I am deeply confused about the war in Iraq. Was it right or wrong for us to invade there? Is making war there moral or immoral? Should I support the Bush policies in Iraq or oppose them? I have been an outspoken opponent of the war since before the invasion. I opposed the Gulf War in 1991. I am an anti-war conservative. Politically I am right of the Republican mainstream. All my life I have been anti-communist, opposed to the growth of federal power, admired our Founding Fathers, considered our Constitution sacred as originally written, strongly agreed with the Religious Right on social issues, and believed in a strong military for national defense. During the 1960s I joined the US Marine Corps, and I was a strong supporter of the war in Vietnam because I naively thought it was a war for freedom against communist totalitarianism. I believe in war when it is fought for the right reasons. My twenty-one year old son wants to make a career in the Marines, and I think it is a wonderful idea. I am no peacenik. But I am deeply troubled by the war in Iraq.
My confusion stems from disagreements I have had with close friends whose judgment I trust, people that I love like family. Like me they are deeply religious Mormons. They believe in and receive personal revelation from God by the power of the Holy Ghost just as I do. They love, admire and follow the living prophets just as I do. They understand and strongly believe the Book of Mormon just as I do. Yet we are divided on the Iraq War. They believe that we are fighting there for freedom and democracy, for a just cause, and I believe our invasion and occupation of Iraq is highly immoral because President Bush hasn’t told us the truth about the real reasons for the war, and he is being manipulated by people who do not have our nation’s best interests at heart. To make matters even more confusing, these friends quote my greatest hero, Gordon B. Hinckley, to justify their position. Yet when I read President Hinckley’s remarks, all I can see is justification for my own position. Or, to be more exact, President Hinckley seems to support both sides of the issue equally. This just adds to my confusion.
So this morning I went in search of President Hinckley’s words of counsel hoping that I could resolve the issue. Have I been wrong about this war? I have been wrong before. Could I be wrong this time? Fortunately, I learned that President Hinckley addressed this exact issue in his main talk to General Conference in April of 2003. Unfortunately, after studying the talk, I am just as confused as I was before. In his talk War and Peace he says:
And so I venture to say something about the war and the gospel we teach. I spoke of this somewhat in our October conference of 2001. When I came to this pulpit at that time, the war against terrorism had just begun. The present war is really an outgrowth and continuation of that conflict. Hopefully it is now drawing to a conclusion.
He seems to be saying that the war with Iraq is actually part of the war against terrorism, something that I have not believed but am willing to consider. He also says he hopes the war is now drawing to a conclusion. But that was back in April of 2003. Today we know that the war was not drawing to a conclusion.
Elsewhere he says:
War, of course, is not new. The weapons change. The ability to kill and destroy is constantly refined. But there has been conflict throughout the ages over essentially the same issues.The book of Revelation speaks briefly of what must have been a terrible conflict for the minds and loyalties of God’s children. The account is worth repeating:
And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,
And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.
And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. (Revelation 12:7-9).
Isaiah speaks further concerning that great conflict (see Isaiah 14:1-20). Modern revelation gives additional light (see D&C 76:25-29), as does the book of Moses (see Moses 4:1-4), which tells of Satan’s plan to destroy the agency of man.
Here he seems to be saying that the current war is part of the eternal struggle between freedom and slavery. If I believed that, then I would be a strong supporter of the war.
But then he goes on to say:
We sometimes are prone to glorify the great empires of the past, such as the Ottoman Empire, the Roman and Byzantine Empires, and in more recent times, the vast British Empire. But there is a darker side to every one of them. There is a grim and tragic overlay of brutal conquest, of subjugation, of repression, and an astronomical cost in life and treasure.The great English essayist Thomas Carlyle once ironically shared the observation, God must needs laugh outright, could such a thing be, to see his wondrous mannikins here below (quoted in Sartor Resartus , 182). I think our Father in Heaven must have wept as He has looked down upon His children through the centuries as they have squandered their divine birthright in ruthlessly destroying one another.
Here he seems to suggest the possibility that Bush and his neocon advisers are engaged in empire building, not spreading freedom, something that I have firmly believed. But if President Hinckley says it is not so, then I will reconsider.
In the course of history tyrants have arisen from time to time who have oppressed their own people and threatened the world. Such is adjudged to be the case presently, and consequently great and terrifying forces with sophisticated and fearsome armaments have been engaged in battle.
I suppose he must be talking about Saddam Hussein here, but why does he use the subjunctive case when he says “Such is adjudged to be the case presently?” Does he think this, or is it merely “adjudged” by others? No one denies that Saddam Hussein was an oppressive dictator. But is that the real reason we attacked him? He was only one of many oppressive dictators, many of which our nation has set up and sustains. And was he really a threat to the world? President Hinckley doesn’t reveal his opinion here. I don’t believe Hussein was a threat to the United States or the world. If my understanding of the world is correct, Saudi Arabia is a much greater threat to the world, and so is China and North Korea. What about India and Pakistan? They both already have nuclear weapons, and they are constantly on the brink of war.
But then he confuses me further by saying:
But modern revelation states that we are to “renounce war and proclaim peace.” (D&C 98:16)In a democracy we can renounce war and proclaim peace. There is opportunity for dissent. Many have been speaking out and doing so emphatically. That is their privilege. That is their right, so long as they do so legally.
Great. Fine. The Lord says in the Doctrine and Covenants that we must “renounce war and proclaim peace,” and the President of the Church affirms this in General Conference. I guess I’m on the right track by opposing the war.
But then he finally tips his hand. He adds a caveat in which he reveals how he really feels about the situation:
However, we all must also be mindful of another overriding responsibility, which I may add, governs my personal feelings and dictates my personal loyalties in the present situation.
Then he goes on to liken the current situation to the conflict between the Nephites and the Lamanites. He points out that there were times when the Nephites were not only justified in “fighting for their homes and their liberties, their wives and their children, and their all, yea, for their rites of worship and their church,” (Alma 43:45) but they are actually commanded by God to “Defend your families even unto bloodshed.” (Alma 43:47) Apparently, President Hinckley feels that this is such a situation.
He goes even further than that:
It is clear from these and other writings that there are times and circumstances when nations are justified, in fact have an obligation, to fight for family, for liberty, and against tyranny, threat, and oppression.When all is said and done, we of this Church are people of peace. We are followers of our Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ, who was the Prince of Peace. But even He said, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34).
He even goes so far as to add:
It may even be that He will hold us responsible if we try to impede or hedge up the way of those who are involved in a contest with forces of evil and repression.
What am I to do? My personal opinion is different from the personal opinion of the Prophet? He seems to have bought into the propaganda that Bush honestly wants to establish “democracy” in Iraq, and is not waging war for empire as I have believed. From my point of view, President Hinckley seems to be deceived. But how can I be sure that I am not the one being deceived? If President Hinckley is right, then I have to discount the teachings of President Benson who thought that a modern Gadianton Robber band had gained power over both our national political parties and reigned in Washington, D.C. Was President Benson deceived? I do know that he is a dead prophet, and he himself taught that following a living prophet is more important than following a dead one.
And why did President Hinckley make the case so well for both sides? Why did he stress that he was only voicing his “personal” feelings and “personal” loyalties in the “present situation?” I would hate to have a personal opinion that was different from the personal opinion of the Lord’s Prophet unless I had a really good reason. After all, the Lord has testified to me by the power of the Holy Ghost that Gordon B. Hinckley is His Man here on earth. Maybe I have been wrong about this. Maybe I’m right, but the Lord wants me to support the war anyway. Could that possibly be? If I am right, then President Bush and the neocons who manipulate him are trying to set up a corporate, fascist dictatorship here in the USA. And they seek to ultimately extend that dictatorship to include the whole earth even if they have to start a global, nuclear war to do it. If I’m right, and if they succeed, then perhaps I am endangering my life and my family by agitating against this war. Could that be? Maybe that is why the Lord wants me to follow the prophet even though he is wrong about the Iraq war being a struggle between freedom and slavery.
Can all of you see how confused I am? I feel like I’m groping in the dark. I guess I’ll have to ask the Lord and see what he thinks. I hope that he will bless me with the wisdom to sort this out.