The United States bishops have called for a national civil dialogue that will lead to a responsible transition in Iraq, and have said the U.S. military should remain in Iraq only as long as it takes to secure that responsible transition.
In a letter, issued Jan. 12, the Chairman of the Committee on International Policy for the U.S. bishops said such a dialogue could help the U.S. chart a course of action that meets both the “moral and human dimensions of the situation in Iraq.”
“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,” said Bishop Thomas Wenski of Orlando in the letter.
“Most importantly, an honest assessment of our moral responsibilities toward Iraq should commit our nation to a policy of responsible transition,” he continued. “Our nation’s military forces should remain in Iraq only as long as it takes for a responsible transition, leaving sooner rather than later.”
“The central moral question is not just the timing of U.S. withdrawal, but rather the nature and extent of U.S. and international engagement that allows for a responsible transition to security and stability for the Iraqi people,” Bishop Wenski stated.
The bishop said responsible transition means establishing a series of basic benchmarks, including: “achieving adequate levels of security; establishing the rule of law; promoting economic reconstruction to help create reasonable levels of employment and economic opportunity; and supporting the development of political structures to advance stability, political participation, and respect for religious freedom and basic human rights.”
The bishop also warned Americans to avoid distortions of reality in Iraq. “We must resist a pessimism that might move our nation to abandon the moral responsibilities it accepted in using force and might tempt us to withdraw prematurely from Iraq without regard for moral and human consequences. We must reject an optimism that fails to acknowledge clearly past mistakes, failed intelligence, and inadequate planning related to Iraq, and minimizes the serious challenges and human costs that lie ahead.”
The bishop recognized key challenges to a responsible transition, including terrorism, and the U.S. response to it; violation of the human rights of persons in the custody of U.S. and Iraqi forces; threats to religious liberty and religious minorities in Iraq; the plight of refugees; and meeting other international responsibilities.