WASHINGTON -- In not untypical fashion, the faithfully left-leaning National Council of Churches (NCC) has issued a poisonous little July 4 greeting to the American people.
The statement from the NCC Governing Board is not a celebration of two centuries of American democracy and religious liberty, with gratitude to God. It is instead a screed against the "dishonorable" war in Iraq.
"It has become clear that the rationale for invasion was at best a tragic mistake, at worst a clever deception," the statement generously opines.
Although comprised of denominations totaling over 40 million mainstream Americans, the NCC has for 40 years been a voice for unending 1960s' radical protest.
Headed by former Democratic Rep. Bob Edgar (who is also a United Methodist clergyman), the NCC is still fighting the Vietnam War, 30 years after its close. It is ironically appropriate that Edgar is leading the NCC's latest anti-war crusade. He has boasted that he served in the Congress that cut all aid to South Vietnam, clearing the way for the subsequent slaughter, persecution, poverty, and refugee crisis that followed in a communist-ruled Indochina.
Now Edgar and his NCC want to do for Iraq what they helped accomplish for South Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. Likening themselves to the "biblical prophets of old," the NCC wants to declare "NO" to "leaders who have sent many honorable sons and daughters to fight a dishonorable war."
The NCC also wants to shout "NO" to shameful abuse of prisoners, "NO" to a war price tag that allegedly "has rendered our federal budget incapable of caring for the poorest of our own citizens," and "NO" to theologies that supposedly "demonize" other nations and religions while claiming "righteousness for ourselves as if we share no complicity in human evil." Somehow the council forgot to wish President Bush and his Republican friends a happy Independence Day.
Not wanting to be entirely negative, the NCC also wants to say "YES" to "compassion" over "domination," to an early fixed timetable for U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq, to honoring the human rights even of enemies, to spending and taxing priorities that "put the poor first," to a "restoration of truth telling," and to "last resort" rather than "first strike" as the criterion for war.
The NCC frets that on the day Americans celebrate their freedom, the "freedom promised in the toppling of a dictator has been replaced by the humiliation of occupation and the violence of a civil war." Grudgingly, the statement also briefly acknowledges that a "cruel dictator" was deposed in Iraq, though it does not name who he was. Human rights in Iraq have never been a main concern for the NCC, except to use as a rhetorical weapon against the United States.
Edgar and the NCC long lambasted U.S.-supported sanctions against Iraq for ostensibly killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. The July 4 statement also bemoans the "untold numbers of Iraqis whose deaths we are unwilling to acknowledge or count."
The NCC has never expressed concern over the 1 million Iraqis killed by Saddam's regime, a number that would have been much higher absent the decade-long no-fly zones upheld by the U.S. and British air forces in defense of Shiites and Kurds.
BEFORE THE U.S. OVERTHROW of Saddam, Edgar and other NCC officials rushed to Baghdad to meet with Saddam's vice president, Tariq Aziz, and to offer their solidarity against the impending war. The subsequent discovery of mass graves, the endless tales of starvation and torture and mass murder under the Saddam regime, the reasonably successful election in Iraq early this year, and the opening to new freedoms such as religious liberty in Iraq have never been topics of great interest to the NCC.
Instead, the NCC has from the very start demanded complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. Those troops, according to the council, are the cause of "humiliation" for the Iraqi people. For the NCC, Iraq's problems began with the United States and will end with the U.S. departure. Tellingly, the NCC proclamation says nothing about what the Iraqis might expect after the last U.S. helicopter evacuated Baghdad. It does not appear to be concerned.
Always likening itself to Old Testament prophets when it issues its left-wing political fusillades, the NCC has forgotten who those prophets actually were. Ardent enforcers of ancient Israel's Jehovah-centered theocracy, prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah and Ezekiel damned the worship of false gods and the practice of what NCC officials might prefer to call "alternative lifestyles."
These "biblical prophets of old" likely would not have been pleased by the NCC's statement, also from this week, praising the Supreme Court decision against the display of the Ten Commandments in court houses. Nor would the NCC really have liked biblical prophets such as Samuel who, when King Saul refused to slay a captured heathen king, grabbed a sword and beheaded the unfortunate fallen monarch himself. Such prophecy!
Edgar and the NCC aren't demanding that President Bush behead Saddam. Instead, they are charitably focused on obtaining better treatment for Saddam's imprisoned followers. Less charitably, they are lobbying for a complete U.S. withdrawal that would permit some of Saddam's former murderers, with their Islamist allies from other nations, to attempt to take back Iraq. The ensuing bloodshed, tyranny, and chaos might even equal the horrors of 30 years ago, when Indochina was finally "liberated" from U.S. influence, thanks to policies advocated by the NCC and the congressional votes of prophets like Bob Edgar.