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Saturday, February 1, 2003

Buehrens on Iraq, five years ago.

When Saddam Hussein refused to allow the U.N. weapons inspectors access to high-security sites in January 1998, President Clinton considered going to war to force his compliance. Last-minute diplomacy postponed a strike until the end of the year, when the U.S. launched a retaliatory strike, leaving Saddam in power but damaging approximately 100 military targets in Iraq. During the initial crisis, on February 18, 1998, John Buehrens, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association, sent the following message to members of the UUA:

Like many of you, I finished listening to President Clinton's statement concerning Iraq and was reminded of what Thoreau said at the time of the Mexican War: "Blessed are the children, for they have not read the President's message."

Many Unitarian Universalists will oppose the use of military force. For many in our family of faith, such opposition is a matter of consistency and conscience. Like conscientious objectors in other eras, such opponents of militarism deserve our respect and support.

Unlike Quakers and other religious communities committed to a consistent peace witness, Unitarian Universalism also includes many individuals who believe that military force is sometimes, sadly, necessary. I am one such person.

In recent decades three Unitarian Universalists have served as U.S. Secretary of Defense — Elliot Richardson, William Perry, and now, William Cohen. Those who take on such daunting responsibilities also deserve our respect and support, as do all the men and women who serve in our military.

The crisis in Iraq seems to me like a police hostage crisis. Saddam Hussein holds innocent men, women and children within his country, along with weapons of mass destruction dangerous not only to them, but to the entire neighborhood and to the world community.

The resolutions of the United Nations must be enforced. The failure of the UN's predecessor, The League of Nations, was a direct result of its failure to enforce its resolutions against aggressive dictators and terrorist regimes. The Secretary General, responding to members of the Security Council reluctant to see force used, will use every diplomatic tool available to him to resolve the crisis. Let us hope that he is successful. If he is not, let us pray that the use of force is as it should be: proportional to the goals of the UN, with minimal impact on civilians. In my judgment, the consequences of diplomatic failure will belong squarely with Saddam Hussein, as will those of any attempt to use civilians as human shields. Such tactics are truly those of a ruthless dictator.

I do not ask every Unitarian Universalist to think alike in this complex matter. I do ask that we maintain the bonds of love and respect within our family of faith and in every public discussion. May freedom of conscience, reasoned discussion, and tolerance of differing perspectives be the method by which we teach one another to be persons of moral character and spiritual leadership. And may we serve, each in our own way, that world of justice and peace for which we all yearn, together.

Now, Buehrens clearly opposes military action against Iraq. What are the key differences between his position in 1998 and today? More soon . . .

Copyright © 2003 by Philocrites | Posted 1 February 2003 at 8:48 PM

Previous: When our tools fail and words do not console.
Next: Buehrens on Iraq today.

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