a nation, and even as a world, we are on the eve of war in the very
cradle of civilization itself. With
the crumbling of our sense of security in a tower of ash and dust on
9/11, we appear to be a nation eager to show the world that we are not
afraid of those who would do us harm, covering our anxieties with
plastic, duct tape and $100 billion dollars of military muscle.
The eyes of the world are upon us like never before.
To be blunt and to the point, I believe war on Iraq, if it
proceeds as planned, may well be the single greatest mistake by an
American government in our history, period.
Not that I have any strong opinion, mind you.
In a moment I'll tell you why, concluding with some reflections
on how our faith comes to bear in such matters.
Before I do, let me make clear that I speak for no one other than
myself, though I know many here share my feelings.
I also know others here do not.
And that is OK. I do
not expect everyone to agree with me nor do I even wish it as well,
maybe a little. My desire
has always been for a church that is diverse and includes a broad
spectrum of beliefs, but where we can be open and honest with each
others about those beliefs, sharing, as our founders often said,
≥In essentials unity, in nonessentials liberty and in all things
To that end I invite you to remain after the service today for
some dialogue. I want to
hear what you think about these things.
To get us started, I have asked outspoken letter-to-the-editor
writer, Darrell Rothauge, to respond and to offer his viewpoint.
Having said my piece, my intent will be to listen.
After the service we'll take about a ten-minute break for coffee
and then turn it over to Darrell.
So fasten your seat belts, I
am going to count down my top ten reasons why we should not start a war
There is no mandate to fight this war.
so I lied. I couldn't
keep it to ten. Scott
Ritter, the ex-Marine and former U.N. arms inspector, said that giving
President Bush sole power to wage war is "like going to a doctor
who says you have a brain tumor and that he needs to chop off your head
so he can dig it out. You say, 'Wait, that's kind of extreme. May I see
the X rays?' And the doctor says, 'Don't worry about X-rays. Just trust
me on this.' "[i]
we? Everyone across the
spectrum from the most conservative hawk to the most liberal dove agrees
that Saddam Hussein is a very bad guy.
The question is, why are we going to war against a country that
had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11, has not fire a single shot
outside its borders since the invasion of Kuwait thirteen years ago and
now has a military by all accounts that is 1/5 the strength it was in
1991? Cynics say the answer
is Florida. With an economy
in the dumps and federal deficits skyrocketing, a President who lost the
popular vote in the last election will be an easy target in the next.
A solid victory in Iraq, however, will yield many votes in
Florida and elsewhere.
have a hard time believing our President is that callous.
I am inclined to believe that the President feels he must deliver
some kind of victory against the evil of terrorism and Saddam Hussein is
simply the most available candidate.
A majority of the American public apparently agree, however, a
NYTimes/CBS poll found that 42% in this country believed that Saddam
Hussein was somehow responsible for 9/11, a rather astounding statistic
given that there is not one iota of evidence to support that and no one
in our government has made that claim.
Thus much of the support for this war is based plain and simple
upon ignorance and propaganda. Even then, 59% in our country say we should give UN and
weapons inspections more time and 54% oppose a war if thousands of Iraqi
civilians would be killed.
War is bad for the environment
the burning oil fields of Kuwait? There
is great concern Hussein will do the same in Iraq creating an even
greater environmental disaster. Thousands
upon thousands of Gulf War Veterans have a mysterious ailment we have
labeled Gulf War Syndrome. Burning
oil fields is one possible cause, another is depleted uranium, a special
armor-piercing munition made with radioactive material.
We used it for the first time in the Gulf War, firing over 300
tons of depleted uranium. French,
Canadian, British and US veterans with Gulf War Syndrome have received
no help from their own governments on the relationship between depleted
uranium and their illness. The
only government researching the effects of depleted uranium is the Iraqi
veteran organizations in this country have been forced to turn to
research scientists in Baghdad to understand what depleted uranium does.
The cost of this war is prohibitive
a couple of years ago Congress was fighting over what to do with the
enormous surplus in the federal budget.
In just two years we have gone from a projected surplus of $5.6
trillion to the largest deficits we have ever known.
Social services of all kinds are being cut back or eliminated,
many of them essential to our most vulnerable citizens.
The war in Afghanistan has cost us $37 billion so far and the war
in Iraq is projected to cost up to $100 billion, that is about $1000 for
every American household. How
will we pay for this war debt? By
borrowing more money. Why? Because
like LBJ in the Vietnam era, President Bush knows that if we had to
actually pay for the war as we fought it, Congress would pull the plug
faster than you can say tax hike. In other words, the cost of fighting
this war will be thrown upon future generations which will have fewer
options for education, health care, job training, retirement, etc. as a
result of this war.
the people of Afghanistan still wait for the aid that was promised to
help them rebuild their country. Johnny
Wray, director of Week of Compassion, was there in January.
He reports that one out of every four children die before the age
of five. The average income
is less than 50 cents a day. 700,000
women have been widowed from 23 years of war.
10 million land mines and unexploded ordinances remain scattered
across the landscape. This
is what war does. The good
news is that Disciples have provided nearly $250,000 to buy livestock,
seed, tools, building materials and more to make a real difference in
Afghanistan through Week of Compassion.
The bad news is that another war will only create more need,
especially given that 60% of the Iraqi people are already dependent upon
the UN for food.
There are better means to disarm Iraq
as everyone agrees that Saddam is a very bad guy, so too everyone agrees
that he must be disarmed. Is
there anyway proven way to do that outside of war?
As a matter of fact, the UN inspections resulted in the
destruction of more weapons from 1991 to 1998 than where destroyed by
the Gulf War. Furthermore,
many of the weapons Iraq does possess were developed or purchased with
the help of western companies. The
Iraqi documents turned over to the UN in the latest round of inspections
reveal more than 150 American, British and other foreign companies that
supplied Iraq with its nuclear, chemical
and missile technology, many of them in illegal transactions.
The combination of thorough inspections and selective sanctions
in the long run will be safer, cheaper and more productive than war.
I would concur that without the threat of force, inspections are
meaningless. Using that force, however, before the inspections have fully
run their course is senseless. Had
the League of Nations been given the kind of teeth the UN has today and
imposed inspections and sanctions upon Germany in 1934, I believe we
would have avoided the Holocaust and WWII, saving millions of lives.
war since the beginning of civilization yields unintended consequences.
After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, the CIA poured
millions of dollars of training and equipment into the opposition.
The unintended consequence was the training of the future leaders
of Al Qaeda. During the
last Gulf War we established a military presence in Saudia Arabia that
helped us to win that war. Unintended
consequence? It was our
presence in Saudia Arabia that prompted Osama bin Laden to begun his
campaign of terror.
Byrd delivered this warning with to the US Senate just last week, naming
a number of such possible unintended consequences:
our war inflame the Muslim world resulting in devastating attacks on
Israel? Will Israel retaliate with its own nuclear arsenal?
Will the Jordanian and Saudi Arabian governments be toppled by
radicals, bolstered by Iran which has much closer ties to terrorism
disruption of the world's oil supply lead to a world-wide recession?
Has our senselessly bellicose language and our callous disregard
of the interests and opinions of other nations increased the global race
to join the nuclear club and made proliferation an even more lucrative
practice for nations which need the income?[ii]
much seems clear: even
though he considers Saddam to be an infidel himself, attacking Iraq will
give Osama bin Laden the very rally cry he needs to recruit even more
This war threatens to undermine NATO and the UN
we really want to make the UN a meaningless ≥debating
society≤ as the President suggests will happen if it does not
agree to our demands? What
will happen to NATO if we lock out France and Germany as Secretary
Rumsfeld has threatened to do? This
is a very dangerous game of diplomacy we are playing.
Again, quoting Senator Byrd (five people sent me his speech, four
from this congregation so I figure I should make good use of it!):
heads of state pygmies, labeling whole countries as evil,
denigrating powerful European allies as irrelevant -- these types of
crude insensitivities can do our great nation no good. We may have
massive military might, but we cannot fight a global war on terrorism
alone. We need the cooperation and friendship of our time-honored
allies as well as the newer found friends whom we can attract with our
wealth. Our awesome military machine will do us little good if we
suffer another devastating attack on our homeland which severely
damages our economy.[iii]
A pre-emptive war sets bad precedent
pre-emptive strike against Iraq would set an exceptionally bad precedent
for other nations to follow. It
would also be a clear violation of the UN Charter and international law.
Witness the statement from the government of North Korea that
they would not hesitate to use pre-emptive means if they felt they were
next on our target list. Given
that they have the means to produce and deliver nuclear weapons, this is
an unintended consequence of disastrous proportions waiting to happen.
War on Iraq will lead to rapid deterioration of our international
do they hate us? In the eyes of the Arab world, the case for requiring
Israel to leave the West Bank is just as great as the US demand for
Saddam to disarm. Israel is
in material breach of Resolution 242, passed by the Security Council in
1967 with the approval of the US. How
can we require Iraq to comply with UN resolutions when we haven't
required Israel to do the same for over 35 years? The US has vetoed 34
resolutions on Israel, yet we would undo all the good the UN has wrought
because France threatens to veto one resolution on Iraq?
Imagine how that looks to the Muslim world.
it is not just the Muslim world that is unhappy with us. The European
edition of Time magazine asked it readers "Which country poses the
greatest danger to world peace in 2003?"
Out of 318,000 votes cast on their website, North Korea received
7%, Iraq 8% and the US 84%. You have to take such unscientific measurements with a grain
of salt, but it does grab your attention.
polls in Europe however in just the last few weeks place opposition to
war in Iraq at 73% in Italy, 90% in Spain, 90% in Britain and 94% in
Turkey. What happens if
this war causes the governments of those countries to collapse?
What happens if it causes the government of Pakistan to collapse,
a government which already possesses nuclear missiles?
On February 15 there were more protests in more than 600 cities
worldwide, half of those outside the U.S., with some 8 million people
gathered. British spy
novelist John leCarrČ recently said that "America has entered one
of its periods of historic madness, but this is the worst I can
remember." And a columnist in a major British newspaper even
went so far as call our government "the Third Reich of our
it was candidate George Bush who said in the 2nd Presidential
debate, "It really depends on how our nation conducts itself in
foreign policy. If we're an arrogant nation, they'll resent us.
If we're a humble nation, but strong, they'll welcome us."
This war will increase our insecurity
It took bin Laden ten
years to put together the 9/11 attack on our country.
Even if we win this war easily, we will not be able to rest for
decades to come. You cannot
root out terrorism with terror just as you cannot eradicate evil with
evil. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "The ultimate weakness of
violence is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it
seeks to destroy. Instead
of diminishing evil, it multiplies it."
This war will only multiply the evil we would destroy.
It will take a turn of our hearts, not a roll of duct tape, to
save us from this evil.
Civilian casualties will negate any victory
civilians were killed in Gulf War plus another 70,000 in aftermath.
Former UN inspector Scott Ritter observes,
"Keep this in
the back of your head: About 3,000 Iraqi children are starving to death
each month -- outside the view of American heartstrings, But we're only
talking about dead brown people. Don't let that little fact get in
the way. If 250,000 white babies were going to starve to death, this
sanctions policy wouldn't last long at all. But somehow a child's death
doesn't hurt brown mothers as much as it hurts white mothers."[v]
Pentagon tells us that they will shatter Iraq
"physically, emotionally and psychologically" by
launching 800 cruise missiles in two days, twice the number used in the
entire Gulf War. A military
strategist named Harlan Ullman told American television:
will not be a safe place in Baghdad. The sheer size of this has
never been seen before, never
been contemplated before. You have this
simultaneous effect, rather like the nuclear weapons at
Hiroshima, not taking days or
weeks but minutes."[vi]
Recall that in 1991
one such cruise metal hit a command bunker of key military leaders.
Only the intelligence was wrong.
The bunker was filled with women and children, over 450 of which
were killed. The World Health Organization estimates up to 500,000
people will need treatment in a country whose health care system is
already in shambles before a shot has been fired, creating epidemics of
There can be no Just War against Iraq
years ago St. Augustine developed the concept of Just War to justify
Christians taking up arms to defend themselves.
Ever since the concept of Just War has been used to guide
Christians and non-Christians on the morality of war.
The principles of Just War are:
must have a just cause, such as the defense from just aggression.
Settling a grievance is not a just cause.
must have a "right intention" to restore order and
justice. Hatred and a
desire for vengeance are not appropriate motives.
must be used by a lawful authority with responsibility to the common
must be a reasonable probability of success and the means used must
be proportionate to the end sought.
You do not use sledge hammer to drive a thumb tack.
peaceful means to resolve the conflict must be exhausted.
War is always the last resort.
sixth criteria was added later that specifically forbids the targeting
of civilian populations. I have serious questions whether our cause is
just or our intention right, but others will make that case.
Clearly when there has been no act of aggression on us, the only
lawful authority in this case is the UN.
A pre-emptive attack without the UN would be against
international law and contrary to the principles of Just War.
Just as clear all peaceful means to resolve this conflict have
not been exhausted. Lastly, given the prospect that we would used nuclear weapons
under certain circumstances, it is unlikely that we could avoid hitting
large numbers of civilians. Pope
John XXIII concluded that in the nuclear age "it no longer makes
sense to maintain that war is a fit instrument with which to repair the
violation of justice."[vii]
Ronald Osborn led a study group of leading Disciple scholars in
1985 that came to the same conclusion.
The war is contrary to Christian faith
only cannot I find justification for this war, I find that it is
contrary to every thing I believe to be true about my faith in a loving
God as exemplified in the life of Jesus.
The National Council of Churches issued this statement in
November. It still holds
do many in the world, we look to the United States government to set an
example for the international community. As Christian religious
leaders responsible for millions of U.S. citizens we expect our
government to reflect the morals and values we hold dear - pursuing
peace, not war; working with the community of nations, not overthrowing
governments by force; respecting international law and treaties while
holding in high regard all human life.
communities across this nation interfaith services were held after 9/11.
In one such service in Hawaii, the President of the Muslim
Association of Hawaii asked the crowd to join hands as he read this
statement from the prophet Muhammad:
"Whoever kills one single being is as if he kills the entire
humanity. And whoever saves a single life is as if he saves the entire
we do? I believe now is the time to do as Micah and Isaiah both say, to
turn our swords into plowshares. JoAnne Flanders has been passing out
bags of rice with the address on the White House and this scripture from
Romans 12, "If your enemies are hungry, feed them," and a
message that says, please send this rice, not bombs, to Iraq.
Which is precisely what the Week of Compassion will be doing,
only let us hope they will be doing it instead of war rather than after
it. Jesus put it this way:
"You have heard it said, 'Love your neighbor, hate your
enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who
This is the way, the only way, to fight evil.
Call to Arms By an Enemy of War Against Iraq by Courtland
Milloy. Washington Post, November 13, 2002.
[ii] Reckless Administration May Reap
by US Senator Robert Byrd, Senate Floor Speech, February 12,
on his hands By John Pilger,
The Mirror (UK),
January 29, 2002.
Catholic Position of the Morality of War≤, Our Sunday Visitor,
[viii] Letter to President Bush that was
delivered to the White House and State Department on Thursday,
September 12, the day of the President's address to the United
Nations General Assembly. The letter was widely disseminated
to the media and released at a Capitol Hill press conference.
It was signed by nearly 50 U.S. Christian leaders including the
heads of many Protestant denominations and Catholic religious
[ix] Reverberations in distant Hawaii, The
Christian Century, September 25, 2001.