KAIROS Says “No!” to War on Iraq, with or without UN Security Council Authorization

Tasneem Jamal

February 14, 2003

KAIROS has made clear its opposition to a U.S. war against Iraq. What if the UN Security Council were to authorize such a war?

A late January 2003 opinion poll revealed that while a vast majority of Canadians oppose unilateral U.S. military action against Iraq. Only 10% would support Canadian participation without UN approval, although 46% of Canadians would support Canadian involvement if the UN were to authorize military action. Obviously, the approval of the UN is a major factor for many Canadians in deciding whether war can be justified.

At the moment the Security Council is far from unified on the question of military action. However it is conceivable that key members with veto power could be persuaded either to vote for a U.S. led invasion, or to abstain from the vote. Nine of 15 votes are needed to pass a Security Council resolution but any one of the five permanent Council members can cast a veto to block it.

Leading up to and immediately following the second report from UN weapons inspectors on February 14, there will be intense pressure for Security Council members to authorize war. KAIROS will continue to oppose the war, even if the Security Council provides authorization.

1. UN authorization will not diminish the human consequences of war.

  We oppose the war based on humanitarian grounds. The 1991 Gulf War resulted in several hundred thousand casualties. The destruction of vital civilian infrastructure such as sewage and water systems, electrical grids, schools and transportation contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands more. A war now would only compound the destruction.

2. There is no moral justification for this war.

Several of the churches and agencies of KAIROS are pacificist and oppose all war. There are other members which use the “just war” theory, originally developed by St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, to decide whether or not a war can be justified. Canadian church leaders, and others around the world have indicated clearly that the present circumstances do not justify war against Iraq UN authorization does not change the churches’ position regarding the morality of this war.

3. The UN will violate its own Charter if it approves war on Iraq.

The UN was created to be an instrument of peace. According to the UN Charter, there are only two circumstances in which the use of force is allowed: in collective or individual self-defense against an actual or imminent armed attack; and when the Security Council has directed or authorized use of force to maintain or restore international peace and security.

Neither of these two circumstances exists. Legal experts hold that the American security strategy of “preemptive force” is a dangerous violation of international law. Article 2(4) of the UN Charter prohibits “the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.”

4.  The Security Council will lose credibility as an instrument of the UN

The U.S. has attempted to coerce other members of the Security Council into endorsing its military plans. It claims that the Security Council will ‘lose credibility’ should it  fail to authorize war against Iraq.  On the contrary, we believe that the Security Council will lose credibility if it is bullied into voting in favour of its most powerful member. In the past Security Council votes reveal a sordid history of economic horse trading and threats. For example, when Yemen voted against a Security Council resolution leading up to the 1991 Gulf War, the U.S. suspended a $100 million aid package the following day. Conversely, China and Russia were given lucrative U.S. economic packages in advance of key UN votes.

Our faith instructs us to oppose this war whether or not the Security Council gives its authority.

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