There were big pacifist demonstrations against war with Iraq over the weekend, organised by the predominantly left-wing 'stop the war' coalition. The bishops of the Church of England have come out against conflict with Iraq, modifying the Christian 'just war' principles to make just any war which the UN Security Council approve.
On the other hand, the Government claim that Iraq is a danger to our security and that the 'War against Terrorism' must be prosecuted to the end for our domestic security.
Where should Christians stand in this debate? The bishops' redefinition of 'just war' frankly will not do, but they did not need it anyway. Evidence that Iraq still has weapons of mass destruction is still absent, with the empty chemical warheads dismissed even by America as not 'the smoking gun' they were hoping for. The UN team of inspectors are held in derision by President Bush's administration, but the Americans have been unable to direct them to where any alleged weapons are concealed.
The evidence that Iraq is involved with Osama Bin Laden's Al Qaeda is similarly hard to come by. Al Qaeda is doing very well with money provided by the Saudis and other gulf oil states, and none of them is as friendly with Saddam Hussein as they are with the USA. That could of course change if Iraq were attacked. The Al Qaeda terrorist who knifed DC Stephen Oake was from Algeria, others have come from Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Just war - in the traditional understanding - fails at this point.
Iraq's weapons of mass destruction - if they exist - would be too limited in range to reach Britain or America. Just war fails here too, as there is no self-defence issue at stake. Iraq could well be a threat to Israel, and Israel has a legitimate right to defend her land. However, Israel is not involved in the American-led coalition, because that would upset the Arabs. Britain is still fence-sitting over Israel, and is not planning on attacking Iraq on Israel's behalf. In any case, starting a war with Iraq would be as good a way as any of bringing about a nuclear strike against Israel and full-scale war in the Middle East.
The Russians will not be joining in with a war against Iraq; they are well entrenched as Saddam's oil export and refinery partners. That fact leads to the truth, in a follow-the-money sort of way. Iraq has vast oil reserves which are at present locked in by sanctions. The Americans want to get their hands on as much oil as they can, and would dearly love to replace Saddam with a new puppet they can more easily manipulate.
That leads to 'regime change' as a cause of war, but this is just old-style imperialism in a new guise. The Americans do not care which despot is in charge so long as he allows them access to their natural resources. The regime was changed in Afghanistan, again because of oil, or more accurately an oil pipeline, but neither the fight against terrorism nor the lot of the people has improved much at all.
British cynicism has also been running rampant. We helped arm Iraq, with precisely the weapons of mass destruction we are now complaining about, when Saddam was looked upon as a 'good boy' who would resist Islamist Iran for us. Just before Christmas, the Rt Hon Jack Straw MP produced a dossier examining Iraq's dismal record on human rights under Saddam Hussein. The dossier was intended to help the cause of war. Where was the Government dossier of human rights abuses in Zimbabwe, China, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the Sudan?
There is a final wrinkle. Saddam's Muslim faith is apparently only as strong as it needs to be to appease the Muslim fanatics in his own land. Saddam allows Christians more freedom to worship and proselytise than any Islamic state. Toppling Saddam could let in a Muslim fundamentalist who would persecute the embryonic Iraqi church. If there were to be civilian casualties, which there will be, Christians would be identified by unscrupulous Muslim clerics with the 'Crusaders' who had invaded and caused loss of Iraqi Muslim life. Saddam, wicked and brutal as he is, could be all that stands between Christians in Iraq and a blood-bath.