Tony Blair's speech in the House of Commons, widely seen as an attempt to seize the moral high ground over military action in Iraq has triggered several critical responses from religious groups and charities, reports The Times.
The Prime Minister opened a new front in the battle for public minds yesterday by telling people who plan to join Saturdayís anti-war protest in London that the moral choice was between war and sanctions that had devastating consequences for the Iraqi people.
Father Frank Turner, the Assistant General Secretary of the Bishopsí Conference, the body which Roman Catholic bishops use to speak with a single voice on global matters, said that world leaders had more than just the two options of war or comprehensive sanctions. ìThe Bishopsí Conference has expressed consistently that a moral case for war has not yet been demonstrated,î he said.
ìBut weíve criticised a programme of comprehensive sanctions lasting more than a decade, which has caused untold suffering, and seems to reinforce the position of the regime. We have argued for the suspension and eventual lifting of those sanctions while maintaining selective sanctions which restrain the military expenditure of the regime. The options are not simply war versus comprehensive sanctions. The way ahead, we feel, is selective sanctions and stringent inspections.î
His point was supported by Roger Yates, Head of Emergencies at Action Aid. He agreed that it was not a straight choice between the two policies, and added; ìTony Blairís job is to act on the basis of international law and that in this case means the UN charter. His moral judgment on the situation has to be weighed up together with other peopleís judgments on the Security Council. When it comes down to it we are interested in his legal actions rather than his moral dilemmas.î
Julian Filochowski, the Director of CAFOD (the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development), underlined the potential humanitarian consequences of military action. Hesaid: ìA war would be a humanitarian catastrophe. All other peaceful means including a revised sanctions regime should be tried first. War is a last resort and we are a long way from a last resort.î
Justin Forsyth, Oxfam Internationalís policy director agreed: ìHow can war be the moral choice when all the evidence suggests that it will lead to massive suffering among the Iraqi people?î he said.