palestinian conflict, stemming instability in Pakistan and the India/Pakistan violence all present a much more clear and present danger than the regime of Saddam Hussein, and a war in Iraq would further destabilize the region and further mobilize al Qaeda.  This is the view I hear continually among  military officers as I work in the Pentagon and in my current position at the US Naval Academy.  I find no enthusiasm for a war with Iraq, but a resignation that if called upon by the President they are constitutionally bound to serve and to seek to prevail in the conflict to the best of their abilities.  There is a reason these views are most frequently offered by retired military and veterans: active duty servicemen and women do not have the luxury of publicly contradicting the policy of their commander in chief. 

  3. A third alternative to war with Iraq is outlined in a recent article I wrote for America magazine entitled "Real Prevention: Alternatives to Force."  I advocate, along with Republican Senator Richard Lugar, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, expanding cooperative threat reduction type programs beyond the former Soviet states, especially and immediately to include Pakistan and India.  Throughout the 1990's, cooperative threat reduction programs have removed and dismantled over 6000 nuclear warheads, making the Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus nuclear weapons free states.  The programs have employed former Soviet weapons scientists, bought and removed stores of fissile materials, increased security, control, and accountability at weapons and research lab sites throughout the former Soviet Union, and have expanded these programs to chemical and biological weapons labs and sites.  Despite the success of these programs in preventing proliferation from the former Soviet states, funding has always been anemic and support in Congress lackluster, with repeated funding freezes.  But at $400 million per year, Cooperative Threat Reduction programs are a bargain, especially compared with the $6-13 billion per month cost of war in Iraq, according to the Congressional Budget office. 

    These are some of the options.  There are others–Hussein might be persuaded to take the "Idi Amin" option of leaving and living under protected immunity in a third country.  These approaches are not mutually exclusive, and can be employed in tandem. Inspections, containment, diplomacy, prevention regimes– all these measures take time and require persistence and commitment on the part of the US and the international community.  They do not offer the prospect of easy, quick victory or necessarily involve the removal of Saddam Hussein from power.  But they offer greater chances for stability in the region with less loss of life. 

    It is important to remember that military intervention to disarm Iraq risks causing the very chemical, biological, or radiological explosions against US and allied forces and neighbors that the war seeks to prevent,  for 2 reasons.  1)By attacking without knowing the location of weapons of mass destruction sites (Secretary Powell testified last week that we do not know the locations of these materials as they are hidden and moved around, and that there may be mobile weapons facilities), US bombs will release those very agents into the atmosphere.  2) As CIA Director George Tenet has testified to Congress, Hussein is unlikely to use any weapons of mass destruction in his possession unless he fears for his life or his regime while under attack.  Attacking Hussein may make him likely to enter a "use it or lose it" decision making logic in which he opts to unleash chemical or biological weapons of mass destruction on Israel or on US troops. 

    These alternatives to war are quite practical, and have the backing of many Republicans, members of the first Bush administration, and military officials.

2) The Bush administration may choose to go to war against Iraq anyway.  If this happens, we must not be disheartened, but must continue to focus attention on the jus in bello restrictions on the use of force.

Noncombatants must not be targeted, and steps taken to minimize noncombatant casualties.  This may be especially difficult in urban warfare in Baghdad, if Saddam Hussein opts to use civilians as shields, and if neighboring states such as Lebanon and Jordan continue to close their borders and resist accepting Iraqi refugees.  Catholic Relief Services has their work cut out for them.  Catholics must be united with others of conscience in speaking out against the use of landmines and against the use of miniature, low yield, tactical nuclear weapons as "bunker busters." Landmines do not discriminate between combatant and noncombatants and continue to kill civilians long after conflicts are over, but some leaked war planning scenarios entertain the use of landmines.  Also, the US has threatened to use nuclear weapons first if Iraq threatens or commits a chemical or biological weapons attack.  Use of nuclear weapons cannot be justified: they violate proportionality, discrimination, noncombatant immunity, and perhaps most importantly, they undermine the international prohibition that has grown up around nuclear weapons since their use in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Should the US use even tactical or miniature nuclear weapons to "bust bunkers" or hardened sites, the US stands to lose far more than others by undermining the stigma against nuclear weapons use. The precedent will make it much more difficult to convince other actors to neither develop or use nuclear weapons. Other state and non-state actors cannot compete against the US conventional military, and so have far greater incentives to use weapons of mass destruction should the lid of moral stigma against their use be lifted.  Such a development would be far more damaging to the US in the long run.

3) Morality matters in the war on terrorism.

Since September 11th, many realist thinkers argue in that the US cannot be constrained by moral limitations or concerns in the fight against the al Qaeda network, non-state actors that deliberately target noncombatants and do not abide by the rules of war.  We must fight this "new kind of war" as if no rules apply.  They do not respect moral limitations on the use of force, so we cannot afford the luxury of such self-restraints.  The argument comes up again and again, whether the issue is torture of detainees; the rights and treatment of POWs, enemy combatants, detainees; the debate over using nuclear weapons as "bunker busters" in Afghanistan; or holding non-citizens in INS detention centers, secretly without charges made against them or access to family, lawyers, chaplains, or social services.

But morality does matter in the war on terrorism, as shown by two recent actions by the administration.  1) the administration continues to try to link Saddam Hussein with the al Qaeda terrorist network.  If Iraq could be shown to be a state sponsor of al Qaeda, attacking Iraq might qualify as self defense and satisfy the just war criterion of just cause.  But Secretary Powell's argument about Iraqi sponsorship and support of al Qaeda were sketchy at best and deliberately misleading at worst.  While an Islamic extremist group, Ansar al Islam has been active in Northeastern Iraq along the border with Iran, this area is NOT under the control of Saddam Hussein's government, but is in the Kurdish-controlled North.  Secondly, it is not clear the level of cooperation between this extremist group and al Qaeda; the two have had their differences in the past.  Just last week Mullah Krekar, leader of Ansar al-Islam, said that far from promoting links with the Iraqi regime, he wanted to see the end of it. "I am against Saddam Hussein. I want [Iraq] to change into an Islamic regime," he told the British newspaper The Guardian. Similarly, al Qaeda's agenda is to remove apostate, illegitimate, secular leaders from the Islamic world, to establish theocracies ruled by Sharia, strict, fundamentalist version of  Islamic law.  Thus Hussein would be the enemy and target of their enterprise, one reason Hussein has worked hard to suppress Islamic fundamentalism within Iraq, as he sees it as a threat to his regime.  The British and other European governments and intelligence services, while agreeing with much of Powell's presentation regarding Iraqi intransigence and deception toward inspectors concerning chemical and biological weapons, all vehemently disagreed with the administration's attempts to connect Hussein with al Qaeda.  Why would the administration bother to make the argument with little hard intelligence to back it up if morality was unimportant?  Morality matters.

Secondly, as we meet here today, the administration is using tax payer dollars to try to convince the Vatican to change its just war doctrine to include the idea of preventive force.  The Vatican has no army, no power in the realist sense of the term.  So why at this juncture is the US government trying to convince a religious organization to change its religious beliefs?  Because morality matters, the ideas matter.  Moral ideas are a source of power, legitimacy, they help to generate public support at home and abroad, and mobilize resources.  People will fight for what's right; they are much more hesitant to fight for what they believe to be morally ambiguous. 

Terrorism is a tactic, of killing noncombatants to generate fear in order to achieve political goals.  The US is involved in a war on a tactic, not a particular state or geographic based group.  The war on terrorism attempts to build international consensus around the norm of prohibiting terrorism, much like the efforts to ban other tactics internationally as morally impermissible (the ban on landmines, slavery, piracy) that have succeeded with the help of religious organizations.  In attempting to create international consensus around a norm, morality matters.  Our means matter.  It is a battle of ideas at least as much as it is a physical battle of forces.  The Catholic Church has an important role to play in creating international norms.

4) We are the new Rome.  We are living in the American Empire.  We must use our faith tradition to inform and guide our country's position of world superpower.  What do we want the legacy of American Empire to be?

The folk singer Dar Williams has a line in a song about the Berrigan brothers, Jesuit priests who opposed the Vietnam War, that I believe is a challenge today for all of us: "First it was a question, then it was a mission, how to be American, how to be a Christian?"  This is the challenge we face today.  Whether the US empire began by accident, by picking up some of the responsibilities of the former colonial powers after the Second World War, or whether by deliberate policy choice, the US is the preeminent power in the world today.  The U.S. rules not by direct "colonial possession," but by more indirect economic, cultural, and military power, that translate into disproportionate influence over the rules that govern the international system.  This is not an indictment or a criticism, merely an empirical description of the preeminence of US power since the fall of the Soviet Union.  The developing world does not see globalization as neutral, but as a tool of US power.  Al Qaeda's fight with the US is in some ways an anti-colonialist movement: in al Qaeda's statements of jihad against America in 1996 and 1998, Osama bin Laden says repeatedly and point blank, that US military presence in Saudi Arabia is an imperialist occupation of Muslim Holy Lands that must be pushed back, and that Egypt and Saudi Arabia are complicit with the imperial power, illegitimate Viche- government type collaborators.  We may disagree with this assessment, but we must understand it, and consider the moral responsibilities that come with our position of power in the world.  What legacy will the American Empire leave behind?

The US does not consider itself as an imperial power, and does not view the reach of US power globally to constitute an empire.  The US after all is itself a former colony of the British Empire, created after a war of colonial independence.  How could a former colony have become an empire?  Empire has become a dirty word, so un-PC that it cannot be uttered in polite company.  Tied with the racist and violent history of colonialism, it is something to be denied at all cost.  But just as racism was not purged from reality when we purged racist language from the past, so we do not erase the reality of empire by refusing to talk about it.  Empire, like race, has gone underground in polite American society.  In losing the words and concepts, we lose the ability to talk honestly. We lose the ability to think clearly strategically, morally, and in terms of posterity.  We lose the ability to have an honest, open, and wide-ranging public debate over the extent and purpose of American power.  Until 1991 the US protected its interests in the Persian Gulf without a military footprint in Saudi Arabia.  Since the Gulf War the US military presence in Saudi Arabia is sacrosanct.  Is US military presence in Saudi Arabia necessary for maintaining American empire or American purposes, and what costs are we willing to absorb for this military position?  We cannot even have the conversation because we do not acknowledge we have an empire.  We lose the ability to choose what we will use our power for, to discuss and meet our responsibilities, and to decide what we want to leave behind from our period of empire.

Morally, power brings responsibility. Whether Greek, Roman, or British, the government had certain responsibilities to those within the empire.  But because we acknowledge no empire, we acknowledge no responsibilities.  The wealthiest country in the world is also the most stingy.  We give last in development aid as a percentage of our GDP.  The tiny Caribbean state of Trinidad and Tobago gives nearly 7% of their budget in foreign aid to other needy countries in the Caribbean.  We give much less than 1% of our budget.  The US gives a mere 75 cents per year per US citizen toward the UN Global Fund for AIDS/ Malaria/ and TB fund, while every year, 8 million people die of AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria, primarily in poor countries— approximately a Holocaust a year.1  The Bush administration is to be commended for its promise to increase that spending to $5 billion for the Millennium Challenge account by 2006, and for the State of the Union speech pledge to spend $15 billion over the next five years to fight HIV/ AIDS. We applaud this greater awareness and commitment to addressing the AIDS pandemic, and welcome following through on this proposal, to ensure that these promised additional funds make their way to the world's most needy.  But realistically we must keep in mind that Congress must still allocate the money, and no new money will begin until  2004 at the earliest.  By comparison, in Congressional testimony last week Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld acknowledged that we are spending $1.5 billion a month to fight the war on terrorism, and a war in Iraq could cost much more than that.  These funds are not currently contained within the Pentagon's expanded $380 billion a year budget, but funds for the war on terrorism and any potential war in Iraq will have to be paid for in supplementary budget allocations, that is, on top of and in addition to the regular Pentagon budget of $380 billion. 

What will our legacy be?  All empires end.  The Greeks gave us democracy, philosophy, architecture that we still use and study today.  The Romans gave us law, aquiducts, roads, arches, republicanism, citizen-soldiers, cuisine, art and architecture that we still use and study today.  The wide extent of their empire gave common ground to dissimilar cultures so that from North Africa to Ireland there are still some common elements to our diverse cultures.  The British gave us the English language, literature, law, school and public administration and market economic systems that still are in service today.  What will we leave behind?  Plastic bags, dumps of discarded consumer products and happy meal toys, and patent rights?  The Constitution and Declaration of Independence, jazz, rock and roll, the internet, computers and scientific advancements are certainly all contributions.  But they are contributions by default not decision.  Rockefellar, Ford, and other industrialists left foundations behind to pursue a legacy.  But many of our contributions, like our empire,  are more accidents than decision.  What do we want to contribute? What will our legacy be?  If Bill Gates can consider this question as the country's wealthiest person, shouldn't we consider it as the world's wealthiest society?

We lose moral leadership and legitimacy as we fail to acknowledge moral responsibilities which come with US power.  Much is expected from those to whom much is given.

5) Terrorism seeks to globalize fear; we must seek to globalize faith, to work in our own communities to create a globalization of solidarity, and prevent another Crusade.

Let's be honest: while the Catholic Church has more regular and often fruitful ecumenical relationships with the Lutherans, Episcopalians, Orthodox Christians, and Jews, Christian- Muslim relations are thin.  Partially this is due to the differences in our organizations.  They do not have an equivalent of a Bishops Conference.  Who can we dialogue with?  But Muslim-Christian relations are not the government's job or the Bishops' job, but a responsibility of us all.  No matter how many times the administration says that the war on terrorism and a potential war in Iraq are not wars on Muslims but against particular outlaws, we must be clear that these actions are perceived in the Islamic world, even among our allies, as actions against Muslims.  What are we doing, in our own parishes, dioceses, states and communities, to deepen and better Christian- Muslim relations?  What joint programming, mutual projects, and regular dialogue do our parishes and dioceses enter into with the local Islamic Centers and Mosques?  As Christians, we have the opportunity to build more meaningful relationships of trust and cooperation around common community concerns, to build better Christian-Muslim relations and do our part to innoculate against a new Crusades mentality from the grass roots up.

We have an apostolic mission to minister to the poor, the refugee, the stranger among us.  Since September 11th, new security procedures have trapped many refugees in a nightmare of detention in INS detention centers, often without the knowledge of their families, access to legal counsel, or even to chaplains or social services.  Most INS detention centers have no regular chaplains or programs of pastoral care.  While US law allows 70,000 refugees to enter per year, last year only 30,000 refugees were processed given slow downs and often inconsistent and unknown new security procedures.  What are we doing in our own states, dioceses, parishes, and communities to minister to these refugees caught in the middle of the war on terrorism, to provide for their pastoral care, to speak for those who have no voice, to advocate for more humane treatment of refugees at INS detention centers and for the admission of all 70,000 refugees, especially at a time when other countries are closing their doors on refugees?

Attending to the moral dimensions of the war on terrorism begins with all of us.


  1. Maryann Cusimano Love. Beyond Sovereignty: Issues for a Global Agenda. 2nd Edition. New York: Wadsworth/Thompson, 2003, p. 323.


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