As the United States drew close to launching bombing attacks on Iraq in February, American church leaders across the theological spectrum spoke out in opposition. In a remarkable display of Christian unity, the heads of churches, seminaries, and religious organizations agreed: Saddam Hussein is a real and dangerous threat to peace, but war is not the answer.
In a series of independent letters and statements to the White House, a wide variety of church leaders and bodies sounded the same theme. Together, several of us had agreed to do a press conference and witness on the White House sidewalk on Ash Wednesday. But due to Kofi Annan’s diplomacy, it became a powerful ecumenical statement that never had to happen.
First, we all agreed that Saddam Hussein’s regime is a great danger to his own people, his neighbors in the Middle East region, and potentially to the world because of his possible possession of weapons of mass destruction. Virtually all the religious voices insisted on Iraq’s compliance with U.N. resolutions and weapons inspections.
Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, chair of the International Policy Committee of the U.S. Catholic Conference, wrote, "Because the Iraqi government has repeatedly attacked its neighbors and repressed segments of its own population, its possession of weapons of mass destruction and the capacity to manufacture them properly are of grave concern to the world community." The National Council of Churches added, "We too underscore international multilateral efforts to address Iraq’s non-compliance with U.N. authorization for weapons inspections."
Second, the religious statements all agreed that bombing Iraq would be neither effective nor morally responsible in removing that threat. Such attacks would kill many innocents but not accomplish the goal of eliminating weapons of mass destruction. Bombing the children of Iraq would neither be morally responsible nor politically effective.