We share the concern of the British and American administrations that every effort be made to stop - or at least limit - the damage being done by Saddam Hussein's regime to his own people and to the stability of the entire region.
However, any action that will involve large-scale civilian casualties in Iraq leaves the Western nations in a weak moral position. What is more, military intervention by Western nations is likely to reinforce the already deep Muslim mistrust of the West.
The points we wish our government to consider are these:
(i) The existing UN resolutions on Iraq are a crucial sign of the general will of the international community. Military action not endorsed by the Security Council might weaken the force of these resolutions and undermine further the credibility of the UN in the Arab world.
(ii) At present, the goals of military intervention remain unclear. If we do not know the exact location of research establishments actively engaged in producing chemical and biological weapons, we cannot know that their elimination has been secured. The risk of widespread collateral damage must be pondered. Previous action reduced Iraq to a state in which the firm government of a ruthless tyrant seemed more than ever the only alternative to total social collapse.
(iii) Just war theory requires a reasonable calculation of success in attaining clearly defined objectives, once all other avenues have been exhausted. We are not convinced that this applies here. What has made possible the limited progress achieved over the last six years? What are the possibilities of reconstituting an inspection team from nations less directly involved in the last conflict?
(iv) Sanctions in Iraq continue to cripple anything resembling civil society. If they are not to be lifted or modified, there must be urgent attention to developing the oil-for-food exchanges fostered by the UN and other possibilities for humanitarian aid.
(v) We do not write from a pacifist position, but from a common concern to urge government to search more actively for alternatives to violence, and to seek to work with and for international consensus, rather than allowing any kind of "superpower" mentality to make the running.
We raise these points on the basis of the Christian conviction that innocent citizens have the right not to become the target of threats and violence, and that the building of trust between peoples is the overriding priority for policy in such circumstances. Our prayers continue for all involved at every level.
ROWAN WILLIAMS, Bishop of Monmouth; PETER PRICE, Bishop of Kingston; BARRY MORGAN, Bishop of Bangor; WILFRED WOOD, Bishop of Croydon; JOHN AUSTIN, Bishop of Aston; CHRISTOPHER MAYFIELD, Bishop of Manchester; GRAHAM JAMES, Bishop of St German; WILLIAM IND, Bishop of Truro; JACK NICHOLLS, Bishop of Sheffield; PETER SELBY, Bishop of WorcesterReuse content