Magazine article Sojourners Magazine

'If All You Have Is a Hammer ...'

Magazine article Sojourners Magazine

'If All You Have Is a Hammer ...'

Article excerpt

The best line I heard in the period leading up to the war in Iraq was, "If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail." It came from my friend Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, when we were on a panel together in England about file best response to terrorism.

The premise of the panel was that the threat of terrorism is real, that there are real dangers prowling about in our world, and that the problem of evil is a very serious one. The question we were addressing was what the best response to the real threats of terrorism should be.

Let me say what we have said before in these pages, before this awful war began: The war with Iraq was not a war of last or only resort, or the best way to deal with the real threats offered by Saddam Hussein. There were other alternatives possible--even some non-administration hawks thought that the "six-point plan" offered by some American religious leaders and released by Sojourners in March 2003 should have been tried--and they were simply not seriously considered by the Bush administration. And it is now undeniably true that this administration lied about the facts in Iraq and consistently manipulated intelligence to justify going to war.

Now the stories come every day, of thousands of young Americans dying and being maimed forever, of wives losing husbands and husbands losing wives, of children losing their parents and parents their children--suffering and pain that I believe was unnecessary.

I NOW CALL THIS the American "hammer habit." If we don't know how to solve a problem, we just fight. Diplomacy has become a "weak" word to those who run our foreign policy and, in the House debate on Iraq in June, Republicans made numerous references to those who are "afraid to fight." Right on cue, Fox News Sunday's Brit Hume accused Democrats of being a party that just doesn't like to fight. And according to the neo-conservatives masquerading as journalists, such as Hume and William Kristol, continuous fighting is the only foreign policy that makes any sense.

Even more frightening is how much their friends such as Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld have the same strong preference for fighting over talking. If they had their way, we would have fought or would still be fighting several wars by now--all at the same time--in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Iran at least, and probably against North Korea too, if they thought we could win the war. They act as if talking and negotiating with potential adversaries is just a waste of time. It is truly astonishing and even shocking how people who simply question the efficacy and morality of the continuing American occupation in Iraq--including longtime military supporters such as Rep. John Murtha--are so quickly and viciously accused of "cutting and running" or not having the "courage" to fight.

This spring, the hostile rhetoric aimed at our adversaries--like that we heard before the war against Iraq--turned toward Iran. I was in Australia during the war of words in March between Washington and Tehran, and I was interviewed on one of Australia's top political shows. I was asked whether a standoff between the "two fundamentalists" (meaning Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and U.S. President George Bush), with nuclear weapons in the balance, should concern the world. …

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