What Are the Actual Costs of War?

Friends should discuss their differences regarding our Peace Testimony. Yet recent debates in Friends Journal sometimes seem to be a search for universal rules rather than responses to particular moral issues raised by the proposed attack on Iraq. The following issues trouble me.

The terrorist attacks last year deeply wounded our sense of security; much of the rationale for war with Iraq seems to be based on that loss. Is that a valid reason for war, especially a "preemptive strike"? Was the security we felt an illusion, based in our belief that the U.S. was so powerful it could never be attacked? Might a better response come from learning to live with vulnerability as other peoples throughout the world must do? Can true security ever be found in military might?

Seeing "that of God" in Saddam Hussein may seem impossible, but why has he become a personification of evil at this particular time—something that, for all his abusive behavior, he was not just a few months ago. If he is so evil, why are other nations not convinced?

Why are we so sure of ourselves that we are unwilling to listen to their reasons for opposing war? Are we looking for a scapegoat, since Osama bin Laden has evaded us?

Are we willing to go to war to protect our position as the dominant nation in the world and the lifestyle that this affords some of us? Do we think we need this war so that we can continue to consume more than our share of the world’s resources and produce more than our share of the world’s pollution? Are we so committed to an oil-based economy that we are prepared to go to war for it?

This year-old war on terrorism has escalated trends that indicate where a war on Iraq can take us. War always means military and noncombatant deaths, a traditional reason for Friends opposition to war, but there are other costs as well. Are we willing to accept these costs?

Invasion of Afghanistan has seemed to reignite violence between Israel and Palestine and between India and Pakistan. Why should we believe that an attack on Iraq will not engulf the rest of the Middle East? With Israel already saying it is ready to use its nuclear weapons, will this become a nuclear war? Are we willing to stay and govern Afghanistan and Iraq after we "liberate" them? Is this our intention?

Our national government has become more secretive and demanding of our total loyalty. It has removed the rights of citizens and detained non-citizens without process of law. Are we willing to give up our own human rights and those of others?

The cost of war and new security measures is immense and will have to be taken from already shrinking government services funding. In a time when the gap between the rich and the poor is wider than it has been in 70 years, what is the human cost of giving up what is left of our nation’s social safety net?

In addition to destruction of support for those in most need, war will have to mean less attention and less support for government projects of importance to all of us. What will happen to the environment? How will we be able to afford to keep highways and public schools functioning, as state and local governments are asked to pay for programs that the federal government will no longer support? What will happen to attempts to protect pensions or air-line passengers?

I consider myself a pacifist, but I do not know if I would always choose non-violence. I do know that for me, unilateral war against Iraq is not an ethical choice.

Marilyn Dell Brady
Alpine, Texas