KAIROS-Ploughshares Urge Prime Minister to Remain Firm in Opposition to Military Attacks on Iraq

Tasneem Jamal

Letter to Prime Minister Jean Chrétien.

Since President Bush identified Iraq as a member of the “axis of evil,” the US government has become openly bellicose about Iraq, with some officials even suggesting that a US-led military attack on Iraq is imminent. Iraqi citizens, who will be the inevitable victims of such action, already suffer the widespread impact of twelve years of economic sanctions.

Prime Minister Chrétien has indicated Canadian opposition to a military attack against Iraq and has counselled a leadership role for the UN in addressing concerns about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. The following joint letter was sent to the Prime Minister to commend his position and to urge pursuit of the April 2000 recommendations on sanctions against Iraq tabled by the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade. (See the SCFAIT recommendations below.)

February 21, 2002

The Right Honourable Jean Chrétien,
Prime Minister of Canada
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON

Dear Mr. Chrétien,

We are writing with regard to the Iraq situation on behalf of KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives and Project Ploughshares. KAIROS is a coalition of Canadian churches that works on a broad range of peace and justice issues including those relating to Iraq, and Project Ploughshares is an ecumenical peace and disarmament agency of the Canadian Council of Churches.

We are greatly troubled by the possibility of a US led attack on Iraq. We urge you to make every possible effort to dissuade the US from such a course. Our primary concern is humanitarian. The people of Iraq have suffered enormously over the last twenty years in the Iran-Iraq war which continued for most of the 1980s; in the Gulf War of 1991 and the suppression immediately thereafter; and in the twelve years of sanctions which have prevented the rehabilitation of essential infrastructure including that relating to water, sanitation, electricity, transportation and other necessities. It is widely believed that the sanctions have contributed to the deaths of 1 to 1.5 million people. Most people in this once well-off society are now impoverished.

We do not defend the government of Iraq but we do not believe that a military attack will solve the problems. Canadian church groups have appeared before the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade (SCFAIT), and met with Foreign Affairs officials. We have argued for a different approach, one that would end the economic sanctions and take a more regional approach to the issue of disarmament and other matters. The Standing Committee’s report, released on April 12, 2000, called for steps in this direction. We urge your government to pursue the recommendations of the report. We believe it holds much promise for the Iraqi people and for the cause of justice and peace in the region.

We commend you for the opposition to military attacks that you have expressed. We urge you to remain steadfast in this and we pray that God will give you wisdom and courage as you lead our country in these turbulent times.

Sincerely,

Pat Steenberg,
Executive Director
KAIROS
947 Queen Street East, Suite 201
Toronto, ON M4M 1J9
416 463-5312 ext. 244
Ernie Regehr,
Executive Director
Project Ploughshares
Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies
Conrad Grebel University College
Waterloo ON N2L 3G6
519 888-6541, ext. 263

 

cc: Honourable John Manley, Deputy Prime Minister
Honourable Bill Graham, Minister of Foreign Affairs
John Reynolds, Leader of the Official Opposition
Alexa McDonough, Leader of the New Democratic Party
Joe Clark, Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party
Gilles Duceppe, Leader of the Bloc Québécois Party

 

The House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade in a report tabled on April 12, 2000 made the following recommendations to the Government of Canada:

1. Reaffirm publicly the need to address on an urgent basis the ongoing humanitarian tragedy in Iraq;

2. Notwithstanding the adoption of Security Council Resolution 1284, urgently pursue the “de-linking” of economic from military sanctions with a view to rapidly lifting economic sanctions in order to significantly improve the humanitarian situation of the Iraqi people, while maintaining those aspects of the multilateral embargo necessary to satisfy security requirements and contribute to the overall goal of regional disarmament;

3. Establish a Canadian diplomatic presence in Iraq in order to monitor developments in that country more effectively and to make direct representations to the Government of Iraq;

4. Continue to pursue the broader issue of the reform of the use of sanctions in order to allow a clearer targeting of military forces and regimes instead of civilian populations.

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