The so-called “Land Letter”

By Richard Land
Oct 3, 2002

The Honorable George W. Bush
President of the United States of America
The White House
Washington, DC 20502

Dear Mr. President,

In this decisive hour of our nation’s history we are writing to express our deep appreciation for your bold, courageous, and visionary leadership. Americans everywhere have been inspired by your eloquent and clear articulation of our nation’s highest ideals of freedom and of our resolve to defend that freedom both here and across the globe.

We believe that your policies concerning the ongoing international terrorist campaign against America are both right and just. Specifically, we believe that your stated policies concerning Saddam Hussein and his headlong pursuit and development of biochemical and nuclear weapons of mass destruction are prudent and fall well within the time-honored criteria of just war theory as developed by Christian theologians in the late fourth and early fifth centuries A.D.

First, your stated policy concerning using military force if necessary to disarm Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction is a just cause. In just war theory only defensive war is defensible; and if military force is used against Saddam Hussein it will be because he has attacked his neighbors, used weapons of mass destruction against his own people, and harbored terrorists from the Al Qaeda terrorist network that attacked our nation so viciously and violently on September 11, 2001. As you stated in your address to the U.N. September 12th:

“We can harbor no illusions. . . . Saddam Hussein attacked Iran in 1980 and Kuwait in 1990. He’s fired ballistic missiles at Iran and Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Israel. His regime once ordered the killing of every person between the ages of 15 and 70 in certain Kurdish villages in Northern Iraq. He has gassed many Iranians and forty Iraqi villages.”

Disarming and neutralizing Saddam Hussein is to defend freedom and freedom-loving people from state-sponsored terror and death.

Second, just war must have just intent. Our nation does not intend to destroy, conquer, or exploit Iraq. As you declared forthrightly in your speech to the U.N. General Assembly:

“The United States has no quarrel with the Iraqi people. . . . Liberty for the Iraqi people is a great moral cause, and a great strategic goal. The people of Iraq deserve it; the security of all nations requires it. Free societies do not intimidate through cruelty and conquest, and open societies do not threaten the world with mass murder. The United States supports political and economic liberty in a unified Iraq.”

This is clearly a just and noble intent.

Third, just war may only be commenced as a last resort. As you so clearly enumerated before the U.N., Saddam Hussein has for more than a decade ignored Security Council resolutions or defied them while breaking virtually every agreement
Into which he has entered. He stands convicted by his own record as a brutal dictator who cannot be trusted to abide by any agreement he makes. And while he prevaricates and obfuscates, he continues to obtain and develop the weapons of mass destruction which he will use to terrorize the world community of nations.

The world has been waiting for more than a decade for the Iraqi regime to fulfill its agreement to destroy all of its weapons of mass destruction, to cease producing them or the long-range missiles to deliver them in the future, and to allow thorough and rigorous inspections to verify their compliance. They have not, and will not, do so and any further delay in forcing the regime’s compliance would be reckless irresponsibility in the face of grave and growing danger.

Fourth, just war requires authorization by legitimate authority. We believe it was wise and prudent for you to go before the U.N. General Assembly and ask the U.N. Security Council to enforce its own resolutions. However, as American citizens we believe that, however helpful a U.N. Security Council vote might be, the legitimate authority to authorize the use of U.S. military force is the government of the United States and that the authorizing vehicle is a declaration of war or a joint resolution of the Congress.

When the threat of Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba presented a grave threat to America’s security, President Kennedy asked for the support of the U.N. and the Organization of American States, but made it clear, with or without their support, those missiles would either be removed by the Soviets, or we would neutralize them ourselves. The American people expected no less from their president and their government.

Fifth, just war requires limited goals and the resort to armed force must have a reasonable expectation of success. In other words, “total war” is unacceptable and the war’s goals must be achievable. We believe your stated policies for disarming the murderous Iraqi dictator and destroying his weapons of mass destruction, while liberating the Iraqi people for his cruel and barbarous grip, more than meet those criteria.

Sixth, just war theory requires noncombatant immunity. We are confident that our government, unlike Hussein, will not target civilians and will do all that it can to minimize noncombatant casualties.

Seventh, just war theory requires the question of proportionality be addressed. Will the human cost of the armed conflict to both sides be proportionate to the stated objectives and goals? Does the good gained by resort to armed conflict justify the cost of lives lost and bodies maimed? We believe that the cost of not dealing with this threat now will only succeed in greatly increasing the cost in human lives and suffering when an even more heavily armed and dangerous Saddam Hussein must be confronted at some date in the not too distant future. We believe that every day of delay significantly increases the risk of far greater human suffering in the future than acting now would entail.

How different and how much safer would the history of the twentieth century have been had the allies confronted Hitler when he illegally reoccupied the Rhineland in 1936 in clear violation of Germany’s treaty agreements? It is at least possible that tens of millions of the lives lost in World War II might not have been lost if the Allies had enforced treaty compliance then instead of appeasing a murderous dictator.

We are extremely grateful that we have a president who has learned the costly lessons of the twentieth century and who is determined to lead America and the world to a far different and better future in the twenty first century. As you told the world’s leaders at the U.N.:

“We must choose between a world of fear and a world of progress. We cannot stand by and do nothing while dangers gather. We must stand up for our security, and for the permanent rights and hopes of mankind. By heritage and by choice, the United States of America will make that stand.”

Mr. President, we make that stand with you. In so doing, while we cannot speak for all of our constituents, we are supremely confident that we are voicing the convictions and concerns of the great preponderance of those we are privileged to serve.

Please know that we join tens of millions of our fellow Americans in praying for you and your family daily.

Sincerely Yours,

Richard D. Land, D.Phil.
Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission
Southern Baptist Convention

Dr. Chuck Colson
Prison Fellowship Ministries

Dr. Bill Bright
Founder and Chairman
Campus Crusade for Christ International

D. James Kennedy, Ph.D.
Coral Ridge Ministries Media, Inc.

Dr. Carl D. Herbster
American Association of Christian Schools

Further Learning

Learn more about: Citizenship, Christian Citizenship, War,

11 Comments (post your own) feed

1 On Apr 9, 2007, at 10:02pm, Steve Hays wrote:

Does Dr. Land have plans to apologize for this false and unChristlike guidance?  First, it seems strange for people who claim to be Biblical to appeal to Augustine and later writers for principles of behavior—since there was apparently no New Testament basis for such an argument.  Second, the most fundamental assumption of this argument—that the invasion of Iraq was necessary to defend the US—turned out to be entirely false.  Consequently, even by 4th/5th century standards this argument falls apart.  Dr. Land and the Ethics ... Commission(!) of the Southern Baptist Convention endorsed an invasion as “just war” which was not “just war.” Dr. Land has left the the church with blood on its hands.  Will it take the SBC as long to repent of this stance as it took it to repent of its position on civil rights?

Sincerely in Christ,
Steve Hays

2 On May 11, 2007, at 6:05pm, Pamela White wrote:

Just curious.  I added a comment a few days ago and it has not appeared.  Since there was recent publicity about the “Land Letter” I will assume there were other responses, too.  It is very common in some right leaning church structures to over control information and even the very right to have a dissenting view.  I hope that is not true in this case.

“We welcome opposing viewpoints, and we will not turn comments away as long as your views are presented with respect to everyone and are on topic. No name-calling or vulgar-language will be permitted.”

3 On May 11, 2007, at 7:50pm, Sulyn Wilkins wrote:

We apologize if we inadvertently deleted a comment that fit the requirements for posting.  We do accept opposing viewpoints as evidenced by the many that have been posted.  Thank you for bringing this to our attention. - Staff

4 On Jun 18, 2007, at 8:25pm, Fred G. Henson wrote:

Today I re-read the Land Letter for the first time since it was made public back in 2002.  The events that have occurred since have transformed this document into a monument to human fallibility, credulousness, and unjustified self-righteousness.  Thank you for keeping this copy online.  I have printed out a copy and put it aside.  If the leadership of my denomination ever contemplates making a similar statement I will see to it that the Land Letter is read into the proceedings.  Thanks again.

Fred G. Henson

5 On Jan 31, 2008, at 4:34am, Lemark S. wrote:

The Just Theory exist to help alleviate the unjustness of the hidden intentions of war; we might as well call Just Theory as Rationalization. But then again, it’s religion.

6 On Mar 17, 2008, at 11:53pm, Peter Sherwood wrote:

Although I do not believe that a war to be just in God’s eyes requires any precepts made by man, I do believe the tenets of Just War theory are valid and easily within the theology of orthodox Christianity.  In this manner, I commend Dr. Land and the other signatories of this just and efficacious letter. 

I believe the genocidal and militaristic tendencies of Saddam Hussein are well documented and beyond question.  I do not believe that a single American life needed to be in danger in order to justify military action against the tyrant and his regime.  My only appeal is to one of sacred scripture.

Leviticus 24:17"Whoever takes a human life shall surely be put to death. 19If anyone injures his neighbor, as he has done it shall be done to him, 20fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; whatever injury he has given a person shall be given to him. 22You shall have the same rule for the sojourner and for the native, for I am the LORD your God.”

God is in control.

7 On May 11, 2008, at 3:46pm, Steven wrote:

Beliefnet quotes Dr. Land as making the following statement following Secretary of State Powell’s Feb. 5 speech to the UN (outlining the case for war against Iraq):

“The case for using force to bring about disarmament and regime change in Iraq was clearly and convincingly made for anyone who has eyes to see and ears to hear.”

Even Colin Powell now fully admits that the speech was filled with inaccuracies.  The US weapons inspectors were not able to verify the claims made by Powell but that Dr. Land believed.

The phrase “eyes to see” and “ears to hear” of course comes from Deuteronomy 29:4—and speaks of those who are too stubborn to see—and admit—the truth.

Does Dr. Land himself have “eyes to see” and “ears to hear” that he himself was absolutely incorrect?  Has he had the candor to admit it to himself and to others?

Was it really a “just war” or was it it just politics?

8 On May 31, 2008, at 9:32am, Grant Bakewell, Jr. wrote:

The teachings of Jesus with respect to peace, peacemaking, and nonviolence must be obvious to anyone who has read the New Testament, let alone those Christians who claim to follow it literally. For those who, like Augustine, have, in their own time, felt inexorably drawn to an ethic of just war, it must now be excruciatingly clear that our President and most of the Congress have led us into an unjust war which, like Vietnam, is based on lies.  It must now be clear that “knee-jerk” responses to such lies by many Church leaders mark a major failure of discernment, and corporate sin, on the part of many who claim to follow Jesus as Lord.  But what is God calling us, now, to do about all this?  What must we all do, now, not only to confess and lament such sin publicly, but prepare future Christians with sufficient discernment, courage, and faith to say “NO” to any future false claims to just war and “YES” to the Prince of Peace, and his way of the nonviolent Cross?

9 On Dec 5, 2008, at 8:14am, Frank Yang wrote:

The “just war” is just because this is the world with evil. America’s response to Pearl Harbor was not only defensive and revengeful but totally offensive. Yet it was “just” because it was against the evil Japanese in Asia and Nazi Germany in Europe.
American’s sacrifice in Vietnam was just because America stood up against the evil Communist’s brutal expansion. Communist collapsed only decade later. The fact that about 1 million Vietnamese people died after American troops withdrawal not only justify the war, it demanded repentance of those who cried for American troops withdrawal in 70’s.
Force is the only thing that evil-doers recognize. That’s why Apostle Paul said that “government is God’s servant, an agent of wrath only bring punishment on the wrongdoer”(in this case, Saddam?).(Rom 13:4)
The Media had been lousy noisy for the most of last five years ever since Iraq War started.But it is almost deadly silent on Iraq now. Wonder why? Probably it is just like that.

10 On Feb 6, 2010, at 4:54am, Doug Youvan wrote:

For better or worse, this is an historic letter.  As of 2010, we don’t fully know, but this letter looks like a horrible mistake.  At least the authors should know that for now, we look through a glass, darkly ...

11 On Sep 13, 2010, at 8:34pm, Chuck Baily wrote:

I am curious if there will be any kind of collective reflection of the remaining signers of this letter?  There are obviously various aspects with their own costs and benefits. 

Since I am not sure that Mr. Bush, Mr. Chaney, Mr. Rumsfield, etc. would or even could give our citizens a clear, fairly unbiased summary, I was wondering if one could be provided (to the Christian community at least) from the same people and the same Judeo Christian perspective that created this letter.  Surely we all “see” things in a different light now with the benefit of 8 years of actual history.

If the author of a previous post is correct that the original “Land letter” is historic, then how much more valuable would an insightful reflection by its own signers be?

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