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Religious Leaders 4th of July message to Bush:
Don't let Iraq become another historic quagmire

June 30, 2005, New York Three religious leaders representing the Governing Board of the National Council of Churches USA announced today that about 630 religious leaders and nearly 16,000 people of faith in 44 states have endorsed a Fourth of July declaration that urges President Bush to develop an "early fixed timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops," to listen to a wider range of religious advisers and to re-evaluate his policy on Iraq.

"It's clear that the administration has listened more closely to far-right religious leaders who agree with them," said the Rev. Dr. Bob Edgar, NCC General Secretary, in an audio news conference Thursday. "It's a hard task to get the administration to listen to a broader evangelical and religious community."

The statement is an effort to give visibility to a widely held, more moderate religious point of view, one that the group says has been underreported in the national media -- and to attract the administration's attention to the urgency of having an exit strategy for Iraq. America's foreign policy, said the Rev. Dr. John H. Thomas, General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ, has made others around the world "view us as a dangerous nation."

The NCC e-mailed the statement to friends and supporters on June 28, and 48 hours later had received more than 15,000 endorsements. Religious leaders and persons of faith continue to e-mail their affirmations at a rate of several hundred a day.

In response to a reporter's question, Edgar noted that the NCC and other religious groups have vigorously opposed the war since the beginning.

Edgar recalled his years as a young Congressman in April 1975. "We led a bi-partisan effort to shut down the Vietnam War," he said. "It took 55,000 body bags for that to be taken seriously." He called on Bush to reassess his war policy before it got to that stage.

"I'm dismayed that the President seems to be unwilling to be open to other perspectives," said Thomas, who participated in the audio press conference from Atlanta, where the UCC's General Synod is meeting. "I'm dismayed that the President is unwilling to acknowledge the very serious, grave consequences of this initiative."

The Rev. Dr. Larry Pickens, General Secretary of the United Methodist General Commission on Christian Unity and Inter-religious Concerns, said Bush's comments in his June 28 press news conference "articulated what is becoming a failed policy in Iraq. He hasn't made it clear what he intends to accomplish in Iraq. I don't get the sense that there is a great deal of vision."

Thomas called upon President Bush to initiate "a major re-evaluation of his policy, with input from international leaders, including the United Nations."

Pickens added that Iraqi society has been seriously damaged by war and needs "total restructuring. The training of Iraqi police is not enough to make that happen. War is just the beginning of the economic commitment that will be required."

The full text of the statement, which will be sent to President Bush, follows:

A Call to Speak Out.

July 4, 2005

This year our nation is at war as we observe the 4th of July, a day that honors those founders who spoke out for independence from tyranny.  Today in Iraq a cruel dictator has been deposed, yet the suffering of the Iraqi people continues.  Mandated elections have been held, yet the future of Iraq remains as uncertain as ever.  Day by day the cost of this war for the United States, for Iraq, for peace grows clearer.  No weapons of mass destruction have been found; no link to the attacks on September 11, 2001 has been shown.  It has become clear that the rationale for invasion was at best a tragic mistake, at worst a clever deception.
As people of faith, we believe in the transcendent sovereignty and love of God for creation, and that the responsibility of human beings is thus to pursue justice and peace for all.  We also believe that, as the biblical prophets of old, who in faithfulness to God spoke out to a people and a nation they loved, in humility before God we too are to speak to a land and people we love.  As religious leaders we invite others who share our affections and dismay to recognize the time has come to speak out.

The time has come to say:

- NO to leaders who have sent many honorable sons and daughters to fight a dishonorable war;

- NO to the violence that has cost over seventeen hundred American lives, left thousands grievously injured, and killed untold numbers of Iraqis whose deaths we are unwilling to acknowledge or count;

- NO to the abuse of prisoners that has shamed our nation and damaged our reputation throughout the world;

- NO to the price tag for this war that has rendered our federal budget incapable of adequately caring for the poorest of our own citizens; and,

- NO to theologies that demonize other nations and religions while arrogantly claiming righteousness for ourselves as if we share no complicity in human evil.

The time has come to say:

- YES to foreign policies that seek justice rather than domination, compassion rather than control;

- YES to an early fixed timetable for the withdrawal of United States troops and the establishment of a credible multinational peacekeeping force;

- YES to the honoring of human rights even for our enemies and for a restoration of our reputation as a people committed to the rule of law;

- YES to spending and taxing priorities that put the poor first, providing health care, housing, employment, and quality education for all, not just the few; and,

- YES to a restoration of truth telling in the public square and to "last resort" rather than "first strike" as the criterion for the use of force to restrain evil.

On the day we celebrate our freedom, we acknowledge that the freedom promised in the toppling of a dictator has been replaced by the humiliation of occupation and the violence of a civil war. The sacrifice of brave men and women has been used to serve policies that have diminished our nation's prestige and our capacity to be agents of justice in the world.
It is time to speak out that this 4th of July will celebrate the best ideals of our nation for our sake and for the sake of the world.

The e-mail message to NCC friends and supporters June 28 offered an Internet link to endorse the statement:

Click here to see some of the signatories of the statement.



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