I WISH to take issue with the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council’s (ACSJC) claim (CL 25/11/01) that the allied assault in Afghanistan meets ‘only one of the Church’s six just war criteria’.
The ACSJC does concede that some response to the attacks of September 11 ‘was legitimate self defence’ but does not recognise the authority of the allied grouping which ordered the military action. Astonishingly, the ACSJC claims ‘that the appropriate body to do this was the UN Security Council’.
One only has to remember the appalling performances of the UN in the recent conflicts in Rwanda and in the former Yugoslavia to understand why the US and its allies would refuse to deal with it.
The third point made by the ACSJC is that the allied attack on Afghanistan was not taken ‘as a last resort after all non-violent means were exhausted’. One wonders what ‘non-violent means’ would have had a hope of success.
Also, while months and perhaps years passed using these ‘non-violent means’, would bin Laden and his cohorts sit quietly twiddling their thumbs? Surely the threat of further terrorist attacks on a massive scale necessitated an urgent response?
The ACSJC then goes on to criticise the allies for their failure to ensure ‘a reasonable chance of success’. This seems to be especially harsh. Sure bin Laden (at the time of writing) has not been captured. However, the allies are certainly doing their best to apprehend him and they have at least broken the power of the Taliban, one of the most oppressive regimes known to the modern world.
On the issue of proportionality, there is room for debate. Certainly, in any conflict, there is the risk of widespread suffering and death and it is obvious that many Muslims have been angered by the attack on Afghanistan.
However, with bin Laden urging Muslims to kill Christians and Westerners wherever they find them, there is the counter-balancing risk that unless he is brought down – and very soon – the rift between Muslims and Christians will become a chasm. Bin Laden is doing his best to widen the Afghan conflict into a worldwide struggle for supremacy between East and West.
Finally, the ACSJC believes the allies have not done enough ‘to guarantee adequate protection for civilians’. In this I have to agree. The use of cluster bombs – many of which fail to explode on impact – is a tactic which puts civilians at risk even years after a conflict has ceased.
This, of course, brings us back to the issue of proportionality. Given the nature of the issues involved, do the negative aspects of the Afghan campaign outweigh the apparent need to deal firmly and decisively with ruthless terrorism?
While there is no easy answer to this question, I have no doubt that the ACSJC is far too harsh in its criticism of the US and its allies.
ROBERT LEACH Noosaville, Qld