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Catholics, Libertarians, and Foreign Policy


It would be difficult to find a better example of the difference between statists and libertarians than foreign policy. It is this realm that confronts the Catholic with an extremely important choice: “Will I exercise the free will that God has given me by choosing to participate in or support a direct violation of God’s sacred commandment — Thou Shalt Not Murder — or will I instead be a libertarian and oppose the violation of God’s sacred commandment.

Iraq provides an excellent example of the choice facing Catholics.

The U.S. government was the aggressor in the war on Iraq. Neither the Iraqi government nor the Iraqi people ever attacked the United States or even threatened to do so. It was the U.S. government that attacked Iraq. It was Iraq that was the defending nation in that attack.

That means that not one single U.S. soldier, including Catholic soldiers, had the moral right or the right under the laws of God to kill (or incarcerate, torture, and abuse-e.g., Abu Ghraib) even one single Iraqi citizen. Instead, they killed (and maimed) multitudes. We don’t know exactly how many Iraqis they killed because the Pentagon saw fit to keep track of the deaths of only Americans. Iraqis didn’t count, which provides a good reflection of how much value U.S. officials placed on the lives of the Iraqi people.

The killing of the Iraqi people in this war of aggression constituted murder, pure and simple. No one has the right to wrongfully kill another person, not even under the rubric of “war,” especially when the killer is the aggressor.

U.S. officials were clever. They knew that some Americans, especially American Christians, might have misgivings about killing people in a war of aggression. Therefore, they initially sold the war as a defensive war — that is, one in which Iraq, not the United States, was the aggressor. In that way, they could make Americans, including Catholic soldiers, feel okay about killing Iraqis.

That’s where those infamous WMDs come in. U.S. officials told Americans that Saddam Hussein and his government were preparing to unleash WMDs, including nuclear bombs, on American cities. Americans were told, therefore, that the invasion of Iraq was a preemptive strike of a defensive nation on a nation that was preparing an imminent attack on the United States.

Americans bought it. They placed their blind trust in U.S. officials. Soldiers, including Catholic ones, were told that they could now feel good about killing Iraqis. They didn’t need to concern themselves with violating God’s laws against murder because this attack would constitute killing in a preemptive war of self-defense.

In the process of placing their blind trust in the U.S. government, many Americans simply blocked out of their minds the large amount of circumstantial evidence that indicated that U.S. officials were lying, just as they had lied about the Gulf of Tonkin attack to garner support for massive intervention in Vietnam. Throughout the 1990s, statists were berating the George H.W. Bush administration for not ousting Saddam from power during the Persian Gulf intervention and replacing him with a pro-U.S. dictator.

In fact, that was what the more than a decade of brutal sanctions against Iraq were all about. The aim of the sanctions was to cause so much suffering among the Iraqi people that they would oust Saddam from power and replace him with a pro-U.S. dictatorship, much like the pro-U.S. dictatorship in Egypt. Never mind that hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children died as a result of those brutal sanctions. As statist Madelyn Albright, who was the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, put it: The deaths of half-a-million children were “worth it.”

Thus, it was clear to anyone willing to see the truth that the invasion of Iraq was nothing more than a regime-change operation, which the sanctions had failed to achieve. The WMD scare was nothing more than a scam to garner support for the invasion.

But statists continue to live the life of the lie. They continue to maintain that the WMD scare was just an “honest” mistake. Not surprisingly, they have always steadfastly opposed any official investigation into whether the Bush administration intentionally, knowingly, and deliberately misled the American people. Why confront the lie when it’s just as easy to continue living it?

The best proof that U.S. officials had knowingly deceived the American people occurred after it became clear that there were no WMDs. Did U.S. officials apologize for their invasion? Did they immediately come home after making that “discovery”? Did they have any remorse about killing people under “mistaken” pretenses?

We all know they didn’t. Instead, they said that they were going to keep the troops in Iraq anyway and establish a paradise of democracy, freedom, and prosperity that would serve as a model for the Middle East and the world.

There was at least one big problem with that scenario, at least from a Christian perspective: Staying in Iraq would mean having to kill more Iraqis, including those who were resisting the unlawful invasion and occupation of their country. And kill they did. Estimates of deaths range in the hundreds of thousands. Added to that are the high number of people who ended up with no arms or legs or other parts of their bodies.

Keep in mind, again, God’s commandment: Thou shalt not murder.

Statists would argue that the commandment doesn’t apply because the killings were necessary to make Iraq a better place. Moreover, statists said that soldiers didn’t need to concern themselves with God’s commandment because they were just following orders.

But notice something important here: God’s commandment doesn’t say: Thou shalt not murder unless Caesar determines that it’s in the best interests of the survivors of a war of aggression. It also doesn’t say: Thou shalt not murder unless a soldier is obeying the commands of his superiors. If God had intended to add those exceptions to His commandment, He would have done so.

The massive killing in Iraq during the U.S. occupation was always based on a cost-benefit analysis. U.S. officials held that it was okay for the U.S. to kill x number of Iraqis because y number of Iraqis who survived the occupation would be living in a better country. A variation of this cost-benefit approach was: Saddam would have killed x number of people and, therefore, it was okay for U.S. troops to kill y number of people to save those x number of people.

Again, however, God doesn’t provide a cost-benefit exception to His sacred commandment. Instead, He simply commands: Thou shalt not murder.

Statists say that God’s commandment doesn’t apply in war. That’s hogwash. God’s commandment is universal. No government, including the military forces of the government, can exempt itself from the application of God’s laws. God’s laws are permanent and immutable. A war of aggression necessarily entails the wrongful killing of people.

The problem with Iraq, however, goes much deeper than one wrongful invasion and occupation. The problem goes to what statists have done to alter the structure of the U.S. government from what the Framers intended. It is that alteration that has led to Iraq, Afghanistan, Latin America, Vietnam, Korea, and so many other interventionist debacles.

Statists have grafted onto our constitutional order what is called a national-security state apparatus, which consists of a giant standing military force, a secretive intelligence agency known as the CIA, and a massive surveillance scheme operated by the NSA. None of that was part of the U.S. government for more than 150 years of our nation’s history. It is inherent to a dictatorial regime, not a free society.

Statists then employed the national-security state apparatus to achieve an overseas empire of military bases and convert America here at home into a militarist, garrison state, one that has given the president, the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA the power to round up people as suspected terrorists, incarcerate them indefinitely, torture them, execute them, and assassinate them.

On top of all that, statists then used this militarist machinery to adopt a foreign policy of invasions, interventions, assassinations, murders, kidnappings, torture, rendition, and occupations.

I ask some very simple questions: How is any of this consistent with Christian principles? How can any Catholic participate in or support any of this? How can any Catholic in good conscience blindly support the troops and the government without asking himself what they are doing and why they are doing it? Isn’t it the moral duty of a Catholic to dissociate himself from wrongdoing and even stand in opposition to it?

But the statist says to the Catholic:

You don’t need to concern yourself with conscience, not when it comes to the president, the military, and the CIA. They are the sovereign when it comes to foreign policy. Your job is to support the troops, regardless of what the troops are doing and why they are doing it. U.S. politicians and bureaucrats know what’s best for America. They are professionals. They are acting in our best interests, not in their own selfish self-interests. They know what’s best for us. They have access to information that we don’t have. We must continue placing our faith in them. They will never lie to us. If they say the troops need to keep killing people, then it’s our job to support them. Forget your conscience. Forget God’s commandments. The national-security state is everything.

Of course, that’s what free will is all about. It enables every person, including Catholics, to make a choice: Will I pursue the laws of my God or the laws of a Caesar, when Caesar has seen fit to adopt policies that violate God’s laws?

A Catholic, just like everyone else, is free to join the ranks of the statists. But in doing so, he should be fully aware that he is making a choice — a choice between statism, empire, intervention, and direct violations of God’s laws, on the one hand, and libertarianism, a limited-government constitutional republic, and compliance with God’s laws, on the other.

Catholics, Libertarians, and Coerced Charity by Jacob G. Hornberger
Catholics, Libertarians, and the Drug War by Jacob G. Hornberger
Catholics, Libertarians, and Immigration by Jacob G. Hornberger
Catholic, Libertarians, and Foreign Aid by Jacob G. Hornberger

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.