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Southwestern faculty: U.N. ‘impotent,’ resolve needed to end Hussein’s threat

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–With war perhaps just hours away, several professors at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, have weighed in on the possibility of war in Iraq and questioned the legitimacy of the United Nations.

In an informal survey at the nation’s largest evangelical seminary, faculty members expressed little faith in the idea that the United Nations is an effective body for maintaining international peace. They said the United Nations had failed to adhere to its own resolutions regarding Iraq, especially in light of the Security Council’s refusal to reaffirm U.N. Resolution 1441 which required Iraq’s full compliance with U.N. disarmament demands.

Bob Welch, a 22-year veteran of the U.S. Navy and professor of administration in Southwestern’s educational ministries school, said the resolution was a “final warning” for Saddam Hussein. The resolution instructed the Iraqi leader to prove the destruction of his chemical and biological weapons, without weapons inspectors having to seek them out, Welch said.

Jim Wicker, professor of New Testament, said the lengthy process of inspection had resulted in a United Nations that is “highly politicized” and thus “paralyzed into inaction.” Gordon Borror, professor of church music, called the international body “impotent” because of its unwillingness to back its decisions with the threat of military force.

Several faculty members, while agreeing that the United States should bypass the United Nations in disarming Iraq, feared that President George W. Bush might have waited too long to begin military action. France, Germany and Russia were chiefly responsible for delaying action against Hussein, faculty members said.

Doug Blount, assistant dean of the philosophy and ethics division of Southwestern’s theology school, said that appeasing such nations, while at times desirable, “should not be what drives our foreign policy on Iraq.”

Rick Yount, professor of educational psychology and a U.S. Army veteran, said all three nations have questionable economic and military ties to Iraq.

“No one wants war,” Yount said. “It is a horrible, unpredictable, raging fire. But it is sometimes necessary. For the good of the Iraqis — sufferers for three decades — and for the security of the U.S., it is necessary sooner than later. … What is to be gained from discussing the issue further when France, Germany and Russia all have dirty hands with respect to Saddam Hussein?”

Craig Mitchell, an instructor of ethics and a U.S. Air Force Reserve officer, said it would have been possible for Bush to deal more effectively with Iraq if the three opposing nations, all with veto power on the Security Council, had not opposed the enforcement of Resolution 1441.

“This crisis would have ended long ago if the French, Germans and Russians had been concerned less with asserting their own perceived power and more concerned with the suffering of the people of Iraq,” Mitchell said. “The time for war is now.”

But Dan Morgan, director of the Nehemiah Church Planter program at Southwestern and a former staffer at Rick Warren’s Saddleback Valley Community Church in Lake Forest, Calif., said U.N. workers should be granted more time to conduct weapons inspections. He also is not ready to dismiss the United Nations’ role in the world. The organization, he said, might still be a tool for maintaining peace, and if it fails, it should fail on its own.

“I don’t think we should run ahead of the U.N., even if some are trying to embarrass us through this situation. I think we should let them bring on themselves the consequences of inaction,” Morgan said.

Samuel Shahid, the seminary’s only Arab-American faculty member and a professor of Islamic studies in the theology school, said the United Nations was only incapable of handling complicated international crises like the one in Iraq. Saddam Hussein, he said, “played a game there” and “was not honest enough in presenting the facts.”

Shahid also differed with the Bush administration’s foreign policy. He said he is concerned about the United States being viewed as a world policeman. He also said the world has changed since the Gulf War in 1991. “Twelve years ago, the world had a different opinion and supported the president’s father when he was in office. Why are they not supporting President Bush now? A change took place.”

Shahid said he believes that change took place because the government did not produce enough tangible evidence concerning weapons of mass destruction for the United Nations to accept its claims, although he has “no doubt the Iraqis have weapons of mass destruction.”

But Shahid, like Morgan, isn’t ready to dismiss the United Nations outright. “There are certain crises in which the U.N. is up to its responsibility.”

Others, however, were not confident that the United Nations will ever recover from its recent diplomatic crises. “The United Nations is, in the end, no more effective than the League of Nations and deserves the same end as that ill-fated organization,” Blount said.

“If a vote were taken today, I doubt very seriously if the American public would vote for involvement in the U.N. We pay 90 percent of the bill and are treated like an enemy,” Welch said.

As for the justification of the war, all who responded indicated that war against Iraq would be within the just war ethics tradition because of the threat of Hussein’s arsenal of biological, chemical and, perhaps, nuclear weapons. The threat of such weapons, Wicker said, has forced the war upon the United States.

“The huge amount of destruction that is possible today with weapons of mass destruction no longer allows us to have such a luxury of time,” he said. “If an enemy shows that he has no scruples against using such weapons, even on his own people as Saddam Hussein has done against the Kurds, then it is incumbent upon us not to allow him to have such weapons. In other words, we can no longer wait for the ‘smoking gun’ scenario, since today it could be in the form of a mushroom cloud of nuclear destruction or an invisible ‘cloud’ of biological destruction, either way killing potentially millions of people in one incident.”

Critics of the U.S.-led effort to expel Hussein from Iraq have organized protest marches against Bush’s policy on Iraq, which some perceive to be motivated by his desire for Iraqi oil. “No blood for oil” signs have appeared in demonstrations across the globe. But faculty of Southwestern Seminary rejected the idea that oil is the primary motivation for the potential war.

Mitchell said the claim was “naive” and didn’t merit a response, but both Wicker and Yount said that “no blood for oil” was an excuse to avoid global responsibility.

“This is a straw man argument,” Wicker said. “It is truly a ludicrous claim that avoids dealing with the true issue: that Saddam Hussein has not disarmed as he was supposed to do as a result of the cease fire of the Gulf War and several subsequent U.N. resolutions. I doubt if any logically thinking person really believes the claim of blood for oil.”

“If we wanted oil,” Yount said, “we’d have kept it the first time. We spent millions putting out fires, and then turned the oil wells back to Kuwait and Iraq.”

Shahid, born in Lebanon, said he believes oil may be a concern for the Bush administration, but not the primary concern. “I don’t think it is about oil in Iraq. It is a matter in which the United States believes that Iraq is a threat to the area, to Israel, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.” The United States favors Israel, he said, because it is the region’s only pro-Western democracy. When asked why the administration would want to protect Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, Shahid answered, “There, it is about the oil.”

As committed as most faculty members were to the notion of driving Hussein from Iraq, all expressed a profound hope for peace. Wicker said that although he believed war to be justified in this case, he hoped that diplomacy and prayer ultimately would avert war.

“My prayer is for the salvation of Saddam Hussein,” Wicker said. “Although the problems we are addressing in Iraq are not religious in nature, nor would this be a war of religion, I believe that Jesus Christ desires to be the Savior of every person, and that includes Hussein. There is no true peace apart from the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ.”

Borror also said that he would love “to announce to the world that God is our hope and security, that we will place ourselves and our nation in his hand for protection.”

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  • Gregory Tomlin