The Unity of the Church - A Pious Clich

Column by Bishop John Shelby Spong on 23 July 2003 0 Comments
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Is it not possible to speak out against the war and at the same time support our troops? Was not your silence during the Iraqi war a betrayal of your own convictions?

And James, whose address is unknown, asks:
How can you be silent once hostilities have begun? Was it not your responsibility to speak against the war and to call for a cease-fire that was the only hope we had to prevent the horrendous casualties that occurred on both sides?


Your questions, which came at the start of the Iraqi war, were in response to my decision not to be critical of the war once it had begun. That was a silence of despair as much as a silence of conviction. Thank you for making me face that. I thought, and still think, that this war was immoral and unnecessary. I see it as a product of national vested interest that was personal, financially motivated and designed to serve some strategic diplomatic goals that were deliberately not stated because they would not have been politically palatable. I did not believe the trumped-up charges that were offered by administration spokespersons at the time about weapons of mass destruction or Al Qaeda connections. Subsequent disclosures from Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolferitz, and even Colin Powell, indicate that the public was specifically, deliberately and cruelly misled, let me be more specific, lied to in the build up to the war. The public trust has been deeply violated and the image of the United States badly tarnished. But the determination to go to war clearly overcame all opposition. When the actual shooting begins, lives are at risk that are not responsible for the decision to go to war. One of these lives was a much-loved member of my immediate family. My conviction was that in this war, continued public opposition would not have resulted in getting it over more quickly. I hope that wasn't simply a surrender of principle as your letters suggest. Now that the formal military action has been finished, a dialogue on war as an instrument of national policy must and will be re-ignited. To be silent once the war had begun was not a comfortable decision for me but it was an intensely personal decision.

Military success does not end the problems of Iraq. Indeed they are just beginning. I am appalled at the lack of preparation for the re-establishment of any semblance of civilian order by this administration. I think this has been, and continues to be, a dark chapter in American history. I see no reason to think the world is safer from terrorism today than it was before the war began. Indeed, The Guardian of London ran a story recently that said terrorism recruits in the Muslim world were running 8000 a week since the Iraqi war "ended." If that is true, and I have no reason to doubt it, then the free world has yet to reap the dividend that was sown in the whirlwind of defying world opinion to carry out this military adventure to meet the unspoken needs of a right wing administration.

John Shelby Spong





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