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 15, 2003
Daily Office Readings
President George W. Bush
The White House
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear President Bush:
Today’s Daily Office readings are about choices and being chosen.
The psalmist is distraught because of his enemies. But he chooses to trust God rather than himself. “Fear and trembling come upon me and horror overwhelms me,” the psalmist confesses . . . But I call upon God, and the Lord will save me.” (Ps. 55:5, 16) David sees that God makes choices as well. “Though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly; but the haughty he perceives from far away.” (Ps. 138:6) “I praise you,” David exclaims, “for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Ps. 139:14) Because God has made him and is intimately acquainted with all his ways, David asks: “Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?” (v.7)
In the Old Testament reading God’s people are given a choice. “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God . . . and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn . . . to follow other gods that you have not known.” (Deut. 11:26-28) If God’s people choose to obey God, no one will be able to stand against them (v.25).
In the Epistle reading, God chose high priests from among the people so that they would be aware of their own human weakness and would “deal gently with the ignorant and wayward.” (Heb. 5:2) So, too, in becoming human Christ chose to identify with our weakness and to learn obedience through suffering (vv.5-8). Because of his “reverent submission,” God made Christ “the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” (vv.7,9)
In the Gospel reading, Jesus chooses to cross cultural boundaries to interact with a Samaritan woman. At a well in the Samaritan city of Sychar, he offers her the choice of “living water” — water that will become “a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” (John 4:10-15)
Mr. President, thankfully, the deadline for war keeps being postponed. Still, it seems that imminently you will be making critical choices. War is one choice. If you choose war, it is your choice; no one else has forced your hand, because there continue to be other choices. Today I appeal to you:
• Choose the path of dialogue. I am grateful that you are arranging a mini-summit this weekend in the Azores. But please don’t just invite the leaders of those nations who already agree with your position. Why not have the presidents of Russia, France and China there as well? Choose to engage those who have different perspectives than your own. You have strong relationship-building gifts. A face-to-face meeting with all key players could help restore trust and lead to creative breakthroughs.
• Choose the path of patience. A highly skilled team of UN weapons inspectors is in Iraq. Their leader says they need only several more months to complete their job. Choose to give them time and to stay the course with a process that has unanimous UN backing.
• Choose to offer incentives for Iraqi cooperation. This part of the process has been noticeably missing all along. The Iraqis believe that, no matter what they do, the United States will declare war. Convince them otherwise. Make clear that sanctions will be lifted immediately and there will be no war if full cooperation is forthcoming.
• Choose life – for God has chosen life for us.
My prayer for you and for me today is the beautiful prayer of David: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Ps. 139:23-24)
J. Daryl Byler