Guest commentary / The Universe

THE FOURTH ANNIVERSARY of the start of the war in Iraq has brought forth some truly startling statistics.

Australian scientist Dr Gideon Polya has brought together four sets of independent data, including information from UNICEF and the UN, to conclude that there have been at least one million deaths in Iraq since 2003.

Some 134 British and 3,000 US soldiers have died since war broke out.

The cost so far to the British tax payer is £5 billion.

The invasion of Iraq has been an unmitigated disaster.

Morally, it was wrong to break international law by going to war on the basis of false information. Economically, the funds expended could have been used on public services like the NHS, education and transport.

The good news is that the British Government is reducing its troop numbers to 5,500, paving the way to complete withdrawal by 2009.

The bad news that it would seem many are being redeployed to an equally absurd conflict in Afghanistan.

The church has been active in declaring its opposition to war in general and the Iraq conflict in particular.  Both Pope Benedict XVI and his predecessor John Paul II have condemned the war in Iraq and called for a rapid resolution to the conflict.

In Britain and across the world, Catholics joined with people of other faiths and none to oppose the war in Iraq. Unfortunately, political leaders have ignored these people. Few can doubt that Tony Blair would have a far more worthy legacy if it did not include the debacle that is Iraq. Indeed, many believe he would not be going at all but for the error of following President George Bush into war.

The hope though must be that the fourth anniversary will be a time for learning the lessons of the past. Iraq, Afghanistan and numerous other conflicts raging around the world prove only that violence begets violence.

The time must have come to say, "Enough is enough" and to look at ways to create sustainable peace throughout the world.

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