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British aid agency says strike against Iraq would create catastrophe

Any pre-emptive military strike against Iraq by the West would create a humanitarian catastrophe, warned a British Catholic aid agency.

In a report released last Monday, the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD) said a military strike also would exacerbate the dangers of terrorism in the Middle East and undermine the authority of the United Nations.

CAFOD is the official aid agency of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, affiliated with Caritas Internationalis.

The report, Iraq, Sanctions and the War on Terrorism, raised a number of questions about military action, in particular the precise objectives of any action and whether a military strike was ethically justifiable.

The report expressed concern at the lack of public debate around the issue in the United Kingdom and accused senior politicians in the United States and Britain of being evasive and avoiding open political debate on the issue.

"The dangers are real. The stakes are high. A proper debate is urgently overdue," the report said.

It also examined the history of sanctions and their impact on the Iraqi people in the context of events since 11 September.

"We seem to be moving inexorably closer to war with Iraq, with a focus on the person of Saddam Hussein while millions of poor Iraqis, who will be the ones to suffer and who themselves do not have weapons of mass destruction, are seemingly left out of consideration," said Julian Filochowski, CAFOD director.

Filochowski said the agency wanted to consider the preferential option for the poor.

"If military action goes ahead, there will be a colossal humanitarian crisis for these people," he told Catholic News Service.

Filochowski said that while there are credible reports of widespread human rights abuses against Hussein a war with the goal of toppling the Iraqi dictator would create more terror for Iraqi civilians.

CAFOD | CAFOD fears strike on Iraq (media release)| text of briefing paper Iraq, Sanctions and the War on Terrorism


19 Aug 2002