BY TRACY-JO SMITH
CATHOLIC overseas aid agency CAFOD has warned that any pre-emptive strike against Iraq would create "a humanitarian catastrophe".
It said in a report this week that any Allied strike would contribute "immeasurably to the sufferings of the Iraqi people".
In Iraq, Sanctions and the War on Terrorism, which was released on Monday, the agency said: "Sanctions imposed on Iraq, now in their 1 Ith year, have resulted in untold suffering for millions of people — physical, mental and cultural."
The report said that smart sanctions introduced in May to prevent Saddam Hussein creating weapons of mass destruction have resulted in shortages that affect "every aspect of the Iraqi people's lives — households, educational institutes, agricultural production and industry".
Under the sanctions, the number of items defined as "dual usage" — goods that can
be used both for civilian and military purposes — has doubled. Among them are boilers, turbines, pumps, compressors and other components vita) for the maintenance of the country's electricity supplies.
"Power cuts are particularly hazardous in facilities such as hospitals and water treatment plants," says the report. "No one knows how many have died as a result of sanctions but it is believed to include thousands of children a month."
CAFOD director Julian Filochowski said: "We seem to be moving inexorably closer to war with Iraq, with a focus on the person of Saddam Hussein whilst millions of poor Iraqis, who will be the ones to suffer and who themselves do not have weapons of mass destruction, are seemingly left out of consideration."
He added: "As many as half a million children are thought to have died. The new 'smart sanctions' are even worse than the previous regime."
Washington has signalled that it wishes to help install a democratic regime inside Iraq, when Saddam is toppled from power — a move welcomed by Iraqi opposition parties.
But the CAFOD rtport says: "The danger of unilateral action, in the form of a preemptive strike by the United States (possibly with the support of the UK) cannot be underestimated. It would be difficult to imagine a single, more effective way of wreaking further devastation on an already devastated country, and creating major humanitarian crisis with hundreds of thousands of innocent victims.
"A militaristic or purely security approach to the problem of international terrorism is unimaginative and doomed to failure. Only if the world is prepared to tackle the root causes of conflict, liberation struggles, terrorism (including state terrorism) is there a chance of arriving at durable and sustained solutions."
CAFOD has been working in Iraq over the past 11 years through its sister agency — Confrerie de la Charite.