Memorandum from the Public Affairs Unit,
Church of England
1. The terms of reference of the Church
of England's Public Affairs Unit (PAU) require it "to co-ordinate
the thought and action of the Church in matters affecting the
life of all in society". The PAU reports to the Archbishops'
Council and, through it, to the General Synod.
2. The PAU warmly welcomes the decision
by the Foreign Affairs Committee to hold an inquiry into "The
Decision to go to War in Iraq". The PAU recognises that the
focus of the inquiry is to consider whether the Foreign and Commonwealth
Office, and the Government as whole, presented accurate and complete
information to Parliament in the period leading up to military
action in Iraq, particularly in relation to Iraq's weapons of
mass destruction. The decision to launch this inquiry reflects
the considerable Parliamentary and public unease as to the validity
of claims made by the Government in its dossier to Parliament
in September 2003.
3. The following submission does not evaluate
whether Parliament was presented with accurate and complete information.
Instead, it suggests that the current controversy surrounding
the legitimacy of the war, fuelled by the present lack of post-war
evidence for the existence of WMDs in Iraq, highlight the moral
and political dilemmas intrinsic to the concept of pre-emptive
military action. If governments intend to use pre-emptive defence
as justification for military action then further thought needs
to be given to developing clear and transparent rules underpinning
its use. In the absence of a clear and imminent threat to international
peace and security, pre-emptive military action inevitably raises
particular ethical questions as to just cause, last resort and
4. From an ethical perspective the justice
of a pre-emptive attack requires demonstrable and compelling evidence
of the hostile intent and capability of a perceived aggressor.
Moreover just war theory requires that other less belligerent
means of averting the threat must have been considered and found
wanting for good cause. Pre-emptive action can itself be destabilising
to and a breach of international peace. As a result it is crucial
that states considering pre-emptive action have more than probable
cause to believe they must attack. Otherwise, questions will always
be asked as to whether a pre-emptive attack was itself nothing
more than an act of aggression.
5. It is noted that similar public and Parliamentary
anxiety existed as to the legitimacy of armed humanitarian intervention
in Kosovo. The Prime Minister sought to allay these fears by setting
out his "Doctrine of the International Community", in
a speech to the Economic Club of Chicago on 22 April 1999. Regardless
of whether it was morally or politically right or wrong to intervene
in Kosovo, the existence of such criteria provided a framework
through which judgements could be made as to the legitimacy of
that and future interventions.
6. The similar articulation of criteria
regarding pre-emptive military action would have been welcome
with reference to Iraq. The absence of such criteria contributed
to the public's sense of unease about the motives and justification
for the action taken against Iraq. The current inability to locate
Iraq's WMDs merely heightens this disquiet.
7. No matter what conclusions the various
inquiries make as to validity of the evidence presented to Parliament,
and regardless of any future discovery of WMDs in Iraq, clearer
guidelines need to be established concerning the use of pre-emptive
military action. Such guidelines are important both for the credibility
and authority of government and for public trust and confidence.
It is to be hoped that the Committee will give this issue further
consideration in the future.
Rt Revd Tom Butler
The Bishop of Southwark
Chairman of the Public Affairs Unit