Praying for Peace or Preying on Peace?
The United Methodist Church should be bringing disciplinary action against President George Bush for war crimes. Evidence continues to mount that Bush, a United Methodist, deliberately used his religious faith to deceive the American people in the run-up to his administration’s pre-meditated war against non-threatening, sanctions-weakened, defenseless Iraq. He then continued using his faith in "the ways of Providence" to justify the invasion and occupation of Iraq. He has violated a long-cherished United Methodist Book of Discipline social principle: that "war is incompatible with the teachings and example of Christ . . . [and] we insist that the first moral duty of all nations is to resolve by peaceful means every dispute between or among them." (pages 123, 124, 2004)
Resolving disputes peacefully was the first thing out of President Bush’s mouth and apparently the last thing on his mind. His pre-war public posture was that of a man of faith and peace. At his March 6, 2003 news conference, he said, "I pray daily. I pray for wisdom and guidance and strength. . . . I pray for peace. I pray for peace." (The New York Times, Mar. 7, 2003) Two weeks later he ordered the bombing of the Iraqi people and the invasion of their country.
President Bush continually justified his administration’s pre-emptive war against Iraq by charging that Saddam Hussein threatened America with "mushroom cloud"-like weapons of mass destruction. When no such weapons were found in Iraq after the invasion, Bush repeatedly used his religious faith again to justify his administration’s disastrous and criminal war: "Freedom is not America’s gift to the world, it is God’s gift to every man and woman in the world." ("Acceptance Speech to Republican Convention Delegates," The New York Times, Sept 3, 2004)
A growing body of evidence reveals that it is not about spreading freedom but falsehoods to deceive the American people and justify the war crimes being committed against the Iraqi people. The latest revelation was aired April 23, 2006 by CBS News television program "60 Minutes," in an interview with Tyler Drumheller, a top CIA officer. Drumheller headed an operation that established a covert relationship with a paid informant, Foreign Minister Naji Sabir, a member of Saddam Hussein’s inner circle. "He told us that they have no active weapons of mass destruction program," Drumheller said.
Some six months before America invaded Iraq, C.I.A. Director George Tenet delivered Foreign Minister Sabir’s critical intelligence news at a meeting attended by President Bush, Vice President Cheney and Condoleezza Rice, then National Security Advisor. But they were only interested in intelligence that would justify their decision to invade Iraq. Drumheller stated, "The group that was dealing with preparation for the Iraq war came back and said, ‘They’re no longer interested.’ And we said, ‘Well, what about the intel?,’ And they said. ‘Well, this isn’t isn’t about intel anymore. This is about regime change.’"
When "60 Minutes" host Ed Bradley said that the Iraqi foreign minister’s disclosure "directly contradicts what the president and his staff were telling us," Tyler Drumheller replied, "The policy was set. The war in Iraq was coming and they were looking for intelligence to fit into the policy, to justify the policy."
Drumheller ended, "The American people want to believe the president. I have relatives who I’ve tried to talk to about this who say, ‘Well, no, you can’t tell me the president had this information and just ignored it.’ But I think over time, people will look back on this and see this was– this is– this is going to be one of the great, I think, policy mistakes of all time."
A month earlier, Paul Pillar, another veteran C.I.A. official, publicly charged that the Bush administration had selectively ignored crucial intelligence assessments about Iraq’s unconventional weapons and about the likelihood of post-war chaos in Iraq." (The New York Times, Apr. 22, 2006)
Another reported example of paving the pathway to war and occupation with deceit involves two small trailers captured by American-led coalition forces, and cited by the Bush administration as mobile laboratories for making biological weapons. On May 29, 2003, President Bush claimed on Polish television, "We found the weapons of mass destruction. We found biological laboratories."
A Washington Post story recently disclosed that a secret Pentagon-sponsored team of experts had examined the two trailers and "unanimously" concluded they "had nothing to do with biological weapons." The experts’ findings were communicated "to
Washington in a field report on May 27, 2003, two days before the president’s statement." A final report was presented "three weeks later." The reports "were stamped ‘secret’ and shelved. Meanwhile," The Post story went on, "for nearly a year, administration officials continued to publicly assert that the trailers were weapons factories." (Apr. 12, 2006)
One of those "administration officials" who continued to turn the two benign trailers into terrorist weaponry was Vice President Cheney, also a United Methodist. Over three months after authoritative opinion dubbed the two trailers "the biggest sand toilets in the world," Cheney said about them on NBC ‘s Meet the Press, "They’re in our possession today, mobile biological facilities that can be used to produce anthrax or smallpox or whatever else you wanted to use during the course of developing the capacity for an attack." (Sept. 14, 2003)
Considerable evidence of deceit and hypocrisy exists that would seem to morally outrage United Methodist leaders-and other people of faith as well. "The secret Downing Street memo" of July 2002 revealed that "Bush wanted to remove Saddam Hussein through military action justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD," and that "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy" by the Bush administration to justify invading Iraq. (The Sunday Times Britain, May 1, 2005)
Another confidential British memo, reported by The New York Times on March 27, 2006, states that President Bush "made clear to Prime Minister Tony Blair," in a private Oval Office meeting on January 31, 2003, "that he was determined to invade Iraq" without a UN resolution condemning Iraq, "or even if international arms inspectors failed to find unconventional weapons." The "extremely secretive" memo also says that Bush and Blair "acknowledged that no unconventional weapons had been found inside Iraq." And "the possibility of not finding any before the planned invasion" led Bush to propose provoking "a confrontation" by painting "a United States surveillance plane in the colors of the United Nations in the hopes of drawing fire, or assassinating Mr. Hussein." (Mar. 27, 2006)
"I pray for peace. I pray for peace." Paul O’Neill, former Treasury Secretary, said that removing Saddam Hussein from power "was topic ‘A’ 10 days after the inauguration-eight months before Sept 11." (www.cbsnews.com, Jan 11, 2004)
"I pray daily. I pray for wisdom and guidance and strength." Richard Clarke, President Bush’s former chief advisor on terrorism, reported that Bush seemed determined to use the 9/11 attack against America as a pretext to invade Iraq. Clarke said Bush told him "to find whether Iraq did this." And when he replied, "We looked into it . . . [and] there’s no connection," Bush insisted that he "come back with a report that said Iraq did this." (www.cbsnews.com, Mar. 21, 2004) Out of one side of his mouth Bush was secretly "fixing" intelligence to justify military aggression against Iraq, while publicly "praying for peace" out of the other side.
Last November, 95 United Methodist bishops signed a "Statement of Conscience" in which they said, "We repent of our complicity in what we believe to be an unjust and immoral invasion and occupation of Iraq." They lamented that "too many of us were silent . . . in the face of the United States Administration’s rush toward military action based on misleading information." (italics added) They confessed "preoccupation with institutional enhancement and limited agendas while American men and women are sent to Iraq to kill and be killed, while thousands of Iraqi people needlessly suffer and die, while poverty increases and preventable diseases go untreated." Their concluding commitment: "Let us object with boldness when governing powers offer solutions of war that conflict with the gospel message of self-emptying love."
When will these United Methodist bishops really begin to "object with boldness" against the "governing powers" who have violated the gospel’s "message of self-emptying love?" The "governing powers," who have also violated United Methodism’s insistence that "the first moral duty . . . is to resolve by peaceful means every dispute between [nations]," are these bishops’ own church members: President Bush and Vice President Cheney! Furthermore, the "rush toward military action based on misleading information "was not an act of "the United States Administration" but of the Bush administration. And contrary to the opinions of certain "military professionals," the present "quagmire" is not believed to be about making "mistakes" in the invasion and occupation of Iraq, but about committing war crimes.
If these 95 United Methodist bishops really believe the invasion and occupation of Iraq is "unjust and immoral," their next bold step should be presenting a resolution to their own Council of Bishops, calling for the censure of President Bush and Vice President Cheney. The Council should also recommend to the Church’s Jurisdictional Council that, in accordance with the Book of Discipline, these two "professing member[s] . . . be charged with the following offenses: . . . (b) crime . . . and (c) disobedience to the Order and Discipline of The United Methodist Church." ("Chargeable Offenses," p. 719) And local churches, Annual Conferences, the Methodist Federation for Social Action and its Conference chapters, and other related agencies across United Methodism could also initiate resolutions censuring Bush and Cheney, which might include calls for impeachment proceedings.
Considerable evidence indicates that America’s United Methodist president and vice president repeatedly used deceit and hypocrisy to wage war for oil and global domination apparently, and to maintain political power at home, primarily to serve corporate interests. As a result of their horrible war crimes against Iraq, a vast majority of people abroad believe our president is the most dangerous leader in the world. And a growing majority of Americans believe he has become the greatest threat to their security.
Numerous religious organizations and interfaith groups have opposed the Bush administration’s invasion and occupation of Iraq. The next prophetic step of these people of faith should also be to initiate their own movements to censure President Bush and Vice President Cheney and call for impeachment proceedings. For the sake of Iraq and Iran and North Korea-and America, it is time to stop President Bush from "praying for peace."
Rev. WILLIAM E. ALBERTS, Ph.D. is a hospital chaplain. Both a Unitarian Universalist and a United Methodist minister, he has written research reports, essays and articles on racism, war, politics and religion. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.