'A super power...must exercise the role of super servant': The Presiding Bishop's statement on military action against Iraq

September 6, 2002

Our nation is now engaged in a debate about the wisdom of military action designed to remove Saddam Hussein from power. The choices made now will set in motion events that will reverberate around the world, for good or ill. In this grave time I encourage President Bush to continue to listen with an open mind to those who articulate very different positions from his own, voices within our nation and from our allies and others around the world.

The problem of Iraq admits no easy solution. However, through diplomatic and multilateral initiatives, we can both serve our common interests and seek to contain the national security threats posed by Saddam Hussein's rule of Iraq. Our great nation now has the opportunity to express leadership in the world by forging a foreign policy that seeks to reconcile and heal the world's divisions.

I believe it is becoming ever more clear that this is the way to proceed, rather than choosing a course that will immediately endanger the Iraqi civilian population and our own United States Forces, that will alienate many of our closest allies, and destabilize the Middle East. We will all be better served to see our national energies and resources expended in resolving the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, such that Israel finds security and peace with its neighbors and Palestinians achieve statehood.

Further, unilateral military action would surely inflame the passions of millions, particularly in the Arab world, setting in motion cycles of violence and retaliation. Such action would undermine our firm national intent to eradicate global terrorism. As well, it would further strain tenuous relationships that exist between the United States and other nations.

The question for us now must be: what is our role in the community of nations? I believe we have the capacity within us to help lead our world into the way of justness and peace. The freedoms we enjoy as citizens of the United States oblige us to attend not only to our own welfare, but to the wellbeing of the world around us. A super power, especially one that declares itself to be 'under God,' must exercise the role of super servant. Our nation has an opportunity to reflect the values and ideals that we espouse by focusing upon issues of poverty, disease and despair, not only within our own nation but throughout the global community of which we are a part.

The House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church has called the Church to the costly work of waging not war but reconciliation. This means addressing the root causes of the anger toward the West and the United States in particular, and building new understandings between Jews, Muslims, and Christians - all of us the children of Abraham. The Church's governing board, the Executive Council, also voted in June to 'oppose unilateral military action against Iraq,' citing its October, 2001 resolution 'to promote the eradication of terrorism through justice and reconciliation abroad.'

The President and his Administration need our prayers as they seek ways to address the challenges that face our troubled and fragile world. I pray that compassion and reconciliation and healing may become the realities of our common life, thereby reflecting God's own passionate desire for the life of the world God sent his Son to save.

The Most Rev. Frank T. Griswold
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church, USA