Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 7, 2003
Iraq conflict demands action
Pray that this war gives way to peace
By BISHOP FRED HENRY
The tragic situation of the war in Iraq fills me with a profound sadness and desolation as it has already caused incredible suffering, with the promise of more to come, and constitutes a profound defeat for humanity.
War is never just another means that one can chose to employ for settling differences between nations, even when it is a matter of ensuring the common good, except as the very last option, in accordance with very strict conditions, and taking into account all the consequences for the civilian population.
The United Nations Charter, customary international law and precedent-setting case law all take a narrow view of the use of force for self-defence. An exception for pre-emptive action can be justified only when the threat of attack is instant, overwhelming and leaving no choice of means and no moment for deliberation.
The just war theory warrants pre-emptive force only when there is a manifest intent to injure, a degree of active preparation that makes that intent a positive danger and a general situation in which waiting or doing anything other than fighting greatly magnifies the risk. These conditions were not met in the case of Iraq.
Despite the argument that the war against terror is a totally new kind of war, weapons of mass destruction have been around for centuries. Biological weapons and chemical weapons have been around at least since the First World War and nuclear weapons have been with us for over 50 years. Moral limitations do not disappear in the light of technological innovations.
Despite the rhetoric - "when it comes to our security, we don't need anybody's permission. This is the last phase of diplomacy" - this crisis belongs to the world, and it is for the world to solve, not just the United States and Britain. Regrettably, at a time when great patience was needed, it was found wanting.
In its absence, there has been no shortage of finger pointing and name-calling. It is as wrong to accuse the Russians, French and Germans of simply acting out of self-interested motives as it is to accuse the Americans of being chiefly concerned with oil.
Collectively, we are all "morons" for allowing this to happen, and lacking in "statesmanship."
As a Canadian, I applaud the efforts of the Canadian government not to become involved in this conflict, and the prime minister in every undertaking toward international solidarity and enduring peace in our world.
As a churchman in this troubled time, I invite all people of good will and all my fellow Catholics during this Lent to pray that war give way to peace and that the innocent be spared from its most devastating effects.
As a believer, I have prayed repeatedly: "Eternal God, in whose perfect kingdom no sword is drawn but the sword of righteousness, no strength known but the strength of love; so mightily spread abroad your Spirit, that all peoples may be gathered under the banner of the Prince of Peace, as children of one Father; to whom be dominion and glory, now and forever. Amen."
As a humanitarian, I am moved to try to do something about the expected outcome of the war. Most aid agencies, including the United Nations offices, agree that war will intensify the humanitarian crisis in Iraq.
The civilian population in Iraq is already extremely vulnerable due to shortages and lack of infrastructure caused by the first Gulf War in 1991 and the following 12 years of embargo.
According to the most recent report published by Human Rights Watch, Iraq faces acute food shortages, as well as a serious lack of shelter, clean water and medicines to respond to the needs of its population.
In 2002, UNICEF found that one-third of children in the south and centre of Iraq suffered from chronic malnutrition.
As a result of the war, hundreds of thousands will require medical treatment for traumatic injuries.
Civilian deaths never end with the last bombs. Human suffering persists as health problems multiply due to lack of infrastructure and the lack of refrigeration, electricity and sewage treatment.
The expected scale of the situation is directly dependent on the intensity and duration of the conflict. The United Nations estimates are that the number of internally displaced persons could increase to two million and the refugees outside the country could reach between 600,000 and 1.5 million.
As an expression of solidarity with my suffering brothers and sisters, I have made a financial donation to the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (a member of Caritas Internationalis) to lend support to a variety of humanitarian assistance activities. I invite you to do the same.
I have made a financial donation to the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (a member of Caritas Internationalis) to lend support to a variety of humanitarian assistance activities.
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