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ucc petition to end the iraq war

ucc petition to end the iraq war

Along with thousands of United Church of Christ members and supporters, I call for an end to the war in Iraq, an end to our reliance on violence as the first, rather than the last resort, an end to the arrogant unilateralism of preemptive war.

I call for the humility and courage to acknowledge failure and error, to accept the futility of our current path, and I cry out for the creativity to seek new paths of peacemaking in the Middle East, through regional engagement and true multinational policing.

I call for acknowledgement of our responsibility for the destruction caused by sanctions and war and a beginning to rebuild trust in the Middle East and around the world.

I call for repentance in our nation and for the recognition in our churches that security is found in submitting to Christ, not by dominating others.

I will join protest to prayer, support ministries of compassion for victims here and in the Middle East, cast off the fear that has made all of us accept the way of violence and return again to the way of Jesus. Thus may bloodshed end and cries be transformed to the harmonies of justice and the melodies of peace. For this I yearn, for this I pray, and toward this end I rededicate myself as a child of a loving God who gives “light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

To add your name to the petition, go to: Call for an End to the Bloodshed: Sign the Petition to End the Iraq War

general petraeus’ letter to the troops

general petraeus’ letter to the troops

It is good, very good, to hear General Petraeus talk about dignity, respect, and integrity, values, law, and doing what is right. It is good to hear him take an unequivocal stand against torture, both because it is wrong and because it serves no useful purpose. It is good to hear him emphasize the first reason, stating clearly that war is not just about doing what works, not just about gaining the upper hand by whatever means necessary, but about doing the right thing the right way.

We need voices like his in leadership, in the military and in government. The threat of terrorism — both real and imagined — has engendered a fear among us that has clouded our commitment to “the moral high ground.” We have granted our tacit approval to tactics of warfare and interrogation and homeland security that just a few short years ago would have been considered unthinkable, the tactics of a people without values, a people with no regard for human dignity.

I applaud his plea for honor and respect — and righteousness — among the armed forces deployed in Iraq. Yet, even so, even in his letter, some jarring contradictions remain.

We are, indeed, warriors. We train to kill our enemies. We are engaged in combat, we must pursue the enemy relentlessly, and we must be violent at times. What sets us apart from our enemies in this fight, however, is how we behave … While we are warriors, we are also all human beings.

Yes, we are human beings, but making war brings to the surface what is inhuman in us — killing and violence, relentless and merciless pursuit. War as such is about destruction, taking life, reckoning your own life or the lives of your companions or the lives of your compatriots — or even a cause, whatever cause it may be — as more valuable than other lives. Torture and disregard for human dignity may not be a necessary adjunct to war, but they differ from “just war” practices only in degree, not in kind.

If there is a better way than torture, there is also a better way than war.

Here is the text of General Petraeus’ letter:

10 May 2007

Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen serving in Multi-National Force—Iraq:

Our values and the laws governing warfare teach us to respect human dignity, maintain our integrity, and do what is right. Adherence to our values distinguishes us from our enemy. This fight depends on securing the population, which must understand that we—not our enemies—occupy the moral high ground. This strategy has shown results in recent months. Al Qaeda’s indiscriminate attacks, for example, have finally started to turn a substantial portion of the Iraqi population against it.

In view of this, I was concerned by the results of a recently released survey conducted last fall in Iraq that revealed an apparent unwillingness on the part of some US personnel to report illegal actions taken by fellow members of their units. The study also indicated that a small percentage of those surveyed may have mistreated noncombatants. This survey should spur reflection on our conduct in combat.

I fully appreciate the emotions that one experiences in Iraq. I also know firsthand the bonds between members of the “brotherhood of the close fight.” Seeing a fellow trooper killed by a barbaric enemy can spark frustration, anger, and a desire for immediate revenge. As hard as it might be, however, we must not let these emotions lead us—or our comrades in arms—to commit hasty, illegal actions. In the event that we witness or hear of such actions, we must not let our bonds prevent us from speaking up.

Some may argue that we would be more effective if we sanctioned torture or other expedient methods to obtain information from the enemy. They would be wrong. Beyond the basic fact that such actions are illegal, history shows that they also are frequently neither useful nor necessary. Certainly, extreme physical action can make someone “talk”; however, what the individual says may be of questionable value. In fact our experience in applying the interrogation standards laid out in the Army Field Manual (2-22.3) on Human Intelligence Collector Operations that was published last year shows that the techniques in the manual work effectively and humanely in eliciting information from detainees.

We are, indeed, warriors. We train to kill our enemies. We are engaged in combat, we must pursue the enemy relentlessly, and we must be violent at times. What sets us apart from our enemies in this fight, however, is how we behave. In everything we do, we must observe the standards and values that dictate that we treat noncombatants and detainees with dignity and respect. While we are warriors, we are also all human beings. Stress caused by lengthy deployments and combat is not a sign of weakness; it is a sign that we are human. If you feel such stress, do not hesitate to talk to your chain of command, your chaplain, or a medical expert.

We should use the survey results to renew our commitment to the values and standards that make us who we are and to spur re-examination of these issues. Leaders, in particular, need to discuss these issues with their troopers—and, as always, they need to set the right example and strive to ensure proper conduct. We should never underestimate the importance of good leadership and the difference it can make.

Thanks for what you continue to do. It is an honor to serve with each of you.

David H. Petraeus
General, United States Army
Commanding

who’s irresponsible?

who’s irresponsible?

In a time of war, it’s irresponsible for the Democrat leadership in — Democratic leadership in Congress to delay for months on end while our troops in combat are waiting for the funds.

– George Bush, speaking to the press this morning in the Rose Garden

Is it irresponsible to exercise congressional oversight over a war that the majority of the American people believe is being mishandled?

Is it irresponsible to refuse to allow the administration to do whatever it wants, however it wants, without input from the people’s representatives?

Is it irresponsible to ask for dialogue about a war that is costing this nation dearly — in money, in lives, and in reputation?

Or is the truly irresponsible thing to undermine the moral credibility of this nation, to expend billions of dollars and thousands of lives, to provoke an enormity of sufffering and death among the civilian population of a foreign nation, all for the sake of a war of choice, a war without need, a war without cause?

a conversation that needs to happen, but won’t

a conversation that needs to happen, but won’t

From today’s New York Times: Bush Vows Not to Negotiate on Iraq Timetable

A defiant President Bush vowed today not to negotiate with Congress about setting a date for withdrawing American troops from Iraq, and he said the American people would blame lawmakers if there is any delay in approving money for the war effort.

“Now, some of them believe that by delaying funding for our troops, they can force me to accept restrictions on our commanders that I believe would make withdrawal and defeat more likely,” Mr. Bush said. “That’s not going to happen. If Congress fails to pass a bill to fund our troops on the front lines, the American people will know who to hold responsible.”

I believe, I want to believe, that Mr. Bush believes he is doing what is best for our country by “staying the course” in Iraq, but sincerity and good intentions are not enough. By refusing to bend at all and by summarily dismissing legislation setting a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq passed by both the House and the Senate, Mr. Bush is not merely defying the Democratically-controlled Congress, he is defying the intent of the Constitution. The Constitution intends a trilateral sharing of power, a system of checks and balances, so that one person, one office, even one branch of government will not act alone, unilaterally establishing national policy.

But this administration wants to pursue its war as it sees fit, without counsel, without oversight, without negotiation, without compromise. The bills passed by Congress and the bill which may eventually reach the president’s desk should provide, not an ultimatum, but a starting point for conversation, a conversation that could lead to a policy more closely reflecting the will of the people. But this administration has already decided by itself what is best for the people.

“If we cannot muster the resolve to defeat this evil in Iraq, America will have lost its moral purpose in the world. And we will endanger our citizens, because if we leave Iraq before the job is done, the enemy will follow us here.”

We have already lost our moral purpose in the world. The invasion of Iraq four years ago was a preemptive strike; an act of war in response to a perceived threat, not to any provocation; quite simply an act of aggression, illegal and immoral. The United States and its allies invaded a sovereign nation without just cause, and the immorality of that act has only been compounded by the immense suffering of the Iraqi population.

We cannot unring that bell and the situation on the ground in Iraq today is complex and unpredictable. The daily violence despite — or because of — the presence of American troops is horrendous, and it is almost certain that the violence without the presence of American troops would be even worse. But as a moral issue, the war does not become any more moral by its elongation. The immoral war is still immoral, and the only way to redress that failing and to reclaim any moral redemption is to cease and desist … to leave Iraq.

on the subject of the war in iraq

on the subject of the war in iraq

I reprint for you here an excerpt of the remarks Jim Wallis will make at a Christian peace rally to be held this evening in Washingon, D.C. His words are powerful and passionate and perceptive and faithful to the gospel of Jesus. As Christians, we must discern and root out the fear in our own hearts and minds, let it be rooted out as the love of God fills us more and more. As Christians, we take no sides, nor enlist God to defend “our side,” but do our best to put ourselves on God’s side …

For all of us here tonight, the war in Iraq has become a matter of faith.

By our deepest convictions about Christian standards and teaching, the war in Iraq was not just a well-intended mistake or only mismanaged. THIS WAR, FROM A CHRISTIAN POINT OF VIEW, IS MORALLY WRONG – AND WAS FROM THE VERY START. It cannot be justified with either the teachings of Jesus Christ OR the criteria of St. Augustine’s just war. It simply doesn’t pass either test and did not from its beginning. This war is not just an offense against the young Americans who have made the ultimate sacrifice or to the Iraqis who have paid such a horrible price. This war is not only an offense to the poor at home and around the world who have paid the price of misdirected resources and priorities. This war is also an offense against God.

And so we are here tonight, very simply and resolutely, to begin to end the war in Iraq. But not by anger, though we are angry, and not just by politics, though it will take political courage. But by faith, because we are people of faith.

This service and procession are not just another political protest but an act of faith, an act of prayer, an act of nonviolent witness. Politics led us into this war, and politics is unlikely to save us by itself. The American people have voted against the war in Iraq but political proposals keep failing, one after the other.

I believe it will take faith to end this war. It will take prayer to end it. It will take a mobilization of the faith community to end it – to change the political climate, to change the wind. It will take a revolution of love to end it. Because this endless war in Iraq is based ultimately on fear, and Jesus says that only perfect love will cast out fear.

So tonight we say, as people of faith, as followers of Jesus, that the deep fear that has paralyzed the conscience of this nation, that has caused us to become the kind of people that we are not called to be, that has allowed us to tolerate violations of our most basic values, and that has perpetuated an endless cycle of violence and counter-violence must be exorcised as the demon it is – THIS FEAR MUST BE CAST OUT!

And to cast out that fear, we must act in faith, in prayer, in love, and in hope – so we might help to heal the fears that keep this war going. Tonight we march not in belligerence, or to attack individuals – even those leaders directly responsible for the war – or to use human suffering for partisan political purposes. Rather, we process to the White House tonight as an act of faith, believing that only faith can save us now.

keeping things in perspective

keeping things in perspective

The blood is in the water. Democrats (joined now by Republican John Sununu) want Alberto Gonzales dismissed from his job as attorney general for his abrupt firing of eight US attorneys.

There may well be justification in condemning the political nature of the firings, but it is hard for me to get too worked up about this issue. An attorney general motivated by politics? And that is a revelation? It may be sad, but true, that the US attorneys do work at the whim of the executive branch and decisions about hiring and firing will be politically motivated.

It is hard for me to get excited about this crusade against Gonzales, because it is transparently a matter of political “gotcha” and of gaining, or at least appearing to gain, the moral “highground.”

Consider the cost of Gonzales’ actions. Eight undoubtedly capable and well-intentioned public servants out of a job … but I would guess not long out of a job. And yet another blow to the sagging edifice of democracy by yet another exercise of executive unilateralism.

Compare the costs of this unilateral action with the costs of another virtually unilateral action: the invasion of Iraq. You cannot compare the two! You cannot compare the fallout of a squabble over politics with the fallout of a war!

Heads must roll over the firing of eight attorneys, but who shall bear the responsibility for an unwarranted, unprecedented, illegal invasion of a sovereign nation without provocation? Who shall bear responsibility for the thousands of American lives and the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives this war has cost?

That is something to get worked up about!

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