Published in The Ploughshares Monitor Summer 2003 Volume 24 Issue 2
In January 2003 we issued a statement, Prepare for Peace in Iraq, with the Canadian Council of Churches and Kairos: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives. In rejecting the resort to war, the statement did not claim that easy solutions were available. “We know,” the signatories said, “that simply avoiding war will not solve the fundamental problems of Iraq…. Peace and justice require more than the absence of war.” The statement went on to say that “the tragedy of Iraq has been decades in the making,” and that whether or not war could be averted, “the road to genuine transformation will be slow and troubled.” The statement was clear on the international community’s responsibility: “to accompany the people of Iraq, not with more bombs and missiles, but with moral, political, and material support.”
The statement received extraordinary support. We are grateful to our sponsoring churches for endorsing the statement and promoting it, and to congregations, organizations, members of local Ploughshares groups, and individual Canadians for endorsing the statement. More than 40,000 individual Canadians read, discussed, and formally endorsed it, and almost 400 congregations, parishes, and community groups also studied the statement and formally endorsed it, representing tens of thousands more Canadians.
On March 26, in cooperation with the Canadian Council of Churches and Kairos: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives, we sent a letter to the Prime Minister commending the Canadian government for insisting that Iraq fully abide by the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council but declining Canada’s participation in a war on Iraq led by the United States in defiance of international law and United Nations opposition.
The war on Iraq did not produce regime change: it produced regime demolition. As the world now sees, constructive, sustainable change is not the automatic consequence.
The situation in Iraq raises other urgent questions for the international community. Not only in Iraq, but wherever people suffer extraordinary human rights abuses, the world faces the question of how to meet its responsibility to aid and protect the vulnerable. Not only in Iraq, but wherever States violate their commitments and international covenants against the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction, we face the question of how the world can effectively assure compliance with treaty obligations and global norms and standards – and through such compliance protect the vulnerable from the threat of nuclear, chemical, or biological attacks.