Politics,  Theology/Bible

Jim Wallis Fumes after President’s Speech

It is well-known that Jim Wallis is a lefty evangelical and that he opposes the American war in Iraq. I think that people of good will can have different opinions about the war. But I don’t think that Wallis’ inflammatory rhetoric is at all helpful or constructive.

In a recent blog post in response to President Bush’s announcement of a troop surge, Wallis lambastes President Bush as a liar who deceived the country into an unjust and unwinnable war. He writes,

‘The war in Iraq was unjust; to continue it now is criminal. There is no winning in Iraq. This was a war that should have never been fought – or won. It can’t be won, and the truth is that there are no good solutions now – that’s how unjust wars often turn out. The president says that “failure in Iraq would be a disaster for the United States.” But we have already failed in Iraq and it has already become a disaster for Americans, Iraqis, the Middle East, and even for the larger campaign against terrorism. The mistaken war in Iraq can only be mercifully ended, in ways that cause the least damage to everyone involved… It will likely take new international leadership to help fix the mess of Iraq, because U.S. leadership has brought one calamity after another. Unjust wars cause massive human suffering. When will we ever learn?’

I understand Wallis’ position against the war, but I don’t understand how he (or any other of my countrymen) can seriously advocate a precipitous exit from Iraq. Nearly everyone on both sides of this issue agrees that pulling out of Iraq now would be an absolute disaster. To pull out now would likely result in all-out civil war and genocide on a scale that would make what we are seeing now pale in comparison.

To leave now would plunge innocent Iraqis (whom Wallis seems to care so much about) into a darkness far worse than anything we have seen yet. Tragic stories of sectarian violence like this one will become more widespread if the U.S. pulls out now. Moreover, experts say that the war would surely widen into a regional conflict that the U.S. would have to re-insert itself into. I do not see how Wallis thinks this kind of failure in Iraq is preferable to trying to achieve victory now.

Wallis calls for diplomacy and a political solution to the conflict. But everyone knows that there is no political solution apart from security. If U.S. forces leave, so does any remnants of security. There will be no diplomatic niceties or political solutions in that moment. Only war and despair on a much greater scale.

Wallis also alleges that President Bush manipulated the U.S. into this war by lying to them and saying that Iraq was connected to the attacks of 9-11. Wallis is simply, factually wrong on this one. I hope the error is unintentional. But at no time did President Bush ever suggest that Saddam Hussein was behind the attacks of 9-11. Never did he make such a claim, and I defy anyone to produce the speech or interview in which he did. It never happened.

I know that there is no easy solution in Iraq. I know that victory will come at a heavy price for the United States. But I also know that defeat and failure in Iraq will be worse for the U.S. and for Iraq in the long run. There are many who disagree with this assessment, and I am happy to dialogue with them. But rhetoric like Wallis’ is counterproductive to reasonable discourse. I hope that such shrill voices do not prevail in this important conversation.


  • Faimon

    Boy, I read the quote you provided, and I don’t think he sounds ‘unhinged.’ Critical, yes, unhinged no.

    Second, you create a straw man in your second to last paragraph. Wallis does say that the Administration asserted a connection to 9-11. And you mention that in the first sentence of the paragraph. Yet, by the third sentence, you imply that Wallis claims that the Administration said that Saddam Hussein was behind 9-11. You see the difference? Connection is not equal to behind. And Wallis never claims that the Administration said that SH was behind the attack, just that they were connected. And the Administration certainly said that:

    “What the vice-president said was is that he [Saddam] has been involved with al-Qaeda. And Zarqawi, an al-Qaeda operative, was in Baghdad. He’s the guy that ordered the killing of a US diplomat… There’s no question that Saddam Hussein had al-Qaeda ties.” (www.bbc.co.uk September 18, 2003)

    Though in that same story, Bush denies the Hussein was ‘behind’ the attacks, he links them with the group responsible, therefore linking SH and 9-11. Furthermore, the majority of Americans believed at that point that Saddam had actively participated in planning the attack. I suspect that the administration allowed the misconception to persist because it helped their cause.

    And finally, I personally don’t care for the ‘vast majority of experts’ that you cite. I don’t know who they are, where they work, what their ideological position is. If I were to accept the opinion of the ‘vast majority of experts’ on every issue, I would certainly believe a lot of crazy stuff. There are credible experts on both sides of this issue.

  • Paul


    that’s a downright foolish statement. Wallis represents a MUCH NEEDED voice within the church, especially these days when so many feel that being a Christian equates with being a Republican. There are plenty of us out there who agree with Mr. Wallis. Attempting to compare Michael Moore, who is the Rush Limbaugh of the left, with Jim Wallis, who seems like a genuinely upstanding guy with his heart in the right place is downright ludicrous.

  • William

    Yikes! As I understand Wallis’s position, it is quite a bit more nuanced than suggested here.

    Matt, a Christian being “too kind” to another Christian? I don’t understand.

    Wallis is saying some pretty radical things, but they’re pretty well thought out. I find that sound bites (or “proof texts”) don’t work well in displaying real truth.

    Nonetheless, thanks for bringing Wallis to the table. I find him worth listening to even when I disagree.

  • Kris Weinschenker

    The troop surge IS a bad idea.

    However, Wallis blog post is just a re-hash of the old rhetoric against the war. The FACT is we are there now, and in desparate need of an “exit strategy”. Wallis simply offers to take all the marbles and go home. That might be the best solution for America, but it is NOT the best solution for Iraq. Thus, it ignores the responisibilty we assumed when we invaded.

  • Matt

    No apologies for my comments. Check out Chuck Colson’s comments yesterday about just war…he said that even if the war wasn’t just, the moral thing to do now is to stick out the war. Leaving Iraq in shambles would not make right a bad situation.

  • Paul

    There’s no “even if” factor here. It wasn’t a just war.

    The problem is, Matt, that you’re right. We can’t just leave Iraq in shambles now. And we can’t really think that partition is a righteous idea, either. Frankly, I believe that we’re in a stalemate, and there IS no good way out, and there aren’t going to be any winners in this scenario.

    That said, calling Jim Wallis anything but a much needed voice in the Christian dialog isn’t just ignorant, it’s downright ignant.

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