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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. control   [5-19-03]

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"   [5-17-03]

In a reflection paper issued in April as US forces gained control of Iraq, Ruether listed five themes the peace movement should pursue now:

bulletacknowledging 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 present;
bulletreminding 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;
bulletreturning attention to the fate of the Palestinian people as the Bush administration continues to side with the government of Israel;
bulletcontinuing a focus on American's long-term intentions for dominating the Middle East;
bulletexposing "the costs of American militarism and national security policies to American democracy and social welfare."
Religious leaders continue expressing concern about war, occupation of Iraq   [5-5-03]
bulletInterfaith leaders call for end to U.S. occupation in Iraq

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.]

bulletAntiwar activists are rethinking, but will keep working

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 fighting?"

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."   [4-23-03]

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."  [3-23-03]

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 Minneapolis 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 protest.

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.

Offense and Defense, by Seymour M. Hersh

The battle between Donald Rumsfeld and the Pentagon.

Investigative journalist Seymour 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.

We invite you to share what's being said and done in your congregation.

Religious relief groups resist Pentagon control of aid effort [4-2-03]

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 Department.

"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?    [3-29-03]
More ideas for action, from here and there

Send help!

John Shuck, of the Presbytery of Yellowstone, reminds us that One 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 Kuwait.

• 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 reports)

Iraqi Civilians (dead), 157 (source: Iraqi government);

Journalists, 2 dead; two missing

Non-Iraqis, at least 6

The sources he has found helpful include:

bullet "Defend America" - The US Government's Official Web Portal   [Note: As of March 29, the latest casualties listed are from March 25.}
bulletThe Guardian (United Kingdom)
Alternative views of the news   [3-29-03]

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 reports:

bullet The Iraq Peace Team is a group of international peaceworkers living and serving in Baghdad and other areas of Iraq under the auspices of Voices in the Wilderness.

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."

bullet Christian Peacemaker Teams are attempting to serve as "human shields," and are sending "diaries" from the midst of the conflict.

They were recently featured on BeliefNet.

For Those Who Oppose War, What Now?  [3-26-03]

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 ...

bulletWe must not constrain our consciences.
bulletWe must pray for a swift and just conclusion to this war.
bulletWe 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.
bulletWe must urge the Bush administration to be as assiduous in its prosecution of peaceful reconstruction as it was in bringing about the conflict.
bulletWe must oppose with every energy the menacing morality of the doctrine of preemption ...
bulletWe 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.
bulletWe 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.
Walmart brings us ...  Easter baskets for war!     [3-26-03]

Witherspoon member Lynne Reade sends this invitation to action:

WalMart is 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.

The main office of Sherwood Brands, Inc. is located at 1803 Research Blvd., Suite 201, Rockville, MD 20850. They have a web site at . Under "Contact Us," I sent the following message:

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 already distributed.

Witherspoon people might want to take some kind of similar action individually. There is not enough time to get much done this year by groups.

Lynne Reade

Two peace groups issued statements after the invasion began:

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.

The 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 struggle   [3-26-03]

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   [3-22-03]

A thoughtful Lenten sermon asks "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 points:

bullet"Taking up the cross in a time of war means getting our loyalties straight."
bullet"Taking 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 us? "
bullet"Taking up the cross in a time of war means we must recognize our own sin."
bullet"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 structures."

More ideas on resources and things to do
in response to the war

Offer your own resource page

Mission Bay 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 suggestion:

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 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,
Susan Ryan

Here are more ideas of "things to do now," as the Bush war starts rolling.  [3-20-03]

These are adapted from five suggestions presented by the peace group, Act for Change.

1. Urge the President not to use nuclear weapons in Iraq

There is now a risk that American military forces will use tactical nuclear weapons for the first time in human history. In May 2002, the administration dramatically altered U.S. policy, allowing for preemptive attacks against countries with weapons of mass destruction and also allowing our forces to use our own weapons of mass destruction against them even if that country did not use them first. Unfortunately, this means that battlefield nuclear weapons could be used in Iraq for so-called "bunker-busting" efforts and as a tactic against massed Iraqi forces.

Go to the Act for Change web site, where a page is set up to let you send an e-mail note to President Bush urging him to renounce the use of nuclear weapons.

2. Give to emergency relief efforts for the people of Iraq.

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance is working with the ACT network and with the Middle East Council of Churches to stockpile supplies and make plans for helping the large number of people likely to become refugees as a result of the US attack on Iraq.

Check out the PDA web page for details on their plans, and to make a direct contribution on-line.

Should you want to contribute without using the on-line channel, designate your giving for Project Number 92000082, project name: Iraq

3. Urge the Secretary of Defense to "support our troops: bring them home now!"

An unprecedented opposition to the war, both home and abroad, has failed to convince the Bush administration to act in accordance with world opinion and avoid a preemptive war with Iraq. Now, regardless of how we feel about the war, we must support the safety of our military. The Bush administration should work to protect our troops and minimize human suffering on all sides.

Urge Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to bring our troops home and minimize human casualties on all sides.

4. Keep speaking out against the war.

Join in local newspaper ads or billboards to be sure the voices for peace are not silenced or forgotten.

Working for Change is running a national campaign to raise funds for the placement of anti-war billboards in strategic locations around the country.

5. Come together with peaceful people in your community

At a time such as this, it's more important than ever to stay connected with friends and neighbors, and to cooperate to opposed this war in visible ways. Around the country there are and will continue to be vigils, rallies, acts of peaceful disobedience and religious services. Resist the temptation to be alone and watch TV coverage of the war; encourage friends and neighbors to get together - for prayer, for letter-writing or telephoning, for rallies and vigils and whatever else you can think of.

And if you come up with some really good ideas,
please share them here.
Just send a note!


GA actions ratified (or not) by  the presbyteries   

A number of the most important actions of the 219th General Assembly are now being sent to the presbyteries for their action, to confirm or reject them as amendments to the PC(USA) Book of Order.

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

Our three areas of primary interest are:

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

bullet Amendment 10-2, which would add the Belhar Confession to our Book of Confessions.

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

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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!


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