Fighting for peace

The Rt. Rev. John Bryson Chane, Bishop of Washington, has devoted his latest column in the Washington Window to a critical examination of how the Bush administration, Congress and the media led the United States into war with Iraq.

Terrorism has dramatically increased since Operation Iraqi Freedom, with more than 450 suicide bombers killing themselves and others in Iraq since the start of the war. Since then, 3,386 American soldiers have died and 25,245 have been wounded-more than 7,000 so severely that their lives will forever be altered. Between 8 and 10 percent of the nearly 12,000 American soldiers treated at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany had psychiatric or behavioral problems related to their war experience, according to the hospital’s commander, Army Col. Rhonda Cornum. Many veterans returning to the U.S. from active duty are being treated for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. In comparison, the international “Coalition of the Willing” referred to in 2003 and used as a support for our war effort, has lost 273 military personnel. U.S. military deaths in Afghanistan now number 389. Figures for Iraqi military deaths have not officially been released by the Iraqi government.

Warnings put forward by the religious community in the U.S. about the consequences of a military strategy to disarm Saddam Hussein were lost on a compliant Congress and an administration determined to go to war with Iraq. President George W. Bush called the nation to war on unsubstantiated charges that Iraq possessed chemical and nuclear weapons of mass destruction


The U.S. Congress should be held accountable for giving an almost unanimous “green light” to the administration to go to war and for granting the President unlimited war powers. Republican and Democratic presidential candidates need to explain to the American public why they were silent when the short debate on the War Powers Act was being considered by Congress. Some politicians have said that if they knew then what they know now, they would not have voted to extend this power to the President. That is unacceptable. There was clearly enough information available about the Iraq’s military capabilities and its severely weakened infrastructure resulting from the earlier Operation Desert Storm to merit significant debate. But Congress was too timid to explore alternative means for dealing with the Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein, and it should be held accountable for the crime of silence.

As for the religious community in the U.S., every major Christian religious denomination in the country, except one, registered its opposition to engaging in military action against Iraq. Yet even with such overwhelming opposition, the current administration would not extend the religious leaders of these denominations the courtesy of meeting with them prior to the outbreak of the war.

The media likewise were either unable or unwilling to report the opposition of the broad faith community to military action against Iraq. This is among the concerns that have led to questions about the integrity of the press during the build-up and initial military action in Iraq.

Read it all.

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