Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor Warns Against War with Iraq

Could Set Arab World Against West, He Says

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LONDON, SEPT. 5, 2002 ( Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor warned in a newspaper article that a war against Iraq would have grave consequences, possibly setting the Arab world against the West.

Prime Minister Tony Blair has been careful to refrain from comment on the criticism about policies toward Iraq other than to say: «You have to decide what the greatest risk is and what the morally right thing to do is.»

He has promised to publish evidence to support his conviction that Iraq poses a grave and imminent threat. But Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor, the archbishop of Westminster, writes in The Times that unless the evidence is both persuasive and incontrovertible, concerns in this country and abroad are unlikely to be allayed.

In his article, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor writes: «There are good reasons why many, including our own and the US Government, regard the regime in Iraq as a threat to the security of the region and, presumably, the West. President Saddam Hussein has committed numerous atrocities against his own people.»

«A war in Iraq would cause great destruction and suffering,» he adds. «It would also entail grave consequences for our own country and for the world. There is reason to be concerned that military intervention would set the Arab world against the West, and undermine efforts directed at peace between Israel and the Palestinian people.»

Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor continues: «Head-on confrontation in a time of crisis may be unavoidable, but it is liable to create as many problems as it solves. Underlying causes also have to be addressed.

«Soon after the dreadful events of September 11, I attended a meeting in Rome of bishops from all over the world. Great sympathy was conveyed to the US bishops and, through them, to the American people. There were also present, however, bishops from some of the poorest countries in the world who, while fully sharing this sympathy for the US, reminded their fellow bishops of other kinds of atrocity. Millions were slaughtered in Rwanda in 1994, with no effective response from the international community.

«The African bishops also drew our attention to the tragedy that thousands of children in their dioceses were dying every week for lack of food and potable drinking water. Weighed in the balance with the resources available to the world as a whole, such destitution is not just an awful human tragedy — it is a terrible international injustice.

«It would be easy to regard this tragedy as entirely separate from the ‘war against terrorism’; or instability in the Middle East. But there is a connection. By pouring almost inconceivably massive resources into preparing for, and then prosecuting, military conflict, we inevitably divert funds from the war on world poverty. By so doing, we further endanger the fragile lives of millions of people, over and above those who become victims of conflict itself.»

The cardinal continues: «There are occasions when a short-term response to an imminent threat serves an important preventive purpose. However, the problems of our planet cannot be solved by unilateral military action alone.»

He concludes: «In a globalised world, the wisdom of specific actions or policies with international impact must ultimately be judged by the extent to which they improve the lot of all mankind, especially the poorest, and enhance the prospects for world peace. At present there are genuine reasons to doubt that military action against Iraq would pass that test.»

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