17 March 2005

Church questions the process by which UK went to war in Iraq

Steve Hucklesby, Methodist Secretary for International Affairs: "Two years on, there is still insufficient evidence available about the legality of the war in Iraq. In addition, questions concerning the ethics of a war that caused at least 20,000 civilian deaths appear to be brushed aside. The elections demonstrate a clear desire of the Iraqi people for peace and democracy, yet it is difficult to argue that the intervention was just.

"The Just War tradition cannot sustain the argument that the decision to go to war was right because a majority in Iraq appear to support the outcome. The war resulted in significant loss of life and many people, in Iraq and around the world, are deeply concerned about the use of violence to bring about democracy.

"Our government may not be able to make public all of the evidence to support the decision to go to war but they must reveal as much as possible. After two years and two major enquiries, the process by which we went to war in Iraq still generates more questions than answers. Certain aspects are clear. The content of the Government's weapons dossier was significantly influenced by a desire to convince the public of the threat posed by Saddam's WMD programme. The dossier Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction remains a lasting embarrassment to the British Intelligence community. Even now it is not clear that the failures in process that led to the publication of erroneous and biased information have been adequately addressed.

"The 45-minute claim arose from a poor quality piece of evidence, which appeared in the dossier four times. This, in Lord Butler's view, led to suspicions that it had been included for 'its eye-catching character.' The enquiry judged that it should not have appeared at all without the clarification that it referred only to battlefield weapons.

"Those defending the intervention in Iraq have placed increasing reliance on the 'rightness' of the action in bringing about democracy. But in our post 9/11 world, unilateral intervention on the part of countries with a strong military capability could well be counter-productive to overcoming the threat of terrorism."

Anthea Cox, Methodist Coordinating Secretary for Public Life and Social Justice, said, "Two years on from the start of the Iraq war we are at a very serious place in international relations Ð a position that the UN Secretary General has described as 'a fork in the road.' We must hope that we can in future achieve a greater international consensus on the justification as well as the limitations of military intervention. We await the response of Kofi Annan to recommendations on the reform of the UN hoping that these will move this process forward. It is essential that those advocating intervention face up to the responsibilities that they have, not only to their own national constituencies, but also to the international community through the UN. Decisions about future intervention would benefit from a more honest and frank assessment of the way in which power was exercised in the lead up to the Iraq war."

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