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Letter to Prime Minister regarding "war on terror"
This letter was sent by Mennonite Central Committee Canada, a partner organization.
March 12, 2002
The Right Honourable Jean Chrétien,
Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Trade
Dear Mr. Chrétien and Mr. Graham;
We are deeply concerned about the prospect of a US-led military action against Iraq aimed at bringing about a "regime change". We commend you for opposing this course of action and urge you to make every effort to dissuade the American government from pursuing it.
Our organization is one of only a few western NGOs who are active with relief and development work in Iraq. We sent some supplies earlier in the 1990s and in 1998 we started to have volunteers, including Canadian citizens, stationed there. They oversee our work which is in agriculture, education, and health care. Members of our staff from Canada have visited Iraq a number of times, most recently in mid-February of this year.
Our visitors and our staff stationed there have been deeply moved by the situation of the people. The Iraqi people suffered through eight years of the war with Iran, through the 1991 Gulf War and the suppression that followed, and through twelve years of sanctions. Most have become impoverished. Many have died. The sanctions are believed to have contributed to at least half a million deaths, largely by preventing the importation of parts needed for repairing the infrastructure relating to water, sanitation, electricity, transportation, health care, and other necessities.
We recognize that there is considerable debate on the extent of the Iraqi government's responsibility for this tragic situation. A more immediate question, however, is whether military action seeking a regime change would make things better. We believe it would not, for the following reasons.
We urge you to pursue these avenues. A reading of developments leading up to the 1991 Gulf War raises the possibility that such an approach might have prevented that war.
We appreciate that Canada has taken positive steps, particularly during its recent term on the UN Security Council. We refer to the accommodation, in Resolution 1284, of some of Iraq's concerns about the structure of the weapons inspection commission, to improvements in the Oil For Food program, and to the diplomatic visits into Iraq by representatives from the Canadian embassy in Jordan and from Canada. We understand that Canada halted these visits after September 11. Their resumption could be helpful at this critical time.
Even though the approach we are suggesting may not guarantee a resolution of the issues, we would still urge you to continue opposing the war option. Wars often take unanticipated turns, solve fewer problems than expected, and unleash unforeseen negative dynamics with far-reaching consequences. People in Iraq and in the region are very worried, as are many in Canada. The present situation is certainly not ideal but, in our view, a war would make things much worse.
We pray that God will give you wisdom and courage as you deal with this and other issues that face our country and our world.