The Iraq War and the Use of Torture by Our Country

North Carolina Council of Churches Executive Board, December 6, 2005

The North Carolina Council of Churches has a long history of stands regarding our nation’s warmaking.  Since 1935, we have called for political leaders to resist from entering wars, to follow international covenants and treaties while engaged in war, and to end conflicts that have begun.  In keeping with this history, we now reiterate our opposition to the current war in Iraq and to the use of torture as an instrument of war.  We do this by endorsing two recent statements by the National Council of Churches USA: (1) the July 4, 2005, statement of its Governing Board, a statement endorsed by hundreds of religious leaders and thousands of other people of faith, and (2) the November 9, 2005, Statement on the Disavowal of Torture.

(1) A Call to Speak Out

This year our nation is at war as we observe the 4th of July, a day that honors those founders who spoke out for independence from tyranny.  Today in Iraq a cruel dictator has been deposed, yet the suffering of the Iraqi people continues.  Mandated elections have been held, yet the future of Iraq remains as uncertain as ever.  Day by day the cost of this war for the United States, for Iraq, for peace grows clearer.  No weapons of mass destruction have been found; no link to the attacks on September 11, 2001 has been shown.  It has become clear that the rationale for invasion was at best a tragic mistake, at worst a clever deception.

As people of faith, we believe in the transcendent sovereignty and love of God for creation, and that the responsibility of human beings is thus to pursue justice and peace for all.  We also believe that, as the biblical prophets of old, who in faithfulness to God spoke out to a people and a nation they loved, in humility before God we too are to speak to a land and people we love.  As religious leaders we invite others who share our affections and dismay to recognize the time has come to speak out.

The time has come to say:

– NO to leaders who have sent many honorable sons and daughters to fight a dishonorable war;

– NO to the violence that has cost over seventeen hundred American lives, left thousands grievously injured, and killed untold numbers of Iraqis whose deaths we are unwilling to acknowledge or count;

– NO to the abuse of prisoners that has shamed our nation and damaged our reputation throughout the world;

– NO to the price tag for this war that has rendered our federal budget incapable of adequately caring for the poorest of our own citizens; and,

– NO to theologies that demonize other nations and religions while arrogantly claiming righteousness for ourselves as if we share no complicity in human evil.

The time has come to say:

– YES to foreign policies that seek justice rather than domination, compassion rather than control;

– YES to an early fixed timetable for the withdrawal of United States troops and the establishment of a credible multinational peacekeeping force;

– YES to the honoring of human rights even for our enemies and for a restoration of our reputation as a people committed to the rule of law;

– YES to spending and taxing priorities that put the poor first, providing health care, housing, employment, and quality education for all, not just the few; and,

– YES to a restoration of truth telling in the public square and to “last resort” rather than “first strike” as the criterion for the use of force to restrain evil.

On the day we celebrate our freedom, we acknowledge that the freedom promised in the toppling of a dictator has been replaced by the humiliation of occupation and the violence of a civil war.   The sacrifice of brave men and women has been used to serve policies that have diminished our nation’s prestige and our capacity to be agents of justice in the world.

It is time to speak out that this 4th of July will celebrate the best ideals of our nation for our sake and for the sake of the world.

(2) A Statement on the Disavowal of Torture, NCCUSA, November 9, 2005

Based upon our longstanding policies defending human rights and our affirmation of human dignity as revealed in scripture, the General Assembly of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA and Church World Service meeting in Baltimore, MD, November 8 – 11, 2005, commends the United States Senate for its recent passage of the “Anti-Torture Provisions” which came as amendments to the Defense Appropriations Act of 2006.  As that bill now comes before the House of Representatives for action (H. R. 2863), we are deeply disturbed that leaders within our nation’s government oppose legislation which publicly disavows our nation’s use of torture anytime, anywhere, under any circumstances.

Within the core of our religious tradition are Jesus’ call to love our enemies, his blessing of those who work for peace, and his instruction that we are to do unto others as we would have them do unto us (Mt. 7:12)–a teaching found in other faith traditions as well. Both United States and international law reflect this biblical mandate, a social ethic commonly known as the Golden Rule, by upholding as core principles the right of due process and the humane treatment of all prisoners, even in times of war. As delegates to the General Assembly of the National Council of Churches USA and Church World Service, we find any and all use of torture unacceptable and contrary to U.S. and international legal norms. We find it particularly abhorrent that our nation’s lawmakers would fail to approve the pending legislation disavowing the use of torture by any entity on behalf of the United States government.

Torture, regardless of circumstance, humiliates and debases torturer and tortured alike. Torture turns its face against the biblical truth that all humans are created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26, 27). It denies the preciousness of human life and the dignity of every human being by reducing its victims to the status of despised objects, no matter how noble the cause for which it is employed.

We believe that any reluctance of this nation to publicly disavow torture under any circumstance not only erodes the peace of the world but even the possibility of peace, since it destroys the trust required for diplomacy and other non-violent means to seek peace. Thus, we call upon members of the U. S. House of Representatives to follow the lead of the Senate by approving the legislation before it banning the use of torture by any entity of our government. Furthermore, we urge the President of the U. S. and all members of his administration to support this legislation by affirming America’s long-standing commitment to refrain from the use of torture.

We as the North Carolina Council of Churches encourage our denominations, judicatories, and congregations to engage in study, prayer, and action to further the vision and practices affirmed in this statement.

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