State Department Warned in 2002 Vatican Would Oppose Attack on Iraq

A diplomatic meeting in 2002 notes "public criticism" of attack on Iraq, further revealing early plans against Saddam Hussein

A State Department diplomatic cable from 2002 details US Ambassador Jim Nicholson’s meeting with then Vatican Middle East Director Tomasso Coppola, and which warns the State Department that “we should expect vocal, public criticism of any military action against Iraq.”

It has long been established that top officials within the George W. Bush administration planned to target Iraq for military attack just days and even hours after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, throwing into question the traditional narrative that the decision was made gradually and as a last resort. Indeed, associated figures in the group of individuals within the administration had planned to target Iraq years prior to 9/11. 

But the cable, released by WikiLeaks, provides an insight into just how deep the assumption of targeting Iraq after 9/11 was throughout the administration and diplomatic service. To have diplomats meet with Vatican representatives and note disapprovingly the potential for “public criticism” for waging a war against the non-threatening country is notable.

The cable says “Iraq will remain a bone of contention between the United States and the Vatican,” and warns that “we should expect the Vatican to strongly condemn the continued embargo as ‘harmful’ to the Iraqi population.” The “embargo” referred to is the set of sanctions imposed on Iraq by the US, which is widely considered to have directly contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of children and perhaps over a million people total.

Author: John Glaser

John Glaser writes for