The pope is right to say "war is always a defeat for humanity." But this universal principle is no vindication for Saddam Hussein. It is the Iraqi dictator who has caused this defeat by pushing civilized nations to the brink of war.
The pope's reference to nations that "place their trust in nuclear weapons" isn't so much a jab at the United States--the Senate, after all, just last week unanimously approved a treaty with Russia to reduce the two nations' nuclear arsenals. Rather it is aimed at Iraq, Iran and North Korea--the axis of evil--and any other nation bent on nuclear blackmail.
All this is partly the reason why the Vatican has been careful to argue that the coming war is immoral, stopping short of "declaring" it so. That is an important distinction, for it recognizes that--as just-war theory spells out--it is President Bush who must bear the moral obligation of defending his nation. The Vatican doesn't carry that burden; its role is to offer advice.
....That is about as far as President Bush should want the Vatican to go. Not having the church in favor of invading Iraq helps clarify that this is not a war of religious domination. And a call for all nations to adhere to moral principles can't hurt in the broader effort against terrorism.