WASHINGTON (February 13, 1998)--In a letter to President Clinton, seven American Cardinals and the President of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops said they view "with grave concern" the administration's readiness to use military force to compel Iraq to comply with U.N. sanctions.
"In our considered judgment this action by the United States could be exceedingly difficult if not impossible to justify and would seriously jeopardize the possibility of achieving any lasting peace in the region," the prelates said.
"We write, therefore, to urge that instead of using the military option, you reinforce the diplomatic initiatives by widening the participation of other governments, especially Arab states, in the concerted effort to bring about Iraqi compliance on these issues," the letter said.
"We would urge a re-examination of the embargo to allow more humanitarian aid for the Iraqi people, and to ensure that it is more narrowly targeted so as not to destroy the lives of innocent civilians."
The February 12 letter was signed by Cardinal Bernard Law, Archbishop of Boston, Cardinal James Hickey, Archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, Archbishop of Philadelphia, Cardinal Adam Maida, Archbishop of Detroit, Cardinal John O'Connor, Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Roger Mahony, Archbishop of Los Angeles, Cardinal William Keeler, Archbishop of Baltimore, and Bishop Anthony M. Pilla of Cleveland, President of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and United States Catholic Conference.
"We recognize the untenable position of Saddam Hussein and the potential threat his manufacture and possession of weapons of mass destruction poses to the whole world," the prelates said. "We support all peaceful efforts by the international community to have the Iraqi leadership comply with the U.N. resolutions that would result in the destruction of such weapons and guarantees that they not be manufactured in the future. We are pleased that you and your administration are taking a leading role in attempting to enforce the U.N. resolutions."
"Because we recognize the danger of this situation and the potential that exists for aggressive action against other peoples and states by Iraq, we are convinced that the international community must be tireless in doing all it can to bring about Iraqi compliance," the prelates said. "From that perspective, however, we view with grave concern the stated position of the U.S. administration indicating a readiness on the part of the United States to use military force to compel compliance by Iraq." The letter noted that Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick, Chairman of the Bishops' International Policy Committee, had expressed the same concerns in more detail in a February 5 letter to the Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright.
"We are sure that you are aware, Mr. President, that as recently as last Sunday Pope John Paul II repeated his appeal for a diplomatic solution to this crisis without recourse to military means," the prelates wrote.
"Please be assured of our prayers for you and for our government as you confront this difficult and challenging threat to world peace."
The text of Archbishop McCarrick's letter to Secretary Albright is available.