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    WCC: Chilcot report confirms Iraq war should have been prevented

    08 July 2016

    In the wake of the highly-anticipated Chilcot report, the World Council of Churches (WCC) stands by its original position, first adopted in 2002 via a wide consultative process with its member churches, that all possible efforts should have been exhausted to prevent the war in Iraq.

    In 2002, the WCC, as it strongly affirmed that the rule of law should prevail instead of military intervention, warned about the risks and consequences of an invasion of Iraq. At that time, the WCC began preparations to avert a post-conflict humanitarian catastrophe through preparedness to respond to the needs of innocent civilians.

    “All this is strongly and clearly confirmed today by the Chilcot report,” said WCC deputy general secretary Georges Lemopolous, on 6 July, the day the report was released.

    The report states that Saddam Hussein did not pose an urgent threat to British interests, that intelligence regarding weapons of mass destruction was presented with too much certainty, that peaceful alternatives to war had not been exhausted, and that the United Kingdom and United States had undermined the authority of the United Nations Security Council, among other findings.

    In October 2002, the WCC appealed to church leaders in the member states of the Security Council seeking guidance and cooperation, and suggesting three policy elements: the need to uphold the international rule of law; resistance to pressures to join in pre-emptive military strikes against a sovereign state; and the search for solutions by non-military means. “At the same time, concern was expressed for the potential human costs of a new war and the large-scale displacement of people,” said Lemopolous. “Caution was also expressed against the potential social, cultural and religious, as well as diplomatic, long-term consequences.”

    In February 2003, the WCC, in consultation with the Conference of European Churches, National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, and the Middle East Council of Churches, brought together church leaders and issued a declaration of “Church leaders against war in Iraq.” The declaration deplored that the world’s most powerful nations again regarded war as an acceptable instrument of foreign policy.

    Following this, the WCC Executive Committee issued a “Statement Against Military Action in Iraq” which reaffirmed that the war against Iraq would be immoral, unwise and in breach of the principles of the UN Charter. “The WCC warned that war in Iraq would cause a humanitarian crisis of grave magnitude and strongly appealed to the UN Security Council to uphold the principles of the UN Charter,” said Lemopolous.

    Finally, in March 2003, the WCC general secretary issued a “Statement on the War in Iraq,” affirming that the WCC and its member churches had repeatedly warned the states that had gone to war against Iraq that they were contradicting the spirit, ideal and prospect of the fundamental principles of the UN Charter; that this war would have grave humanitarian consequences, including loss of civilian life, large-scale displacement of people, environmental destruction and further de-stabilisation of the whole region; and that a war against a country with a Muslim majority was politically dangerous, culturally unwise and ignored the growing importance of religion and culture.

    Upon release of the Chilcot report this week, public reaction was emotional and globally widespread. From WCC’s perspective, as to what may follow the publication of the report, “the WCC will again consult its member churches – including those in Great Britain – to carefully discern together any position to be taken,” said Lemopolous.

    Related links:

    Statement on the War in Iraq by the WCC general secretary, 20 March 2003

    Statement Against Military Action in Iraq, 21 February 2003

    Message from Church Leaders United Against the War in Iraq, 5 February 2003