Iraq Archive 6
indexing postings from
March 18 through May, 2003
Washington Office urges
U.S. to put Iraq humanitarian assistance and reconstruction under U.N.
In a lengthy policy paper, the
Presbyterian Washington Office
points out some of the problems and dangers in a US occupation of Iraq,
and argues that "the U.N. provides the most effective mechanism to infuse
the postwar order with a semblance of legitimacy and minimize the
potential for a violent backlash from the population."
The paper offers
suggestions for action,
and cites numerous
statements from past PC(USA) General Assemblies affirming the role of
the UN as a peacemaker.
Prof. Rosemary Radford Ruether suggests "organizing themes for a
new stage of the peace movement in the context of the US military
occupation of Iraq"
a reflection paper
issued in April as US forces gained control of Iraq, Ruether listed
five themes the peace movement should pursue now:
|acknowledging that the people of Iraq are benefitting
from the removal of an oppressive dictator - but keeping people aware of
our government's cozy relationships with many other dictators, past and
|reminding people that "weapons of mass destruction" -
the pretext for the war - have not been found, while urging that all
WMDs, including our vast arsenal, must be destroyed;|
|returning attention to the fate of the Palestinian
people as the Bush administration continues to side with the government
|continuing a focus on American's long-term intentions
for dominating the Middle East;|
|exposing "the costs of American militarism and
national security policies to American democracy and social welfare."
leaders continue expressing concern about war, occupation of Iraq
|Interfaith leaders call for end to U.S. occupation
Religious leaders from across the nation met in Chicago
on April 30, and called for the United States to end its military
occupation of Iraq and to avoid first-strike wars in the future.
"The United States can and must exercise global
leadership in pursuit of peace, dignity and justice for all persons," said
Robert Edgar, general secretary of the National Council of Churches,
following an interfaith summit he organized.
The Chicago Tribune reports on the gathering and the statement they
issued. [Registration is required to enter the Tribune's
website, but there is no charge.]
|Antiwar activists are rethinking, but will keep
Religion News Service reports on the determination of other religious
leaders to continue their work against what they see as an overextension
of American power abroad. [Registration is required for this website
too, but there is no charge.]
Ronald Sider, head of Evangelicals for Social Action,
says the crucial question for Americans in the coming decade will be "What
kind of lone superpower are we going to be?"
And the Catholic group Pax Christi in a recent statement
has called on religious Americans to "reassess the role of the United
States in the world. Are we a force for good, for justice and peace, or
are we perpetrating and deepening the cycle of violence we claim to be
Jim Wallis of the Sojourners Community noted that "it's
Pax Americana, and such a policy of dominance ultimately costs too much
and violates our core values." Merely opposing that will not be enough, he
added; opponents of the policy must offer concrete, specific alternatives,
it they are to achieve any success in resisting the new American hegemony.
One Iraqi: "This is
your country now."
Kathy Kelly of the Iraq
Peace Team reports from Amman, Jordan, on April 21, a day after leaving
Baghdad. She describes the conquered people of Iraq through the eyes of
Sattar, a Baghdadi who drove her to Jordan in his taxi, for her own
safety. He tells of a country where people don't seem to feel "liberated,"
but conquered, baffled by the sudden disappearance of Saddam Hussein and
the whole government apparatus.
When one sympathetic American commented
that at least now he would have an easier time driving Americans from
Jordan into Iraq, he responded, "You are right. This is your country now."
Actor Tim Robbins: "a chill wind is blowing in this nation."
Actors Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon
were recently disinvited from an appearance at the Baseball Hall of Fame
in Cooperstown, NY, because of their anti-war views.
Robbins later spoke at the National Press Club in
Washington, on April 15, reflecting on his perception that "a chill wind
is blowing in this nation." Given the Administration's loud commitment to
democracy and human rights for the people of Iraq, it might be good for us
to pay attention to what's happening to democracy and human rights in the
USA. Robbins laments the lost opportunities for true national unity after
9/11, and the growing pressures against free speech.
He urges the journalists in his audience to "battle back
at those who would rewrite our Constitution in Patriot Act II, or
'Patriot, The Sequel,' as we would call it in Hollywood. ... Journalists
can insist that they not be used as publicists by this administration."
Thanks to Kent Winters-Hazelton
Is Syria next?
Recent threats against Syria have
reminded many of disclosures a few weeks ago of the policy document called
"The National Security Strategy," drafted
by the New American Century
Project, a neo-conservative group founded by Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz,
Elliot Abrams, Donald Rumsfeld, and others in 1997, suggests that the people
of the world would be better off if the United States ran the show.
Eric Black of the
Star Tribune published a thoughtful look at the Administration's latest
possible moves beyond their conquest of Iraq. He talks with informed
observers who offer both positive and negative views.
See also recent comments by theologian John Cobb,
warning of the threats behind the Administration's efforts to impose on
the world a new "Pax Americana."
What about "supporting our troops"?
As the US military adventure in Iraq seems to be
moving toward some kind of "success," those who stand against the war are
coming under increasing pressure to "support our troops."
The popular posters that proclaim "Support our
troops. Bring them home!" make sense to many, but don't convince others. So
what do we say or do now?
The anti-war group "Not in Our Name" has posted a
strong statement on the subject.
A vigil of mourning
A small community peace
group in North Carolina offers a sensitive explanation to its neighbors of
the purpose of its weekly vigil and the "mourning" that is part of its
PAX AMERICANA: John Cobb sees a crisis
for the Church
Theologian John Cobb
highlights and clarifies the crisis that is confronting the church as well
as the world through the new US determination impose an "American peace"
on the world - on our terms.
Kent Winters-Hazelton, Witherspoon Society president,
reports on Cobb's recent discussion.
Defense, by Seymour M. Hersh
The battle between
Donald Rumsfeld and the Pentagon.
Hersh's recent article in The New Yorker has been widely
circulated - and indeed it's worth reading. Hersh details the way in which
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has seized control of planning for
the war against Iraq from the military planners. He has insisted on waging
a war with minimal commitment of ground forces and maximum reliance on air
strikes - because that would be (in its way) clean and quick and
politically acceptable. The result, of course, is what we have witnessed:
US forces operating without enough supplies or support, the failure of an
expected "uprising" of the Iraqi people, and the growth of Islamic support
for the defense of Iraq - not of Saddam Hussein, but of Iraq.
How can we speak
to our congregations in this time of war? [4-2-03]
One pastor writes to her congregation to
offer a gentle, humane way to help her people deal with the war. If you're
looking for words to put things in perspective, these may help.
The author, the Rev. Cathy Cummings
Chisholm, is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Weyauwega, WI.
you to share what's being said and done in your congregation.
relief groups resist Pentagon control of aid effort
Despite being courted in
recent days by high-ranking U.S. officials, the leaders of many religious
humanitarian organizations remain sharply critical of Bush administration
plans to make the Pentagon the central organizing body for aid and relief
efforts in Iraq. They question the abilities of the Pentagon to respond to
the impending humanitarian crisis, and want to see greater reliance on UN
agencies. They are also concerned about their own role - whatever it may
be - if they are forced to serve under the control of the US Defense
"On balance": a framework
for understanding our world today [3-29-03]
Gene TeSelle reflects on America's radically new role in
the world today
What to do in a time of war?
More ideas for action, from here and there
John Shuck, of the Presbytery of Yellowstone, reminds us
Great Hour of Sharing is our Presbyterian channel for doing just that.
And this is the season when our churches are encouraged to give to that
long-term, broad-based way of helping.
In worship and in
prayer, remember those who are dying
Jack Lohr, at the Presbyterian Church of Franklin Lakes,
New Jersey, called on his congregation last Sunday, the first after the
beginning of the fighting, to remember all those who died that week. He
posted in the narthex, and read at the end of his sermon, a list of all
the names and other identifications he could gather of those who had died
at that point in the war. He included full data on some US combatants, and
things like "the two crew members of a British fighter shot down
mistakenly by a US antiaircraft battery," "Jordanian taxi driver killed in
the initial missile attack on Baghdad," and the fragging.
The service was closed with the singing of "For All the
Saints," which the congregation sings whenever one of their members dies.
Jack says he hopes to keep the list up, and plans to close every service
the same way for the duration.
He listed military and other people who died, by branch
of service and nationality. He then gave what information he could
about other victims, for example:
Remember the Mostly Nameless Others:
• Jordanian taxi driver killed in initial bomb attacks
on Baghdad, March 20, 2003.
• Members of Iraq's 51st Mechanized Division - "Dead
bodies everywhere" on Safwan Hill (an Iraqi observation post at the Kuwait
border) obliterated by US Hellfire missiles and 40,000 pounds of
explosives and napalm (permitted because the US is not a signer of the
1980 UN Weapons Convention that outlaws it).
• Six Iraqis killed at Umm Qasr, near the border with
• Terry Lloyd, British ITN reporter, killed (perhaps by
"friendly fire") after passing a checkpoint in Umm Qasr.
• Three people killed in overnight bombing of Baghdad,
March 22, 2003.
He then gave a summary from The Guardian:
US Military Killed in action, 18; accidental,
"friendly fire" and other, 8
UK Military Killed in action, 2; accidental and
friendly fire, 16;
Iraqi Soldiers, at least 150 (source: US and news
Iraqi Civilians (dead), 157 (source: Iraqi
Journalists, 2 dead; two missing
Non-Iraqis, at least 6
The sources he has found helpful include:
"Defend America" - The US Government's Official Web Portal
As of March 29, the latest casualties listed are from March 25.}|
Alternative views of the news
reports are changing American attitudes
TruthOut carries a Reuters report on
how news reports from
Iraq are changing Americans' views of the war, undercutting the optimism
of the first few days. The Bush
administration, and especially Defense
Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, are frustrated by
the "mood swings" of the media.
A note: If you want to see excellent reporting
on the war - reports that are often bypassed by local media -
get on the
e-list for TruthOut to receive daily lists of reports.
Peace teams report from Iraq
For other on-the-spot reports from Iraq check out two
American volunteer groups maintaining a presence - and sending disturbing
They are not staying with the intention of being
"human shields," to continue to live among the Iraqi people and to "use
our presence and non-violent actions to witness, understand and expose
the situation of both the civilian population of Iraq and highlight the
importance of facilities such as water purification plants that are
critical to daily life."
They were recently featured on
For Those Who Oppose War, What Now?
The Rev. Dr. Peter Gomes,
chaplain at Harvard University, poses this question in the Boston Globe.
He acknowledges the huge challenges facing anyone who dares now to
question the legitimacy of this war, but he reminds us that dissent is a
vital part of the democracy our leaders claim to be spreading.
And he offers practical suggestions such as ...
|We must not constrain our consciences.|
|We must pray for a swift and just conclusion to this
|We must offer our unqualified support to those men
and women in the military who are placed in harm's way, and who must
wage the war whose end we seek.|
|We must urge the Bush administration to be as
assiduous in its prosecution of peaceful reconstruction as it was in
bringing about the conflict.|
|We must oppose with every energy the menacing
morality of the doctrine of preemption ...|
|We must commit ourselves again to the principles of
international cooperation and affirm that such instrumentalities as the
UN, NATO, and the International Court of Justice, generally trashed in
the run-up to this war, will be essential for the peace.|
|We must affirm that the real work for peace begins
the day the war is over; the struggle begins when we take up the hard
work of peace-making.|
us ... Easter
baskets for war! [3-26-03]
Witherspoon member Lynne
Reade sends this invitation to action:
selling "Easter" baskets with war toys in them. When Richard James,
another member of my church, told me about this I checked it out at the
local WalMart and found it was true. The $9.74 baskets have a sign on them
"Combat Vehicle" and contain soldiers, helicopters, guns, trucks with big
guns, ambulances. They are numbered 3689A and are made by Sherwood
Brands, Inc. We are trying to get the local WalMart to take these baskets
off the shelves.
office of Sherwood Brands, Inc. is located at 1803 Research Blvd., Suite
201, Rockville, MD 20850. They have a web site at
"Contact Us," I sent the
My church, Westminster Hills Presbyterian Church in Hayward,
California, objects to war toys in so-called "Easter" baskets. Easter is a
time of religious significance and remembrance for Christians. We ask that
you discontinue putting war toys in your "Easter" baskets and recall those
Witherspoon people might want to take some kind of similar action
individually. There is not enough time to get much done this year by
Two peace groups issued statements after the invasion
The Presbyterian Peace Fellowship has
joined a number of other groups in endorsing a statement by
the Religious Peace Fellowships.
It's a statement in the form of a prayer - a prayer of lament and of
protest and of resolve.
Fellowship of Reconciliation also issued a statement after the
beginning of the American invasion of Iraq, noting that "war, in and of
itself, is a weapon of mass destruction. It miserably fails to resolve
issues of compliance with international law and disarmament."
|Peace groups continue the
Peace groups are continuing their efforts against the
war, and adapting to the fact that war is now a reality, and is for
now receiving wide support.
From vigils for peace in generally pro-war Palm
Springs, CA, to Springfield, MO, to Amherst, MA - from marches and
vigils to lobbying and organizing - the struggle for peace goes on.
The Washington Post offers a good survey of the variety
of responses to the challenges of the times.
Thanks to Bruce Gillette
Demonstrations around the world have expressed peoples'
rejection of the US war in Iraq.
Witherspoon board member Rich Hong reports on his
experience in the demonstration in (or
around) Times Square, New York, on March 20. [3-22-03]
Taking up the
cross in a time of war
A thoughtful Lenten
"what does the way of the cross look like" for people in a nation
going to war?
The Rev. Matthew
Gunter of St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Glen Ellyn, IL, preached
on this on Sunday, March 16, 2003.
He suggested four
|"Taking up the cross in a time of war means
getting our loyalties straight."|
up the cross in a time of war means the way of humility. It means
being prepared to entertain the possibility that we are wrong. It
means asking, why does most of the rest of the world disagree with
up the cross in a time of war means we must recognize our own
|"Taking up the cross in a time of war means
repentance. We need be prepared to repent of sins we commit as
individuals and as a nation. And if sometimes we decide we must
resort to violence, we need to repent for that violence."|
Matthew Gunter is a member of the Ekklesia
Project, which states as its purpose: "to remind the church of its
true calling as the real-world community whose primary loyalty is to
the Body of Christ, the priorities and practices of Jesus, and the
inbreaking Kingdom of God. In doing so, The Ekklesia Project will
work with, within, across, and beneath existing churches and
More ideas on
resources and things to do
in response to the war
Offer your own resource page
Community Church in San Francisco has put together a resource
page on its website for people seeking help in dealing with the war.
It includes links to scripture readings, prayers, "How to talk to
kids " articles, etc.
Thanks to Bruce Reyes-Chow,
pastor of the church
Molly Douthett of Dayton, OH, sends this
How about encouraging church officers to open the doors to area
churches every day at lunchtime for midday prayer? The service
is from the Book of Common Worship and can be a time for those who
need quiet space to come seek refuge in God's holy sanctuary. I have
encouraged the churches in the Miami Presbytery to do that. I know
that two are already doing so and hopefully more will join in.
Bulletin board material
Presbyterian Disaster Assistance has developed
resources (photos, quotes, thought pieces) for 3 bulletin boards on
Iraq. The initial themes are Children, Women, and Christians in
Iraq. They are available at
www.pcusa.org/iraq under the heading Display and Discussion.
Susan Ryan, Coordinator of PDA, adds:
In my own congregation, we put the photos from the
Presbyterian Churches of Iraq in the hallway with some general
information. We found that it became an instant gathering place for
conversation. Please let us know if these are useful in your
congregation. We are always looking for ways to provide more
interpretative materials to congregations.
With prayers for people, troops, and leaders,