Eastern Pennsylvania Conference - United Methodist Church

Church and Society Work Team

Responding to impending war with Iraq



In the event that war is declared against Iraq, many church and community groups are planning to gather for prayer, reflection, or protest. Here are resources for the occasion.


United Methodist Church on War

"We believe war is incompatible with the teachings and example of Christ. We therefore reject war as a usual instrument of national foreign policy and insist that the first moral duty of all nations is to resolve by peaceful means every dispute that arises between or among them; that human values must outweigh military claims as governments determine their priorities; that the militarization of society mst be challen-ged and stopped; that the manufacture, sale and deployment of armaments must be reduced and controlled; and that the production, possession, or use of nuclear weapons be condemned."

--United Methodist Social Principles, ¶165(C), Discipline (2000).

Responding to Myths about War on Iraq*

Myth # 1
The United States has the right to wage preemptive war against Iraq

Preemptive war is war of aggression. Under international law, a preemptive war may be justified as an act of self-defense only where there exists a genuine and imminent threat of physical attack.

Bush's preemptive war against Iraq doesn't even purport to preempt a physical attack. It purports to preempt a threat that is neither issued nor posed.

Iraq is not issuing threats of attack against the United States. It is only the United States that threatens war.

There has been no evidence that Iraq is capable of an attack on the U.S., let alone possessing the intention of carrying out such an attack.

Myth # 2
The U.N. Security Council can lawfully authorize preemptive war

The United Nations Security Council cannot authorize a potential nuclear U.S. first strike and war of aggression that violates the U.N. Charter, international law and the law prohibiting war crimes, crimes against the peace and crimes against humanity. The U.N. Charter–which creates the Security Council and which grants the Council its authority–requires the "Security Council to act in accordance with the Purposes and Principles of the United Nations." (Article 24)

The U.N. Charter requires international disputes or situations that might lead to a breach of peace to be resolved by peaceful means. (Article 1 and Chapter VI) In other words, a nation may not wage war based on the claim that it seeks to prevent war. A nation may use force uni-laterally in self-defense only "if an armed attack occurs" against it. (Article 51)

Myth # 3
The United States Congresscan lawfully authorize preemptive war against Iraq

Article VI of the U.S. Constitution establishes that ratified treaties, such as the U.N. Charter, are the "supreme law of the land."

The U.N. Charter has been ratified by the United States, and the Congress may not take actions--including wars of aggression--in violation of the Charter.

Wars of aggression, and even the making of the threat of a war of aggression, violates the international humanitarian law to which all nations are bound.

Neither Congress nor the President has the right to engage the U.S. in a war of aggression and any vote of endorse-ment, far from legalizing or legitimizing global war plans, serves only as ratifica-tion of war crimes.

Myth # 4
The U.S. government intends to "liberate" the Iraqi people

The October 11, 2002, New York Times revealed the true plans of the United States: "The White House is developing a detailed plan, modeled on the postwar occupation of Japan, to install an American-led military government in Iraq if the United States topples Saddam Hussein, senior administration officials said today.…

In the initial phase, Iraq would be governed by an American military commander--perhaps Gen. Tommy R. Franks, commander of the United States forces in the Persian Gulf, or one of his subordinates–who would assume the role that Gen. Douglas MacArthur served in Japan after its sur-render in 1945." ("U.S. has a plan to occupy Iraq, officials report") The true intention of the U.S. government is to recolonize Iraq. Prior to the 1960s, U.S. corporations made 50 percent of their foreign profits from investments in oil from this region. The Bush administration wants Iraq to denation-alize its oil wealth–10% of the world's supply. This war is an attempt to reconquer Iraq and all of its natural resources. The Bush administration wants to reshuffle the deck in the Middle East and undo all of the achievements of the national liberation movements from the last sixty years. They want to eliminate independence for all countries in the region and assert their domination and control--not in the interest of the vast majority of people--but for access to oil.

Myth # 5
Iraq is a military threat to the world

There is no record to support this claim. During the Gulf War of 1991, while the United States bombed Iraq with a barrage that included 110,000 sorties, Iraq did not destroy even one U.S. tank or plane.

Desert Storm destroyed, according to U.N. weapons inspectors, 80% of Iraq's weaponry. As part of the inspections that followed, 90% of Iraq's remaining military capability was destroyed.

Iraq has been paying indemnities to Kuwait and U.S. oil corporations since 1991 and has not had the financial capacity to build another arsenal.

In addition, there has not been a threat by Iraq of any kind against any other country.

Myth # 6
Iraq threw out the weapons inspectors

Iraq did not tell the inspectors to leave. The weapons inspectors withdrew in December 1998 because the United States told them to pull out so that the U.S. could launch a bombing campaign on Baghdad.

The next day, on December 16, the U.S. unleashed Operation Desert Fox, which included dropping 1,100 bombs and Cruise missiles on Iraq.

After the bombing campaign, a Washington Post report confirmed the assertions of Iraq that the inspections were intelligence-gathering exercises conducted on the orders of the Defense Intelligence Agency. The Pentagon used the information collected from the so-called inspections to set up coordinates for its bombing operations. After this revelation, the Iraqi government quite understandably did not let the inspectors back in.

Myth # 7
Sanctions are a kinder, gentler way to deal with Iraq

The plan for sanctions on Iraq came from the Pentagon, not the Department of Health and Human Services. It was a central part of the Pentagon's war strate-gy against the Iraqi people. Sanctions have been more devastating than the Gulf War itself.

"UNICEF confirms that five to six thousand Iraqi children are dying unnec-essarily every month due to the impact of the sanctions, and that figure is probably modest," Denis Halliday told a Congressional hearing in October 1998. Halliday, who had just resigned his post as U.N. Assistant Secretary General and head of the U.N. humanitarian mission in Iraq, spoke of the "tragic incompatibil-ity of sanctions with the U.N. Charter and the Convention on Human Rights."
Myth # 8
The UN allows U.S. and U.K. planes to bomb the "No Fly Zones" The United States agreed to a ceasefire with Iraq in February 1991. The no-flight zones over two-thirds of Iraq were imposed by the U.S., Britain and France 18 months after the Gulf War. The United Nations has never sanctioned the no-flight zones.

France has since condemned them. The so-called no-flight zones are in violation of international law.

Iraq has every right under international law and all known laws in the world to defend itself in these U.S.-declared no-flight zones. According to Article 51 of the U.N. Charter, Iraq has the right of self-defense in all of its country, including these "no-flight zones."

Myth # 9
The people support a war on Iraq

Not even opinion polls support this phony assertion. The polls confirm that there is wide opposition to a war.

Normally there is wide support for a president who is about to launch a war. Instead, Congressional offices report overwhelming constituent opposition to a unilateral war on Iraq.

Worldwide, the opposition is even bigger. While British Prime Minister Tony Blair is a vocal acolyte of Bush, few in Britain support a war on Iraq. Already, a march against war of 400,000 was held in London.

Similar demonstrations have been held in Rome and Madrid. The general sentiment in Europe was summed up by the Greek Development Minister who said, "We are totally opposed to any military conflict ... even if there is a UN Resolution."

Around the world, the sentiment is no different. New Zealand's government opposes the war. No country in the Middle East supports a war on Iraq. Lebanon, Jordan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates all oppose a war. As do France, Russia and China.

Myth # 10
War will be good for the economy

It already costs U.S. taxpayers $50 bil-lion per year to keep U.S. armed forces in the Persian Gulf. The estimated $200 billion for a war on Iraq will come straight out of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, education and welfare. The average working-class taxpayer will foot the bill. The upper classes have already had their taxes greatly reduced so that they pay only a small part of the bill.

Myth # 11
This war will be quick and painless

War is rarely quick, never painless. A new war will be neither. The 4.8 million people in Baghdad face an invasion by the most modern and lethally equipped military in the world. Iraq is a nation of 22 million people. They will bear the brunt of the pain and the deaths of the war.

Myth # 12
Gulf War Syndrome is a myth

The Veterans Benefits Administration Office noted that 36% of Desert Storm vets have filed claims for service-related disabilities. A primary reason is because the U.S. used Depleted Uranium. In July 1990, "The U.S. Army Armaments Munitions and Chemical Command admitted DU posed longterm risks to natives and combat veterans.... Low doses have been linked to cancer." Gulf War vets have a 500% greater incidence of Lou Gehrig's disease than the general population. Desert Storm female vets have a 300% greater inci-dence of bearing children with birth defects. For male vets the figure is 200%.

* Source:
International A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition
Act Now to Stop War & End Racism

War with Iraq is a Hunger Issue"

Are there alternatives to war against Iraq? Hungry people hope so.
--from Bread for the World newsletter, December 2002

The United States seems headed toward war against Iraq. But military action against Iraq could bring dire consequences for hungry and poor people—not only in Iraq, but around the world. As peacemakers and justice-seekers, Christians have a responsibility to weigh the ethical concerns raised by this impending war and make a faithful response.

War Causes Hunger
The developing world--already devastated by the global economic downturn, falling commodity prices, and the inability of governments to invest in education and health—cannot afford the costs and disruption of war. More than a billion people do not have access to clean drinking water, and about 2.5 billion people lack proper toilets or sewage systems. More than 40 million people are living with HIV/AIDS, and there are 14 million AIDS orphans under the age of 14. Hunger daily stalks nearly 800 million people in the developing world. Every day 31,000 people die from preventable causes, half of them hunger-related. Terrorist attacks convinced President Bush that reducing poverty in the world is important to U.S. national security, and he has called for an increase in international development assistance. But the cost of war will make it more difficult for the president to live up to his new commitment to international development.

The U.S. economy is mired in a significant slump. Over the past two years, the stock market dropped sharply and unemployment rose steadily. In just over a year, the federal budget slid from a $236 billion surplus to a $165 billion deficit. A war against Iraq would add to the U.S. budget deficit and crowd out funding for programs that help hungry and poor people. Already, pressure is now increasing to cut programs that help hungry and poor people. Cash-strapped states are cutting social services. Emergency food pantries are reporting increases in the numbers of people seeking food, 40 percent of them from working families.

Even before the first bomb is dropped, the rush to war has hurt families who struggle with hunger and poverty. The only two appropriations bills that Congress approved in 2002 were for military spending. Committees in both houses agreed to increase development assistance, but the bill was not finalized. The U.S government does not even have sufficient funding to move available food to avert famine in southern Africa. Congress and the president also failed to finish their work on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) reauthorization, the most important domestic hunger policy issue on their agenda in 2002. Congress and the president have been preoccupied with war and security. They are not paying attention to what's happening to poor people.

Hungry and poor people are being pushed aside in the rush to war. Where is the sense of urgency about their increased suffering?

If the United States goes to war, the cost could easily exceed the $60 billion incurred during the Gulf War, when U.S. allies footed two-thirds of the bill. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that a war against Iraq would cost at least $9 billion the first month and $8 billion each month thereafter. If the United States devoted each year the cost equivalent of just one month of a war against Iraq to debt relief for poor countries and to programs that improve health, education, agriculture, water, roads and sanitation, the lives of hungry and poor people around the world could be vastly improved.

--excerpted from Bread for the World newsletter, December 2002. (The full article, including action suggestions is posted on-line at www.bread.org ).

Increasing Hunger in Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Hunger Action Center reports that major sources of emergency food assistance are drying up while the need for assistance is growing rapidly. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has run out of funds to buy bonus food commodities through The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). With the prospect of $200 billion in new "defense" spending due to war in Iraq, the Bush administration decided not to request funds for drought relief, and USDA Secretary Ann Veneman has diverted $900 million normally used to purchase excess food commodities to aid western livestock farmers affected by the drought. At the same time State funds have been cut and corporate donations are down. For more details and action opportunities, contact the Pennsylvania Hunger Action Center, www.pahunger.org, pahunger@paonline.org, 208 N. Third Street, Suit 200, Harrisburg, PA 17101 (717) 233-6705.

Resources for Action

Many Pennsylvania groups are organizing gatherings and marches to protest President Bush's preparations for preemptive war on Iraq. For information about local activities, contact your local peace center:

* In the Lehigh Valley: LEPOCO (Lehigh-Pocono Committee of Concern), 313 W. 4th St. , Bethlehem, PA 18015 www.lepoco.org 610-691-8730. LEPOCO is non-sectarian, but many church-related folks work with LEPOCO. LEPOCO has a monthly newsletter (not available by Email.)

* In the central Pennsylvania area there is a new Peace and Justice calendar, distributed monthly by e-mail. To receive the email calendar, send your request to Valerie Weaver-Zercher (valdave@paonline.com).

* National Council of Churches web site includes a schedule of New York area and national events:
Rev. Bob Edgar, General Secretary of the NCCC, is an ordained United Methodist elder and former Pennsylvania Congressman.

* United for Peace -- web site includes national and state calendar of events related to stopping war with Iraq.

* Other Peace resources, including liturgy: www.ppjr.org/peace/

* For more information about the United Methodist involvement in war and peace issues, see the GBCS website, www.umc-gbcs.org or contact the Church and Society Work Team: Bob Walden, 610-861-0653, rwaldenpa@entermail.net

For Eastern Pennsylvania Conference, see the Iraq discussion on EPA webpage: www.epaumc.org.

Church and Society Work Team
Eastern Pennsylvania Conference
United Methodist Church
Last updated January 13, 2003