The Common Good

This War Isn't Over

Sojomail - April 24, 2003

Quote of the Week J. William Fulbright: God's on our side
Hearts & Minds Jim Wallis: This war isn't over
By the Numbers Poll: U.S. evangelicals on Islam
Biz Ethics Working Assets brings change, one call at a time
Funny Business Twelve things you should learn by age 40
Soul Works Lament of a Child
Politically Connect Bush plans new nuclear weapons
Boomerang SojoMail readers hit reply
Culture Watch New documentary on the Catonsville Nine
Web Scene Online study guide: Faith in wartime | Online learning in Jewish studies | Street art for peace

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"Power tends to confuse itself with virtue, and a great nation is peculiarly susceptible to the idea that its power is a sign of God's favor."

- J. William Fulbright, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 1966.

This war isn't over
by Jim Wallis

Jim Wallis

Advertisement: Saving the Corporate Soul
Have I (and we at Sojourners) gotten some interesting e-mails since the war ended! Some tell me that since the war succeeded so easily, don't I (and Sojourners, and all those church leaders) feel bad about being wrong in opposing it? From the other side, some anti-war activists were infuriated that we said we "celebrate" with the Iraqi people that the brutal reign of Saddam Hussein is over. How can we celebrate the American war, with all its devastating consequences?

It's all very interesting. We never said the U.S. wouldn't win the war. Nobody knew how easy or hard it might be, but the outcome was never in doubt. We just said that a mostly American pre-emptive war was the wrong answer to the threats of Saddam Hussein. And we still think so. Sorry. We also supported regime change in Iraq, citing the tremendous human cost of Saddam's brutality and the danger posed by his love for weapons of mass destruction. (Not everybody in the anti-war movement was as clear about the need not only to disarm Saddam, but also to remove him from power.) We don't apologize for saying we're glad to see him gone. But again, we didn't think this war was the right or best way to accomplish that. (See the Six-Point Plan church leaders offered at

Now that the war was such a "success," we are left with a number of problems. It appears the Bush administration is choosing an American military occupation of Iraq instead of an internationally supported U.N. lead in humanitarian aid and reconstruction. Already we see street demonstrations against that occupation. So far, the U.S. military hasn't found any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and The Washington Post reported this week that administration officials are becoming less confident about doing so. Whoops. The imminent threat of those weapons was a central justification for the war.

They also haven't yet found Saddam Hussein. There are speculations now that he and his Baath Party and Republican Guard didn't put up a fight for Baghdad because they decided to disappear in order to live to fight another day, perhaps in an eventual guerrilla war against the American occupiers. That would certainly be a horrible prospect for everybody. And the triumphant optimism of the administration's leading warriors about installing a pro-American democracy in Iraq that would transform the Middle East seems to fade with each passing day. We're also finally adding up the few thousand civilian casualties and seeing their human faces, along with the many more dead Iraqi soldiers - a lot of whom were just young kids conscripted by a dictator. More than 100 American families also are mourning the loss of a loved one. And the disastrous consequences of the war in Iraq for domestic needs in America - where the poor are also becoming war casualties - is a subject worth another whole column.

Three large questions remain unresolved:

First, American leaders now feel vindicated in prosecuting a pre-emptive and mostly unilateral war, and are justifying that policy for the future. The media is already speculating on who is next. Is this the kind of world we want, where the wealthiest and most powerful nation in the world makes all the big decisions?

Second, the "humanitarian" war fought to "liberate" Iraq raises the question of why only this gross violator of human rights? What about the many others? Will the U.S. choose to liberate people in countries where American geo-political interests and the economic stakes are not so high, say in the Congo or Sudan?

Third, what about the emerging doctrine of Pax Americana, where the neo-conservatives who now virtually run the U.S. government are openly speaking the language of dominance and empire as the moral foundation for American foreign policy. The New York Times this week reported Pentagon plans for four permanent military bases in Iraq. Although Defense Secretary Rumsfeld has denied it, we'll see. Perhaps of special concern for Christians is the president's increasingly religious language to justify American war and domination. Do we really believe that America and George W. Bush have been divinely appointed to root out evil in the world? That's bad theology and a very dangerous one.

All this has resulted from the war with Iraq. Yes, I am very glad that Saddam is gone. But there were better ways to accomplish that worthy goal and set into motion precedents that would have left us in a much more healthy and hopeful place than we now find ourselves. This war isn't over, and its consequences have just begun.

Read more commentary by Jim Wallis:

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Poll: U.S. evangelicals on Islam
Islam opposes religious freedom
Agree:      76%
Disagree:   10%
Neutral:    14%

Islam opposes pluralism/democracy
Agree:      72%
Disagree:    6%
Neutral:    22%

Islam is a religion of violence
Agree:      70%
Disagree:   20%
Neutral:     9%

All of the world's great religions are equally true and good
Agree:       2%
Disagree:   89%
Neutral:    11%

How should the evangelical community interact with Muslims?

Evangelize U.S. Muslims Abroad
Very Important:  81%
Some Importance: 16%
Not Important:    3%

Welcome Muslims into the American community
Very Important:  52%
Some Importance: 41%
Not Important:    7%

*Source: Ethics & Public Policy Center and BeliefNet. To see more results,go to:

Working Assets brings change, one call at a time
by David Batstone

Working Assets, a San Francisco-based organization dedicated to political change, set out to create a radically distinct path for social activism. It runs a for-profit telephone business with $140 million annual revenue and directs a portion of its revenues to lobby for gun control, to derail policies that hurt the poor, and to promote peaceful alternatives to war, among other causes.

A multi-million dollar budget for activism sounds compelling to any nonprofit director, no doubt. But most social justice types don't like dealing with filthy lucre - rattling the tin cup for it is okay, I guess. So let's dive deeper into Working Asset's business operation.

To read the entire article as it appears in the May-June issue of Sojourners magazine, go to:

Faith Works by Jim WallisSpecial Offer for SojoMail Readers!

Save $4 on Faith Works: How Faith-based Organizations are Changing Lives, Neighborhoods, and America, by Jim Wallis.

"In Faith Works, Jim Wallis has woven together a detailed road map for those interested in loosening the chains of social injustice. This book is a powerful resource for change!"

- Millard Fuller, founder and president, Habitat for Humanity International

Order today!

Twelve things you should learn by age 40:

1. Artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity.
2. For every action, there is an equal and opposite government program.
3. If you look like your passport picture, you probably need the trip.
4. Bills travel through the mail at twice the speed of checks.
5. Junk is something you've kept for years and throw away three weeks before you need it.
6. Eat well, stay fit, die anyway.
7. Men are from earth. Women are from earth. Deal with it.
8. A balanced diet is a cookie in each hand.
9. Opportunities always look bigger going than coming.
10. By the time you can make ends meet, they move the ends.
11. Experience is a wonderful thing. It enables you to recognize a mistake when you make it again.
12. Middle age is when broadness of the mind and narrowness of the waist change places.

Lament of a Child
by Matt Rindge

Are you a liar, God?
You declare yourself to be a healer.
You healed so many while you walked upon this earth.
Has your healing ceased to be a part of who you are?
You declare yourself to be the giver of life but today
it is Death who reigns.

Death snatches children from the ground.
Children who have no chance of life.
Death is a fragrance that lingers in the air.
What chance has Life in a land void of food?
Where is goodness when children die from hunger?

To which God am I praying?
The one who saved the Israelites or the one who drowns the Egyptians?
The one who heals the leper or the one who destroys Ananias and Saphira?
The God who saves Noah or the one who floods the world?
The Father who loves his son or the God who abandons him in death?
You say you bring both healing and destruction.
You say you are the cause of birth and death.
You give and you take.
So to whom am I appealing?
To the God of life or death?

God, save us.
There is no one else to whom we can turn. We have no other hope.
Do not abandon us as you did our mother, our father, our brother, our sister.
Please, just let one of us, one from our family survive.
Is it too much to ask?
Is asking for a piece of bread too much to ask?
Is it too much to ask for water?

You say that you heard the cries of the Israelites when they were in Egypt.
That their cries reached you, that you heard, took notice, and were aware of their sufferings.
What of our cries? Why do they not reach you? Or if they do, why do you not respond?
Are we unworthy of a Moses?
Your people come and tell us to believe in you.
That if we believe we will be saved.
Saved from what?
Not from hunger. Not from thirst. Not from AIDS. Not from death.

What is it we will be saved from?
Their God is an idea.
We need more than an idea, God.
God, save us from your followers.
Does having dark skin mean you love us less?
Would you love us more if we were white?
You give food and water to those who are white.
Were not you the one who made us dark?
What then is our crime?
Have we sinned against you in the first few years of life that you withhold food and drink?

*Matt Rindge teaches Biblical studies at Azusa Pacific University and lives at the Harambee Center in Northwest Pasadena.

Bush plans new nuclear weapons

The Bush administration has been studying possible uses of nuclear weapons in pre-emptive strikes and intends to develop nuclear "bunker busters," which have already received some congressional funding. Though dubbed "usable" by defense hawks, bunker busters could actually increase civilian casualties by shooting irradiated soil into the atmosphere. Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) will introduce an amendment soon that would gut the $15 million proposal in the Bush '04 budget for the nuclear bunker buster.

Find out more at:

See also "For-Profits Are Focus for a New Iraq," Los Angeles Times:,1,7366567.story
[registration required]


Advertisement: Call to Renewal Pentecost 2003Bud Adams writes from Central Square, New York:

In last week's SojoMail, David Batstone speaks about something that all Americans feel, but most (it seems) are content to allow to continue happening. Why? A large number of "us" seem to think that - one day - we, too, will be in the top 1% of income earners. I guess the answer is that no matter how destructive, no level of greed is too awful if people think that they, too, will some day rake in the same benefits. So, don't tinker with the system just yet....

In my mind, there is no coincidence that this climb in execs pay from 42 times to 458 times that of non-supervisory workers matches the Reagan overhaul of the income tax code. With the removal of the income tax levels as they stood in 1980, gone were the dis-incentives for corporate crooks to pocket so much wealth for themselves (legally, anyway). Back in the pre-Reagan years, there was truly a diminishing return for an exec to finagle a few extra million bucks a year. In theory, most of it would go directly to Uncle Sam anyway. So why bother?

And now, well, now we have a president who, out of one side of his mouth talks trash about corporate greed - while out of the other side of his mouth asks, "So what's wrong with Americans getting to keep a little more of their own money, anyway?" And, we are given a recycling and renaming of trickle-down economics.


Jamal Al Samerai writes from London, England:

Thank you for paying attention to messages that come from us Iraqis in exile to form a true picture of what indeed is needed and of vital importance to the future of Iraq. There are some 4 millions Iraqis abroad and this issue has to be tackled now since most of these Iraqis are the cream of the society and runaways from Saddam Hussein's regime. Demand in your magazine and in whatever manner you can that priority be given to those Iraqis to return to Iraq in safety and stability.


Marie Clarke Brill, National Coordinator of Jubilee USA, writes:

Bush administration officials have argued that it would be grossly unfair for the people of Iraq to repay the debts Saddam Hussein incurred to keep his brutal regime in power. Now is a perfect time to remember that, in many places on this planet, many of the world's poorest citizens have suffered for decades under crippling debts accrued by oppressive regimes. Mobutu Sese Seko in the former Zaire and the apartheid government in South Africa, for example, were lent billions of dollars that were used to the detriment of the very people that now have to foot the bill. New democracies in these countries continue to service odious debts, even as they struggle to combat nature's ultimate weapon of mass destruction - AIDS.

The limited debt relief that has been provided has proven effective in fighting AIDS and putting children back in school. Yet the debt crisis for the poorest countries has been left off the World Bank and IMF meetings agenda all together. Members of Congress have on their desk bipartisan proposals for deeper debt relief for these poorest countries (H.R. 1376 in the House and the Santoroum-Biden debt proposal in the Senate). These legislative proposals should be just as eagerly adopted as the proposals to cancel Iraq's debts after the war.


Bob Huitt writes from Orange, Connecticut:

Thank you for the quote from Thomas Merton last week. At a time when I have become rather easily caught up in bashing Bush and his policies, our brother's words remind me of the danger in myself, of the war in myself, of the depravity in myself. On this Maundy Thursday Thomas' words cause me also to remember what Jesus said that night: Love one another as I have loved you. And as I remember Good Friday and what Jesus did, I see true liberation from the warmongering in my heart.


G. Douglas Smith writes from Los Angeles, California:

Isn't it amazing how Syria has barely been mentioned in the prior two years of this administration, and now they are the next "evil" of the world? When we've won the war with Syria, I guess the rhetoric with Iran will begin. When we've won the war with Iran, then the rhetoric with Egypt can begin...see a pattern?


Stephen Hoffmann writes from Upland, Indiana:

I am sympathetic to the criticism of the embargo on Cuba. However, in his column last week in SojoMail, Wayne Smith undermines the credibility of that criticism when he manages to blame Castro's draconian crackdown on dissidents on the machinations of the U.S. government! Comparing dissent against Castro's regime to the cause of Puerto Rican independence does not help. Puerto Ricans have had the opportunity to vote. I understand the danger of "rollback" strategies, but a strategy of "constructive engagement" that regards any pressure on repressive regimes as counter- productive is feckless.


Denise Bennett writes from Richmond, Virginia:

I went back and read the commentary by David Batstone that Dean-Daniel Truog found judgmental. As I read about the actions and connections that have been made by the current administration regarding "crony capitalism," I was reminded of this verse: "By their fruits, you shall know them." Looking at the fruits of this administration thus far, I am inclined to agree with Batstone. Also we should not assume that because Batstone or anyone expresses disapproval of the Bush administration, that he is not praying for them. Praying for someone does not mean you must regard everything that person does as correct, nor does it assume that you must keep your mouth shut about it.


George Roberts writes from Spartanburg, South Carolina:

I read a Boomerang note this week about drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Preserve and I echo her dismay. Why do average Americans seem to care more about guns than the Mother Earth that nurtures us and without which we cannot survive?! I have three children, my blessings, and cannot imagine how much of our natural world will be left when they have their own children. We all need to pray for the strength to speak out against this administration's total lack of environmental vision and Congress' inexplicable stupor on the issue.


Mike Ferner writes from the University of Toledo, Ohio:

Saving the Corporate Soul?...come on, Sojo! Corporations are legal fictions. They are not people. They are not "corporate citizens." They are supposed to do the bidding of society and not a thing more. They are no more capable of a soul than is a robot. Like a robot they are to do the job intended or be dissolved. Please look around this web site:


Brian Corr writes from Boston, Massachusetts:

I was shocked when I read your April 11 Action Alert. To say that you "celebrate with the Iraqi people" has left me with deep questions about the politics and beliefs behind Sojourners - which I have always respected and until this point found true and honest to its values.

To follow CNN and Fox by looking at "bringing down the statue of Saddam" in isolation as a triumph of human freedom is irresponsible and, at best, misguided. The celebration you wrote of included the destruction of the ancient tablets of the Code of Hammurabi, the looting of shops and small businesses, the destruction of museums and offices, the pillaging of hospitals and research facilities, the killing of additional innocent victims by roaming bands of thugs, and the complete breakdown of a society that goes back nearly 10 millennia.

In the future I would hope that Sojourners can refrain from looking for the silver lining in the cloud of death and destruction that is the U.S. attack on Iraq, and all that will flow from this immoral war.


Boomerang is an open forum for all kinds of views. The views expressed are not necessarily those of Sojourners. Want to make your voice heard? Send Boomerang e-mails to the editor:

New documentary on the Catonsville Nine
by Molly Marsh

Nine polite, well-dressed men and women walked into the Catonsville, Maryland, draft board office May 17, 1968, tussled briefly with staff members there (apologized profusely for doing so), and then emerged with piles of Selective Service records they quietly set afire using napalm they'd made from scratch. As reporters and photographers scurried around them, the group held hands and said the Lord's Prayer.

Lynne Sachs' "Investigation of a Flame" brings the whole event to life, including the ensuing trial and publicity the "Catonsville Nine" earned.

To read the entire review as it appears in the May/June issue of Sojourners magazine, go to:

*Online study guide: Faith in wartime

The United Methodist Church is offering a free, online study guide to help congregations and groups "consider God's Word" in this time of war. Its sections cover "Just War, Just Peace," "Love of Enemies, Love of Country: Issues of Patriotism and Faith," "Believing in a Sovereign God in an Insecure World" and "Prayers During Wartime: Finding Common Ground Among Us." Link to:

*Online learning in Jewish studies

Fathom's Jewish Studies learning center explores the diverse and rich history of the Jewish people, the religious, philosophical and political movements that shaped Jewish history, and the cultural achievements of Jews in the modern world. Link to:

*Street art for peace

Compass roses drawn on the sidewalk in front of the White House and in front of a storefront mosque in D.C.; on Wall Street near where the World Trade Center stood and on 125th Street in Harlem; by the Grand Canyon and by the river Jordan; in front of the U.S. mission to the U.N. and in front of the Iraqi mission. See what you're missing:

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David Batstone Executive Editor
Molly Marsh Assistant Editor
Ryan Beiler Web Editor
Kate Bowman Internet Assistant
Tucker Ball Marketing Director
Larry Bellinger Advertising Manager
Bob Sabath Chief Technologist

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