An impending tragedy

Jan 22, 2003 at 12:00 am

Hours after returning from his most recent visit to Iraq, Bishop Thomas Gumbleton appeared before a group of peace activists at Detroit’s Central United Methodist Church last Thursday, Jan. 16, urging them to increase their efforts to avert a war that seems more and more likely with each passing day.

Gumbleton, along with a host of other religious and civic leaders, made the case that diplomats, not bombs and troops, are the way to address whatever threat Saddam Hussein poses.

Saying there is no “moral justification” for a U.S. attack on Iraq, Gumbleton observed that the last thing our government wants is for us to consider the immense human tragedy that will result if war is waged. While government officials and mainstream media focus attention on the actions of an evil-doing despot, Gumbleton and others pray that Americans will consider that any war waged will not be against a single tyrant, but an entire nation of flesh-and-blood people.

Calling the prospect of war in Iraq a “horrendous evil” that will “utterly destroy this small nation,” Gumbleton pointed out that if Americans aren’t motivated by compassion for the people of Iraq, they should look at the issue from the perspective of self-interest.

Such a war, he predicted, would result in “enormous, enormous harm to our own citizenry,” said the bishop. “A whole new generation that hates the United States of America will be created.”

Also speaking at the event was former U.S. Rep. David Bonior, who made a controversial visit to Iraq last year. Referring to words that he said once inspired the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to speak out against the war in Vietnam, Bonior noted, “A time comes when silence is betrayal.”

That time is now. War is approaching — a war that is more than video game-like footage of smart bombs and surgical air strikes that, as far as the public sees, produces bloodless collateral damage.

The reality is something much different. For those who decide not to turn your head and pretend that you just don’t see, a Web site featuring the work of photojournalist Peter Turnley offers chilling scenes from the first Gulf War. It can be viewed at

In that same vein, the Michigan Coalition for Human Rights is screening the documentary Paying the Price: The Killing of the Children of Iraq on Thursday, Jan. 30, at 7 p.m. in Barth Hall, 4800 Woodward Ave., Detroit. For more information about the film or anti-war activities in general, phone the coalition at 313-869-8835.

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