The Reverend Andrew Weaver, organizer of the Methodist-oriented petition against the Bush complex (including the library), recently sent the following message to the 10,000 plus signatories of the petition. Note in particular the vow to take this to the United Methodist General Conference in May of 2008. The General Conference must ratify the South-Central jurisdiction’s decision to grant permission to SMu for the allocation of land for the Bush complex. The fight within the United Methodist Church may well go on.—————————————————————————————
AN OPEN LETTER TO SMU PETITION SIGNERS
I am the Rev. Andrew J. Weaver, Ph.D. — the person who organized and maintains the petition at www. protectSMU.org. I am an ordained United Methodist minister and research psychologist living in New York City.
I want to thank you for signing the petition and for your passionate and heart-felt comments. It is important that United Methodists and other people of faith and conscience express their pain and outrage at the unchristian manner that President George W. Bush has conducted himself while in office. No one in modern history has done more to discredit the witness of Jesus Christ and the good name of the Methodist people worldwide than President Bush. To place a massive partisan Institute on the campus of a university owned by the United Methodist Church (UMC) to “polish his legacy” and “promote President Bush’s polices,” over which Southern Methodist University (SMU) or the UMC will have no oversight is unacceptable.
The evidence is abundant; Bush has acted in profoundly immoral ways while in office. He chose to launch a “shock and awe” war of aggression against the people of Iraq, based upon a series of falsehoods. The war continues to be a catastrophe and the tragic aftermath will be with us for generations to come. In addition, the President has authorized international kidnapping and torture.
On September 15, 2006, the Washington Post lead editorial was entitled “The president goes to Capitol Hill to lobby for torture.” The Post reported, “President Bush rarely visits Congress. So it was a measure of his painfully skewed priorities that Mr. Bush made the unaccustomed trip yesterday to seek legislative permission for the CIA to make people disappear into secret prisons and have information extracted from them by means he dare not describe publicly.”
Anyone who thinks that the good name of Methodism or Southern Methodist University should be associated with George W. Bush needs to read the book, “Oath Betrayed: Torture, Medical Complicity, and the War on Terror” by Dr. Steven Miles, professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota.
Professor Miles has based this volume on painstaking research and highly-credible sources, including eyewitness accounts, army criminal investigations, FBI debriefings of prisoners, autopsy reports, and prisoners’ medical records. These documents tell a story strikingly different from the Bush administration version presented to the American people, revealing involvement at every level of government, from former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to prison health-care personnel. The book also shows how the highest officials of government are complicit in this pattern of torture, including Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, United Methodist Vice President Dick Cheney, and United Methodist President George W. Bush. (See my recently published review of Miles’ book at http://www.tpcmagazine.org/article.php?ID=78.)
While much of the use of torture by the Central Intelligence Agency and Special Forces troops remains concealed, Dr. Miles documents how nineteen prisoners were tortured to death by American military personnel. The book tells of an Afghan prisoner named Dilawar, an innocent 22-year-old, who drove his taxi to the wrong place at the wrong time. At the U.S. detention center in Bagram, Afghanistan, in December 2002, Dilawar was smothered, shackled and then suspended by his arms. When he was beaten with a baton, he cried out “Allah, Allah,” which amused the soldiers and triggered more merciless blows. The official report reads that he was beaten over a five day period until his legs were, in the words of the coroner, “pulpified.” He was then chained to the ceiling of his cell, where he died. Although an autopsy stated that Dilawar’s death was a homicide, General Daniel McNeil told reporters that Dilawar had died of natural causes on the grounds that one of his coronary arteries was partly occluded. The words “coronary artery disease” were typed in a different font on the prisoner’s death certificate.
Up to 90 percent of the prisoners detained in the Bush “war on terror” have been found to be unjustifiably imprisoned and without intelligence value. In addition, much of the hideous work of torture is out-sourced by the Bush administration to countries like Uzbekistan, Syria and Egypt, where torture is a long-standing and common practice. In July 2004, the British ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, who grew up in a devout Methodist home, protested the Uzbek intelligence service’s interrogation practices: “Tortured dupes are forced to sign up to confessions showing what the Uzbek government wants the U.S. and U.K. to believe…. This material is useless — we are selling our souls for dross.”
Torture is a crime against humanity and a violation of every human rights treaty in existence, including the Geneva Conventions which prohibit cruel and degrading treatment of detainees. Torture is as profound a moral issue in our day as was slavery in the 19th century. It represents a betrayal of our deepest human and religious values as a civilized society. If The United Methodist Church cannot take a stand against the use of torture and those who employ it, including President Bush, what does it stand for?
We must refuse to allow President Bush to build his partisan Institute to promote his failed and immoral policies on a UMC university campus without the strongest possible objection.
What can you do to help?
1. Inform yourself about this issue. The majority of the faculty at SMU is firmly against the partisan Bush think tank and has been prevented from voting on the issue by the SMU administration. Read the ongoing bush library blog found at bushlibraryblog.wordpress.com. It is the single best source of information available.
2. Encourage your friends and colleagues worldwide to sign the petition. We need to continue resistance to the misuse of our good name and take the issue to the United Methodist General Conference in May of 2008 in Fort Worth, Texas. We need to tell officials of the UMC at every level that we find an association with George Bush unacceptable.
3. Encourage church school classes, United Methodist Women groups, congregations, districts, and annual conferences to petition our bishops and the General Conference of the UMC to reject the Bush Project at SMU.
4. I want to encourage you to support a publication that is an important new voice in lifting up concerns like this that are important to progressive Christians. It is a magazine called The Progressive Christian: Faith and the Common Good (www.tpcmagazine.org). We must have effective means to communicate as progressives, and in my opinion this publication is critical to that cause. I encourage you to read it and support it. (Mention my name and receive the lowest published rate – currently $22.95 for a one-year subscription.)
With Best Regards,
Rev. Andrew J. Weaver, Ph.D.