US Catholic organisations issue joint response to Bush Iraq proposals

 On January 10, President Bush announced a change in Iraq policy. Yesterday a number of American Catholic organizations and individuals, issued the following joint response to together to these new initiatives. We respond in the context of Jesus' call to us in the beatitudes to be people of peace (Matt 5:9) and to love our enemies (Luke 6:27) as well as the November 2006 statement by the President of United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bishop William S Skylstad. In that statement, Bishop Skylstad notes that the pain and destruction of the war in Iraq are "measured in lives lost and many more injured, in widespread sectarian strife, civil insurgency and terrorist attacks, and in the daily struggles of Iraqis to build a decent future for their devastated nation. He noted further that the way forward is bleak and stated that "The Holy See and our Conference now support broad and necessary international engagement to promote stability and reconstruction in Iraq." We are keenly aware that the members of the US military and their families are shouldering the heavy burdens of extended service in Iraq. They risk death and injury of both body and spirit. However, it is crucial to recognize that political and economic concerns, not military issues, are fuelling the continuing strife. Therefore, only solutions that combine the political, diplomatic, economic and religious issues Iraqis face will effectively resolve the underlying conflict and bring peace to Iraq. As the last three years have demonstrated, increasing the US troop presence in Iraq will neither address the root causes of civil strife nor quell the violence. Increased US military action will needlessly endanger our troops and detract from effective action to achieve a cease-fire and create peace. Therefore, the escalation of military presence in Iraq is detrimental to our men and women in the armed forces. The escalation of military action is far more harmful to Iraqi citizens who are paying the ultimate price in ever-increasing numbers through violence, hunger and lack of ordinary services. Every day, more and more ordinary Iraqis are fleeing their homes and becoming refugees either within Iraq or in neighbouring countries. This dislocation spreads religious, economic and political instability around the region, making it increasingly difficult to handle the influx of those traumatized by this war. The escalation of military action is detrimental to the Iraqi people and the surrounding region. United States citizens are keenly aware that the military is not an effective tool for bringing peace to Iraq. US citizens understand that Iraq is in the midst of a civil war that requires the engagement of all parties in a peace process in order to resolve the issues. Military action in this context only brings more violence and bloodshed and no end to this conflict. The escalation of military action is detrimental to the desires of people of the United States. Finally, only those in the military and their families are sacrificing for the sake of this war. There has been no effort to finance this war with taxes or other military offsets and the war has been funded without consideration of its impact on the overall federal budget. This fiscal irresponsibility will hamper future generations as they are forced to pay the bills for this generation,s war. The escalation of military action is detrimental to the economic future of the United States. THEREFORE: - We oppose the proposed escalation of US troops in Iraq, noting that prior escalations have not resulted in increased peace and stability. Troop escalations in Baghdad in the late summer and early fall of 2006 resulted in increased violence and death for both US soldiers and Iraqi civilians. - We support the President's call for economic development in Iraq, noting that the current unemployment rate is running at 40 to 50%. Additionally, 60% of the population is under the age of 25 and is in dire need of alternatives to imagine a better future. Any economic development should directly benefit the Iraqi people and their communities, not contractors from other corners of the world. - We urge the President to engage in diplomatic and political negotiations seeking a comprehensive cease fire by all factions in Iraq and the region. The rejection of a comprehensive diplomatic effort is a short-sighted view of American interests. A surge of diplomacy, not an escalation of troops, is what is required. SIMONE CAMPBELL, SSS, Executive Director NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby CAROLE SHINNICK, SSND, Executive Director Leadership Conference of Women Religious T MICHAEL McNULTY, SJ, Justice and Peace Director Conference of Major Superiors of Men ALEXIA KELLEY, Executive Director Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good DAVID A. ROBINSON, Executive Director Pax Christi USA JIM HUG, SJ, President Centre of Concern MARIE DENNIS, Director Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns JOE MOLONEY, OSF, President Franciscan Federation of the United States AMY WOOLAM ECHEVERRIA Columban JPIC Office JANET GOTTSCHALK, MMS, Director Medical Mission Sisters' Alliance for Justice FRANK McNEIRNEY, National Coordinator Catholics Against Capital Punishment (CACP) SEAMUS FINN, OMI, Director, Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate Justice, Peace & Integrity of Creation Office MARY WASKOWIAK, RSM, President Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas * The Columban JPIC office add: "We feel strongly that the greatest hopes for peace are not in demonstrations of military might or surges in troop numbers. Rather, following the Columban charism of dialogue, we urge comprehensive diplomacy in which all stakeholders are brought to the table. Please join your voice to ours in praying for peace and calling for diplomatic, not military, solutions. Send a message to President Bush and your Senators and Representatives opposing the proposed troop escalation at: Source: Columban JPIC

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