Comment: why Christians should oppose war in Iraq

 On a recent radio discussion programme, a journalist who had witnessed the operation of the South African truth and reconciliation commission, recalled an individual coming forward to ask forgiveness for her own apathy. She put forward a powerful case against all of those who had stood by, allowing the evil apartheid regime to cause so much pain and suffering to so many. This one person was giving personal practical testimony to the old adage that all it requires for evil to triumph is that good people do nothing. The debate then continued as to what had been the mechanism in South Africa that had enabled apartheid to triumph for so long, while good people did nothing. The story seems to have many parallels to the situation in the UK at present with the build up for the war in Iraq. It has been established that an attack on Iraq will be evil and cause the deaths of thousands of innocent people. The Catholic Church together with other faiths has been at the forefront of those highlighting the immorality of such a war yet a lot of good people have continued to do nothing. While justified on the altar of the war on terrorism, the reality is that the only real rationale for a war on Iraq are the interests of the oil and arms companies that back the US administration of George Bush. And in the case of the British Government it cannot even be argued that there is a selfish economic reason to go to war. A leading BP executive has testified that many of the oil interests of Iraq will transfer to US transnationals with British companies effectively shut out of the equation. Catholic Labour MP George Galloway has also pointed out that British economic interests will lose out massively in the region. Mr Galloway argues that whatever the outcome of war or peace in the Middle East the US is too big a player to be ignored, not so the British. So why does the British government want to get UK forces involved and at the same time make a bigger terrorist target of this country. There is no popular support for the war which most people see as part of the American drive for world domination over natural resources. Alarmingly, a recent poll showed that many people in the Muslim community see the war on terrorism as an attack on Islam, almost a throw back to the days of the crusades. Church leaders have been at the forefront of the popular opposition to war with the Pope a voluble critic. In this country Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor and the new Archbishop of Canterbury have both spoken out against the prospect of war. Julian Filochowski, the director of CAFOD, has warned in graphic detail of the humanitarian disaster that will unveil if the war goes ahead. On more than one occasion, people of many faiths and none have come together to express their opposition to the war. The largest turn out of popular opposition against the war was seen before Christmas when more than 400,000 people marched from the Embankment to Hyde Park. However, though many people have turned out to protest against war, another sizeable majority feel disempowered as though whatever they do won't make any difference. The lack of effective opposition in Parliament does not help matters with the only resistance likely to come from within the ranks of the Labour Party itself. This brings the argument back to the original question, namely what has been the mechanism that enables evil to triumph while good people do nothing. In the case of the pending war on Iraq there can be little doubt that the mechanism has been the mass media. An unpopular war supported by very few has suddenly taken on an air of inevitability - this could not have happened in a vacuum. Described by some as the real opposition to the government the media position on Iraq has shifted radically from that of broad skepticism to complete compliance. As if primed some six weeks ago there was a sudden change from the question of whether there will be a war, to when it will start. Programmes and newspaper columns that had previously been offering at least some space to the question as to whether war on Iraq was a good or bad thing, suddenly gave way to the when and how brigade. This period has also been punctuated with various terrorist scares conjured up to provide a background justification. in case we should ever forget that this war is not about oil, but confronting terrorism. For those who may doubt that the so-called 'war on terrorism' is about US domination and grabbing natural resources like oil then look to the situation now in Afghanistan. Outside the capital Kabul the country is in complete disarray, returning to the same warlords that have always run things. US forces have moved on to the next conflict, while the US oil company Unocal, is getting on with building the pipeline that will take oil from the Caspian region through Afghanistan to a warm water port. The facilitation of this pipe line was a leading priority of the war on terrorism, as seen in Afghanistan. As for the Iraqis, they have been on a no-win situation since George Bush decided he wanted to improve his rather poor career record in the oil business, by transferring that countries oil resources over to the US transnationals. Refuse to let the weapons inspectors in and face immediate war, or buy time by letting them in only to later have an excuse engineered to start the war. Given the record of past inspection teams it is also difficult to believe there are not a few US spies included, who are busy doing advance reconnaissance for American forces when the war does start. Whatever the crimes committed by the Iraqi regime in the past, it has certainly been put in a no -in situation regarding the weapons inspection process. Over the coming weeks it is important that those people who oppose the war but have not yet come forward do so. Thankfully, the Catholic Church has given a lead to those questioning the morality of such a war. It must be hoped that as the drum beat of war grows ever louder, that more and more Church people will come forward to express their opposition, because then maybe just for once evil will not triumph, because good people did do something.

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