Resolution Adopted by the CCAR

IRAQ

Adopted by the 115th Annual Convention
of the Central Conference of American Rabbis
Toronto, Canada
June, 2004

Background

In March 2003, the CCAR issued a statement on the war in Iraq: "The Central Conference of American Rabbis, representing more than 1800 rabbis throughout the United States, Canada, Israel and around the world, many of varied opinion concerning the military conflict in Iraq, stands together in its prayers for the security and safe return of military personnel and civilians…serving bravely far from home. We also pray for the safe return of those taken prisoner. We mourn the loss of all military personnel and civilians killed, and we mourn the loss of all human life in the conflict. May God comfort their loved ones. May all despotism vanish speedily from the Earth. We pray that all peoples, here, in Iraq and around the world be shielded from war and terror."

In the months since this statement was issued, Saddam Hussein's regime has been removed from power and Hussein himself captured. The Bush Administration has committed to continued involvement in the building of a stable Iraq. Nonetheless, the chaos that emerged in the immediate aftermath of Hussein's overthrow has escalated with the passing months, resulting in the murder of coalition and Iraqi soldiers and civilians. Terrorist insurgents opposing Iraq's interim government have turned to kidnappings, assassinations, and the destruction of Iraq's infrastructure. The search for the Weapons of Mass Destruction Iraq was alleged to possess has yielded no results.

A series of criminal abuses of Iraqi prisoners of war by United States soldiers has been discovered at the Abu Ghraib prison. Ultimate responsibility for these abuses remains to be determined, as does the nature and application of interrogation guidelines developed in the wake of September 11, 2001. Jewish tradition insists that, even in warfare, the military uphold ethical standards. Understanding war's dehumanizing effects on combatants, the great commentator Ramban warns that at such times we must be even more conscious of our moral behavior (see comment on Deuteronomy 23:10). A military investigation into the responsibility for and extent of the abuses at Abu Ghraib is ongoing. The criminal abuse of Iraqi prisoners of war involves a very few of the thousands of men and women serving in military and civilian roles in Iraq who perform their service with honor, integrity and compassion.

On June 8, 2004 the United Nations Security Council adopted unanimously a resolution brought by the United States and Britain to transfer sovereignty on June 30 to Iraq's interim government, thus ending the formal occupation of Iraq by coalition forces. As per the resolution, a multinational security force under American command will remain in Iraq to function in partnership with Iraqi security forces, until such time as Iraq's government orders it withdrawn. Revenues from Iraq's gas and oil will be overseen by the new Iraqi government. The United Nations will assist that government in reconstruction efforts, the organization of future elections, the writing of a constitution, and the development of social services. The UN resolution, however, does not address the needs of the long-oppressed Kurdish population in northern Iraq, which has demonstrated a commitment to democracy and reform.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Central Conference of American Rabbis fervently reaffirm its hopes expressed in March 2003. We are gratified that Saddam Hussein has been removed from power. We are outraged by the continuing acts of barbarism by terrorist insurgents. We support the Bush Administration in its commitment to assisting in the rebuilding of a stable Iraq. We commend the Administration for its decision to end the formal occupation of Iraq and its efforts to engage the United Nations in the transfer of authority to Iraqi hands, efforts we hope will heal the breach it created with many longstanding allies when it chose to engage in military action without their support over a year ago. Nonetheless, we are deeply concerned by its justifying the war on what appear to have been false claims with respect to Weapons of Mass Destruction. Moreover, we are troubled by the administration's failure to implement thus far an effective plan restoring order to Iraq's current chaos. We are deeply disturbed over the U.N. resolution's failure to address the needs of the Kurdish population in northern Iraq. We are appalled by the criminal abuse of Iraqi prisoners of war by American soldiers at the Abu Ghraib prison. We recognize that the acts of these few soldiers and other service personnel do not represent the valor and distinction shown by the thousands of soldiers and civilians serving in Iraq. We honor the dedication and service of the thousands of soldiers and civilians who every day perform their service in Iraq with honor, integrity and compassion.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Central Conference of American Rabbis

  1. Call on the Bush Administration to:
    1. Uphold its pledge of resources and personnel to support the building of a stable Iraq;
    2. Present a clearly-defined and measurable exit strategy for the withdrawal of Coalition military personnel from Iraq;
    3. Develop along with the United Nations a specific plan for protecting the rights of the Kurdish population, and
    4. Conduct an open and thorough investigation into the criminal abuse of Iraqi prisoners of war by both military personnel and civilian contractors, and impose appropriate sanctions and dismissals of those deemed responsible, to assure conduct in accord with the Geneva Conventions; and
  2. Express its hopes that Iraq's new government, led by interim president Sheik Ghazi Ajil al-Yawar, will successfully build a nation governed by principles of justice, tolerance and religious freedom; and

  3. Encourage its members to offer their support to the men and women serving in Iraq by, among other things, sending packages and greetings;

  4. Encourage its members to offer both spiritual and material support to the families of those serving in Iraq;

  5. Share with its members information and contacts to better enable support for those who serve and their families;

  6. Continue to offer its prayers for the welfare of those coalition service personnel and civilians who serve in Iraq, and the innocent victims of the violence that sadly remains. May the day come soon when the word of the prophet Isaiah is fulfilled: "They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. And all shall sit under vine and fig tree, with none to make them afraid."