Friday, January 24, 2003

Canadian Bishops' letter on war against Iraq
Here is what they said and what I think about it. I think a bishops' conferences should be more careful in their composition of such letters.

Canadian Bishops' Statement on Iraq Crisis "War Will Not Deliver Lasting Disarmament"Prepare for Peace in Iraq We believe that war is not the answer.

War is never the answer. It's only legitimate use is to stop an evil. It cannot create good.

Twelve years ago a UN-mandated and US-led coalition went to war against Iraq. Tens of thousands of children, women, and men were killed.

I'd like to see the data. Also, were they killed because Saddam Hussein, in violation of the Geneva convention, left them in harms way?

The destroyed infrastructure and subsequent economic sanctions together with continued bombing contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands more.

I'm not in favor of the sanctions, but remember, the exception allows food and medicine in.

Now, just when UN inspectors have begun to work effectively,

How do they know how effective they are? Even the inspectors themselves haven't claimed that their work has been effective.

we are on the brink of another war. We believe that renewed war on Iraq will not deliver lasting disarmament.

I agree. See above.

War is most likely to deliver more of what it always does -- lost lives, environmental destruction, physical and psychological damage for both victims and aggressors, wasted resources

[only wasted if the war is unjust or unjustly executed],

threats of widened political instability and increased terrorism, more hatred, and re-energized extremism.

If a war is waged and is successful, and if in consequence we found out that Hussein in fact is doing what the administration says he is, this will not happen. Only in the case of a Geraldo like "empty vault" scenario will this likely happen. We believe that peace is more than the avoidance of war.

So do I.

We also know that simply avoiding war will not solve the fundamental problems of Iraq -- an unrepresentative regime that violates human rights and may not be in compliance with its obligations related to weapons of mass destruction. Peace and justice require more than the absence of war. Outlaw regimes that still retain or aspire to the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction cannot be allowed to stand, in Iraq or anywhere else. Indeed, we believe that durable disarmament and accountable governance are closely linked.


We believe that peace is linked to human rights and the will of the people.

What if the will of the people is evil?

Iraqi governments will be most likely to permanently forego the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction when the Iraqi people have the means to define and mandate alternative national priorities.

And just when and how is that going to happen? And how do you know?

If Iraqis were free to choose, it is unlikely that they would support a nuclear weapons program that wastes resources and brings them only crushing sanctions and ongoing pariah status.

U.S. citizens are free to choose and they choose to continue the program. So how do we know the Iraquis not? I don't get this.

Government that honours the will and rights of the people, and that is built on an empowered civil society, is key to the reliable rejection of weapons of mass destruction by Iraq.

Okidoke. So, how do we bring that about? Say to Saddam, "Would you mind stepping down, please. And have fair and open elections also?"

Responsible government of this kind cannot be installed by war.

No, but war may be necessary to remove obstacles to a more just regime. See, for instance, the U.S. Revolutionary War, War, WWII.

Iraqis must be authors of their own change.

Agreed. Saddam won't let them be.

Yet for many decades Western policy has undermined the pursuit of democracy and relentlessly disempowered the very people of Iraq on whom constructive change depends. The West's active military and political support for the regime of Saddam Hussein until 1990, as well as comprehensive economic sanctions since then, has left the tyrannical regime strengthened and enriched and the people demeaned and impoverished.

I agree with the first accuzation but it is irrelevant to the question of whether we should wage a war right now. We certainly can and ought to repent of our previous support. As for the second, I don't think the sanctions kept Saddam in power. I think his own will and his internal terror have. Although, as I've said, I'm against the sanctions. Keep in mind that the people would have been impoverished whether there had been war and sanctions or not. Hussein doesn't give a damn about the people.

We reject the increasing resort to military means to resolve entrenched conflicts.

What does the word "increasing" mean?

We believe the arms race in the Middle East must be ended.

What arms race?

United Nations Security Council resolutions require that Iraq verifiably destroy and end its pursuit of all weapons of mass destruction and medium to long-range ballistic missiles. But these same demands are repeatedly placed in the context of the objective of establishing the Middle East as a zone free of all weapons of mass destruction. As long as some states in the region retain or pursue such weapons,

[Read: Israel. Oh, so this is Israel's fault. I should have known.]

others can be expected to attempt to obtain them as well.

This is extortion.

We believe we must put the people of Iraq first.

I agree.

Iraq has become a place of extraordinary suffering, and war would only add to it.

Perhaps in the short term. But don't you think the U.S. would go out of its way to offer economic support to a post-Saddam Iraq? I do.

Even without war, these hardships will remain the primary reality for the people of Iraq for the foreseeable future. The tragedy of Iraq has been decades in the making, and the road to genuine transformation will be slow and troubled. The only reasonable certainty they face is that the costs of war would be even worse than the current situation

To that I say baloney. Ask the Kurds.

and would delay, not hasten, the advent of sustainable change.

There is absolutely no evidence for this claim. All evidence I've seen is to the contrary. Saddam is not interested in the kind of change the bishops want.

We believe it is our collective responsibility to accompany the people of Iraq, not with more bombs and missiles, but with moral, political and material support.

Why either/or if a combination will better serve the end?

We believe it is time to act for peace, not war.

Is war ever legitimate? That is, just? If so, then its just use is in fact an element in the road to peace. If you don't think so, then you don't think war is ever legitimate. I can't go there.

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