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War Is Not the Answer

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An Open Letter to President George W. Bush

The Hon. George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D. C. 20500

August 06, 2002

Dear Mr. President:

We write to you today with a simple message: Do not attack Iraq! We do not write as friends of Iraq's "President-for-Life," Saddam Hussein. We fully agree that Mr. Hussein is a tyrant, a brutal dictator who cares little for the lives of his own people, especially Iraqi Kurds, and has often been a danger to his regional neighbors, especially the people of Iran, Kuwait, and Israel. Nevertheless, war is not the answer!

Our organization, the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America, is a Christian, grassroots, membership organization which works to empower Baptists to work locally and globally for economic justice for the poor, environmental integrity, and peace: peace in families, peace between different races and ethnic groups, peace in neighborhoods, peace between nations. Our members come from Baptist congregations in Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, but the majority of us are citizens of the United States. Thus, we write to you as concerned citizens of the world, as near neighbors, and as U.S. citizens exercising the constitutional right to petition our government leaders. In these roles we offer both pragmatic and moral reasons against waging war with Iraq, and a few alternatives that still take Hussein's threat seriously.

  • As most nations and many people around the world have already stressed, there are many strong, pragmatic reasons for refusing to make war on Iraq:
  • Invading Iraq would cost the U.S. citizens billions of dollars at a time of economic fragility, with a rising national debt, for uncertain results. The campaign against al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan reportedly cost $2 billion per month and any invasion of Iraq to topple its government would cost far more, with most estimates ranging from $60-80 billion. That is money much needed for the common good, both domestically and abroad.
  • Unlike in Operation Desert Storm, neither the United Nations nor nations allied with the U.S. support this war. The U.S. cannot afford to be isolated politically from Canada, Japan, Europe, and every nation in the Middle East except Israel. Political isolation from the rest of the world could lead to resentful investors in other nations to continue withdrawing their money from the U.S. stock market which would be further devastating for the economic health of the nation. Moreover, especially in Arab and Muslim nations, anger at the U.S. could lead to lack of cooperation in capturing and prosecuting terrorists, and to a sudden drop in oil supplies and the accompanying inflation of prices.
  • War with Iraq could fuel the incredible violence in Israel-Palestine, especially if Hussein unleashed any biological or chemical weapons on Israel. In fact, toppling Hussein could lead to a power vacuum and destabilize the entire region. 
  • War with Iraq will increase anti-American hatred in Arab and Muslim nations. This will make it easier for international terrorists groups like al-Qaeda to recruit more members and would make U.S. citizens at home and abroad more vulnerable to attack. Arab leaders are unanimous in stating this realistic warning, as are popular Islamic movements.
  • War with Iraq would most likely result in major loss of life for U.S. troops, whom no Commander-in-Chief should put "in harm's way" unless there are no alternatives and the cause is vital.
  • Likewise, successfully toppling the current Iraqi regime would result in the necessity of U.S. troops occupying Iraq, at great risks to themselves, for a long time with no guarantee that any new government installed by the U.S. would be acceptable by the Iraqi people or would last after the U.S. troops withdrew. The alternative would be anarchy.

In addition to those pragmatic arguments, Mr. President, there are pressing moral arguments against waging war with Iraq:

  • The United Nations Charter forbids member governments to invade other sovereign nations except in case of immanent threat of attack. A unilateral invasion on our part would violate the United Nations Charter and would both weaken the UN as a peacemaking force in the world and would make the U.S. a "rogue nation" whom other nations would trust less to uphold the rule of law and would resent more for arrogant, unilateral violent action.
     
  • In terms of classic "just war theory" and international law, there is no "just cause" for attacking Iraq. It has neither attacked nor threatened the U.S. or any allied nation. There has been no credible connection demonstrating that the Iraqi government is orchestrating terrorist attacks against the US. If Iraq does possess weapons of mass destruction, as your administration believes, the mere possession of such does not constitute an immanent threat justifying war. No evidence not contradicted by onsite visitors has been presented to the public, and clearly America's NATO allies are not convinced by whatever evidence may or may not have been shown them.
  • War with Iraq would be certain to destroy thousands of innocent civilian lives. It would kill many thousand Iraqi civilians, who already suffer greatly under 11 years of punitive sanctions aimed not at them but their leader.

Mr. President, we also write to you as fellow Christians, people who worship the same God you do and who follow the one you yourself call "Lord." As fellow Christians we say to you that Jesus Christ forbids taking "an eye for an eye," and calls for enemies to take transforming initiatives for peace (Matt. 5:39-48). As Christians we are called to respond to unjust, violent regimes like that of Iraq, not in kind, but with justice and love. There are just peacemaking alternatives to war with Iraq that still take Hussein's menace seriously, Mr. President.

  • Use international pressure to get the U.N. weapons inspectors back in Iraq, and thus deal with fears of what they may or may not be building in a way that convinces the world--which is not so inclined to believe assertions of the US administration without international evidence. If the Iraqi government believes that the U.S. will make war anyway, they have no incentive for cooperating with the UN weapons inspectors. To get the incentives right, you need to declare that if unhindered inspections do occur and follow-up monitoring is allowed, then the US will not take violent action to try to topple the Iraqi government. If you tell Hussein that even if he allows full inspections, the US will nevertheless still try to topple him forcefully, then he has no incentive to cooperate.
  • Declare that if weapons inspection shows that Iraq has complied with the relevant U.N. resolutions, the U.S. and U.N. will lift economic sanctions on Iraq.
  • Indict Hussein in an ad-hoc U.N. tribunal for war crimes against the Kurdish people. This upholds the rule of law instead of the rule of force.
  • Working with the international community, feed, clothe, and give medical aid to the Iraqi people who are still suffering from the previous war between the U.S., its allies, and Iraq.
  • Construct a balanced, even-handed policy for peace between Israel and Palestine with security for Israel and a iable Palestinian state for the Palestinian people, as called for by the recent statement of forty evangelical leaders addressed to you. Not only would such be a blessing in itself, it would remove Hussein's ability to exploit Palestinian suffering for his own ends.
  • Encourage current moves that heal relations between Iraq and Iran and between Iraq and Kuwait. This aids more just elements in the Iraqi government, increasing their influence and paving the way for the growth of democratic reform movements indigenous to Iraq.

Saddam Hussein is clearly a tyrant and a brutal person, but so are many government leaders. The U.S. cannot and should not wage war with every despot whose regime it believes must be changed. As fellow disciples of the Prince of Peace, we urge you again to forsake this desire for war with Iraq and take transforming initiatives of just peacemaking for a just Middle East peace instead.

Sincerely,

The Board of Directors of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America


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