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[casi] American Friends Service Committee Letter to President Bush

Dear Friends -

             You will want to know of this letter Paul Lacey, AFSC Board
Chairperson, sent to President Bush on Friday, September 20.

Fred Dettmer

Paul Lacey

Mary Ellen McNish
General Secretary

American Friends Service Committee
1501 Cherry Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19102-1479
Phone: 215/241-7000 *

September 20, 2002

President George W. Bush
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Bush:

The Board of Directors of the American Friends Service Committee has
instructed me to tell you how deeply troubled we are by the impending war
with Iraq.  As Quaker pacifists we do not presume to instruct you in tactics
or strategy, for we are not experts in making war, but we know from
experience war's consequences.   For 85 years the American Friends Service
Committee has worked with helpless victims on all sides in war-feeding
children, helping to rebuild bomb-shattered houses and communities, and
working with homeless refugees.   Since 1948, we have been actively engaged
in humanitarian aid to Palestinian refugees in Gaza and the West Bank and in
peace-making between Palestinians and Israelis.  Service Committee workers
have gone in harm's way and seen war face-to-face. It is from that knowledge
we address you.

The aftermath of war in Iraq, where thousands upon thousands may die or
spend the rest of their lives in pain and wretchedness, will be greater
unrest in the Middle East and hatred of America for generations to come.  A
hasty decisiveness is no virtue.

"Collateral damage" is a benign-sounding euphemism for warfare's accidental,
unintentional harm.  But our children and grandchildren, who will live with
the collateral damage done to our constitutional rights and to the fabric of
trust which sustains public life, will not forgive us because we did not mean
to do harm.  Harm penetrates no less deeply into our souls and our
institutions for being unintended.  And it perpetuates no less damage to
civil society.

We are relieved that you have turned to the United Nations as an instrument
for reducing the danger of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and we pray
that the Iraqi leadership will cooperate fully with renewed and unfettered
weapons inspection.  We urge you to give the United Nations time to work, not
try to make it a blunt instrument of American power.  We are told you want
the United Nations to show some backbone."  We respectfully remind you that
Jesus always addresses the human heart as the true center of courage, not the

Time, you say, is not on our side, but we believe time is in God's hands  and
"to redeem the time" means to free the captives and the oppressed, to feed
the hungry, relieve the poor, restore justice and practice the arts of
reconciliation.  In this period of grave peril to the world's safety and to
our nation's very soul, many of your most experienced military advisers and
statespeople, even the most hard-headed "realists," are warning against a war
with Iraq.

Each stanza of our great national hymn, "America the Beautiful," turns from
celebration of the bounty and strength which God has granted us to a prayer
of thanksgiving and petition. In that hymn we pray: "America, America, God
mend thy every flaw, confirm thy soul in self- control, thy liberty in law."
That prayer is the burden of this letter.

The mark of a truly great power is that it exhausts every opportunity of
negotiation and diplomacy, bears even the most excessive frustrations and
challenges, rather than resort to its military might.  For the great power,
war is the very last resort, not the exercise of  a pre-emptive option. We
urge you, Mr. President, to show us the self-control, patience and
long-suffering appropriate to a great power.  Use the good instruments of
international law, international institutions such as the United Nations,
World Court and International Court of Justice to resolve our conflict with

We would welcome the opportunity to explain our views in more substantive
detail, if you could grant us that privilege. We are also writing to
President Saddam Hussein, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, and Prime
Minister Tony Blair under this same concern.

In friendship,

Paul Lacey, chairperson
American Friends Service Committee

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