WASHINGTON (November 19, 1998) -- The President of the nation's Bishops today called for "new thinking and new approaches" to the ongoing crisis in Iraq, and again appealed "for political solutions rather than military force and fresh efforts to ease the continuing, unmerited suffering of innocent Iraqi civilians under U.N. sanctions."
Addressing "how best to respond to the threat posed by the Iraqi government," Bishop Anthony M. Pilla of Cleveland emphasized Iraqi responsibility both for the ongoing crisis and for the plight of Iraqi civilians.
"[Iraq] has repeatedly attacked its neighbors and its own people, has relentlessly pursued -- and used -- weapons of mass destruction, has consistently defied legitimate U.N. resolutions, and has failed to use available resources to feed the Iraqi people," said Bishop Pilla.
Bishop Pilla issued his statement in consultation with the full membership of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops/U.S. Catholic Conference on the last day of their semiannual meeting in Washington.
While repeating prior calls for full Iraqi compliance with Gulf War cease-fire resolutions, Bishop Pilla stressed that legitimate moral objectives -- eliminating Iraq's weapons of mass production, in this case -- must be pursued by moral means.
"As the international community seeks to pursue its legitimate goals, it must do so in a way consistent with fundamental human rights and the principles governing the use of military force and other coercive measures," he said.
Relevant principles from the just war tradition, Bishop Pilla continued, include proportionality, discrimination and likelihood of success, while other relevant considerations include taking into account respect for the United Nations and international norms.
Bishop Pilla repeated prior calls that the economic "embargo be reshaped, reduced and ended as soon as possible" in order "to relieve a morally intolerable situation for ordinary Iraqis who are suffering immensely."
" The international community should not resort to means which directly or indirectly punish the Iraqi people for the actions of an authoritarian regime over which they have no effective control."
"The Iraqi government's failure to comply with the cease-fire resolutions and to feed and care for its citizens under existing exemptions to the embargo are indefensible," Bishop Pilla wrote. "Nevertheless, the Iraqi government's actions do not relieve the international community of its responsibility to end the horrible suffering caused by the embargo. Doing so should not be seen as a reward for irresponsible behavior on the part of the Iraqi government, but as necessary to relieve a morally intolerable situation."
Bishop Pilla thanked Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick of Newark, chairman of the USCC International Policy Committee, and Bishop Thomas E. Gumbleton, Auxiliary Bishop of Detroit, for their substantial contributions to the statement.
Text of Bishop Pilla's statement.