Pax Christi International

Assist the people in need and work for a just peace in Iraq and the Middle East

The war in Iraq demonstrates a tragic failure of international diplomacy.  U.S.-led military intervention began without the consent of the UN Security Council, ignoring the warning of a big part of the diplomatic world, civil society, churches and other faith communities worldwide. The Holy See has condemned the policy of “pre-emptive war”. Non-violent means to solve the conflict were far from exhausted. The disarmament of Iraq could have been achieved without war. Weapon inspectors have not been given enough time to finish their work. This war is politically dangerous, culturally unwise and discounts the growing importance of religion and culture for the political identification of many people. Other urgent concerns also rise to the fore.

Most importantly, attacking military forces must seek to ensure that civilian casualties are minimised and that the oppressed citizens of Iraq re-inherit their country once the conflict has ended, hopefully in the very near future.

All parties in the conflict should uphold the standards of international humanitarian law. The allied forces should keep the standards of international conduct that they are seeking to enforce. This requires the maximum discretion in the application of aggressive military action. For example, the use of cluster bombs should be forbidden and the targeting of public utilities prohibited. Weapons already banned under international law, such as chemical incapacitating agents or chemical riot-control agents, must likewise be prohibited.  Such use would significantly undermine the Chemical Weapons Convention as well as the very international norms the U.S. and Britain seek to uphold. Of course, the ban on any use of chemical or biological weapons equally applies to the Iraqi military, which has already been warned that any such use will be regarded as a war crime.

Sufficient resources should be devoted to dealing with the inevitable humanitarian consequences of this war. These resources should come not only from the US led coalition, but also from those states that opposed military action. Intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations must have the necessary resources and access to the people in need to meet the humanitarian challenges in Iraq and surrounding countries.

Any political framework that is developed by Iraqi constituents and the international community must be just and minimise the risk of civil war. This process will also require effective engagement with Iraq’s immediate neighbours to assure their own national security. Policy towards Iraq must also be pursued in tandem with much greater and even-handed diplomatic efforts to secure peace in the Middle East overall. Policy towards the Middle East has been inconsistent, and the implementation of a comprehensive plan for a sustainable peace in respect to Israel and Palestine must now become a high priority.

Pax Christi International urges all governments to assist the people in need in Iraq and to create conditions for a just, sustainable and comprehensive peace in Iraq and the Middle East. We call on all parties in the conflict to respect international humanitarian law. Pax Christi International and its national partners will continue their efforts to stop the war, to give assistance to those in need and to cooperate with people of other faiths, especially Muslims, to restore confidence and trust between nations.

Brussels, 26 March 2003