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First Universalist Church of Essex, MA, Sponsors Iraq War Veterans
First Universalist Church of Essex, MA, Sponsors Iraq War Veterans
International Engagement & Building Peace

The First Universalist (Unitarian Universalist) Church of Essex, Massachusetts, sponsored an information and fund-raising event entitled The Truth About the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq on Sunday, March 2, at the church in Essex. One hundred and ten people participated in the event co-sponsored by the Veterans for Peace and the North Shore Coalition for Justice and Peace that included Unitarian Universalists (UUs) from congregations around the North Shore.

After a brief welcoming by Rev. Art McDonald, Minister, First Universalist Church of Essex, MA, he introduced Dr. Andrew Bacevich, Boston University Professor of History and International Studies and author of several books, including The New American Militarism: How Americans are Seduced by War, and a retired veteran, who served for 24 years in the military, including a stint during the Vietnam War. In his remarks, Dr. Bacevich suggested that the major problem we have is not what to do about the war in Iraq. Rather, he opined, our most pressing concern is what to do with the current national security policy of preventive war and militarization. He made it clear he was not what he called a "peace and justice" type, but rather a political "realist" in the tradition of the great Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. Nevertheless, he considers the current Neo-Con strategy of preventive war entirely reckless and unsustainable and that the next President will face the difficult task of turning this around. While he did not mention this in his remarks, Dr. Bacevich and his family are living with the tragic reality that his son was killed in Iraq last year in a war that he calls "misbegotten," much like the war in Vietnam.

Dr. Bacevich was followed by a young former Marine, Liam Madden, who served in Iraq in 2005, and is now a leading spokesman for the group Iraq Veterans Against the War. He is currently in Washington, DC, as part of a program called "Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan," taking place at the International Labor College in Washington. In Madden's compelling and courageous speech as to why the war in Iraq never should have been fought, he said he feels "totally used by an Administration which altered the facts to justify the invasion and ongoing occupation." He then showed a powerful and disturbing video, "Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan."

The event concluded with some inspiring music from Unitarian Universalist singer and song writer, Pat Scanlon, whose CD entitled "Where is the Rage" was mailed to all Unitarian Universalist congregations last Memorial Day in a Peace Package. $2200 was raised for the "Winter Soldier" project at this inspiring event.

The Peace Package called on UU congregations to invite Iraq War veterans into their pulpits and the Essex congregation took that call seriously. This small congregation of 75 members and their minister believe that to achieve peace in the world they need to be working for justice in their own community as well as nationally. The congregation is a member of ECCO (Essex County Community Organization), a congregation-based community organization, and Rev. Art is one of its leaders who has helped get other area UU congregations involved as well. ECCO works on economic development initiatives to bring jobs into the area and supports the large immigrant community on the North Shore.

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