Bishops Call for Bipartisan Cooperation and Responsible Transition in Iraq

WASHINGTON, Nov. 13 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The United States and its leaders must work together in a bipartisan fashion to bring about a responsible transition in Iraq that ends the war at the earliest opportunity and minimizes the loss of...

Our Conference encourages our national leaders to focus on the morally and politically demanding, but carefully limited goal of fostering a "responsible transition" and withdrawal at the earliest opportunity consistent with that goal. The moral demands of this path begin with addressing the humanitarian crisis in Iraq and minimizing further loss of human life.

We do not have specific competence in political, economic and military strategies and do not assess particular tactics, but we can, as teachers, share a moral tradition to help inform policy choices. Our Catholic teaching on war and peace offers hard questions, not easy answers. Our nation must now focus more on the ethics of exit than on the ethics of intervention. The grave moral concerns we and others raised prior to the war now give way to new moral questions. In the current situation the traditional principles of "noncombatant immunity" and "probability of success" suggest these questions: How can we minimize the further loss of human lives? What actions will do the most good

and least harm? What elements of a responsible transition are attainable? How can they be achieved? What actions should be avoided? How can decision-makers take into account both the realities and setbacks in Iraq and the likely human consequences of rapid withdrawal? What are the financial costs and global consequences of continued war and occupation? And, how can our nation effectively counter the perversion of religion and ideologies that support terrorism, which in all cases merits condemnation?

Catholic teaching has long held that peace is more than the absence of war; it is built on the foundation of justice. This moral insight means that building a just peace in Iraq requires far more than military action; it demands a comprehensive political, diplomatic and economic effort. This effort begins in Iraq , but it does not end there. For this reason, we believe sustained U.S. efforts to collaborate with the other nations, including Syria and Iran , are critically important for bringing some measure of stability to Iraq .

The responsibility for stabilizing and rebuilding Iraq rests primarily with Iraqis, but the United States as well as other nations have a practical and moral obligation to act. Given the extensive devastation in Iraq , the U.S. has a unique and inescapable obligation to continue to offer major and continuing support for economic development and reconstruction. Respect for Iraqi self-determination suggests that our nation should reiterate our pledge not to seek permanent military bases in Iraq , nor control over Iraqi oil resources.

A neglected policy priority is the dire situation of refugees outside the country, internally displaced persons within Iraq , Christians and other vulnerable minorities. The suffering of the Christian community has a particular claim on our hearts and consciences. We remain in solidarity with the suffering Catholic Church in Iraq and welcome with joy the naming of Chaldean Patriarch Emmanuel-Karim Delly of Baghdad to the College of Cardinals by our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI.

We recognize that Christians are not alone in their plight and we reiterate our concern for the whole of the Iraqi people. A staggering two million refugees have fled Iraq ; another two million Iraqis are internally displaced. The U.S. should immediately make more substantial commitments to Iraqi refugees by expanding admissions, eliminating roadblocks to resettlement, and supporting countries in the region burdened with war-related refugee populations. Extensive aid should be provided to internally displaced persons. The protection and promotion of human rights, especially religious freedom, in Iraq remain critically important.

Iraq's future stability is related to the stability of the region. This is why U.S. leadership to advance a just peace for Israelis and Palestinians is critical. The continuing failure to achieve the vision of two states living side by side in peace and justice contributes to regional instability. Real progress toward a fair and just Israeli-Palestinian agreement would help the region and deprive extremists of a cause they exploit to promote hate and violence. In a recent letter to Secretary of State Rice, our Conference has also expressed deep concern regarding the difficult situation involving our nation, the international community and Iran , and has urged caution, determination, and restraint in the use of force. The volatile situations in Pakistan and Afghanistan also raise significant moral questions and require urgent attention if regional stability is to be enhanced.