Presbyterian Voices for Justice 

A union of The Witherspoon Society and Voices of Sophia

Welcome to news and networking for progressive Presbyterians 

Home page Marriage Equality Global & Social concerns    
News of the PC(USA) Immigrant rights Israel & Palestine
U S Politics, 2010-11 Inclusive ordination Wars in Iraq & Afghanistan
The Tucson shootings The Economic Crisis Other churches, other faiths
     About us         Join us! Health Care Reform Archive
Just for fun Confronting torture Notes from your WebWeaver

What's Where

Our reports about the 219th General Assembly, July 2010

About us

The Winter 2011 issue of
Network News
is posted here
- in Adobe PDF format.

Click here for earlier issues
Adobe PDF  Click here to download (free!) Adobe Reader software to view this and all PDF files.

News of Presbyterian Voices for Justice
How to join us


Coming events calendar 

Do you want to announce an event?
Please send a note!
Food for the spirit
Book notes

Go to


NEWS of the Presbyterian Church

Got news??
Send us a note!
Social and global concerns
The U.S. political scene, 2010-11
The Middle East conflict
Uprising in Egypt
The Economic Crisis
Health Care Reform
Working for inclusive ordination
Peacemaking & international concerns
The Wars in Iraq & Afghanistan
Israel, Palestine, and Gaza
U. S. Politics
Election 2008
Economic justice
Fair Food Campaign
Labor rights
Women's Concerns
Sexual justice
Marriage Equality
Caring for the environment
Immigrant rights
Racial concerns
Church & State
The death penalty
The media
Other churches, other faiths
Do you want regular e-mail updates when stories are added to our web site?
Just send a note!
The WebWeaver's Space
Want books?
Search Now:


Churches for Middle East Peace

Iraq War Plans Consume Israeli-Palestinian Peacemaking

by Corinne Whitlatch, Director, Churches for Middle East Peace

September 2002 [posted here 9-10-02]

Click here for suggested action.

While the world waits for the necessary leadership of the United States to act on the President's stated vision of a viable Palestinian state living alongside a secure Israel, the President's inner circle prepares for war against Iraq.

The column by Morton Kondracke in the August 15 issue of Roll Call, a weekly Capitol Hill newspaper, began, "The American public stoutly supports military action to oust Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, but the Bush Administration still needs to mount a case to convince Congress and allies abroad." This assertion of public support is premature, as polling shows that public opinion is subject to change as people better comprehend the enormity and dangers of going to war.

The hearings held in the Senate on July 31 and August 1 officially launched a national debate. The voices of the churches and of individuals who are both constituents and church-members will need to be loud and clear to be heard. The core of our message -- opposition to the U.S. going to war against Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein -- should be grounded with an understanding of the main issues in play in the debate and the dynamics of policy formulation.

How Did It Come to This?

It was only a year and a half ago that Secretary of State Colin Powell told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that he wanted to replace the comprehensive sanctions against Iraq with "smart sanctions" focused on preventing the development of weapons of mass destruction. It was then proposed that the grave humanitarian plight of the Iraqi people, confirmed by United Nations agencies, might be relieved at the same time that the weapons threat posed by Saddam Hussein would continue to be contained.

One factor in the reversal of policy objectives is the galling resilience of Saddam Hussein's rule, 12 years after being largely defeated by an international alliance authorized by the U.N. and led by the father of President George W. Bush. Far more significant, though, is the changed American mindset following the September 11 attacks on the U.S. As the "you're with us or against us" response of the Bush Administration to the ensuing war on terrorism went unchallenged, collateral damage was done to the principles of multilateralism and United Nations authority. The all-encompassing nature of the terrorist threat and the expanded definition of war has awakened previously constrained ambitions to shape and control the troublesome and strategic Persian Gulf. The President's popularity soared; those who might oppose the Commander in Chief worried that their patriotism would be doubted.

Additionally, despite its initial reluctance, the new Bush Administration did get involved with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its domestic political landmines. There is a remarkably similar list of those who oppose pressure on Israel and those who push for an American military intervention in Iraq: Vice President Cheney, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and his deputy Paul Wolfowitz, influential adviser Richard Perle; and on Capitol Hill - Tom DeLay, Trent Lott, Joseph Lieberman and Tom Lantos.

Emerging Cautions

It is primarily from the highest ranks of Republican stalwarts that questions about the risks of going to war are being raised. James Baker, the Secretary of State during the Gulf War, said in an Aug. 25 op-ed in The New York Times that "if we are to change regimes in Iraq, we will have to occupy the country militarily." He outlined the costs of doing so and counseled against unilateralism and for United Nations Security Council authority.

Brent Scowcroft, national security adviser to Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush, in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, undercut the alleged linkage of Saddam Hussein to terrorist organizations and the September 11 attacks. He then warned that military action against Iraq's leader would "seriously jeopardize, if not destroy, the global counter-terrorism campaign we have undertaken." Scowcroft raised the likelihood that Saddam Hussein would conclude, while under attack, that he had nothing left to lose and would use whatever weapons of mass destruction he does have against Israel. Scowcroft predicted that Israel, unlike in 1991, would respond, perhaps with nuclear weapons, "unleashing an Armageddon in the Middle East."

Republican Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) further cautions that President Bush's policy of preemptive strikes could induce India to attack Pakistan and could create the political cover for Israel to expel Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza. (NYT, Aug. 16)

Former U.S. military leaders are also challenging the war calls. General Anthony Zinni, a former chief of the U.S. Central Command, has said that the U.S. would be wiser to negotiate peace between Israelis and Palestinians and to pursue the al Qaeda network before going after Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. "It's pretty interesting that all the generals see it the same way," said Zinni, "and all the others who have never fired a shot and are hot to go to war see it another way."

The questions of debate are now on the table: How dangerous and how urgent is the threat posed by Saddam Hussein? What options are available and at what cost? What would be the consequences? Might the preemptive use of military force by the United States to deal with proliferation problems, however serious they may be, establish a dangerous precedent for other nations who feel threatened by their neighbors?

The Plight of Iraqi Civilians

For the most part, there is little talk of the moral consequences, including the impact of war, on the Iraqi people - the Chaldeon Catholics, Armenian Orthodox and Assyrian Protestants, the Shia Muslims living in the south, the Sunni Muslims in Baghdad and the central provinces, and the Kurds of the north who have flourished in their protected enclave.

Some analysts predict that the people of Iraq would be dancing in the streets if Saddam Hussein were eliminated. Others predict chaos and civil war between and among Iraq's ethnic, religious and regional fault lines. Imagine the invasion and occupation of Baghdad, which has a population of more than five million. In addition to concern about death and injury of men and women in the U.S. armed forces, the CMEP member churches are concerned about the impact of another war on the ordinary people of Iraq; the loss of life, the injuries that will be caused, the destruction of property and the possibility that many will become refugees.

The U.N. sanctions against Iraq have already done great damage to many people in the nearly 12 years they have been in place. UNICEF, on May 29, 2002, reported that one in eight Iraqi children die before their fifth birthday. Along with U.N. and other studies, numerous delegations from U.S. churches and humanitarian organizations over the years have reported on the human consequences of the damaged economy and infrastructure and its continued deterioration. Care International and the Iraqi Red Crescent told these delegations that war would divert both international and Iraqi humanitarian resources from development and rebuilding and toward emergency relief.

Rev. Dr. Riad Jarjour, General Secretary of the Middle East Council of Churches, in an August 5 statement, wrote of "the human suffering that has already scarred and ruined a whole generation of Iraq's youth, caused the death of thousands of infants, destroyed one of the region's most productive and creative middle classes, and left a wasteland, a swirling pool of despair and rage, a time-bomb to bedevil the future."

This does not absolve President Saddam Hussein, who bears much responsibility for the suffering in Iraq. His defiance of weapons inspections and United Nations resolutions, his building of palaces and monuments for his glorification, his taunting rhetoric of hate, and his manipulation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict all reveal a disregard for the welfare of Iraqis. But, as one Iraqi Christian told a visitor from the United States, "Americans hoped the sanctions would cause the Iraqi people to rise up against the regime. But the opposite is true. Sanctions have attached people to their leaders."

Ways must be found to lessen the anti-American passions in the region that seek to calm, rather than provoke, the confrontation with extremist Islamic movements and that witness to our respect for the value of all lives and the rights of all peoples in Iraq and the Middle East.

Other Costs of War

The cost of a war is the point of dissent for some opponents of military action, and should be of concern to everyone. The 1991 Gulf War costs added up to $60 billion, but that was little noticed by Americans since U.S. allies picked up the bill. The President hasn't said how he plans to fund this war. Then there are the costs and problems of occupying and administering Iraq, including providing humanitarian aid to the victims of war, along with the uncertainties about what type of government and leadership would follow.

The costs to other American policy interests must also be considered. The impact on the oil supply and the price of oil could be considerable, especially if this war or the Israeli-Arab conflict spill over into nearby countries. The pressures that the U.S. would place on potential staging bases for attack - Jordan, Turkey and Qatar - would likely require the regimes to squelch popular opposition and surely set back their progress toward democratization. Not only would international cooperation with the war on terrorism suffer, it seems reasonable to fear that terrorism against the U.S. and its interests would instead be re-energized.

Relationships with practically all other Arab countries and U.S. allies in Europe and elsewhere will be weakened along with principles of multilateralism and international law. If the U.S. does go to war against Iraq, could any credibility remain for the United States to call for non-violent resolutions of other global conflicts? Beyond the human dimension, the greatest cost could be to the moral and political authority of the U.N. Security Council, placing at risk the notions of collective security and international law at the heart of the U.N. charter.

The Weapons Issue

Vice President Cheney, in arguing for a preemptive attack on Iraq, declared there is no doubt the dictator has weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and is preparing to use them against the United States and its allies.

Some, such as Scott Ritter who served as chief weapons inspector for UNSCOM (United Nations Special Commission), doubt Iraq's potential threat to the United States. Both the devastation of Iraq's military in the 1991 Operation Desert Storm and the destruction of Iraq's stockpile by UNSCOM are cited. However, UNSCOM's disarmament task was incomplete when they withdrew in late 1998, and Saddam Hussein's will to develop and use WMD is indisputable. There is widespread agreement that the threat to Israel is serious, as is the possibility that Iraq's WMD would be smuggled out of the country into the hands of terrorist groups.

The need to contain Iraq's military threat and eliminate Iraq's weapons of mass destruction is beyond doubt and that responsibility is rightly held by the United Nations Security Council. The UNSC remains the sole internationally accepted authority. The Bush Administration should lay aside its objective of "regime change"- the overthrow of Saddam Hussein - and cooperate with the Security Council in a reformed weapons inspection program that has international legitimacy and support.

Suggested Action:

Both the House of Representatives and the Senate will hold hearings on Iraq before adjournment. Your representative and senators will be watching their constituent communications for indicators of public opinion.

Mail delivery to Congressional offices is problematic; delivery can take three weeks and the letters are unpleasant to open after having been treated for possible contamination. The most effective modes for advocacy at this time are phone calls to the Washington office, faxed letters or E-mails. The Capitol switchboard can connect you with your members' offices where you can ask for fax numbers and/or E-mail addresses: Senate (202) 224-3121; House (202) 225-3121. If you have internet access, directories are at and at

Your advocacy message, especially if by telephone, should be short and to the point.

Make these three points:

bulletI am alarmed at the talk of the U.S. taking military action against Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein and urge your opposition to the U.S. going to war against Iraq.
bullet The United States should work cooperatively within the United Nations Security Council to contain the threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
bullet The Congress and the President should not neglect or delay implementing the President's vision for a settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict. That would be the best way to diminish the anti-American sentiment in the Middle East that is a clear and direct threat to all Americans.

You might consider arranging a discussion session in your own church, community center or library. The other points and issues raised in this CMEP publication will be useful in discussions, letters-to-the-editor and radio-talk show comments.


Corinne Whitlatch, Director
Dianne Jelle, Network Manager
Churches for Middle East Peace
100 Maryland Ave NE, #313
Washington, DC 20002
Telephone (202) 488-5600 x7139 or (202) 488-5613
Fax: 202-554-8223


Churches for Middle East Peace is a Washington based program of the American Friends Service Committee, Catholic Conference of Major Superiors of Men's Institutes, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Church of the Brethren, Church World Service, Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, Mennonite Central Committee, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, Presbyterian Church (USA), Reformed Church in America, Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, United Church of Christ and the United Methodist Church.



GA actions ratified (or not) by  the presbyteries   

A number of the most important actions of the 219th General Assembly have now been acted upon by the presbyteries, confirming most of them as amendments to the PC(USA) Book of Order.

We provided resources to help inform the reflection and debate, along with updates on the voting.

Our three areas of primary interest have been:

bullet Amendment 10-A, which  removes the current ban on lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender persons being considered as possible candidates for ordination as elder or ministers.  Approved!

bullet Amendment 10-2, which would add the Belhar Confession to our Book of Confessions.  Disapproved, because as an amendment to the Book of Confessions it needed a 2/3 vote, and did not receive that.

bullet Amendment 10-1, which  adopts the new Form of Government that was approved by the Assembly.   Approved.

If you like what you find here,
we hope you'll help us keep Voices for Justice going ... and growing!

Please consider making a special contribution -- large or small -- to help us continue and improve this service.

Click here to send a gift online, using your credit card, through PayPal.

Or send your check, made out to "Presbyterian Voices for Justice" and marked "web site," to our PVJ Treasurer:

Darcy Hawk
4007 Gibsonia Road
Gibsonia, PA  15044-8312


Some blogs worth visiting

PVJ's Facebook page

Mitch Trigger, PVJ's Secretary/Communicator, has created a Facebook page where Witherspoon members and others can gather to exchange news and views. Mitch and a few others have posted bits of news, both personal and organizational. But there’s room for more!

You can post your own news and views, or initiate a conversation about a topic of interest to you.


Voices of Sophia blog

Heather Reichgott, who has created this new blog for Voices of Sophia, introduces it:

After fifteen years of scholarship and activism, Voices of Sophia presents a blog. Here, we present the voices of feminist theologians of all stripes: scholars, clergy, students, exiles, missionaries, workers, thinkers, artists, lovers and devotees, from many parts of the world, all children of the God in whose image women are made. .... This blog seeks to glorify God through prayer, work, art, and intellectual reflection. Through articles and ensuing discussion we hope to become an active and thoughtful community.


John Harris’ Summit to Shore blogspot

Theological and philosophical reflections on everything between summit to shore, including kayaking, climbing, religion, spirituality, philosophy, theology, politics, culture, travel, The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), New York City and the Queens neighborhood of Ridgewood by a progressive New York City Presbyterian Pastor. John is a former member of the Witherspoon board, and is designated pastor of North Presbyterian Church in Flushing, NY.


John Shuck’s Shuck and Jive

A Presbyterian minister, currently serving as pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton, Tenn., blogs about spirituality, culture, religion (both organized and disorganized), life, evolution, literature, Jesus, and lightening up.


Got more blogs to recommend?

Please send a note, and we'll see what we can do!


To top

© 2011 by Presbyterian Voices for Justice.  All material on this site is the responsibility of the WebWeaver unless other sources are acknowledged.  Unless otherwise noted, material on this site may be copied for personal use and sharing in small groups.  For permission to reproduce material for wider publication, please contact the WebWeaver, Doug King.  Any material reached by links on this site is outside the control and responsibility of the WebWeaver and Presbyterian Voices for Justice.  Questions or comments?  Please send a note!