Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 27, 2003
Canada, stay out of Iraq -- Henry
Justification for 'preventive war' is still not proven
By BISHOP FRED HENRY
In November 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 five; maternal mortality rates have more than doubled during the period of the sanctions and 70 per cent of Iraqi women suffer from anemia; and the number of malnourished children has increased over 300 per cent 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These numbers are now woefully out of date, but we can rest assured that situation has worsened in the past two years and the strategy of forcing Saddam Hussein out of office has failed miserably.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.
Canadian military support
To make matters even worse, Defense 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 victory 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 brainwashing 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.
A unilateral attack on Iraq would establish a 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.
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