Cardinal Stafford Criticizes U.S. Plan for Pre-emptive Attack on Iraq

Calls It «Unworthy» of World’s Oldest Democracy

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 3, 2003 ( The leading American cardinal in Rome sharply criticized a proposed U.S. pre-emptive attack on Iraq, saying Washington «has not offered conclusive evidence of imminent danger to its national security.»

Cardinal James Francis Stafford, formerly archbishop of Denver, Colorado, and now head of the Vatican’s Council for the Laity, is the highest-ranking U.S. cardinal in the Roman Curia.

In statements to Inside the Vatican magazine, he said that the «government of the U.S.A. has recently threatened to use nuclear weapons against Iraq. This is unworthy of the oldest representative democracy in the world. Furthermore, the government of the United States has compromised its own basic principles by implicitly endorsing the use of torture since Sept. 11, 2001.»

Cardinal Stafford was also sharply critical of Saddam Hussein, noting that the Iraqi leader has never condemned the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

The cardinal said that what he most fears is a new «barbarism» in which an accelerating spiral of fear and brutality, rather than hope and collaboration, will darken the human prospects for the 21st century. His views are in keeping with many other recent statements made by Vatican officials, and by the Pope himself.

Inside the Vatican said that Cardinal Stafford’s sharp criticism comes on the eve of a much-discussed diplomatic offensive led by the U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, James Nicholson, who has invited American Catholic theologian Michael Novak to speak at a conference in Rome today in defense of the moral legitimacy of an American «pre-emptive attack» on Iraq.

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