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WAR WITH IRAQ?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-comfficeffice" />Can we find Unity in our humanity?Bishop Spong? latest column about IraqThe feeling is quite surreal.It is like being carried inexorably against your will. It elicits a sense of powerlessness. I search to find the words to utter a protest. They do not come easily. That is what I am experiencing as I watch my nation rush headlong toward war.My dis-ease does not arise from a favorable view of Iraq. I am not unaware of the criminal behavior of Saddam Hussein. It comes, rather, from my great love for America and the ideals that I associate with this nation. So I have to state that none of the arguments being put forth today to hype this all but inevitable war are to me compelling.Those arguments, as rehearsed daily in our newspapers, TV talk shows, magazines and radio are as follows:1. Iraq harbors terrorists.But so do Palestine, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. It is also a fact that Germany, Great Britain and the United States have been home to terrorists groups.2. Saddam has murdered his own people.While murdering one's own citizens is tragic, it is not unknown in history. Pakistan, our ally against the Taliban, has done so to to its Hindu citizens. Russia has done it in Chechnya, China has done it in Tiananmen Square, Germany has done it against the Jews, and in the United States, this tactic has been used against Native and African-Americans.3. Saddam has chemical and biological weapons and is seeking a nuclear capability.But many nations of the world, including the United States, have chemical and biological weapons. Russia, Great Britain, Pakistan, India, France, and China all have atomic weapons and North Korea is said to be near that breakthrough, while Iran has missiles on the assembly line.4. Saddam is evil.But so are or were Mugabe in Zimbabwe, Idi Amin in Uganda, Caeusescu in Rumania, Milosovic in Yugloslavia and Pinochet in Chile.It is, I believe, because this case for war against Iraq is so weak, that there has been a vigorous attempt at the highest levels of our government to link Saddam with the terrorists of 9/11. But, such a linkage has been denied in every intelligence briefing to Congress, a fact noted by the bipartisan chair and vice-chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee. But, then the war hawks shout, 'did not the citizens of Iraq cheer the September 11 attack upon the United States with parades of chanting people in the streets?' Yes, but so did many people in Syria, Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Egypt and PakistanAmerica is not universally popular. So what is the real source of this visceral hatred of Iraq that today has created this eagerness for war? I wish I had a clear answer. I do not. All I can do is speculate. You, my readers, must take these comments and questions for what they are - mere speculations.So ask yourselves, 'could any one of these possibilities be factors in that combustible mix that is fueling our nation's passion to go to war?' Dismiss them all if you wish, but allow them to be raised.Are we motivated by the frustration of our unfinished and apparently unwon war against terrorism?This nation was attacked brutally on September 11th. Despite a massive military effort to defang the terrorists, more than a year has passed and not even Afghanistan can be said to be secure or stable. Neither Osama Bin Laden nor the former head of the Taliban Government has been captured or confirmed as dead. Most of the hunted Al Qaeda operatives, central to the devastation of September 11, simply disappeared into the mountains of Afghanistan. They continue to engage in hit-and-run guerrilla attacks, in which a building is blown up here and a bus there. These attacks, like the Tet Offensive of Viet Nam, remind us that this enemy has neither been destroyed nor rendered harmless. Is it possible, that compared to these secretive and illusive terrorists, Iraq represents a visible enemy that we could crush militarily? Would that ease our haunting sense that the terrorists do not fight in a way that we understand? A successful conventional war might repair the damage our psyches have sustained at the hands of the terrorists. Is that a possibility?Are there political reasons for this war?This has been suggested by foreign leaders and recently by Vermont's Senator Jeffords, that body's sole official from the Independent Party here in the United States. It is a fearful possibility. Yet there are some political realities that cannot be denied. The economy is in a shambles. The stock market is at a five-year low. Fortunes and retirement accounts across America have been lost. It really doesn't matter what caused this economic depression, the party in power inevitably gets blamed for it.The midterm elections here in the U.S. are about a month away. Just a few weeks ago the driving agenda for these elections was the state of this economy and the factors, including corporate corruption, that have fed its collapse. A powerful motive exists for shifting the political debate from these domestic maladies to a foreign threat. It rouses patriotic feelings and diverts the latent hostility to an outside enemy. People rally around the commander-in-chief in a time of peril. The payoff is the control of both houses of Congress. No political party is above trying to set the debate for its own political gain. Of course that will be angrily denied and impugning the patriotism of those who pose this issue is the classic defense.Does the defeat of Iraq serve America's interests by making Middle Eastern oil available to our oil thirsty Western world?Iraq has huge oil reserves. If Saddam were defeated, a friendly government in Baghdad that owed its allegiance to our military might, would surely be cooperative. Never again would America be held hostage to Middle Eastern oil. Democracy, once installed in Iraq, so this argument goes, might then have a ripple effect all over that region. Is there at least a germ of truth in this intriguing possibility?Is there some unfinished family business here?The first Bush administration was a one-term presidency. Among the perceived shortcomings of that administration was the failure to finish the task in Iraq. The first President Bush left Saddam in power when his nation was on the ropes and his army in retreat. Does the son of this president feel a compelling need to write a new ending to this piece of history? I do not know, I simply wonder.I raise these questions as one who is grateful for America. But by America, I mean the dreams that are embodied in the Declaration of Independence, the ideals found in the Constitution and even the hopes expressed in the Gettysburg address. These are the things that have made America a beacon of hope to oppressed people everywhere. Yet these are also the very things that I see being tarnished when our nation's leaders speak of preemptive strikes. These dreams, ideals and hopes are bent out of shape by the suggestion that it is our right, in violation of international law, to remove from power any government we do not approve. They are ripped asunder by our willingness to use our enormous military might to impose our will on a nation that does not pose a clear threat to our national existence.I believe that American power carries with it a responsibility to set an example of freedom. It gives us the ability to hold before the world a vision of liberty and justice available to all people. What message does the world hear from our rumblings of war? How will we respond when other nations, following our example, do to those they fear what we are now claiming the right to do to one that we fear? By ignoring inconvenient world opinion in order to rush into war, are we not in danger of becoming a nation more loathed than respected in the court of world opinion? Is that what the American dream has become?Human beings have always had deep tribal needs. To preserve our particular tribe or nation, human beings have throughout history done dreadful things to one another. These evil deeds are both noticed and long remembered. That is what feeds the current hatred in such places as Ireland and Northern Ireland, Pakistan and India, Israel and the Middle East. If power is used to impose our nation's will on another with little regard for their common humanity, the seeds of an enduring bitterness will be sown and the people of that nation and its secret admirers will find a way to strike back someday, even if it comes generations or even centuries later. Terrorism is one of those ways.A free nation, no matter how powerful, cannot finally defend itself against those who are willing to die in order to inflict pain on the ones they think of as their enemies. We may well conquer the world with our power only to discover that we have become vulnerable to decades of terrorist acts which will suck the very life out of the freedom that made America possible. If we do not find some unity in our humanity, then the tribal claims of competing nations will finally destroy civilization itself.The very dream that America personifies compels me to cry out against this relentless war frenzy that appears destined to end only in an armed conflict. I want to shout No! No! No! to the path that we now seem to be walking. My great fear is that nobody is listening.
-- Bishop Spong
Albert Einstein: "A human being is a part of the whole, called by us "Universe" a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest--a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and affection for a few persons nearest us."