It is the eleventh hour, and the world is poised on the edge of war. Church leaders have consistently warned of the unpredictable and potentially disastrous consequences of war: massive civilian casualties, a precedent for preemptive war, further destabilization of the Middle East and the fueling of more terrorism.
Yet the failure to effectively disarm Saddam Hussein and his brutal regime could also have potentially catastrophic consequences. The potential nexus between weapons of mass destruction and terrorism is the leading security issue in the world today. This is the moral dilemma: a decision between the terrible nature of that threat and the terrible nature of war as a solution.
The world is desperate for a "third way" between war and ineffectual responses -- an alternative to war as the way to defeat Saddam Hussein. If we are to find an effective response to Saddam instead of a full-scale military assault against Iraq, that "instead" must be strong enough to be a serious alternative to war.
In November 2002, the U.N. Security Council decided that Iraq was in "material breach" of previous resolutions but gave Iraq "a final chance to comply with its disarmament obligations." Since then, the threat of military force has been decisive in getting inspectors back into Iraq, putting pressure on Saddam finally to comply and in building an international consensus for the disarmament of Iraq. The Security Council also "warned Iraq that it will face serious consequences as a result of its continued violations of its obligations" if it did not comply.
Yet those "serious consequences" need not be war against the people of Iraq. The consequences should mean further and more serious actions against Saddam Hussein and his regime, rather than a devastating attack on the people of Iraq.
On February 18, 2003, a delegation of U.S. church leaders, accompanied by colleagues from the United Kingdom and the worldwide Anglican Communion, met with Prime Minister Tony Blair and his Secretary of State for International Development, Clare Short, to discuss alternatives to war. The following elements of a "third way" -- an alternative to war -- were developed from those discussions and subsequent conversations among the U.S. delegation.
1. Remove Saddam Hussein and the Baath Party from power.
The Bush administration and the antiwar movement are agreed on one thing -- Saddam Hussein is a brutal and dangerous dictator. Virtually nobody has sympathy for him, either in the West or in the Arab world, but everyone has great sympathy for the Iraqi people who have already suffered greatly from war, a decade of sanctions and the corrupt and violent regime of Saddam Hussein. So let's separate Saddam from the Iraqi people. Target him, but protect them.
As urged by Human Rights Watch and others, the U.N. Security Council should establish an international tribunal to indict Saddam and his top officials for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Indicting Saddam would send a clear signal to the world that he has no future. It would set into motion both internal and external forces that might remove him from power. It would make it clear that no solution to this conflict will include Saddam or his supporters staying in power. Morton Halperin pointed out, "As we have seen in Yugoslavia and Rwanda, such tribunals can discredit and even destroy criminal regimes." Focusing on Saddam and not the Iraqi people would clearly demonstrate that the United States' sole interest is in changing his regime and disarming his weapons rather than in harming the Iraqi people. It would cause world opinion to coalesce against Saddam's regime rather than against a U.S.-led war, as is now happening.
2. Enforce coercive disarmament.
a. Military enforcement. Removing Saddam must be coupled with greatly intensified inspections to fully enforce all U.N. Security Council resolutions that relate to Iraq since the 1991 Gulf War. Inspections have shown progress -- the agreement by Iraq to destroy its Al Samoud-2 missiles is significant. But rather than simply increasing the number of inspectors, inspections must be conducted more aggressively and on a much broader scale. The existing U.S. military deployment should be restructured as a multinational force with a U.N. mandate to support and enforce inspections. The force would accompany inspectors to conduct extremely intrusive inspections, be authorized to enter any site, retaliate against any interference and destroy any weapons of mass destruction that it found. A more coercive inspections regimen should also include the unrestricted use of spy planes and expanded no-fly and no-drive zones.
b. Strengthen the arms embargo. The current system for preventing Iraq from acquiring prohibited weapons must be strengthened by a more effective monitoring system and the installation of advanced detection technology on Iraq's borders. At present there is no international monitoring of commercial crossings into Iraq from Jordan, Syria, Turkey and other neighboring states. The use of advanced monitoring and scanning technology along with sanctions assistance missions on the borders would significantly improve the capability of monitoring borders and preventing illegal arms shipments.
3. Foster a democratic Iraq.
The United Nations should begin immediately to plan for a post-Saddam Iraq, administered temporarily by the U.N. and backed by an international armed force, rather than a U.S. military occupation. An American viceroy in an occupied Iraq is the wrong solution. A true democratic opposition must be identified and developed, rather than simply identifying forces who would contribute to a U.S. invasion. An internationally directed post-Saddam administration could assist Iraqis in initiating a constitutional process leading to democratic elections.
4. Organize a massive humanitarian effort now for the people of Iraq.
The 1991 Gulf War, the following decade of sanctions and the corrupt regime of Saddam Hussein have caused immense suffering for the people of Iraq. In recent days, U.N. humanitarian agencies have begun evacuating personnel in light of an impending war. Rather than waiting until after a war, U.N. and nongovernmental relief agencies should significantly expand efforts now to provide food, medical supplies and other humanitarian assistance to the people of Iraq. Focusing on the suffering of the Iraqi people, and immediately trying to relieve it, will further help to protect them from being the unintended targets of war. It also helps to further isolate Saddam Hussein from the Iraqi people by contrasting the world's humanitarian concern with Saddam's indifference toward his own people. Humanitarian aid deliveries must be protected, if necessary, by a U.N. force under Security Council mandate.
5. Recommit to a "Roadmap to Peace" in the Middle East.
The road to peace in the Middle East leads not through Baghdad, but through Jerusalem. The United States, United Kingdom and other European Union nations must address a root cause of Middle East conflict by committing to a peace plan resulting in a two-state solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine. It should guarantee a Palestinian state by 2005 while guaranteeing the safety and security of Israel. This would show the clear political and moral link between the deeply rooted and unresolved Middle East crisis and the larger war on terrorism, including the Iraq issue.
6. Reinvigorate and sustain the "war against terrorism."
The international campaign against terrorism has succeeded in identifying and apprehending suspects, freezing financial assets and isolating terror networks -- most recently with the arrest of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. But it is in danger of being disrupted, both by acrimony and by lack of attention, as the world focuses on the impending conflict with Iraq. Most significant, a war against Iraq will fuel anti-American animosity in the Arab world, where cooperation in the war on terror is most needed.
It is five minutes before midnight, as Martin Luther King Jr. might have put it. Unless an alternative to war is found, a military conflagration soon will be unleashed. A morally rooted and pragmatically minded initiative, broadly supported by people of faith and people of good will, might help to achieve a historic breakthrough and set a precedent for decisive and effective international action in the many crises we face in the post-September 11 world.
This plan is supported by the members of the U.S. religious delegation that met with Prime Minister Blair on February 18, 2003: Jim Wallis, Executive Director and Editor-in-Chief of Sojourners; John Bryson Chane, Episcopal Bishop of Washington, D.C.; Clifton Kirkpatrick, Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church USA; Melvin Talbert, Ecumenical Officer of the United Methodist Council of Bishops; and Dan Weiss, Immediate Past General Secretary of the American Baptist Churches in the USA.
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