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Inviting ISIS for dinner: the “Vicar of Baghdad” is conflicted but supports military intervention in Iraq

Inviting ISIS for dinner: the “Vicar of Baghdad” is conflicted but supports military intervention in Iraq

Photo credit Justin Sutcliffe

In an interview published by The Telegraph, Canon Andrew White talks about a wide range of topics, from his ministry in Iraq, to living with multiple sclerosis, and most notably about his attempts to reach out to ISIS last year as they threatened to invade Baghdad.

In his extraordinary life, White has mediated violent conflicts around the world, meeting with extremists, warlords, and terrorists to try and resolve problems without violence. Despite his history in peaceful work, White believes that the situation in Iraq can only be solved at this juncture by an increase in military action in concert with peaceful outreach.

From the interview:

But surely there is only one logical conclusion to be drawn? He sighs, and answers slowly. “You are asking me how we can deal radically with Isis. The only answer is to radically destroy them. I don’t think we can do it by dropping bombs. We have got to bring about real change. It is a terrible thing to say as a priest.

“You’re probably thinking, ‘So you’re telling me there should be war?’ Yes!”

I am shocked by his answer, because this is a man who has risked his life many times to bring peace.

“It really hurts. I have tried so hard. I will do anything to save life and bring about tranquility, and here I am forced by death and destruction to say there should be war.”

The entire interview is available at The Telegraph, with more details about White’s life, the toll his ministry takes on his family, and a portrait of a slightly eccentric, charming, and incredibly committed priest.

While White is obviously in a unique position to express his opinions on ISIS and Iraq, do you think it’s ever appropriate for a priest to advocate for war, even with reservations? What do you make of his comments considering the current political climate in England, and English reservations to commit to overseas wars?


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Jos. S. Laughon

“It is lawful for Christian men, at the commandment of the Magistrate, to wear weapons, and serve in the wars.”

Mark Mason

“Drone killings miss the targets and kill innocents all too often.”

There are no innocents in war! Armies don’t fight wars, peoples do. Are those that call for war but don’t send their children innocent? Are our youth that join the military because it is their only way to pay for college guilty while those who can afford it by other means innocent? If you want war get your hands bloody. Whose blood can you decide it is OK to spill and have spilt, whose soul will you corrupt in sacrafice for the innocents? War isn’t clean just because you can change the TV channel.

Fourth generation vet. My son serving now, fifth generation.

June Butler

Mark, thank you and your family members for your service. Powerful people in our country who advocate for war but who have not served and do not encourage family members to serve are not innocent. They ought to be ashamed.

June Butler

Canon White was/is there in the Middle East to see firsthand the horrors committed by ISIS, with so many victims among his own beloved flock, so he surely knows and feels more than I do. The military mission of the US or a coalition would be to “radically destroy” ISIS, which, considering our recent history in the ME, sounds like mission impossible to me.

Drone killings miss the targets and kill innocents all too often. The recent bombing of a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Afghanistan is another example of a “mistake” that took the lives of innocent people. At this time, I am not persuaded that sending ground troops to fight in the ME will, in the end, “save life and bring about tranquility”.

Our record thus far and our future plans for helping with the refugee crisis are shamefully inadequate, and I believe the US needs to do more, much more, to relieve the suffering of people who are driven from their homes because of violence.

Mark Mason

When “We” doesn’t include “me”, it means “you!” I recall that the Hebrews that walked out of Eygpt weren’t allowed to enter the Promised Land. They had to fight for it first. Our Father judges our hearts. Whose blood would we have spilled to defeat ISIS?

“Would you sit here while your brethren go to war?”

Leslie Marshall

I don’t see him as an advocate for war. [I don’t think that he is in a position to do that.] I think he knows what he is talking about, and I respect his opinion.

Leslie Marshall

Personally, I think its ok for a priest to arrive at the conclusion that violence, is necessary to protect the weak & vulnerable from evil. It’s common sense.

I don’t see White as a champion (advocate) of war because he’s risked his life to help others avoid violent conflict.

White says…’ the only answer is to radically destroy them. I don’t think we can do it by dropping bombs. We have to bring about real change… ‘

[I guess he’s saying that even physically destroying them, will not stop the evil that fuels them?]

I’ve been praying for his mission for many years. Fr. White has been a huge blessing to me, and has strengthened my faith.

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