Thoughts on war with Iraq – a position paper written before the war began

 by Richard Cross

Pax Christi ("The Peace of Christ") -  Catholic organization committed to peace, justice and non-violence stated  that an attack on Iraq would be "unjustified, unnecessary and fraught with dangers."

Concerns about alleged weapons of mass destruction could and should have been dealt with diplomatically. They did  not constitute a justification for launching a military attack. Communist China for years has had an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, as does Russia. We have managed to come to an accommodation with both these giants without going to war with them. Our own country is the leader in weapons of mass destruction and we are the only ones who have ever used an atomic bomb. The whole world must join in abolishing these terrible weapons -Iraq included.  But Iraq was but a midget in this arena.

President Bush and the media continued to point out that Iraq was in violation of 16 UN resolutions.  This war true and Iraq shoudl have been continually pressed to adhere to these resolutions.  No concern in the debate, however, was shown over the fact that Israel has been, and still is, in violation of at least 65 UN resolutions, many of them for decades.  No one suggests that the world go to war with Israel. (A detailed list of these resolutions is listed below.)

The president seems intent on committing us to perpetual war. Some people, including myself, see Mr. Bush as having pursued "a strange personal vendetta, dragging our country into a Bush family grudge match with Saddam Hussein."  The father succeeded in demonizing Saddam and the son continued the same personal crusade. Yet we have dealt successfully with far greater monsters than such a two-bit dictator as Saddam and without going to war.  Evil as he was he was contained.

Furthermore Saddam had never attacked the United States. Twenty-six years have passed since that cloudless day on June 8, 1967 when Israel attacked the clearly marked USS Liberty in the Mediterranean for over two hours with aircraft and torpedo boats killing 34 young Americans and wounding 171. We did not go to war with Israel. In fact our government has hushed up the incident to the dismay and outrage of the survivors to this very day.  Saddam had never done anything to us like that.

It was stated that Saddam desired to acquire nuclear weapons.  UN inspectors proved that Saddam had long abandoned this effort. Meanwhile Israel remains the only nation in the Middle East with nuclear weapons and has had them for a long time.  Israel lied and deceived the world for years about its nuclear arsenal until Mordechai Vannunu, a Jewish technician at Israel’s Dimona nuclear plant, blew the whistle on the secret and the truth was published in the London Sunday Times (1986).  This prisoner of conscience languishes in an Israeli prison today with a life sentence.

Saddam was a terrible dictator and the Iraqi people did not deserve him.  So do a lot of other Arab states deserve better. The Saudi and Mubarak regimes, for instance, are dictatorial- but we continue to prop up these regimes against the will of their people. We have supported tyrants around the world when it was in our interest. It should be remembered also that Saddam's greatest crimes were committed while he was our ally in the Iran-Iraq War. Revelations from top US military sources printed only recently in the New York Times prove that our government was aware of his use of poison gas on the Kurds and Iranians and said nothing at the time because he was our ally.  Now, of a sudden, it became a matter to be condemned by the present Bush administration.

The pre-emptive attack on Iraq was a violation of international law.  Tom Dalyell, British Labor Party MP since 1962 and longest continuously serving member of the British House of Commons, wrote the following of Tony Blair.  "If he should go ahead with his support of an American attack without UN ambiguous authorization and without a vote in our House of Common, he should be branded as a war cerinminal and sent to the Hague."  Should the same words apply the same words  to our president?

Furthermore, Mr. Dalyell added, "the doctrine of pre-emptive self defense against an attack that might arise at some hypothetical future time has no basis in international law."
(The Globe Mail of Canada, March 11, 2003)

The attack against Iraq played into the hands of extremists in the Middle East, giving them a political windfall at a time when all our attention should have been focused on seriously pursuing Al-Qa’eda and those responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States. There is no reason to believe that Iraq had anything to do with the Sept. 11th attacks in spite of the adminstration's efforts to prove otherwise.  Yet with thre media's help have the American public has been duped into thinking Saddam had something to do with 9/11. Fifteen out of ninetten of the 9/11 terrorists were spawned in Saudi Arabia and learned their Islamic extremism there- yet no one in Washington talked about attacking Saudi Arabia. Why?

In fact Saddam was a secular ruler in a secular state and he had much to fear from the likes of Osama bin Laden and his radical Al-Qa'eda gang.  They would have loved to overthrow Saddam and impose a theocracy.  What is important today is that the United States and the international community should be moving to resolve the concerns and grievances that are exploited by radical groups like Al-Qa'eda, not exacerbating them or creating new ones. It’s interesting that not long ago Osama bin Laden was Public Enemy # 1 - wanted “dead or alive.”  President Bush then pushed him aside, not having caught him, and Saddam became the focus of our attention.  At this writing neither of them has been captured.

A just resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would have done more to take the wind out of the terrorists' sails than any war with Iraq. President Bush has reasserted that "America stands committed to an independent and democratic Palestine, living side by side with Israel in peace and security."  He should take concrete steps to realize this vision. This is the festering sore in the Middle East.

Our not-so-Smart Bombs at work

Wounded Iraqi boy, Ali Ismail Abbas, 12, lies in a hospital bed in Baghdad on April 6.  According to staff at Kindi hospital, a missile strike obliterated his home and most of his family. The traumatized boy told Reuters that his father, brother and pregnant mother died when the missile fell as they slept. (Catholic News Service - from Reuters)     (CNS photo  from Reuters)

The people of Iraq have suffered under more than a decade of economic sanctions, routine bombing and international isolation. A country weaked already brought low and weakened by war and sanctions could never defend itself against the massive forces of the United States and Britain. We will never know how many innocent civilians were killed in this war. It has not brought more stability to the Middle East nor are American any more secure from terrorism.  We have further fanned the flames of of resentment in the Middle East and alienated America's closest allies and most of the world. We cultivated and trained fanatics like of Osama to fight the Russians in Afghanistan.  Now sadly he has become a hero.  Hated as he was Saddam may well have become another hero of our own making. Rather than more war it is intensive diplomatic effort that is urgently needed to avoid future conflicts. The economic sanctions and other restrictions have only impoverished and isolated the Iraqi people, once the most highly educated and advanced among the Arab nations. It seems to me that one should not have to destroy a nation in order to save it.

"Bella Matribus Detestata" ("Wars Which Mothers Hate") from the Odes of the Roman poet, Horace (I, I, 24-25). Etching by Georges Rouault (1927) from Miserere et Guerre.

As a Christian I opposed this senseless war.  A swelling chorus of religious leaders denounced the President's war plans:  the pope, Catholic bishops from Australia to Britain, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and most Protestant leaders and theologians.  As the Catholic bishop of the Eparchy of St. George (Ohio) stated, "Beyond a reasonable doubt this war is morally incompatible with the Person and Way of Jesus Christ." Yet, sadly, many nominal Christians ignored their pleas and the message of the Gospel only to embrace the new religion proclaimed by George Bush- one of arrogant imperialism.  Centuries ago my friend Erasmus wrote, "You cannot conceivably address a credible prayer to the Father of all men when you have just driven a sword into your brother's bowels….  War is sweet only to those who have never tasted it."


Richard holds a homemade poster in solidarity with Pax Christi at the demonstration.


Some of the sources for my position paper on Iraq

Call to Action News - Volume 24, Number 2, September 2002

Washington Report on Middle East Affairs (various issues)

The New York Times

Erasmus of Rotterdam, The Complaint of Peace (1517)

Amnesty International:

“USS Liberty” Memorial:

Churches for Middle East Peace

The Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation

Pax Christi USA

UN Resolutions ignored by Israel, 1955-1992

source: Paul Findley, Deliberate Deceptions: Facing the Facts About the US/Israeli Relationship  (Chicago: Lawrence Hill, 1993), pages 166-192.

1. Resolution 106: "... 'condemns' Israel for Gaza raid"
2. Resolution 111: "...'condemns' Israel for raid on Syria that killed fifty-six people"
3. Resolution 127: "...'recommends' Israel suspend its 'no-man's zone' in Jerusalem"
4. Resolution 162: "...'urges' Israel to comply with UN decisions"
5. Resolution 171: "...determines flagrant violations' by Israel in its attack on Syria"
6. Resolution 228: "...'censures' Israel for its attack on Samu in the West Bank, then under Jordanian control"
7. Resolution 237: "...'urges' Israel to allow return of new 1967 Palestinian refugees"
8. Resolution 248: "... 'condemns' Israel for its massive attack on Karameh in Jordan"
9. Resolution 250: "... 'calls' on Israel to refrain from holding military parade in Jerusalem"
10. Resolution 251: "... 'deeply deplores' Israeli military parade in Jerusalem in defiance of Resolution 250"
11. Resolution 252: "...'declares invalid' Israel's acts to unify Jerusalem as Jewish capital"
12. Resolution 256: "... 'condemns' Israeli raids on Jordan as 'flagrant violation""
13. Resolution 259: "...'deplores' Israel's refusal to accept UN mission to probe occupation"
14. Resolution 262: "...'condemns' Israel for attack on Beirut airport"
15. Resolution 265: "... 'condemns' Israel for air attacks for Salt in Jordan"
16. Resolution 267: "...'censures' Israel for administrative acts to change the status of Jerusalem"
17. Resolution 270: "...'condemns' Israel for air attacks on villages in southern Lebanon"
18. Resolution 271: "...'condemns' Israel's failure to obey UN  resolutions on Jerusalem"
19. Resolution 279: "...'demands' withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanon"
20. Resolution 280: "....'condemns' Israeli's attacks against Lebanon"
21. Resolution 285: "...'demands' immediate Israeli withdrawal form Lebanon"
22. Resolution 298: "...'deplores' Israel's changing of the status of Jerusalem"
23. Resolution 313: "...'demands' that Israel stop attacks against Lebanon"
24. Resolution 316: "...'condemns' Israel for repeated attacks on Lebanon"
25. Resolution 317: "...'deplores' Israel's refusal to release Arabs abducted in Lebanon"
26. Resolution 332: "...'condemns' Israel's repeated attacks against Lebanon"
27. Resolution 337: "...'condemns' Israel for violating Lebanon's sovereignty"
28. Resolution 347: "...'condemns' Israeli attacks on Lebanon"
29. Resolution 425: "...'calls' on Israel to withdraw its forces from Lebanon"
30. Resolution 427: "...'calls' on Israel to complete its withdrawal from Lebanon'
31. Resolution 444: "...'deplores' Israel's lack of cooperation with UN peacekeeping forces"
32. Resolution 446: "...'determines' that Israeli settlements are a 'serious obstruction' to peace and calls on Israel to abide by the Fourth Geneva Convention"
33. Resolution 450: "...'calls' on Israel to stop attacking Lebanon"
34. Resolution 452: "...'calls' on Israel to cease building settlements in occupied territories"
35. Resolution 465: "...'deplores' Israel's settlements and asks all member states not to assist Israel's settlements program"
36. Resolution 467: "...'strongly deplores' Israel's military intervention in Lebanon"
37. Resolution 468: "...'calls' on Israel to rescind illegal expulsions of two Palestinian mayors and a judge and to facilitate their return"
38. Resolution 469: "...'strongly deplores' Israel's failure to observe the council's order not to deport Palestinians"
39. Resolution 471: "... 'expresses deep concern' at Israel's failure to abide by the Fourth Geneva Convention"
40. Resolution 476: "... 'reiterates' that Israel's claims to Jerusalem are 'null and void'"
41. Resolution 478: "...'censures (Israel) in the strongest terms' for its claim to Jerusalem in its 'Basic Law'"
42. Resolution 484: "...'declares it imperative' that Israel re-admit two deported Palestinian mayors"
43. Resolution 487: "...'strongly condemns' Israel for its attack on Iraq's nuclear facility"
44. Resolution 497: "...'decides' that Israel's annexation of Syria's Golan Heights is 'null and void' and demands that Israel rescind its decision forthwith"
45. Resolution 498: "...'calls' on Israel to withdraw from Lebanon"
46. Resolution 501: "...'calls' on Israel to stop attacks against Lebanon and withdraw its troops"
47. Resolution 509: "...'demands' that Israel withdraw its forces forthwith and unconditionally from Lebanon"
48. Resolution 515: "...'demands' that Israel lift its siege of Beirut and allow food supplies to be brought in"
49. Resolution 517: "...'censures' Israel for failing to obey UN resolutions and demands that Israel withdraw its forces from Lebanon"
50. Resolution 518: "...'demands' that Israel cooperate fully with UN forces in Lebanon"
51. Resolution 520: "...'condemns' Israel's attack into West Beirut"
52. Resolution 573: "...'condemns' Israel 'vigorously' for bombing Tunisia in attack on PLO headquarters
53. Resolution 587: "...'takes note' of previous calls on Israel to withdraw its forces from Lebanon and urges all parties to withdraw"
54. Resolution 592: "...'strongly deplores' the killing of Palestinian students at Bir Zeit University by Israeli troops"
55. Resolution 605: "...'strongly deplores' Israel's policies and practices denying the human rights of Palestinians
56. Resolution 607: "...'calls' on Israel not to deport Palestinians and strongly requests it to abide by the Fourth Geneva Convention
57. Resolution 608: "...'deeply regrets' that Israel has defied the United Nations and deported Palestinian civilians"
58. Resolution 636: "...'deeply regrets' Israeli deportation of Palestinian civilians
59. Resolution 641: "...'deplores' Israel's continuing deportation of Palestinians
60. Resolution 672: "...'condemns' Israel for violence against Palestinians at the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount
61. Resolution 673: "...'deplores' Israel's refusal to cooperate with the United Nations
62. Resolution 681: "...'deplores' Israel's resumption of the deportation of Palestinians
63. Resolution 694: "...'deplores' Israel's deportation of Palestinians and calls on it to ensure their safe and immediate return
64. Resolution 726: "...'strongly condemns' Israel's deportation of Palestinians
65. Resolution 799: "...'strongly condemns' Israel's deportation of 413 Palestinians and calls for their immediate return.

The following are the resolutions vetoed by the United States during the period of September, 1972, to May, 1990 to protect Israel from council criticism:

1. ....condemned Israel's attack against Southern against southern Lebanon and Syria..."
2. ....affirmed the rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination, statehood and equal protections..."
3. ...condemned Israel's air strikes and attacks in southern Lebanon and its murder of innocent civilians..."
4. ....called for self-determination of Palestinian people..."
5. ....deplored Israel's altering of the status of Jerusalem, which is recognized as an international city by most world nations and the United Nations..."
6. ....affirmed the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people..."
7. ....endorsed self-determination for the Palestinian people..."
8. ....demanded Israel's withdrawal from the Golan Heights..."
9. ....condemned Israel's mistreatment of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip and its refusal to abide by the Geneva convention protocols of civilized nations..."
10. ....condemned an Israeli soldier who shot eleven Moslem worshippers at the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount near Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem..."
11. ....urged sanctions against Israel if it did not withdraw from its invasion of Lebanon..."
12. ....urged sanctions against Israel if it did not withdraw from its invasion of Beirut..."
14. ....urged cutoff of economic aid to Israel if it refused to withdraw from its occupation of Lebanon..."
15. ....condemned continued Israeli settlements in occupied territories in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, denouncing them as an obstacle to peace..."
16. ....deplores Israel's brutal massacre of Arabs in Lebanon and urges its withdrawal..."
17. ....condemned Israeli brutality in southern Lebanon and denounced the Israeli 'Iron Fist' policy of repression...."
18. ....denounced Israel's violation of human rights in the occupied territories..."
19. ....deplored Israel's violence in southern Lebanon..."
20. ....deplored Israel's activities in occupied Arab East Jerusalem that threatened the sanctity of Muslim holy sites..."
21. ....condemned Israel's hijacking of a Libyan passenger airplane..."
22. ....deplored Israel's attacks against Lebanon and its measures and practices against the civilian population of Lebanon..."
23. ....called on Israel to abandon its policies against the Palestinian intifada that violated the rights of occupied Palestinians, to abide by the Fourth Geneva Conventions, and to formalize a leading role for the United Nations in future peace negotiations..."
24. ....urged Israel to accept back deported Palestinians, condemned Israel's shooting of civilians, called on Israel to uphold the Fourth Geneva Convention, and called for a peace settlement under UN auspices..."
25. ....condemned Israel's... incursion into Lebanon..."
26. ....deplored Israel's... commando raids on Lebanon..."
27. ....deplored Israel's repression of the Palestinian intifada and called on Israel to respect the human rights of the Palestinians..."
28. ....deplored Israel's violation of the human rights of the Palestinians..."
29. ....demanded that Israel return property confiscated from Palestinians during a tax protest and allow a fact-finding mission to observe Israel's crackdown on the Palestinian intifada..."
30. ...called for a fact-finding mission on abuses against Palestinians in Israeli-occupied lands..."

Paul Findley, Deliberate Deceptions: Facing the Facts About the US/Israeli Relationship  (Chicago: Lawrence Hill, 1993).