Canadian Mennonite
Volume 7, number 2
January 27, 2003

Beyond facile answers

If you’re getting weary about the seemingly endless and repetitious arguments for or against war with Iraq, you’re not alone. But now is not the time to tune out a debate that can help prod us beyond facile answers to the age-old question of what makes for peace.

In mid-January, our media focused on the thousands across North America and elsewhere holding anti-war protests. Placards carried provocative slogans such as “blood and oil don’t mix” or “regime change starts at home.”

When given microphones, protesters denounced the imperialist designs of the United States. They expressed worries about war feeding already strong anti-American sentiments, about waves of terrorist retaliation, about the inevitable civilian casualties in a country which has already suffered much from 10 years of economic sanctions.

In support of the protesters, media commentators said that the policy of containment has worked for a decade, so why not continue it. They expressed scepticism about the will and the limited capacity of the U.S. to help rebuild Iraq after it has been defeated, which it surely would be by the superior military might of the U.S.

Points well taken. A post-Taliban Afghanistan is far from rebuilt.

Predictably, the counter arguments emerged quickly. “What do Iraqis fear more than a war? More Saddam” was the headline of a prominent column soon after the protests. Against the portrait of the U.S. as an imperialist aggressor, this columnist held out the portrait of the U.S. as a liberator.

The column quotes from the report of a Brussels-based independent research group which conducted secret interviews with Iraqis who looked to foreign intervention as “the surest and most dependable way to end the war against them.”

“The central question for them is not if there will be a war. The question is when their own war will finally end,” wrote this commentator.

Points well taken. The brutal policies and imperialist designs of the Iraqi leader are a matter of public record.

So where does that leave us? Do we have no alternative but to become worn out by the pro and con? What, in fact, are the things that will make for peace? Our own tradition suggests several directions.

First, we as Mennonites have a long tradition of resisting de-personalization of the so-called “enemy”—who is also created in the image of God. That’s why we placed a person in Baghdad nearly a year ago in order to help us keep a face on this conflict and not let it deteriorate into a war of ideologies. See “Baghdad diaries” on the MCC web site:

That’s why we keep sending short-term Christian Peacemaker Team delegations into this volatile area, even amidst the risks. That’s why we promote campaigns such as a women’s fast for peace (page 38) as well as ongoing material and humanitarian aid.

Second, we have a long history of believing that “war isn’t the only solution”—which is the headline given to a column by Ernie Regehr of Project Ploughshares in The Record, January 21 (Kitchener-Waterloo daily).

“It is possible to win the war only to lose the peace,” he wrote. He suggested there is no “quick fix” to the problem of Iraq and called for a rejection of both a “destructive war and a destructive status quo.” The peace effort must include not only weapons inspectors, he wrote, but “genuine progress toward accountable governance...and toward the establishment of the Middle East as a region free of all weapons of mass destruction.”

He called on the international community “to accompany Iraqis down that difficult road to durable peace, not with more bombs and cruise missiles, but with moral, political and material support.”

—Ron Rempel, editor

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