Were there twelve disciples? - Was Mary Magdalene one of them?

Column by Bishop John Shelby Spong on 22 September 2004 0 Comments
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I agree with most of what you have set forth about the war in Iraq. However, I support George Bush because I believe him to be an honest man who has, unfortunately, been grossly misled by our "intelligence" services. His only mistake, in my mind, is that he has not publicly announced this fact and sacked those responsible. We are now committed to Iraq. We must conclude with honor the job we have undertaken and withdraw as quickly as possible. It is unfortunate that our beloved "press" views its political agendas as more important than that of reporting facts. I remember when this was not so and long for the return of those honest days. I respect you, Dr. Spong, but must in all honesty ask how you can state without equivocation that the president is carrying out a "personal vendetta" against Saddam of Iraq because of his father's decisions, wise or unwise? How correct is your "intelligence" source?


I have quoted your letter in its entirety because I think you make such cogent observations and offer a perspective that so many Americans share, including a number of subscribers to this newsletter. I am pleased to allow you to speak for them and thus to enhance the public dialogue which is of course the primary purpose of this column.

The points I would make to keep this dialogue going are these. I do not mean to attack the integrity or the honesty of President Bush. I do mean, however, to raise questions about his competency and ability. You say it better than I do. Do you really want "an honest man who has unfortunately been grossly misled by our intelligence sources?" Is he not responsible for intelligence? Do not the heads of the CIA, the FBI and the Department of Defense serve at the pleasure of the President? Has he dismissed anyone for these gross intelligence failures? Does that bespeak of competence or does it suggest an unannounced agenda?

I see in this president one who resisted the appointment of the 9/11 Commission until public pressure forced the formation of that Commission on him. Then he appointed Henry Kissinger to head it, a choice that was to me inconceivable having read of Henry Kissinger's clandestine operations in China prior to the opening of diplomatic relationships with that nation by Richard Nixon. When Dr. Kissinger declined because it would create a conflict with some of his Saudi business clients, he then accepted former Governor Thomas Kean of New Jersey as a necessary evil. Next, he refused to allow National Security Advisor Condaleeza Rice to testify under oath before that Commission, once again relenting only after massive political pressure. Then he refused to testify himself except in the company of Vice-President Cheney. Next he opposed extending the time the Commission needed and requested to complete its work until once again being forced to do so. Finally, when the report was made public, he expressed no urgency to implement its findings until once again political pressure made at least the appearance of cooperation necessary. He then opposed the primary conclusion of a centralized Intelligence Czar to be over all intelligence gathering. That does not sound to me like a person who has a great desire to get to the truth.

The Republican Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Pat Roberts of Kansas, has now forced his hand by making a proposal even more sweeping than the 9/11 Commission had recommended. That would surely not have been done if there had been anything other than foot dragging from the White house. Certainly, Donald Rumsfeld has publicly opposed making intelligence in the Department of Defense subject to the authority of that proposed office.

It looks to me as if this president has supported those responsible for his being "grossly misled" as you suggest. When I put these things together, only two conclusions are possible. 1) He did not think he was misled because he had a different agenda than the one he has publicly announced. 2) He does not understand how poorly he was served. Either way, I have no confidence in his leadership.

I carry no brief for the accuracy of the press but its freedom, even with all its excesses, is the best defense we have in this country to protect and to pursue truth.

Finally, it is abundantly clear to me that the stated reasons this administration gave for entering the war were wrong. The 9/11 Commission found no weapons of mass destruction and turned up no link between Al Qaeda and Iraq. This war has been a costly mistake causing the dead and the wounded to be numbered in the thousands. We have not yet pacified the nation of Iraq. We have alienated one billion Muslims in the world. We are hated and feared throughout the world. I agree with a former Middle East ambassador who said in my presence last month in Denver, "Terrorism is the war of the powerless, war is the terrorism of the powerful." I am willing to appeal to the court of history to determine how correct my sources of intelligence are and I welcome further dialogue with other readers.

-- John Shelby Spong




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