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National Baptist Denomination Presidents Position Statement
BAPTIST LEADERS CALL FOR END TO WAR IN IRAQ AND REMOVAL OF ATTORNEY GENERAL ALBERTO GONZALES
Washington, D.C. -- As presidents of the four national black Baptist denominations - National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. led by Dr. William J. Shaw, National Baptist Convention of America, Inc. led by Dr. Stephen J. Thurston, Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc. led by Dr. T. Dewitt Smith and National Missionary Baptist Convention of America led by Dr. C. C. Robertson - whose combined membership totals almost fifteen million people, we announce today our joint commitment to intensify efforts in two pressing moral issues affecting public policy: ending our nation’s military involvement in Iraq, and installing competent and trustworthy leadership at the Department of Justice. We Call for Withdrawal of U.S. Military Personnel from Iraq We first called for an end to the war in Iraq and withdrawal of U.S. military personnel from Iraq following a joint meeting of our bodies the week of January 24-27, 2005, in Nashville, Tennessee. From the outset, Iraq did not pose an immediate or realistic threat to our national security. No weapons of mass destruction were discovered, and there is reason to believe that the war was begun on grossly inaccurate, misconstrued, or distorted information. Before our nation invaded Iraq, its people struggled under the brutality and tyranny of Saddam Hussein. Now, they struggle under brutality, chaos, and a civil war that the invasion triggered. What the Department of Defense calls Operation Iraqi Freedom has ravaged the land, ransacked cherished aspects of Iraqi history and culture, morphed into a new breeding ground for global terrorism, and unleashed ethnic and religious strife. When we issued our joint statement in January 2005, the war had claimed the lives of more than 1400 U.S. military personnel and had wounded more than 10,000 of their comrades. At that time, our war effort was costing $4.3 billion a month, according to a front page story in the January 16, 2005 issue of USA Today. Since then, the casualty and fiscal toll has more than doubled. According to a June 1, 2007, report from the Department of Defense, almost 3500 U.S. military personnel have been killed in
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Operation Iraqi Freedom. More than 25,000 have been wounded.1 By some estimates, the U.S. war
effort now costs $10 billion a month. We have no official count, either from President Bush or the leaders of Iraq, about how many Iraqi civilians have been killed and maimed.
We continue to pray for the security of our nation and the safety of our military personnel. We continue to weep with families who mourn the deaths of their loved ones, and share the anxiety of families concerning the well-being of those who press on in service. However, we are not fooled. President Bush has stated that he envisions a U.S. role in Iraq that is similar to what exists in South Korea, where the U.S. military presence is now lasted for more than two generations. Not only has he vetoed war funding legislation containing timelines for ending the U.S. military presence, President Bush has stated that he does not foresee removing U.S. military personnel before his presidency ends in 2009. As religious leaders, we call on our constituents to appeal to the members of the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate to discontinue funding military operations in Iraq. We will also work with other religious and secular organizations toward that purpose, and intend to focus on ending funding for military operations in Iraq at our respective national meetings later this summer. The recent supplemental legislation passed concerning Iraq is designed to fund combat operations thru September of this year. We now call on our constituents and will devote our personal and collective leadership efforts to urge members of Congress to include an immediate withdrawal of U.S. combat forces from Iraq in any future legislation. Between now and September, we will lobby members of Congress concerning our position, and will call on them to embrace it when funding for the war is reconsidered in September. President Bush has declared that he will not sign any legislation that includes a timetable for ending the U.S. combat role in Iraq. He argues that the nation should await reports from “commanders in the field” before deciding whether the mission in Iraq should end. That position is morally indefensible. This war was a moral misadventure from the start that claims more American and Iraqi lives every day. President Bush, a political official, started this war, not the U.S. military. It is morally inexcusable for him to shift the moral burden of ending it onto the military. And, it is politically unconscionable for Congress to continue funding combat operations that will only add to the carnage, death, and sorrow that this war has produced. We will oppose any effort to continue U.S. military operations in Iraq beyond September 2007. We will oppose any policy aimed at extending the service of U.S. military personnel in Iraq beyond September 2007. And, we will oppose the candidacy of any official who supports extending a U.S. combat mission in Iraq past September 2007. We will urge our constituents to oppose the reelection of any members of Congress who vote to continue funding combat operations in Iraq past September 2007, and will encourage them to work with other groups in doing so. There has been enough killing and maiming already. As religious leaders, we will not stand by and watch it continue, and the nation continue to lose its soul, while politicians fabricate new excuses for this inexcusable war.
The June 1, 2007 casualty figures are taken from a report found on the official website for the Department of Defense at www.defenselink.mil/news/casualty.pdf. showing fatalities and wounded totals as of June 1, 2007, at 10 a.m. EDT.
Page 3 – National Baptist Convention Presidents Position Statement War and peace is always an issue of values. As Dr. Martin Luther King said forty years ago, “this business of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into veins of people normally humane, of sending men [and women] home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love.” It is time for the United States to stop its military involvement in Iraq.
Call for removal of Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General of the United States The Department of Justice is responsible for the fair and efficient administration of justice in our society. At minimum, the person serving as Attorney General should be fair-minded, ethical, and trustworthy. We opposed the nomination of Alberto Gonzales to become Attorney General of the United States in January 2005 based on our conviction that he lacked those qualities. It is now unmistakably clear that our concerns were justified. Revelations about improprieties involving fairness, integrity, and competence are commonplace within the Justice Department. Attorney General Gonzales is responsible for decisions to remove federal prosecutors for what appear to have been unethical reasons. His explanations for the ways that the Justice Department has performed, regarding this and other issues, are filled with inconsistencies. In some instances, those explanations have been contradicted by members of his staff. We call on President Bush to replace Attorney General Gonzales with someone whose integrity and competence will inspire trust in the fair and efficient administration of justice. By his refusal to do so, President Bush has not only indicated that he prefers cronyism to competence and credibility, but has openly endorsed policies and practices that run counter to justice. In the coming weeks, we will work within our respective bodies to urge the House of Representatives and the Senate to exercise their oversight responsibilities so that the growing ethical issues surrounding the Justice Department will be resolved. The administration of justice should never be a political game or be entrusted to people based on cronyism and partisan political loyalties.
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Conclusion No ill-conceived, unnecessary, and costly war is ever made honorable by forcing more people to die in it. And, there is nothing honorable, just, or virtuous about retaining governmental leaders who lack integrity. As religious leaders, we call on the American people to urge President Bush to remove U.S. military personnel from Iraq, and to replace Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General of the United States. __________________________________ William J. Shaw, President National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. __________________________________ Stephen J. Thurston, President National Baptist Convention of America, Inc. ___________________________________ T. DeWitt Smith, President Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc. ____________________________________ C. C. Robertson, President National Missionary Baptist Convention of America
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