Archbishop Seán Brady expresses concerns about war with Iraq

20 Jan 2003

Archbishop Seán Brady expresses concerns about war with Iraq

At the breakfast meeting of the Four Church Leaders (Ireland) with the Prime Minister, Mr Tony Blair, in Downing Street on Tuesday 14 January 2003, the Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, Dr Seán Brady, expressed to the Prime Minister his concerns about the possibility of war with Iraq.

Archbishop Brady handed in a letter outlining these concerns, and issued the following statement today:-

Grave choices about war and peace have to be made at this time. They are not only military and political choices but also moral choices. They are matters of life and death.

Efforts to focus public opinion on Iraq’s refusal to comply with the United Nations resolutions over a period of some eleven years are commendable. Iraq must abandon its efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction and destroy all such existing weapons. The recent actions of the United Nations Security Council in this regard are welcome.

However, on the basis of facts known, I find it difficult to justify the resort to war against Iraq since adequate evidence of an imminent and serious attack is lacking. If recourse to warwere to be deemed necessary, this should take place within the framework of the United Nations after due consideration of the consequences for Iraqi civilians and regional and local stability.

It is acknowledged that not taking military action could have negative consequences. However, war against Iraq could have unpredictable consequences for stability all over the Middle East. It could provoke the kind of attacks that it is intended to prevent and provide motivation for future terrorist action which, at present, may not be in existence. Military action against Iraq could impose awful burdens on an already long-suffering people, leading inevitably to wider conflict and instability.

The use of military force in Iraq could bring incalculable costs for an already oppressed people. I have spoken to people who have lived there and they are appalled at the prospect of such use of force against Iraq. The lives of Iraqi men, women and children should be valued as we would value the lives of members of our own families and the citizens of our own country. World powers should continue actively to pursue alternatives to war in the Middle East.

From a Christian point of view it strikes me that the most pervasive error in this matter seems to be the assumption that mass suffering from war is simply inevitable and acceptable in the world, as long as it does not begin to affect those who now have the privileges and advantages. This assumption presents a massive challenge to the hope of real peace. It does so because it assumes that we, who now enjoy the privileges at others’ expense, can continue to do so indefinitely without consequences or accountability because we are somehow entitled to enjoy privileges and wealth at the expense of others. Christian hope, on the other hand, looks forward to the transformation of society through he acceptance of the view that we live in an interdependent world where peace can only be built on solidarity with the poorest nations of the world.

In conclusion, I would reinforce and echo the words of Pope John Paul II in his address to the Diplomatic Corps in the Vatican last week: “War is not always inevitable. It is always a defeat for humanity…War is never just another means that one can choose to employ for settling differences between nations…War cannot be decided upon …except as the very last option and in accordance with very strict conditions, without ignoring the consequences for the civilian population both during and after the military operations”.

20 January 2003