In all military actions, ethical norms require protecting civilians, using proportionate and discriminate force, rejecting torture, and fighting terrorism with nonmilitary means and the legitimate use of force when necessary. This is morally essential and also necessary for winning hearts and minds, especially in the struggle against terrorism.
Our concern for human life and dignity extends to the members of our own military. We support those who risk their lives in the service of our nation and recognize their generous commitment. U.S. policy must take into account the growing costs and consequences of a continued occupation on military personnel, their families and our nation. There is a moral obligation to deal with the human, medical, mental health and social costs of military action. Our nation must also make provisions for those who in conscience exercise their right to conscientious objection or selective conscientious objection.
Each course of action in Iraq should be weighed in light of the traditional moral principle of "probability of success." In other words, will the action contribute to a "responsible transition" and withdrawal as soon as appropriate and possible? This principle requires our nation's leaders to be more realistic about the difficult situation in Iraq and more concerned about the likely consequences of a withdrawal that is too rapid or not rapid enough.
The morally and politically demanding, but carefully limited goal of responsible transition should aim to reduce further loss of life and to address the humanitarian crisis in Iraq , the refugee crisis in the region, the need to help rebuild the country, and human rights, especially religious freedom.
We call on Catholics and others to persist in praying for peace and those most affected by the war and to engage these moral questions. To help our people reflect on the war, Bishop Thomas G. Wenski, the Chairman of our Committee on International Policy, has prepared a summary of our Conference's perspectives on the war in question-and-answer format.
All of us must struggle with these moral questions, but in a particular way, our Conference and individual bishops will continue to engage policy makers on the moral and human dimensions of this conflict. We pray and hope that policy makers begin to work together on a bipartisan basis to bring an end to this war and occupation at the earliest opportunity consistent with the limited goal of a responsible transition and the protection of human lives--Iraqi and American.
Questions and Answers on the War in Iraq
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
At the request of the Administrative Committee, Bishop Thomas G. Wenski, Chairman of the Committee on International Policy, has prepared this summary of USCCB perspectives on Iraq .
Our nation cannot afford a shrill and shallow debate that distorts reality and reduces the options to 'cut and run' versus 'stay the course.' Instead we need a forthright discussion that begins with an honest assessment of the situation in Iraq and acknowledges both the mistakes that have been made and the signs of hope that have appeared. Most importantly, an honest assessment of our moral responsibilities toward Iraq should commit our nation to a policy of responsible transition.... Our nation's military forces should remain in Iraq only as long as it takes for a responsible transition, leaving sooner rather than later.
Toward a Responsible Transition in Iraq , January 13, 2006 Bishop Thomas G. Wenski, Bishop of Orlando Chairman, USCCB Committee on International Policy
Any action or failure to act [in Iraq ] should be measured by whether it... contributes to a responsible withdrawal at the earliest time, or whether it is likely to increase divisions, violence, and loss of life. Another necessary step is more sustained U.S. leadership to address other deadly conflicts in this region, especially the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the crisis in Lebanon .