Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, the pope’s envoy to Iraq, issued a statement as he left Baghdad, in which said:
As I leave this land unjustly cut off from others, I would like to be more than a simple echo, the amplification of the aspiration of a country that has a pressing need for peace.
Among the great clouds that have overshadowed these times, there is a small opening. But no one must abandon their efforts. The new and brief respite which has been given us must be used by everyone full time and in a spirit of reciprocal trust to answer the exigencies of the international community. The least of steps in coming days has the value of a great step forward towards peace.[emphasis added]
Unjustly cut off? Does anyone else remember a little thing about 12 years ago called the Gulf War in which Iraq invaded its neighbor and slaughtered its people. There were stories of Iraqi troops going into hospital maternity wards and slaughtering babies. Unjust? Tell that to the thousands of Kurdish and Shiite civilian men, women, and children massacred by Iraqi troops. Unjust? Tell that to the thousands of Iraqis starving in the streets and dying for lack of medicine while Saddam sells billions of dollars of oil that is supposed to be used for food and medicine so that he can funnel the funds into weapons programs and the buildng of 100 palaces over the past decade.
The cardinal’s comments make it sound like the obstacle to peace in and for Iraq is the West, but the only hope for peace is the removal of the obstacle that sits in his Baghdad palace like a spider in the center of his web.
Just to be clear, I have found Pope John Paul’s pronouncements on Iraq to be fair and consistent with the Gospel. His call for peace and due deliberation is fair and the product of the Holy Spirit. But what I’m hearing from other Vatican officials is just scary in its lack of objectivity.