ACTION ALERT: Christian Leaders Call for End to US Strikes in Iraq, Focus on Peaceful Resolution

August 29th, 2014 - by admin

David Gibson / Religion News Service – 2014-08-29 01:30:26

(August 28, 2014) — Even as some prominent Christians are calling on the US to take more forceful military action against Islamic extremists in Iraq and Syria, more than 50 mainly Catholic and Protestant leaders are telling President Obama to halt American airstrikes and pursue solely peaceful means to resolve the conflict.

“While the dire plight of Iraqi civilians should compel the international community to respond in some way, US military action is not the answer,” the 53 clergy, theologians and religious sisters and brothers write in the Aug. 27 open letter.

“Lethal weapons and airstrikes will not remove the threat to a just peace in Iraq,” they continue. “As difficult as it might be, in the face of this great challenge, we believe that the way to address the crisis is through long-term investments in supporting inclusive governance and diplomacy, nonviolent resistance, sustainable development, and community-level peace and reconciliation processes.”

The signatories note that while Pope Francis recently said it was “licit to stop the unjust aggressor” — referring to the Islamic State, or IS — the pontiff underscored that he was not endorsing bombing or warfare.

Among the Catholic signers are Patrick Carolan, executive director of the Franciscan Action Network; Gerry G. Lee, director of the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns; Sister Patricia Chappell, executive director of Pax Christi USA; and Sister Janet Mock, executive director of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.

Others include Susan T. Henry-Crowe, general secretary, General Board of Church and Society for the United Methodist Church, and the Rev. Gradye Parsons, stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly, in addition to numerous university professors and other Protestant denominational leaders.

The signers argued that many factors contributed to the current volatile mix in the Middle East, including past US political and military campaigns in the region. And they point to the American strikes that helped oust Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011 as an example of how that approach has backfired.

“More bombing will ultimately mean more division, bloodshed, recruitment for extremist organizations, and a continual cycle of violent intervention,” they write.

The letter writers list eight specific recommendations for their “just peace” agenda, including an arms embargo and financial sanctions on the armed groups.

This week’s letter stands in stark contrast to a petition launched earlier this month by more than 50 Catholic, evangelical and Jewish activists who demanded that Obama sharply escalate military action against Islamic extremists in Iraq. They said “nothing short of the destruction” of the Islamic State can protect Christians and other religious minorities.

Also this month, Robert P. George, a prominent Catholic conservative and Republican activist at Princeton University, told televangelist Pat Robertson that the US has to lead a campaign to destroy the IS, and he said he would support sending ground troops to Iraq if that’s what it takes to do the job.

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ACTION ALERT: Don’t bomb Syria Iraq
Credo Action

Tell President Obama:
“U.S. airstrikes accomplished their goal of blocking genocidal ISIS and helping to hold the Kurdish defense line in Northern Iraq. Don’t bomb Syria or launch additional airstrikes in Iraq without congressional approval and authorization by the U.N. Security Council.”
Sign Petition Here.

(August 25, 2014) — Yesterday, news broke that President Obama is authorizing surveillance flights over Syria. The New York Times called the flights “a significant step toward direct American military action in Syria.” (1)

That’s after top Obama administration officials, including Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, made public statements suggesting any broad U.S. battle against Sunni extremists should include incursions across the Iraq border into civil war torn Syria. (2)

If we don’t speak out, the president may be on the verge of committing the United States to yet another costly, open-ended war in the Middle East.

Tell President Obama: Don’t bomb Syria or launch additional airstrikes in Iraq without congressional approval and authorization by the U.N. Security Council.

Recently, emergency U.S. air strikes achieved their humanitarian purpose of blocking genocidal ISIS and helped protect minorities by holding the Kurdish defense line in Northern Iraq. But what should be a limited intervention under extreme circumstances could be expanded into a general conflict against ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) and American bombs could soon be falling on Syria.

In the wake of the terrible and sadistic beheading of American journalist James Foley, the Obama administration is visibly preparing for the possibility of additional U.S. airstrikes in Syria.

It was just a year ago that the American people resoundingly rejected unilateral war with Syria. (3) (4) But now, hawks are cynically exploiting Foley’s murder to push the U.S. down the slippery slope to all out war and massively expanded military operations in Iraq and Syria.

We have to speak out and tell President Obama that support for his initial emergency intervention was not a blank check to conduct continuing airstrikes in Iraq or expand the conflict into Syria without congressional approval.

Tell President Obama: Don’t bomb Syria or launch additional airstrikes in Iraq without congressional approval and authorization by the U.N. Security Council.

When President Obama ordered limited airstrikes and humanitarian assistance in Iraq, it was to protect tens of thousands of Yazidi (a religious minority in Iraq) from genocidal slaughter by ISIS and to relieve pressure on the semiautonomous Kurdistan region in Northern Iraq.

CREDO supported these limited airstrikes as a necessary step to prevent genocide and create space for the Kurdish military to successfully fight back against ISIS, but we also called for the president to seek congressional approval and build international consensus for any additional military action in the region. (5)

We warned, however, that any U.S. military engagement is unlikely to be successful without a political solution. President Obama himself has declared in the past that “there’s not going to be an American military solution to this problem. There’s going to have to be an Iraqi solution…” (6)

We have to speak out now to prevent the United States from being dragged down the slippery slope to another war in the Middle East.

Tell President Obama: Don’t bomb Syria or launch additional airstrikes in Iraq without congressional approval and authorization by the U.N. Security Council.

America, led by George W. Bush and his crew of neocon war hawks, broke Iraq and created the conditions for ISIS to thrive.

That ISIS is waging war with American military hardware that it captured from the Iraqi military neatly illustrates the iron law of unintended consequences that governs every American intervention in the region.

The only way to achieve a lasting peace in Iraq and Syria is to solve the underlying political problem that creates the conditions for groups like ISIS to attract followers: Authoritarian leaders stoking sectarian tensions and brutalizing their citizens to retain their hold on power. And that’s something that only truly representational governments in countries like Iraq and Syria — inclusive of all religious minorities — can even begin to address.

Tell President Obama: Don’t bomb Syria or launch additional airstrikes in Iraq without congressional approval and authorization by the U.N. Security Council.

Thank you for taking action.

Becky Bond is the Political Director of CREDO Action from Working Assets

1. Mark Landleder and Helene Cooper, “Obama Approves Air Surveillance of ISIS in Syria,” New York Times, August 25, 2014
2. Tom Cohen, “Is Obama heading toward airstrikes in Syria?” CNN, August 23, 2014
3. “Tell President Obama: Don’t bomb Syria,” CREDO Action
4. “Tell Congress: Don’t Bomb Syria,” CREDO Action
5. Michael Kieschnick, President of CREDO Mobile, “President Obama Is Right to Block the Genocidal ISIS and Hold the Kurdish Defense Line,” Huffington Post, August 8, 2014
6. “Statement by the President on Iraq,” August 9, 2014