Bob Edgar's statement as part of a National Council of Churches delegation of 13 religious leaders and experts visiting Iraq is rife with issues that need to be addressed. I would like to respond to a few.

The group declared itself to be a "religious and not a political delegation." Its statement then proceeded to make a political assertion that "a war against Iraq will make the U.S. less secure. . . .We believe the entire region, including Israel and the United States, will be at greater risk of terrorism if war takes place." This conclusion is not only political, it is also highly debatable. Does anyone really think President Bush, Secretaries Colin Powell and Donald Rumsfeld, and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice think that such a conclusion is correct? Of course they don't, or they would not be insisting that Saddam Hussein give up his weapons of mass destruction.

Edgar and his NCC delegation make much of the suffering of the Iraqi people under the United Nations sanctions. Did they choose to ignore the fact that the UN and United States are not responsible for the suffering of the Iraqi people? That responsibility belongs to their pathological and brutal head of state, Saddam Hussein. The sanctions and suffering would end if Hussein would comply with the UN inspections he agreed to--then defied or ignored for more than a decade. During the period of the sanctions, while his people have suffered, Hussein has continued to construct lavish presidential palaces and to squander resources in his pursuit of weapons of mass destruction. The people suffer because of Saddam Hussein, not the UN or the United States.

When Edgar and his delegation do turn to religious matters, they declare, "As disciples of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, we know this war is completely antithetical to his teachings." Note that they don't "think," but they "know" that armed intervention in Iraq is anti-Christian. Such certitude is as startling in its arrogance as it is in its source, the habitually relativist NCC.

Many Christians argue that this war does meet just war criteria in that it has the just intent of freeing the Iraqi people and the entire region from the criminal behavior of Saddam Hussein--who, it must be remembered, has already attacked and gassed his own people and his neighbors. America's just intent is to liberate the Iraqi people and their neighbors from Saddam Hussein's state-sponsored terror. To avert war, all Hussein must do is demonstrably comply with the UN's requirement that he rid himself of such weapons and of the means to deliver them.

For most of Christian history, just war theology has been the guide that governs when armed conflict is acceptable under the authority accorded the state by God. (Roman 13:1-4) More than a century and a half ago, John Stuart Mill reminded us that "war is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state ...which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse."

When I read statements like Edgar's, I wonder if he and those who agree with him have lost touch with the reality of true evil in the world, and whether their theological cognitive grid just can't conceive of the evil Hussein is clearly capable of doing.

An old professor of mine, Paul Ramsey, used to remind us that "a policy of 'anticipatory reconciliation' to which we Christians are prone is simply not sufficient in foreign affairs. The counsel this policy yields is, on all occasions, Stop, Do Less, Let Peace Prevail." It always gives the enemy the benefit of the doubt, assumes he can be reconciled and understood, and what have we done to provoke him? That kind of thinking lead Neville Chamberlain to come back from Munich waving a piece of paper proclaiming he had procured "peace for our time."

When I read Bob Edgar's statement, I could almost hear the once-familiar sounds of people saying, "Give peace a chance." Bob, this is not 1968, and this is not Vietnam.

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