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Caritas Internationalis Calls for a Peaceful Solution for Iraq

Vatican City — Caritas Internationalis has called on the international community to give absolute priority to finding a diplomatic and political solution to the Iraqi crisis to avoid a major humanitarian disaster.

In a statement released on 21 January, the Confederation expresses its full solidarity with the “Confrérie de la Charité” (Caritas-Iraq), the local Church authorities, and all the people of Iraq.

Caritas shares the view held by many humanitarian organisations that any use of military force in Iraq would bring incalculable costs to a civilian population that has suffered so much from war, repression, and debilitating economic sanctions.

Caritas Internationalis has never ceased appealing to the international community to suspend sanctions and end the economic blockade. A delegation of Caritas Internationalis visited Iraq from 21 to 26 October 2002 and saw first hand how the sanctions imposed on Iraq since the end of the Gulf War have led to great suffering among its people.

With this appeal for peace, Caritas has aligned itself with the many religious and civil society leaders throughout the world who convincingly argue for a diplomatic solution to the current crisis.

In Iraq today, between 14 and 16 million persons (two thirds of the population) are entirely dependent on food rations distributed under the UN Oil-for-Food-Programme, purchased through the sale of Iraqi oil. In the event of a conflict and the inevitable destruction of communication and transport infrastructures, Caritas fears the whole distribution system would break down leaving millions without food.

Caritas Internationalis is calling on world leaders and decision-makers to take all possible steps to actively promote a political solution. The Confederation reaffirms its support for all persons and all groups who are engaged in the building of peace, and in promoting justice, reconciliation, and development.

The Caritas Internationalis complete statement on Iraq can be found on at

For information contact:

Jacques Bertrand
Head of Global Issues
+39 06 698 79799

☩ Frederick Henry
Bishop Emeritus

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Development and Peace Opposes Canadian Participation in War in Iraq

Military Intervention Would Be Enormous Humanitarian Disaster

TORONTO / January 17, 2003 — Members and supporters of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (CCODP) will be joining efforts throughout Canada this weekend to assure that publicly elected leaders in Canada and the United States understand that Canadians do not support a war with IRAQ, nor any Canadian participation in a military operation in Iraq.

“The time has come to be unequivocal,” the organization said in a statement. “Development and Peace is opposed to the military action proposed by the United States government, whether or not the United Nations Security Council authorizes such action. The United Nations should not be the ultimate basis for determining the legitimacy of a war.

“Development and Peace has based its stand on Catholic Church teachings as reflected in recent statements by Pope John Paul II, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Canadian Conference of Churches.

“The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has shown that war with Iraq is not justified. Irrespective of moral arguments, however, CCODP does not believe that the path of armed conflict should be followed; other options are still available.

Development and Peace has a strong track record — 35 years in international development and disaster relief work. The organization has worked with partners in Africa, Asia and Latin America to rebuild communities destroyed by repression and war. Authentic development, economic justice and international solidarity are the way to peace.

Numerous delegations to Iraq in recent weeks and months have returned with a consistent message: a war in Iraq at this time would be a humanitarian disaster of immense proportions. Such was the conclusion, for example, of the delegation led by Caritas Internationalis, the Catholic Church’s international development and relief agency. CCODP is a member of Caritas Internationalis.

The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace helps people of all faiths through community development programs in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Launched in 1967 as Canada’s official Catholic overseas development organization, it promotes awareness about the causes of poverty and underdevelopment through education and advocacy programs in Canada and solidarity with people in the South.

For information contact:

Jack Panozzo
Toronto: (416) 922-1592, ext. 222

François Gloutnay
Montréal: (514) 257-8711, ext. 318

☩ Frederick Henry
Bishop Emeritus

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Justifying War Against Iraq

In November of 2000 I wrote the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade about the ongoing imposition of sanctions against Iraq.

I maintained then, and still do, that Canada’s support for the economic embargos in place was contributing to yet another instance of genocide. The numbers speak for themselves: 1.5 million Iraqi civilians have died since 1991 as a direct result of sanctions; 600,000 of the dead are children under the age of 5; maternal mortality rates have more than doubled during the period of the sanctions and 70% of Iraqi women suffer from anaemia; and the number of malnourished children has increased over 300% since 1991. These numbers are now woefully out of date but we can rest assured that situation has worsened in the past two years and the strategy of forcing Saddam Hussein out of office has failed miserably.

It is high time to de-link the sanctions on Iraq as recommended by the Canadian Government’s Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, April 12, 2000.

No one wishes to defend the pernicious actions of the Iraqi leadership. We can certainly justify keeping in place military sanctions. Nevertheless, because of support for an economic embargo, we are assailing the most vulnerable and in the process destroying an entire society. It is as simple and terrifying as that. It is illegal and immoral. It’s time for Canada to adopt an independent stance and exercise moral leadership on the world scene.

To make matters even worse, Defence Minister John McCallum now says Canada may offer support forces to the United States in an attack against Iraq, even without the sanction of the United Nations.

To even speculate about taking the unilateral fork in the road is foolhardy. It is not the prerogative of the U.S. to both judge what constitutes non-compliance with UN resolutions and to choose the punitive action to be undertaken.

While it is true that the U.S. enjoys a position of unparalleled military strength and great economic and political influence, “might” is not to be equated with “right.” The U.S. doesn’t have the moral authority to unilaterally disarm rogue states, combat terrorism and remove certain dictators. It is the height of arrogance to assume that “big brother” knows best, can do no wrong, and is accountable only to itself.

The Canadian response ought to be to uphold the authority of the United Nations Security Council to make those decisions.

The charter of the UN organization and international law reminds us that war cannot be decided upon, even when it is a matter of ensuring the common good, except as the very last option and in accordance with very strict conditions, without ignoring the consequences for the civilian population both during and after the military operations.

American military power could certainly prevail and remove Saddam, guaranteeing at least a superficial success but the prospects of a clear cut victories and positive political change can be very seductive.

Any attack on Iraq will begin with an intensive air campaign, and will be supported by air power throughout the war. Civilians will not be targeted, and steps will be taken to prevent collateral damage to civilian centres. Many will be killed but not targeted - a point with a moral difference. At the same time the civil infrastructure will undoubtedly suffer substantially. A rapid military victory might reduce civilian suffering, but not avoid it, and a prolonged conflict, especially involving urban warfare in selected cities, would surely cause significant civilian casualties.

There are questions about how Iraq would be run afterwards. Saddam has been brain-washing his people for decades and there may not be a welcoming population. There are no indigenous forces to help as the Northern Alliance did in Afghanistan. The ideal, of course, would be a new regime democratically legitimated, politically coherent, commanding support and respect from Iraq’s various elements at the same time as approval from the West and observing international norms. But it is hard to see any reason for expecting an outcome anywhere close to this.

Repercussions around the Middle East could be far-reaching. The removal of Saddam might be met with applause and relief but such an outcome seems unlikely while the dispute between the Arabs and Israel remains acute. No neighbour loves Saddam, but all Arab nations have opposed invasion. Arab popular opinion would in all likelihood be outraged at another Western onslaught upon an Islamic state, this time without clear justification.

Furthermore, a “preventive war” against Iraq would also undermine the whole notion of the strategy of deterrence. Classical deterrence is barely suited to transnational terrorist attacks by groups with no home address. But the extension of that logic to Iraq requires a stronger argument than the one made so far. Iraq is not a transnational terrorist network but a territorial state with resources, population and military forces. It is not, therefore, immune to the logic of deterrence.

An unilateral attack on Iraq would establish a very dangerous precedent. If a single state can seek to resolve a dispute unilaterally by military means, invoking the principle of pre-emption, it opens the way for others to invoke the same policy in local or regional disputes. It would remove the burden of proof for resorting to war and alter the dynamic of world politics by facilitating rather than limiting the use of force.

The just-war tradition begins with a strong presumption against the use of force and then establishes the conditions when this presumption may be overridden for the sake of preserving the kind of peace which protects human dignity and human rights. Whether lethal force may be used is governed by the following criteria: just cause, comparative justice, legitimate authority, right intention, probability of success, proportionality, and finally, last resort.

Such criteria set a high hurdle for justifying war and that hurdle has yet to be cleared.

☩ Frederick Henry
Bishop Emeritus

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