The Editors
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With the exception of some Southern Baptist leaders and mega-church pastors, nearly all U.S. churches are opposing war with Iraq. This has forced many Americans to wonder if loyalty to God and country are now in conflict. Must they choose between the military adventures of their president and the moral voice of their religious leaders?

 

None but the most naïve opponents of war make any defense of Saddam Hussein and his regime. Most are convinced, as are we, that he is a bloody tyrant who cannot be trusted. The course of the latest U.N. inspections only confirms his duplicity. But the question is not whether Saddam must be disarmed. Rather, the question is, must he be disarmed by war and must he be disarmed now?

The administration and its defenders argue that means short of war have been tried and failed. These alternatives have not fully succeeded, that is sure, and Saddam persists in resisting them when he can; but they have hardly failed. After the Persian Gulf war, U.N. inspectors destroyed all but two of Iraq’s medium-range Scud missiles, all its existing nuclear capacity and significant quantities of its chemical and biological weapons supplies. The U.N. sanctions, which no doubt aggravated the suffering of Iraq’s people enormously, still prevented Saddam’s rearmament and the reactivation of his nuclear program. The U.S. and British no-fly zones have defended the Kurds in the north and the Shiites in the south from further attack by the Iraqi government. Strengthening the U.N. inspection system and developing a more robust containment strategy can deal with the threat Iraq presents now and for the mid-term future.

The administration’s case has also been greatly undercut by its overall foreign policy. From the beginning, it has rejected the web of existing nonproliferation and arms control regimes. The recently ratified Moscow Treaty on nuclear arms reduction is a shell that fails to reduce the nuclear threat over the next 10 years in any significant way. The White House’s proclamation of a policy of pre-emption and world dominance in its National Security Strategy, its assertion of the right to unilateral action and its affront to the United Nations from the beginning of this crisis all create conditions for greater instability and suspicion of the United States in the world arena. Long-time major alliances are unraveling, while the government seeks a fig-leaf of legitimacy through intimidation of weak nations and checkbook diplomacy with midsized powers like Turkey.

Most of all, the Bush administration has decided to make “a war of choice” against Iraq when far greater threats continue to grow. So far, it has found no way to engage North Korea over the reactivation of its nuclear weapons program, and it has put no public pressure on Pakistan. The latter, to be sure, is an ally in “the war against terror,” but it is also the world’s most dangerous nuclear proliferator. Both North Korea and Iran have received major assistance in their nuclear weapons programs from Pakistan. It is reported that Pakistani intelligence continues to maintain ties with al Qaeda, and with their help Pakistani nuclear scientists have had extended meetings with the terrorist enemy.

In short, war against Iraq would be arrogant, unnecessary and foolish. Arrogant, because the administration has been disdainful of world opinion, discounted the effectiveness and potential of alternative approaches to containment and from the beginning proclaimed its intention to act unilaterally in world affairs. Unnecessary, because containment has worked and can be made to work more effectively. Foolish, because the government either ignores much greater threats from North Korea and Pakistan or, it would seem, has positioned itself for a succession of pre-emptive wars against “the axis of evil.” It is a policy that will take us blindly into a far, far more dangerous world.

Pope John Paul II is to be applauded for the prophetic role he has taken in opposing this war. He is to be thanked for taking diplomatic initiatives to encourage Iraqi disarmament and to forestall the American government’s resort to war. A war with Iraq at this time under these conditions, as the U.S. bishops have said, would be unnecessary and unjust.

But Catholics, other Christians and people of other faiths opposed to the war are not confronted with a choice between God and country. War against Iraq will be a defeat for U.S. security. It will promote, rather than curb, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. It has led already to the fraying of alliances. It will intensify anti-Americanism abroad and with it the terrorist threat. It will undermine U.S. leadership in the world for generations to come. Opposing the war is choosing both God and country.

Comments

Robert F. Patterson | 3/26/2003 - 5:50pm
In your current editorial you wonder whether Catholics find a conflict between their religion and their country. I have been wondering myself, but on a different level. I have been wondering about the comments of several of the families who have servicemen and women in Iraq. Their deep faith in God, they keep saying, is what carries them through. Now I ask you to wonder. Do you wonder why it is that for the most part the people with a deep faith are supporting the war? Why it is that the crowds that are demonstrating all over our cities are the people who have a minimum of respect for what the Catholic Church teaches anyhow, except on the matter of opposing their government; probably don't attend church very much; probably don't listen to what the Church teaches on artificial birth control, on abortion, on sexual morality? Do you wonder why it is that the Catholics who are most disturbed by the recent sex scandals continue to support the Church by attendance and contributions, while those who never were too involved with the Church have now decided to leave the Church altogether and to cease even the sparse contributions they used to make when they did choose to "go to church?" Do you wonder too at the funerals of firemen and policemen that they so often are in Christian Churches and involve the kind of people who support their country even when they are not absolutely certain that the government is right, but they trust that their leaders know a little more than they do, and so give their support? And so I wonder why almost every practising Catholic I know supports the government's policies, even despite misgivings, while those who have long ceased to listen to Church teachings are swift and sure that our country is wrong and do not hesitate to shout this everywhere.

Jim Lund and Mary Heidkamp | 3/29/2003 - 12:02pm
Thank you, America, for your elegantly written and compellingly argued editorial, “God or Country?” (3/31/03). We echo the closing, “Opposing the war is choosing both God and country.”

So persuasive was the case you presented, one that had both intellect and heart behind it, that George Weigel’s labored attempt to justify Mr. Bush’s war, “The Just war case for the war,” rang hollow. “I took no pleasure in reaching this conclusion,” he declared in concluding the war was a last resort. Indeed, we are sure that he would have been happier to wrap himself in the papal opposition to the war if only someone like Bill Clinton was President But alas, with George W. Bush in the White House, what else could he do but hold reference to Pope John Paul II until the final paragraph of his 2500 word essay?

As your editorial stated, “war against Iraq would be arrogant, unnecessary and foolish.” We agree that it will likely have deleterious consequences for the U.S. for decades to come, but right now, we are struck most deeply by the suffering it is causing in Iraq. Beyond the direct casualties of the bombings, the humanitarian crisis in Basra where 1.3 million people have been without water and electricity portends sickness and death for countless indirect victims of these hostilities.

We are also struck by the ultimate sacrifice called forth from our military and their families. Their deaths need not have occurred if only the views like those of America’s had prevailed.

Richard Dimler,sj | 3/25/2003 - 6:43pm
Just to let you know that not everyone agrees with your previous editorial or the present one. I certainly do not.

Dennis M Gleason | 3/25/2003 - 5:57pm
The idea of choosing between God and Country is indeed a perplexing challenge depending on one's politics. On the one hand are those who argue that now is not the time and on the other are those who argue that we are just in deposing an inhumane dictator. Both positions seem to have merit.

The fact is, that war in any shape or form is inhumane and unjust. The concept of a "just war" is no more than an euphemism that our moral and civil leaders use to soften our moral outrage and stiffen our resolve to follow their call to go to war.

War, simply stated is inconsitent with the teachings of Christ.

War, simply stated again is a condition of humankind. It is an act that demonstrates man's fall from grace in the "Garden of Eden". War is nothing more than organized murder under chaotic conditions. It is the birthright we inherited from Cain and Able.

Having said this, I am not surprised at the position that most church leaders have taken with respect to this conflict. I applaud them for their courage and backbone. The only question I have of them is, if not now - when? - if not now then why at all? That is really the perplexing question.

Until mankind learns to identify the commonality we share with one another between persons of different religious beliefs and different cultures, we will continue to repeat the cycle of violence and the question of God or Country will continue to haunt each of us as we try to do God's will

Judy Swett | 3/23/2003 - 10:54am
As a human being, wife and mother who happens to be an educator/campus minister working with young women and men in a high school setting; I am terribly sad and angry that some of our church leaders are not speaking out in public about the war. Especially, in education at local levels. I'm wondering if their silence is a consequence of "shock and awe".

I applaud not only John Paul II, but you as well for having the courage to see that the "emperor is not wearing any clothes".. The implications of waging War in my view is disastrous for humanity. All God's children are losing as targets of this "shock and awe" campaign. Thank God for voices like Sister Mary Ann Zollmann,BVM, presidentof the LCWR who said recently:

"We believe that this act of aggression violates our national soul and betrays our cherished foundational values. By this unprovoked attack, we deprive the citizens of Iraq of their rights to self-determination, and to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. "
I too believe that this war is arrogant, unnecessary and foolish.(some students do too!) Thanks for the opportunity to expess my view. Peace and blessings.

Willis Jensen | 4/8/2003 - 1:18am
The editorial depends for it's conclusion on the acceptance of a number of rather slippery facts i.e.containment was effective, North Korea is a greater threat, sanctions have prevented Saddam's rearmament. If I had to choose between the Editorial Board of America and the relevant agencies of the government for accurate information in the slippery areas, I think that the choice is obvious.

Eric Stoltz | 3/28/2003 - 10:24pm
Mr. Patterson paints with a very wide brush.

He sweepingly claims that it is faith-filled people who support war, and that only Godless people protest war. This is somewhat offensive to me, since I marched in the large antiwar protest in Hollywood--along with a priest friend, I might note. Am I lacking in faith because I oppose war?

He assumes that every person who attended a funeral of someone who died on September 11 is for the war. How does he come to this conclusion, except by wild speculation? Has he asked them? The fact remains that there is a large group of September 11 survivors who have publicly opposed war.

Each time war drums sound, there are always people who support war (while claiming that this PARTICULAR war is an exception to their proclaimed general distaste for killing), and they think, "Surely, THIS time Christians will agree that war is the only answer." Most of the time, they are disappointed to discover that Christian approval of war is rare.

While the Christian position is to oppose war as a general principle and to make rare exceptions, I wonder if Mr. Patterson has ever disagreed with any war the United States has engaged in. I suspect not.

Vic Romero | 3/21/2003 - 11:24pm
Here's why I support the U.S.-led war in Iraq:

1) Saddam Hussein really has weapons of mass destruction, especially biological and chemical weapons.

2) Saddam has hidden these weapons so well that U.N. inspections simply cannot find them. No amount of time will let the inspectors find the hidden weapons. A case in point: UNSCOM had been at work for two years and had found nothing incriminating, until Saddam's son-in-law defected and pointed out the location of the largest Iraqi biological weapons plant. Sure enough, UNSCOM found equipment to make anthrax and tons of growing media. UNSCOM destroyed 70 tons of biological agents, then blew up the building. The point is UNSCOM would never have found the weapons plant on their own. Saddam has hidden his weapons too well. Inspections do not work.

3) Saddam has used chemical weapons on the Kurds in Northern Iraq. He will not hesitate to use them again.

4) George W. Bush is right about Saddam. We can't wait around doing nothing about Saddam. The U.N. Security Council is ineffective. If we leave Saddam alone now, in a few years, he will have improved his weapons of mass destruction and his capability to deliver them with missile and rocket technology. We have to stop this man before he becomes even more dangerous.

Robert F. Patterson | 3/26/2003 - 5:50pm
In your current editorial you wonder whether Catholics find a conflict between their religion and their country. I have been wondering myself, but on a different level. I have been wondering about the comments of several of the families who have servicemen and women in Iraq. Their deep faith in God, they keep saying, is what carries them through. Now I ask you to wonder. Do you wonder why it is that for the most part the people with a deep faith are supporting the war? Why it is that the crowds that are demonstrating all over our cities are the people who have a minimum of respect for what the Catholic Church teaches anyhow, except on the matter of opposing their government; probably don't attend church very much; probably don't listen to what the Church teaches on artificial birth control, on abortion, on sexual morality? Do you wonder why it is that the Catholics who are most disturbed by the recent sex scandals continue to support the Church by attendance and contributions, while those who never were too involved with the Church have now decided to leave the Church altogether and to cease even the sparse contributions they used to make when they did choose to "go to church?" Do you wonder too at the funerals of firemen and policemen that they so often are in Christian Churches and involve the kind of people who support their country even when they are not absolutely certain that the government is right, but they trust that their leaders know a little more than they do, and so give their support? And so I wonder why almost every practising Catholic I know supports the government's policies, even despite misgivings, while those who have long ceased to listen to Church teachings are swift and sure that our country is wrong and do not hesitate to shout this everywhere.

Jim Lund and Mary Heidkamp | 3/29/2003 - 12:02pm
Thank you, America, for your elegantly written and compellingly argued editorial, “God or Country?” (3/31/03). We echo the closing, “Opposing the war is choosing both God and country.”

So persuasive was the case you presented, one that had both intellect and heart behind it, that George Weigel’s labored attempt to justify Mr. Bush’s war, “The Just war case for the war,” rang hollow. “I took no pleasure in reaching this conclusion,” he declared in concluding the war was a last resort. Indeed, we are sure that he would have been happier to wrap himself in the papal opposition to the war if only someone like Bill Clinton was President But alas, with George W. Bush in the White House, what else could he do but hold reference to Pope John Paul II until the final paragraph of his 2500 word essay?

As your editorial stated, “war against Iraq would be arrogant, unnecessary and foolish.” We agree that it will likely have deleterious consequences for the U.S. for decades to come, but right now, we are struck most deeply by the suffering it is causing in Iraq. Beyond the direct casualties of the bombings, the humanitarian crisis in Basra where 1.3 million people have been without water and electricity portends sickness and death for countless indirect victims of these hostilities.

We are also struck by the ultimate sacrifice called forth from our military and their families. Their deaths need not have occurred if only the views like those of America’s had prevailed.

Richard Dimler,sj | 3/25/2003 - 6:43pm
Just to let you know that not everyone agrees with your previous editorial or the present one. I certainly do not.

Dennis M Gleason | 3/25/2003 - 5:57pm
The idea of choosing between God and Country is indeed a perplexing challenge depending on one's politics. On the one hand are those who argue that now is not the time and on the other are those who argue that we are just in deposing an inhumane dictator. Both positions seem to have merit.

The fact is, that war in any shape or form is inhumane and unjust. The concept of a "just war" is no more than an euphemism that our moral and civil leaders use to soften our moral outrage and stiffen our resolve to follow their call to go to war.

War, simply stated is inconsitent with the teachings of Christ.

War, simply stated again is a condition of humankind. It is an act that demonstrates man's fall from grace in the "Garden of Eden". War is nothing more than organized murder under chaotic conditions. It is the birthright we inherited from Cain and Able.

Having said this, I am not surprised at the position that most church leaders have taken with respect to this conflict. I applaud them for their courage and backbone. The only question I have of them is, if not now - when? - if not now then why at all? That is really the perplexing question.

Until mankind learns to identify the commonality we share with one another between persons of different religious beliefs and different cultures, we will continue to repeat the cycle of violence and the question of God or Country will continue to haunt each of us as we try to do God's will

Judy Swett | 3/23/2003 - 10:54am
As a human being, wife and mother who happens to be an educator/campus minister working with young women and men in a high school setting; I am terribly sad and angry that some of our church leaders are not speaking out in public about the war. Especially, in education at local levels. I'm wondering if their silence is a consequence of "shock and awe".

I applaud not only John Paul II, but you as well for having the courage to see that the "emperor is not wearing any clothes".. The implications of waging War in my view is disastrous for humanity. All God's children are losing as targets of this "shock and awe" campaign. Thank God for voices like Sister Mary Ann Zollmann,BVM, presidentof the LCWR who said recently:

"We believe that this act of aggression violates our national soul and betrays our cherished foundational values. By this unprovoked attack, we deprive the citizens of Iraq of their rights to self-determination, and to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. "
I too believe that this war is arrogant, unnecessary and foolish.(some students do too!) Thanks for the opportunity to expess my view. Peace and blessings.

Willis Jensen | 4/8/2003 - 1:18am
The editorial depends for it's conclusion on the acceptance of a number of rather slippery facts i.e.containment was effective, North Korea is a greater threat, sanctions have prevented Saddam's rearmament. If I had to choose between the Editorial Board of America and the relevant agencies of the government for accurate information in the slippery areas, I think that the choice is obvious.

Eric Stoltz | 3/28/2003 - 10:24pm
Mr. Patterson paints with a very wide brush.

He sweepingly claims that it is faith-filled people who support war, and that only Godless people protest war. This is somewhat offensive to me, since I marched in the large antiwar protest in Hollywood--along with a priest friend, I might note. Am I lacking in faith because I oppose war?

He assumes that every person who attended a funeral of someone who died on September 11 is for the war. How does he come to this conclusion, except by wild speculation? Has he asked them? The fact remains that there is a large group of September 11 survivors who have publicly opposed war.

Each time war drums sound, there are always people who support war (while claiming that this PARTICULAR war is an exception to their proclaimed general distaste for killing), and they think, "Surely, THIS time Christians will agree that war is the only answer." Most of the time, they are disappointed to discover that Christian approval of war is rare.

While the Christian position is to oppose war as a general principle and to make rare exceptions, I wonder if Mr. Patterson has ever disagreed with any war the United States has engaged in. I suspect not.

Vic Romero | 3/21/2003 - 11:24pm
Here's why I support the U.S.-led war in Iraq:

1) Saddam Hussein really has weapons of mass destruction, especially biological and chemical weapons.

2) Saddam has hidden these weapons so well that U.N. inspections simply cannot find them. No amount of time will let the inspectors find the hidden weapons. A case in point: UNSCOM had been at work for two years and had found nothing incriminating, until Saddam's son-in-law defected and pointed out the location of the largest Iraqi biological weapons plant. Sure enough, UNSCOM found equipment to make anthrax and tons of growing media. UNSCOM destroyed 70 tons of biological agents, then blew up the building. The point is UNSCOM would never have found the weapons plant on their own. Saddam has hidden his weapons too well. Inspections do not work.

3) Saddam has used chemical weapons on the Kurds in Northern Iraq. He will not hesitate to use them again.

4) George W. Bush is right about Saddam. We can't wait around doing nothing about Saddam. The U.N. Security Council is ineffective. If we leave Saddam alone now, in a few years, he will have improved his weapons of mass destruction and his capability to deliver them with missile and rocket technology. We have to stop this man before he becomes even more dangerous.

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