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Threat of War -- Paths to Peace

Stepping back from the precipice

Reasons to oppose a U.S.-led attack against Iraq include the moral -- Pope John Paul II’s voice is perhaps the most prominent among those who see war as a defeat unto itself. But some also claim practical reasons, with a wide spectrum of political, military, labor and religious leaders questioning whether war is the only means to achieve an end that is nearly universally shared: the demilitarization of Iraq. Below is a sampling of antiwar thought:

The earth will shake in our region, and nobody can foresee the dangers approaching us. Only one thing is certain: This will not bring peace. I do not belong to those who can speak about war with equanimity. I have seen war. I know its face. I see the thousands who will be killed, the tens of thousands that will be wounded and maimed, the hundreds of thousands that will become refugees, the ruined families, the sea of tears and human suffering.

Israeli peace leader Uri Avery, Feb. 9

Even if everything Powell said was true, there is simply not enough evidence for war. There is no evidence of Iraq posing an imminent threat, no evidence of containment not working. Powell is asking us to go to war -- risking the lives of 100,000 Iraqis in the first weeks, hundreds or thousands of U.S. and other troops, and political and economic chaos -- because he thinks maybe in the future Iraq might rebuild its weapons systems and might decide to deploy weapons or might give those weapons to someone else who might use them against someone we like or give them to someone else who we don’t like, and other such speculation.

Phyllis Bennis, Institute for Policy Studies, Feb. 5

Why are we going to war? Why are we about to attack, invade and occupy a country that has not attacked us, does not threaten us and does not want war with us?

Syndicated columnist Patrick J. Buchanan, Feb. 10

This nation is about to embark upon the first test of a revolutionary doctrine applied in an extraordinary way at an unfortunate time. The doctrine of preemption -- the idea that the United States or any other nation can legitimately attack a nation that is not imminently threatening but may be threatening in the future -- is a radical new twist on the traditional idea of self-defense. It appears to be in contravention of international law and the U.N. Charter. And it is being tested at a time of worldwide terrorism, making many countries around the globe wonder if they will soon be on our -- or some other nation’s -- hit list.

Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., Feb. 12

We also remind you that in the event that the United Nations Security Council at some point finds Iraq in material breach of resolution 1441, it does not follow that war is a just or effective remedy. As the church leaders said in their earlier letter, “Another Gulf War now would be wrong, first of all because of the suffering such a war would inflict on the population of Iraq people who have already suffered so bitterly. Our Christian colleagues in that region have urged us to educate our own societies about how crushing the international sanctions have been ... [and] have been pleading with us to speak against the threat of another war.

Canadian Council of Churches letter to Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, Dec. 20

We, the members of the City Council of the City of Chicago, oppose a preemptive U.S. military attack on Iraq unless it is demonstrated that Iraq poses a real and imminent threat to the security and safety of the United States; and … we support a return of U.N. weapons inspectors to Iraq, enhanced by sufficient police support to guarantee unfettered access to all targeted sites.

Chicago City Council Resolution approved 41-1, Jan. 16

Admitting the legitimacy of waging “preventive wars” against all the re-gimes which displease us and oppress their people would be to plunge the world into fire and blood.

French Catholic bishops, Feb. 10

Anyone who has ever studied the history of American diplomacy, especially military diplomacy, knows that you might start in a war with certain things on your mind as a purpose of what you are doing, but in the end, you found yourself fighting for entirely different things that you had never thought of before.

George F. Keenan, former counselor to the U.S. secretary of state, Sept. 26

Today for the first time in human history we have a doctrine of mutually assured destruction between two smaller countries -- Iraq and Israel -- one with biological weapons, the other nuclear. The problem is that an American intervention could easily trigger an Iraqi biological attack on Israel, which could be met by a nuclear response. Not only would we be the potential precipitating actor, but our troops could be caught in crosswinds and crossfire. This is a strategic precipice we should step back from.

Rep. Jim Leach, R-Iowa, Oct. 9

We are the new Rome, we are living in the American empire. We must use our faith tradition to inform and guide our country in this position of power that we now hold.

Maryann Cusimano Love, professor of international relations at The Catholic University of America in Washington, Feb. 11

At this crucial time we ask people to reflect on and support continuing efforts to find a peaceful solution to the crisis in Iraq and to pray for such an outcome. In Catholic tradition, war can only be justified as a last resort, when all other means of resolution have been exhausted. To go to war is to admit failure of the complex machinery of negotiation.

Scottish Catholic bishops, Feb. 12

No to war! War is not always inevitable. It is always a defeat for humanity.

Pope John Paul II, Jan. 13

Powell made a strong case against Iraq. But the argument that Iraq is an immediate danger to the world is weak, and the case that America should swallow Iraq -- and all that it contains -- is weaker still.

Syndicated columnist and former George H.W. Bush adviser James Pinkerton, Feb. 6

When the dust clears over Baghdad, we will likely find ourselves no safer from terrorism than before, but our alliances will be battered and our true enemies will be more convinced than ever that what they need to prevent themselves from becoming another Iraq is a real nuclear arsenal. If this war is easy, it may be no indication of what’s in store in the future.

The American Prospect editor Paul Starr, March 1 issue

We continue to find it difficult to justify the resort to war against Iraq, lacking clear and adequate evidence of an imminent attack of a grave nature. With the Holy See and bishops from the Middle East and around the world, we fear that resort to war, under present circumstances and in light of current public information, would not meet the strict conditions in Catholic teaching for overriding the strong presumption against the use of military force.

U.S. Catholic bishops’ statement, Nov. 13, reiterated Feb. 11

We as women religious are living with you these times that challenge our courage and our hope. We believe that we are part of a world community and all people are our brothers and sisters. We believe, with the founders of our country, the value that you affirmed on Jan. 19: “Every human being is endowed with certain unalienable rights, the most important being the right to life until its natural end.” We believe that war is not the way to peace; war is the ultimate terrorism that destroys the human family. We ask you to continue to work with the United Nations and the world community to resolve the current crisis in Iraq without war. As women religious who have embraced the gospel of Jesus, we ask you to use your leadership in the world community to pursue peace rather than war.

Leadership Conference of Women Religious letter to President Bush, Jan. 28

The attempt to put Baathist Iraq on par with Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia is ludicrous. Hitler’s Germany was the most powerful industrialized nation in the world when it began its conquests in the late 1930s and Soviet Russia at its height had the world’s largest armed forces and enough nuclear weapons to destroy humankind. Iraq, by contrast, is a poor Third World country that has been under the strictest military and economic embargo in world history for more than a dozen years after having had much of its civilian and military infra-structure destroyed in the heaviest bombing in world history.

University of San Francisco professor Stephen Zunes, Jan. 29

There remain many avenues of peaceful, diplomatic alternatives that have not been explored. The international community does not support a planned war. A clear and imminent threat has not been proven. The use of preemptive strikes is not recognized by the international community as a legitimate use of the military against another nation, nor is it morally defensible.

U.S. Catholic leaders in a letter to U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican James Nicholson, Feb. 4

I’m not convinced we need to do this now. I am convinced that we need to deal with Saddam down the road, but I think that the time is difficult because of the conditions in the region and all the other events that are going on. I believe that he can be deterred and is containable at this moment. As a matter of fact, I think the containment can be ratcheted up in a way that is acceptable to everybody.

Retired Gen. Anthony Zinni, Oct.17

The sisters and brothers of the Western Connecticut Central Labor Council oppose a first strike war on Iraq. We believe the United Nations weapons inspections are the correct and most effective approach to ensure a peaceful solution and … we urge our Congress, the president and our locals and affiliated bodies to concur and act on our resolution.

Western Connecticut Central Labor Council, Jan. 7

Compiled by NCR Washington correspondent Joe Feuerherd.

National Catholic Reporter, February 28, 2003