"U.S. puts 35,000 troops on the move to Persian Gulf in preparation for war." "150,000 troops could be in place for attack in weeks, officials say." "Local guardsmen prepare for call-up."
As this first issue of United Church News in 2003 goes to bed, those three headlines, from AP, The New York Times and The Plain Dealer (Cleveland), seem to sum up the state of the nation.
Yet at the same time a "Hearts and Minds" column by Jim Wallis, editor of Sojourners Magazine, points out that, except for the Southern Baptists, virtually every church body in the United States and around the world that has spoken on the war question has concluded this would not be a "just war."
It?s curious, Wallis writes, that we have had no national debate about going to war even though opinion polls show that 40-50 percent of the American people do not believe the Bush administration has made an adequate case for war with Iraq. This percentage gets even higher when the question is changed to ask about a pre-emptive or unilateral U.S. war (i.e., without U.N. sanction or broad support from allies).
I wanted to check those allegations. So, in this Internet age, first I went to my favorite search engine . One response, dated Jan. 7, read: "Nation still split on Iraq war—50 percent support, 45 percent oppose." Next I went to WorldWide Faith News www.wfn.org to check what the world?s religious bodies have said. Here?s what the president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops had to say. "A pre-emptive war by the United States against a nation like Iraq goes against the very grain of our understanding of the Gospel, our church?s teachings and our conscience," writes Bishop Sharon A. Brown Christopher of Springfield, Ill. "To be silent in the face of such a prospect is not an option for followers of Christ."
Meanwhile, because the U.N. Security Council on Nov. 8 unanimously approved Resolution 1441, calling for the resumption of U.N. weapons inspections in Iraq, the world has been granted a brief respite from the certainty of war, despite the ominous daily headlines.
Jim Wallis? response to all of this is to ask us to "imagine what would happen if we were able to really stop this war before it started." How? "Let the U.N. inspectors (who haven?t found any weapons of mass destruction yet) do their jobs and disarm Iraq of whatever weapons it has (like they successfully did four years ago)," he writes. "Then when the inspectors? job is done, let President Bush declare victory, claim credit for his tough stance, and bring the troops home."
Motives are always mixed and the Iraqi issue certainly is muddy. For example, what about Saddam Hussein, his use of weapons of mass destruction, and his totalitarian regime? What about the Iraqis, both the 20 percent who have fled the country and the 80 percent who remain, living in deplorable conditions? What about the U.N. sanctions, which have led to the deaths of half a million Iraqi children? And what about the 600-pound gorilla that no one mentions: our dependence on oil, with no presidential call for alternative energy sources.
Nevertheless, we do have a little time. So, pray for peace. Work for peace. March for peace. Call the White House (202-456-1111). Contact Congress (go to and click on the relevant action).
Down the road a bit, when your children or grandchildren ask you, "How come there was no second war with Iraq?" just imagine being able to smile and say, "I helped stop it."
The Rev. W. Evan Golder is editor of the national edition of United Church News.