ARE THE acts of war of United States President George Bush and known terrorist Osama Bin Laden justified?

UST Faculty of Medicine and Surgery Regent Fr. Jerry Manlangit, O.P. raised this question in his lecture titled “St. Thomas on Bush and Bin Laden” at the Thomas Aquinas Research Complex last Jan. 23.

The lecture is part of the “Linggo ng IR,” the annual event sponsored by the Institute of Religion.

Fr. Manlangit said that St. Thomas enumerated three prerequisites for a just war—the war is authorized by a sovereign, it is for a just cause or legitimate grievance, and it is made with the right intention.

War could be declared by legitimate authority for a just cause and yet be “rendered unlawful through wicked intention,” he said.

Fr. Manlangit explained that the Thomistic concept of war came from Christianity’s recognition of the soldiers’ role to keep a nation peaceful and stable. St. Thomas also justifies self-defense “because a Christian has an obligation to (protect) himself.”

According to St. Thomas these rules of engagement should be observed so that “damages are reduced to acceptable humane levels,” Fr. Manlangit said.

He also added a fourth requirement to St. Thomas’ provisions—the “clear identity of the unjust aggressor as a target of attack.” Thus, however, he said, is “a bone of contention.”

“Wars are sometimes ambivalently or arbitrarily declared because belligerents could not point clearly who the unjust aggressor is,” he said.

Fr. Manlangit explained that history shows by motive and conducts that “acts of terrorism or acts of war have a very thin line between them.”

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Dichotomies

In the case of US President George Bush and terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden, the “bone of contention” lies in identifying an “unjust terror or unjust aggressor in war.”

“Both may be defendants and may have legitimate cause to wage a war, because as far as I could see, both are victims and unjust agressors of their own created world,” Manlangit said.

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