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October 2002

Letter War With Iraq Is Not the Answer


Heading to war with Iraq is a grave mistake. It can only lead to catastrophic consequences for the suffering people of Iraq, other suffering people around the world and ourselves.

Since 1990, our sanctions on Iraq have killed over one million Iraqis, over half of them children under five, according to UNICEF, the World Health Organization, the Vatican and the United Nations. These dying Iraqi children were born long after the 1991 Gulf war, have suffered under Saddam, but die because of our sanctions and bombs.

No one supports tyranny in Iraq or anywhere, but bombing these suffering people will not bring democracy, just further their unimaginable suffering. Bombing Iraq will only make matters worse. It may lead to the use of nuclear weapons, and set a horrible global precedent, that it is okay to bomb preemptively.

I have been to Iraq and seen for myself the effects of our sanctions and bombing raids. In March 1999, I led a delegation of Nobel peace prize winners to Baghdad. We met with religious leaders, United Nations and non-governmental organization officials, and even government representatives, but most importantly, we saw with our own eyes the reality of the suffering these sanctions have caused. We saw hundreds of children dying of relievable diseases, because we have systematically destroyed Iraq's infrastructure.

There are many reasons why we should not attack Iraq. A war aimed at "regime change" is unjust, unwise, and incompatible with any criteria for establishing long lasting peace. Again, this could set a precedent with unbelievable ramifications.

The Bush administration has offered no evidence of any links between Saddam Hussein and the terrorist attacks of 9/11. There is no evidence that Iraq currently has useable weapons of mass destruction.

The best way to security and peace in the region continues to be through the United Nations, the UN-administered process of weapons inspections, and a strategy of regional disarmament (as called for in UN Security Council Resolution 687, article 14).

An attack on Iraq will further alienate U.S. allies and dramatically increase anti-American sentiment throughout the world.

War with Iraq will hurt our already failing economy. Instead of funding jobs, healthcare, schools, low-income housing, environmental clean-up, and balancing the budget, we will be paying billions more to kill Iraqi children. I live in New Mexico, the state ranked number one in poverty. We can't afford to pay for war.

Most critically, preemptive war is illegal under international law. Once one country takes preemptive action, other countries will follow suit. If the U.S. bombs Iraq, and calls it self- defense, we can be assured that similar wars will break out elsewhere. We will have set a very bad example, one that could lead to the death of literally millions of innocent people on every continent.

In the end, we should not go to war because it risks the lives of thousands of U.S. soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians, beginning with the already suffering, innocent children.

There are many alternatives to war, they just require patience and hard work. Making peace throughout the world is much harder than war, and requires long-term vision. Instead of trying to overthrow any government, we should root out the causes of terrorism, starting with global poverty, widespread starvation, and weapons sales. We should lift all economic sanctions on Iraq and impose strict military sanctions not only on Iraq, but throughout the Mid-East.

Bombing the children of Iraq will not solve our problems or grant us security or bring us peace or save us from terrorist attacks or help the world. It will protect the oil companies' bank accounts, take our minds off our failing economy and sow the seeds for further terrorism.

Before moving to New Mexico this summer to serve as a pastor of several churches, I worked in New York city after 9/11 as a Red Cross coordinator of chaplains at the Family Assistance Center, and counseled thousands of grieving relatives and exhausted rescue workers. I have seen up close the grief that comes from massive violence.

Most New Yorkers know that bombing Iraq, just like bombing Afghanistan, is not going to bring back our loved ones or protect us from further attacks. In fact, it will inflame millions more people around the world against us, and guarantee further terrorist attacks against us.

War with Iraq is not only illegal and immoral, it's just downright impractical. It's not justified or noble, just stupid and lethal.

From a Christian perspective, war is never blessed by God. It is never the will of God. It is always a mortal sin. Christians are called to love our enemies, not bomb them.

We should rule out bombing Iraq as an option, refuse to kill any more innocent Iraqi children, and start developing a new way to live nonviolently with the rest of the world. That is the only way to a peaceful future.

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