A View from Europe

Column by Bishop John Shelby Spong on 25 August 2004 0 Comments
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My problem with your suggestion that we must 'stay the course' in Iraq is that I don't know who the enemy is, what the 'course' is or how doing so would be any different from just pulling out now. I think variation could be to provide a winning strategy for resolving the mess created by the current administration. Each bomb we drop or rocket we fire or person we kill costs money and increases the risk of retaliation. The money could be used instead to right the wrong caused by our past bombing, rocketing and killing. To me, 'staying the course' looks too much like doing what the state of Israel has been doing the past 30 plus or minus years, following a strategy that we all know or should know by now is not the road to peace. It is ironic to consider how close the state of Israel is following our example of how to deal with the people who were there before we arrived. Just think how close the 'walls' being built in Israel today are to the solution we employed years ago by forcing the people who preceded us on to reservations. Am I seeing 'staying the course' correctly? Is this what you propose we do?


I certainly do not favor what you call 'staying the course,' but I do not yet feel that simply withdrawing after totally destabilizing the nation of Iraq would be anything other than an act of total irresponsibility. 'Staying the course' implies that we continue doing what we are now doing. When one is walking in the wrong direction then staying the course is a foolish strategy. I do not know of anything that we have done right in this war yet. We entered the war without competent intelligence. We entered it without broad support among the nations of the world. We convinced ourselves that the Iraqi people would welcome us as liberators. We lost our moral credibility with the Abu Ghraib prison scandals. We imposed a government on Iraq led by a former CIA employee. We treated as of prime significance the intelligence received from Mr. Chaliby who was invited to sit in the box with the first lady during the president's State of the Union address. We miscalculated the dreadful state of Iraq's infrastructure and the time it would take us to have it up and running. The President announced that our mission had been accomplished before anything like peace and stability were achieved and before the majority of our military casualties had yet been absorbed. We miscalculated the number of troops that Mr. Rumsfeld said we would have in Iraq at the end of 2003 by 500%. Staying this course is an act of incredible ineptitude.

Yet to pull out unilaterally will mean a civil war that even with 150,000 troops we have not been able to put down. If the majority of the Iraqi people want a Moslem theocracy we are not prepared to live with that decision. We have no prospects of winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people.

What we need is the cooperation of the other nations of the world to build a peace that obviously we do not know how to build. We will not get that unless we admit that we have made mistakes. The things now required are, I believe, a new beginning, new leadership, new trust and a totally different approach. I also believe we need to announce our intention to withdraw our military presence at a time certain to force integrity into the transition process. The fact that Mr. Bush refers to occupied Iraq as a sovereign nation is simply to bend the truth so badly that it is unrecognized. Indefinite occupation should be a specter that haunts not only this nation but also the entire world. Ask the British about Ireland or the Americans about Korea.

-- John Shelby Spong




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