Ethics & International Affairs Volume 22.1 (Spring 2008): Features (Peer-Reviewed): Justifications of the Iraq War Examined [Full Text]

Apr 23, 2008

Imagine three cases:

Corporal Greene returns to the United States in a body bag having been killed by an elite armed guard in a war that had been officially authorized as a defense of her country against foes who have the capability and desire to attack her fellow citizens and soldiers at home and abroad with acts of terrorism. Such foes may either be planning eventually to launch their own attacks or to facilitate attacks by others who have an established record of using terrorism against U.S. soldiers and citizens.

Private Smith returns to the United States in a body bag having been killed by a roadside bomb in a war that had been authorized as enforcing international law against a rogue state with a recent history of ignoring or avoiding U.N.-authorized inspections to track and dismantle weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

Sergeant Jones returns to the United States in a body bag having been killed by a suicide bomber in a war that had been officially described to him as a rescue operation aimed at saving citizens in another country from human rights abuses carried out against them by a despotic regime.

The deaths of Greene, Smith, and Jones are equally tragic. All three soldiers had been fighting in the same conflict, Operation Iraqi Freedom. Assume for the sake of argument that they were motivated by the causes for which they each understood themselves to be fighting. Are their deaths, then, morally the same?

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