Bahai News -- Spiritual leaders speak out against strike on Iraq News Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Spiritual leaders speak out against strike on Iraq

Appeal Tribune
December 18

SILVERTON — As United States troops amass in the Middle East and the media is filled with predictions of impending war with Iraq, several of Silverton’s religious leaders and about 80 concerned citizens met for a panel discussion Dec. 10. They were reflecting on the legitimacy of the United States conducting a “pre-emptive strike” against Iraq.

Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi leader, has been blasted by President George Bush and his administration for not living up to the terms of United Nations’ resolutions ordering disarmament following the 1991 Gulf War. The administration has characterized the Iraqi response to the latest UN disclosure resolution, 1441, as incomplete and deceptive. Hussein has been accused of attempting to create and stockpile weapons of mass destruction.

“In World War II we were attacked, but this time we would be the attacker,” said the Rev. Joe Wood of St. Paul’s Catholic Church, echoing his beliefs and those of a majority of Catholic bishops.

“They have stated that ‘War should be a last resort,’ not a secondary or middle one. To resort to war under current circumstances is contrary to the ‘Just War’ doctrine,” Wood said.

The panel consisted of Rev. Steve Mitchell, United Methodist Church; Rev. Joe Wood, St. Paul’s Catholic Church;

Rev. L. D. Wood-Hull, vicar, St. Edwards Episcopal Church; Randi Embree, minister, Abundant Life Spiritual Community (Christian Science); Richard Davis, minister, Salem Unitarian Church; Dorothy Pederson, member of Baha’i Faith, Salem; Jeremy Shockley, student, Silverton Union High School.

Mitchell said war is compatible with Christian beliefs, but must meet the guidelines of the “Just War” theory that states that war is permissible as a way of fending off an attack, and only when all peaceful efforts have been exhausted.

“The United Methodist denomination ran the gamut on this issue. How far the gamut goes is demonstrated by the fact that both Bush and Cheney are United Methodist,” said Mitchell.

Leadership from the denomination had requested a meeting with the two to voice their concerns about the current United States policy, but were told that neither had the time to meet.

Embree, representing the Christian Science religion, stated that her church does not have a statement against war.

“Our concern is that this is not a just war. According to the news Iraq is complying even though Bush administration says different. We haven’t exhausted all venues of resolution,” Embree said.

The entire panel tended to support the doctrine of “Just War” except for Wood-Hull.

“The Episcopal church has come out with a statement that is strongly critical of Bush’s plan about going to war,” said Wood-Hull, who shared his own views of pacifism.

“We renounce war, militarism and all forms of violence,” said Wood-Hull, referring to the Episcopal Peace Fellowship of which he is a member.

“Arguing for peace and not war is like arguing for oxygen – it’s so obvious.”

The heart of the matter for him is in the teaching of Jesus: turn the other cheek.

“He (Jesus) did not say love your enemy except when they have weapons of mass-destruction,” Wood-Hull said.

A key point that is at the heart of the debate is that of the “Just War” theory first brought forward by the Roman orator, jurist, and philosopher Cicero (106-43 B.C.). In the fifth century A.D. the African bishop St. Augustine expounded on this work and laid the framework for the theory to which most of today’s religious and political systems refer.

The key points that he put forward were:

The cause must be in response to correct a grave public evil;

The injustice suffered by the attacked must significantly outweigh attempts to right the wrong;

The action can only be waged by a legitimate public authority;

Action is to be taken with a right intention that is only in response for an egregious action;

The overall destruction expected by the use of force must be outweighed by the good to be achieved; and,

Action must be taken only after all peaceful avenues have been exhausted.

“Peace is not sought in order to provide war, but war is waged in order to attain peace,” Augustine states in his book “The City of God.”

Panelist Jeremy Shockley was not a spiritual leader. He was included “…as a young man who might be faced with going to war,” said Naseem Rakha, moderator for the night and member of Silverton People for Peace, organizer of the event.

“War is just one more thing that makes it hard to get up in the morning,” Shockley said.

“Silverton High School is peaceful. Each of us has a love and passion for life.” Shockley likened the possible pre-emptive strike to “punching your little brother in the face because he may have stolen your CD player.”

Shockley also represented the conflict that a protracted military action would have on an already financially strapped government.

“I am distressed that this action could cost upwards of one trillion dollars,” Davis said, adding that it breaks down to a million dollars a minute.

“If we go to war we could borrow the one trillion, but we already have children sharing textbooks and talking of shortening the school year,” Mitchell said.

What was clearly lacking in the discussion was support for a pre-emptive strike. There app-eared to be a general consensus that any military action at this point is unjustified, with the audience sharing the viewpoint.

“If we talk about the right to preemptive strike – someone is threatening your country – then you have a right to preemptive strike,” said Kate Davidson of Silverton.

“The only country that has that right at this time is Iraq.”

©Copyright 2002, Statesman Journal, Salem, Oregon

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