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NCC, churches respond to the President’s
plan to send more troops to Iraq
 

New York City, January 17, 2007 – “It is time, not to send more troops, but to start bringing our troops home,” says the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) following President George W. Bush’s plan for the Iraq war. 

“The ‘surge’ as recommended by the president is immoral.  What we do not need is an assertion of more military strength.  What we need is the strength of basic moral conviction,” says the statement (below). 

Leaders of some of the NCC’s 35 member churches also have expressed positions opposing more troops. 

The Rev. John H. Thomas, general minister and president of the United Church of Christ said, in part, “The growing violence in Iraq, the enormous suffering being experienced by the citizens of Iraq, and the anguish of countless American families who have lost beloved sons and daughters to death and horrific injury calls for profound lament and repentance, not for stubborn commitment to the unilateralism and militarism that has been the hallmark of our failed policy in Iraq.  That is why the President’s speech is not only politically disappointing, but morally deficient as well.” 

“Our country must engage diplomatically not only the U.N., European Union and Russia, but all the nations in the Middle East, including Iran and Syria,” the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop and primate of the Episcopal Church said.  “Diplomacy, built on a foundation of mutual respect and interest among people of good will, not more troops, can bring an end to this tragic conflict.” 

“The message of Jesus ‘to love your enemy,’ from the Gospel of Matthew 5:44, is inconsistent with military action. Jesus’ words instead move us toward peaceful methods, diplomacy, moral suasion, nonviolent sanctions, and international cooperation to address violence and aggression,” wrote Stanley J. Noffsinger, general secretary, Church of the Brethren General Board.  

“The Church of the Brethren has called on its members to pray and give witness to the sin of violence, and has petitioned the federal government of the United States, the United Nations, and other nations and groups to seek peace by taking action to bring troops home from Iraq,” wrote Noffsinger.  “Also, we have called on religious leaders from all faiths who preach violence to consider the things that truly make for peace. The wisdom of the scriptures, in the book of Jonah, provides direction: ‘Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence’ (Jonah 3:8).   

The Rev. Jim Winkler, general secretary, United Methodist General Board of Church and Society, said, “We call upon the U.S. Congress to oppose the President’s decision to send more troops to Iraq by withholding funds to escalate the war. We further urge Congress not to provide any additional money to continue the war this year. Congress should provide funding only to bring U.S. troops home and to aid in rebuilding Iraq.”

Winkler urged “United Methodists to join ‘America Says NO More Troops,’ www.americansayno.org  and to participate in the January 27 rally in Washington to end the war in Iraq. Please visit www.unitedforpeace.org for more ways to stop this war expansion.  And please pray for peace in Iraq.” 

Statement of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA
on the build up of more U.S. troops in Iraq
 

President George W. Bush has ordered a “surge” in troops in Iraq, ostensibly to help quell sectarian violence and stabilize Baghdad. This escalation of troop presence is likely only to result in an escalation in American and Iraqi deaths. Thus the call for more troops is morally unsupportable.  

Particularly in the wake of the barbaric execution of Saddam Hussein – an act that reflects not the ideals of democracy and justice, but rather mocks them – and an act that promises only to breed more violence, as only a violent act can – one would think that the United States would immediately seek to bring about a change of policy.  Sending more troops is not a change in policy, nor is it even a change in strategy; it is more of the same.    

Certainly a change in policy was what the November election results were all about.  And certainly a change in policy was the bottom-line recommendation of the Iraq Study Group (ISG), a collection of men and women chosen for their collective expertise and wisdom.  Instead, the president has chosen to ignore both the electorate and the ISG.    

Given a chance to build broad consensus on a change of policy under the cover of the ISG Report, we have the makings of yet another divisive debate on whether or not the U.S. should put more lives in harm’s way.  It seems that we are fated never to learn an important lesson of the Vietnam era - that U.S. leadership in the world does not depend on the continuation of failed policies - a lesson that became crystal clear during our recent funeral recollections of President Gerald Ford and his leadership.   

It is time for moral strength, not military power, to take precedence in the U.S. plan for Iraq.   

It is time to recognize the failure of a military policy that is not promoting freedom, not ending terrorism, not building up the Iraqi nation, not bringing security to the region, and not making the world safer.  

It is time - and here we agree with the president - to insist on political benchmarks for the Iraqi government, and to provide reconstruction aid to the Iraqi people, if it is not already too late.  But the benchmarks must be achievable, and this time the disbursement of aid must be transparent.   

It is time to enter into respectful negotiations with those countries in the region that can exert influence on Iraq; to attend to the central issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; and to lead the United Nations Security Council in enforcing restrictions on arms proliferation in the region.  

And above all, it is time, not to send more troops, but to start bringing our troops home.    

The “surge” as recommended by the president is immoral.  What we do not need is an assertion of more military strength.  What we need is the strength of basic moral conviction.   

We make this statement in the spirit of the message last November from our member churches meeting in their annual General Assembly whose theme was, “...for the healing of the nations.” (Revelation 22:2).


Complete texts of the NCC member church leaders’ statements and those of other faith leaders are here.


 NCC News contact:  Dan Webster, 212.870.2252, NCCnews@ncccusa.org


 

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