From Feb. 5 – Mar. 16, 2003, I engaged in a 40-day fast, urging then President George W. Bush to consider alternatives to war with Iraq. Each day, I sent the President a letter — with copies to Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice — using the Daily Office Readings (from the President’s Episcopal tradition) as a foundation for my reflections. For the next 10 days, I plan to re-post the letters from Days 31 to 40 of the fast, interspersing them with photos of Iraqis. Whether one supported or opposed the war, the costs are indisputably high. -Daryl (March 7, 2013)
Financial cost of Iraq war:
March 8, 2003
Daily Office Readings
– Psalm 30, 32
– Deuteronomy 7:17-26
– Titus 3:1-15
– Psalm 42, 43
– John 1:43-51
President George W. Bush
The White House
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear President Bush:
Today’s Daily Office readings are about God mighty works and our calling to be devoted to good works.
David praises God because God defended him against his foes (Psalm 30:1), healed him (v.2), restored his life (v.3) and turned his mourning into dancing (v.11). “You are a hiding place for me;” David declares, “you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with glad cries of deliverance.”(Psalm 32:32) In a time of trouble and taunting by his enemies, the psalmist asks repeatedly: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me?”(Psalm 42:5a, 11a; 43:5a) In these words, the psalmist finds comfort: “Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.”(42:5b, 11b; 43:5b)
In the Old Testament reading, Moses challenges the people not to fear their enemies but to trust God’s mighty power to deliver, “for the Lord your God, who is present with you, is a great and awesome God”(Deut. 7:21).
In the Gospel reading, Jesus encounters Nathaniel who announces, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”(John 1:49) Jesus declares that God will do mighty works through him (v.51).
In the Epistle reading, Paul urges those who believe in God “to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show every courtesy to everyone”(Titus 3:1,2). Furthermore, they are to “devote themselves to good works in order to meet urgent needs” (v.15), for “these things are excellent and profitable to everyone”(v.8).
Mr. President, in your press conference on Thursday evening, you frequently spoke of the threat that you believe Iraqi President Saddam Hussein poses to his own people, to his “neighborhood” and to the American people. In your words and voice, I sensed that you feel a heavy responsibility for the security of the American people. Both David and Moses must have had similar feelings in their leadership roles. Still, David and Moses trusted God’s mighty power to deliver them. Today’s texts clearly suggest that it is not our responsibility or our right to take matters into our own hands when we feel threatened. It is not our human task to be concerned with ultimate matters of security and deliverance.
Rather, we are to focus on doing good works — to speak no evil, to be gentle, to show courtesy. These are the things that God uses in powerful ways.
Be devoted to good works, Mr. President. You mentioned that, if there is a war, everything will be done to protect innocent civilian life in Iraq. But I have also heard Pentagon planners say that, within the first 48 hours of a war, the United States will rain some 3,000 bombs and missiles on Iraq. How could this possibly protect or show concern for innocent life? We know for a fact that bombs and missiles miss their targets.
Be devoted to good works, Mr. President. Work to restore trust at the United Nations. Work to eliminate global HIV/AIDS. Work to lift sanctions against the Iraqi people. Work to bring peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Work to rid the world of land mines. Work for nuclear disarmament. Work to provide health care and living wage jobs for all Americans. Work to rid our nation of racism. These are the things that — by God’s grace — are ours to do. Doing these things — indeed any one of them — will do far more to build a secure world than would going to war against Iraq.
My prayer for you today is that you will not be afraid in the face of global threats, but that these threats will lead you to devote yourself to good works to meet urgent needs.
J. Daryl Byler