August 19, 2002
More Voices Seldom Heard
-- Martin E. Marty
Next month in Nebraska I am to speak on non-violence -- domestic and international -- and education. While researching, I did a quick mental canvass. It is hard to think of any media coverage of religious witness against war in Iraq.
Before the Gulf War most Catholic, Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist bishops and their counterparts counseled the government to seek alternatives to war. The minute the first missile was fired, most fell silent, it being unpatriotic to continue to speak up. So far this time we have heard less, but not nothing, from religious leaders of many sorts. What has happened?
Of course, September 11 happened and silenced voices against war. The pursuit of terrorists still concerns all and consumes significant energy. Many peace advocates are weary and hopeless as the conflict between Israel and Palestine grinds on. The designs of Saddam Hussein, real or imagined, make the case against war more difficult. And generally speaking it is hard to combine patriotism with critical distance on national policies.
But I do want continue sighting bits of a catalogue of testimonies. Last week Sightings sighted such, but the voices are few. Let me start with a column by friend and birthday-mate -- February 5, 1928 -- Father Andrew Greeley (email: email@example.com). His national column was not about non-violence but about the cost of war, a cost often glossed over in policy talk today. Quoting Winston Churchill in the days of the Boer War, he wrote, "Never, never, never believe any war will be smooth and easy."
Let me now simply borrow some of Father Andy's non-romantic words about Iraq: "Suppose it will require only a quarter-million American troops. It is not unreasonable to project a 5 percent casualty rate -- perhaps 15,000 body bags. Tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of Iraqis will die. . . In the end, we will not have found Saddam Hussein any more than we have found Osama bin Laden. Chemical and biological weapons will have fallen on Israel. Oil prices will have gone sky high. A shattering blow will have hit the fragile American economy. . . Iraq will be a mess. There will be more violence throughout the Near East. Our relationships with our allies will have been sundered. The real war on terrorism will have been neglected. The United States will be more of a police state than it has ever been. . . . Unless someone can stop this relentless and manic rush to war, there will be bad times ahead, very bad times."
Next week we’ll check in with some international critics and then come back home in columns before September 11, reflecting what some would call our old chauvinist ways.
God bless America. And God bless those with courage to criticize America.