Questions from the Readers: The War in Iraq

Column by Bishop John Shelby Spong on 2 June 2004 0 Comments
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Your piece on Iraq was a strong argument and well-said but what would you offer in its stead? John Kerry? Withdraw and surrender to those 7th-century wackos? If we stay the course and prevail, can we not begin a process which will bring democracy and potential stability to a part of the world with the hope, and yes the prayer, to deter and prevent a base from which the insanity could blossom? Why not learn from our mistakes and formulate a policy to secure a stable government, friendly to our goals in the entire region. If we don't win here and win now, do we not let loose upon ourselves another Hitler or Lenin, who once secure in a government base, would be able to make 9/11 a daily reality? What do you offer?


That is a good and a fair question. I see no way that a potential Kerry administration can do anything but start from where we are. A unilateral withdrawal would turn the Middle East into absolute chaos. In my mind that is not an option. A new administration will have to rebuild Iraq, help to end hostilities between Jews and Palestinians and seek to encourage both freedom and democracy in such places as Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran and Jordan. The positions taken by Dennis Kucinich and Ralph Nader are, in my opinion, simply not viable.

But a new administration would have a chance to rebuild trust among the nations of the world in general and within the nation of Iraq in particular. All the people in Iraq are not 'wackos,' to use your word, and ultimately the only way terrorism will be defeated will be for each nation to police itself and for all nations to provide hope for those masses of Muslim young people who are so despairing that they are willing to become suicide bombers. I question how the Bush administration can do that. They are sullied by their own statements justifying the war with hyped claims about the existence of weapons of mass destruction that turned out not to be so. They are alienated from the nations of the world because they did not build a political consensus prior to the invasion, a mistake the first Bush Administration did not make. They withdrew their second resolution from the United Nation's Security Council because they knew it would be defeated. They obviously underestimated the difficulty of the task and overestimated the welcome of the Iraqi people. This administration is now revealed to have condoned incredible abuses of both the civil rights and the human rights of Iraqi citizens in the prisons that will surely be revealed to be the result of policy directives from on high and not the acts of a few distorted enlisted personnel. Given all these things, I do not see how this administration can do the job that needs to be done.

I am confident that someone like Richard Holbrook with his vast world experience, heading up the State department in a new administration would find a way to bring this war to a peaceful conclusion in a way that would serve the interests of the world and the national interests of the United States.

We have elections that are a referendum on the incumbent administration. A no-confidence vote on the Bush administration in November is not a vote to cut and run. It is a vote to put a new team in charge to accomplish what can be salvaged from a tragedy of this administration's creation.

-- John Shelby Spong




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