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'Stop, look and listen': Religious leaders on IraqBy David B. Miller
When you come to a dangerous crossing, it is always wise to stop, look and listen to determine the implications of moving forward. We are approaching such a crossing as a nation in our preparations for war with Iraq.
We know from history, once fighting begins, democratic debate will be branded as "disloyalty." So, we residents and religious leaders of the Centre Region urge that we take this moment to stop, look and listen.
Stop engaging in rhetoric that makes the United States sound like a sponsor of terrorism. Stop justifying the first-strike use of nuclear weapons. Stop calling for the assassination of leaders of other nations. Stop speaking of the natural resources of other nations as though they are our property.
Stop limiting our options in this matter to military action. Iraq has not taken action against us or threatened our borders, even as we conduct daily military flights over Iraq and fire on its national air defenses.
Stop undermining the work of the U.N. weapons inspectors. Stop withholding from the inspectors genuine information we may hold on purported Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.
Stop escalating the international arms race by withdrawing from treaties that limit our own weapons of mass destruction.
Look to the sources of your faith and moral reasoning. Official statements against pre-emptive warfare with Iraq have been issued by the Church of the Brethren, Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Mennonite Church (USA), Presbyterian Church (USA), Society of Friends, Union of American Hebrew Congregations, United Methodist Church, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Unitarian Universalist Association, United Church of Christ, National Council of Churches and World Council of Churches. How have you allowed faith to inform your judgment on this matter?
Look objectively at the suffering that sanctions have caused since the Gulf War. International attempts to prevent the development of weapons have had unintended effects that are responsible for the deaths of more than 500,000 Iraqi children. (Water filtration plants, for example, were considered legitimate military targets in the Gulf War, and chlorine, vital to purifying water, cannot be imported by Iraq because of potential dual use.)
Look to see ourselves through the eyes of others and try to understand the implications our actions will have for the future. Read international papers and journals to gain a larger perspective on this matter. We will long live with the consequences of our actions in the world.
Look at our actions of the last decade. Have we done anything that should lower the threshold of fear and animosity in the world? How have we acted to provoke a war?
Listen to voices of citizens of nations around the world. Increasingly, the United States is appearing as a bully and an evil empire, even to the eyes of long-term allies. Speak directly with persons from other nations to hear their perspectives.
Listen to global leaders with a proven record of nonviolent international conflict resolution: Jimmy Carter, Nelson Mandela, Bishop Desmond Tutu, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Pope John Paul II and countless others who have spoken out against pre-emptive military action.
Listen to the way fear has shaped our judgment as a nation. Will attacking Iraq really decrease the motivation and influence of those who seek to do harm to our nation?
Listen in prayer to the voice of God, who is sovereign above all nations.
We are under no illusions. We recognize the capacity for evil by the current Iraqi regime. However, we believe that the course the administration is following will only increase the rationale of terrorism. Hundreds of years of moral reasoning would be cast aside by pre-emptive attacks by stronger nations against weaker nations.
Please, before we cross the threshold of war, stop, look and listen!