U.S. responsibilities to Iraq many
on 10th Anniversary of 2003 Invasionتكبير الصورةتصغير الصورة معاينة الأبعاد الأصلية.
By Dennis Sadowski
Attending the installation of Patriarch Louis Sako
as the new leader of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Baghdad, Bishop Richard E.
Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, looked around at the large crowd gathered in St.
Joseph Cathedral and what he saw gave him a sense of hope.
Seated in the congregation amid tight security
during the March 6 ceremony were Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and
parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi. That political leaders would attend was not
But Maliki, a Shiite Muslim, and Nujaifi, a Sunni
Muslim, are political rivals from different branches of Islam. That they were
able to put aside their differences in a show of unity to support the minority
Chaldean church and its new patriarch impressed Bishop Pates.
It's a definitive expression that minority
religions are going to be accepted and protected and encouraged," said Bishop
Pates, who represented the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops as chairman of
the Committee on International Justice and Peace.
The government wanted to make that loud and
clear," he said.
It was a small step in Iraq's agonizingly slow
recovery a decade after what the bishop described as an unnecessary "invasion
and occupation" of Iraq by a U.S.-led military coalition.
Bishop Pates told Catholic News Service March 11
that minority Christian leaders expressed the same hope during his two-day
whirlwind visit to Baghdad.
Joining him on the trip was Syrian Bishop Yousif
Habash of Our Lady of Deliverance of Newark, N.J.
Meeting church leaders from Iraq, Iran, Jordan and
Syria, Bishop Pates said the challenges that remain in the aftermath of the war
are foremost in their minds as the 10th anniversary of the March 20, 2003,
invasion of Iraq approached.
The religious leaders placed the problems
confronting Iraq squarely on the shoulders of the United States, Bishop Pates
said. Those leaders, he said, want the U.S. in some way to make reparation for
the destroyed infrastructure, collapsed economy, sectarian violence and lack of
safety for religious minorities.
The U.S. invaded and occupied, so they're
responsible for the situation," Bishop Pates agreed.
When the case for war was being made in late 2002
and early 2003, the USCCB and Blessed John Paul II warned that an invasion was
unwarranted under the long-standing just war criteria. The church compared the
difference between preventive and preemptive war, questioning whether the latter
was a threshold that should be crossed.
Once the war began, the bishops called repeatedly
for an end to hostilities as soon as possible and for a "responsible transition"
to Iraqi rule. Their call today has expanded to the protection of religious
minorities, particularly Christians, and care for the millions of Iraqi refugees
displaced by the hostilities.
About 2 million people fled Iraq during the war
and another 2 million remain displaced within Iraq, according to the U.N. High
Commissioner for Refugees. Further, the Christian population, primarily
Chaldeans, has dwindled to fewer than 500,000 from 1.5 million at the start of
the war as people have come to fear attacks on their homes and in their
"They continue to leave," Bishop Pates said,
"because they wonder 'What future is there for our children?'"
While the transition to Iraqi leadership occurred
once the U.S. withdrew the last of its forces in December 2011, Iraq remains a
country largely in disarray.
Several Catholic observers said that the U.S.
reputation is tarnished in Iraq, leaving political leaders few options to
directly respond to the country's needs. Americans individually, they said, can
show their support for Iraq and her people through prayer, showing solidarity
with Chaldeans and other Christians, outreach to refugees who have made their
way to the U.S. and a pledge to pressure political leaders more fully when a
case for war is made against another country in the future.
Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson, Ariz., visited
Baghdad in October 2011 with Bishop George V. Murry of Youngstown, Ohio, in a
trip to establish bonds between the Iraqi and American churches. Bishop Kicanas
told CNS that Iraqi refugees are in need of support as they settle in the
Sometimes having left a place of trauma, they
come to a place like the United States seeking a new life and find themselves
faced with many difficulties," he said. "There's language. There may be no work
even though they may be professionals. They're displaced from their own culture.
It's hard for the children to feel comfortable in school."
Maryann Cusimano Love, associate professor of
international relations at The Catholic University of America, said the U.S.
response in rebuilding Iraq has been limited by corruption among the contractors
hired to deliver a variety of services. Citing a report by the Special Inspector
General for Iraq Reconstruction, Love said the contracting process had little
oversight, opening the door for fraud and abuse.
That leaves other steps, Love explained, including
prayer and support of organizations such as Catholic Relief Services and Caritas
The U.S. has an obligation to care for U.S.
soldiers who have returned home with traumatic injuries and psychological wounds
as well as their families," Love said.
In our internal domestic budget battles, we must
not cut what we owe to these people who have these ultimate sacrifices," she
The country, Catholics included, must be vigilant
when officials make the case for war and seriously question the claims being
made to avoid "making same mistake again," said David Cortright, director of
policy studies at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the
University of Notre Dame.
Every time I hear them talking about Iran, I get
this terrible sense of deja vu. We're threatening possible military action
against a country for its nuclear weapons capability that doesn't exist yet,"
The faith community, including Catholics, should
lead the questioning, he said, as it did in the run up to the Iraq war.
"It's all there in the tradition of Catholic
social teaching," he said.
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