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Retaliation against civilians, massive attack on Iraq immoral

We address the MIT community in the wake of muffled, half-hearted understandings and issuing from Cairo, Ankara, Riyadh and Moscow between Secretary of State James A. Baker III and these respective governments with regard to "the military option" -- a.k.a. -- war.

We are deeply distressed at the prospects for war. We believe that the kind of massive military response contemplated by the United States and her allies is morally questionable.

We seek to encourage conversation within this community and indeed throughout this country that will stop the exercise of such a severe response while encouraging the difficult diplomatic, economic and defensive military posture of various nations (we are, however, concerned about the misuse of food and medicine in the embargo).

Our opposition to a massive military response is not based on admiration for Saddam Hussein or approval of his policies. Our distress and opposition to such a military offensive rests in the disproportionate havoc and agony that will be created for the entire people of the region -- military and especially civilian.

In mid-September Air Force General Michael J. Dugan informed the press that a massive air assault upon Iraq was likely initial response and that "the cutting edge would be in downtown Baghdad."

Dugan was promptly fired by Defense Secretary Dick Cheney. Clearly the general had been "indiscreet," but no reference was made by the secretary to the wrongfulness of targeting civilian centers.

The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World of Vatican II states plainly: "Any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities or extensive areas along with their population is a crime against God and humanity itself. It merits unequivocal and unhesitating condemnation."

Paragraph 148 of the 1983 Pastoral Letter on War and Peace of the American Catholic Bishops underscores the above quote: "Retaliatory action whether nuclear or conventional which would indiscriminately take many wholly innocent lives, lives of people who are in no way responsible for reckless actions of their government, must also be condemned. This condemnation, in our judgment, applies even to the retaliatory use of weapons striking enemy cities after our own have already been struck. No Christian can rightfully carry out orders or policies deliberately aimed at killing non-combatants."

Our opposition to any contemplated massive military response rests on this clear and, we hope, compelling principle of proportionality and respect for innocent civilians. There are numerous other themes -- historical, geopolitical, diplomatic, economic, and as King Hussein of Jordan has recently noted, ecological -- which should give pause to such contemplated action. It is on this principle though, that our humanity rests.

Bernard J. Campbell->

Catholic Chaplain->

Scott Paradise->

Episcopal Chaplain->