Christians welcome new dynamic of Iraq Study Group report

By staff writers
7 Dec 2006

The National Council of Churches USA has said that the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group "generally resonate" with church leaders' recommendations, and has urged President Bush and the United States Congress "to understand the opportunity presented by this report."

Meanwhile, in Britain, Fellowship of Reconciliation general secretary Chris Cole says that the report "shows very clearly that the invasion and occupation of Iraq has not worked."

What is needed instead, the head of the Christian peace network told Ekklesia today "is a radical shift of policy towards breaking the cycles of revenge and violence which are tearing the country - and the world - apart."

Cole pointed out that church leaders had highlighted the folly of military adventurism back in 2003, and had proposed non-violent alternatives. "At the time the US and British governments were not listening. Now, tragically, after tens of thousands more lives have been lost, they are being made to reconsider."

In November 2006, the General Assembly of the National Council of Churches USA, and the ecumenical dvelopment agency Church World Service, issued 'A Pastoral Message on the Iraq War" that called for a withdrawal of US troops and the rebuilding of a secure Iraqi society from the grassroots.

The NCCUSA is commending the Iraq Study Group Report for its encouragement of multilateral engagement in addressing the situation in Iraq, a move also called for by the NCC’s 'Pastoral Message.'

The Report’s recommendation that such engagement would include diplomatic initiatives with Iran and Syria, as well as involving the United Nations and other international partners, is consistent with other statements made by the NCCUSA in recent months and years, the response said.

The full text of the National Council of Churches USA statement on Iraq is as follows:

The National Council of Churches USA urges President George W. Bush to heed the recommendations in the Iraq Study Group Report. While no set of recommendations can right all of the wrongs evolving from the Iraq war, this report does lay groundwork for an end to the war that all sides can find acceptable. The president, as well as the newly-elected Congress, needs to understand the opportunity presented by this report.

The recommendations in the Iraq Study Group Report generally resonate with recommendations made by church leaders through the NCC. In 'A Pastoral Message on the Iraq War' issued at its November general assembly, the NCC called for a withdrawal of US troops, benchmarks for rebuilding Iraqi society, and steps to meet the security concerns of all Iraqis, including the more vulnerable, smaller ethnic and religious communities.

The Iraq Study Group Report likewise calls for a draw-down of US forces, as well as milestones for Iraqi national reconciliation, security, and governance. While the NCC would have liked to have seen more specificity with regard to a timetable for withdrawal, the fact that the Report redefines the mission of US troops in such a way that makes room for their withdrawal by early 2008 is a step in the right direction. Indeed, the Report’s suggestion of such a withdrawal, even coupled with an increase in the number of troops assigned to the training of Iraqi forces, is a realization that the occupation of Iraq is an ever-deteriorating situation and therefore must end.

The NCC commends the Iraq Study Group Report for its encouragement of multilateral engagement in addressing the situation in Iraq, a move also called for by the NCC’s 'Pastoral Message'. The Report’s recommendation that such engagement would include diplomatic initiatives with Iran and Syria, as well as involving the United Nations and other international partners, is consistent with other statements made by the NCC in recent months and years.

Also consistent with the NCC’s viewpoint is the Report’s conclusion that the situation in Israel / Palestine is integrally related to the situation in Iraq, and indeed that a solution to the Israeli – Palestinian conflict is central to the solution of all problems in the Middle East.

In its 'Pastoral Message', the NCC lamented the lapse in US moral leadership "as it pertains to our country’s justification and conduct of this war in Iraq." The Iraq Study Group Report enables the US to take a step in reclaiming this moral leadership, by stating: "Because of the role and responsibility of the United States in Iraq, and the commitments our government has made, the United States has special obligations."

The path our country takes in meeting these obligations can only be determined if we find consensus, as is hoped for in this Report. It is the view of the NCC that this Report offers the best opportunity at this time in our nation’s history to find such consensus.

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