Lutheran Peace Fellowship

What is the place of dissent
Once War Begins?

Should Americans who disagree with this war "shut up and support the troops," or should we feel encouraged to continue to find ways to speak out? Here's a letter-to-the-editor on the topic published in Sunday's Seattle Times, April 30, 2003 (edited slightly). Feel free to share it with others and to use or adapt it for a letter-to-the-editor, comment on a call-in show, handout at a vigil, etc.

    To the editor,

    We often hear that dissent is unpatriotic once war begins. Yet activists, clergy, and political leaders have dissented during wars throughout our history. Consider the example of the former Republican President so often invoked at the party convention that nominated George Bush three years ago:

    In the mid-1840s Abraham Lincoln, among other members of Congress, spoke out against the War with Mexico while it was in progress. Lincoln called the War with Mexico "unnecessary" and "unconstitutional." (Can anyone think of a current war those words describe?)

    Newspapers coined the term "Spot Resolution" for a charge Lincoln made repeatedly. Lincoln challenged Polk and other supporters of the war to show him the spot on US soil where American blood was shed by Mexico that would make it a war of self defense and not aggression. (An eerie reminder of the complete lack of evidence offered for the Bush administration assertion of links between Iraq and al-Qaida.)

    Our family has relatives who have served in every branch of the military; I support our troops. But this war is as unnecessary and immoral today as it was two weeks ago. It is no less costly, no less foolish. This war has seriously damaged our relations with two dozen Arab nations, the UN, and many of our key allies.

    In times like this, dissent is the highest patriotism.

    Sincerely, Glen Gersmehl,
    coordinator, Lutheran Peace Fellowship

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