Friday, January 12, 2007

Lessons of History for Congress

Three decades ago Rep. Bob Edgar was a newly elected Congressman from Pennsylvania. Today he is the general secretary of the National Council of Churches. In this Philadelphia Inquirer commentary, he remembers what it was like as a freshman legislator to be opposing President Gerald R. Ford's plan to send some 20,000 more troops into Vietnam in a last-ditch effort to secure Saigon. Under the tutelage of Tip O'Neill, he and the other "Watergate babies" offered amendment after amendment to try and block the plan. In the end it became a moot issue because Saigon fell. But Edgar notes this irony:

It is somewhat ironic that, on that same day, April 22, 1975, an official White House photograph captured the architects of the proposed troop surge. President Ford is seated behind his desk in the Oval Office. He is conferring with his chief of staff, Donald Rumsfeld, and his deputy, Dick Cheney.

Fast-forward 32 years. We are hearing the same talk. We are hearing the same reasoning that more troops will help us get out of a war thousands of miles away.

We have just seen a new Congress sworn in. Many say voters spoke loudly last November against the status quo. In 1975, the 49 of us were called "Watergate babies," referring to the crimes that brought down the Nixon administration. Voters then were tired of being lied to, and wanted desperately to get our troops home from the war in Southeast Asia.

The architects of the waning days of the Vietnam War are many of the same planners who pushed our troops into the current war in Iraq. Apparently history has taught them nothing.

History, however, apparently was not lost on the American voters last November. I suspect it will likely not be lost on their representatives in the 110th Congress. I suspect those elected by the people will not approve spending any more tax dollars to extend another unpopular, ill-planned and shortsighted war.

Let's hope he is right. And how ironic - and sad- it is that Rumsfeld and Cheney were at the center of that mess three decades ago and are at the center of another foreign policy debacle today.


Gary Aknos said...

Just read this piece of commentary on

Regardless of your opinion of the IRD or the NCC, the report raises serious questions about the National Council of Churches and it’s sources of funding. Bob Edgar, like the UCC’s John Thomas, doesn’t like to have his motives questioned and will undoubtedly respond by claiming a right-wing conspiracy instead of actually explaining why the National Council of Churches hasn’t been more transparent about it’s sources of funding. In September, 2005, the United Methodist Church (Edgar’s own church and the largest member of the National Council of Churches) sent a “letter of concern” to the NCC over the departure of the Antiochian Orthodox Church and called for “immediate steps to understand” why the Orthodox church left the NCC. In the same letter, the United Methodist Church also expressed it’s “disdain” over a politically loaded fund raising letter that Edgar sent out in June of 2005.

Edgar’s initial reaction to the criticism he received from the letter was to suggest a conspiracy by “those who try to dilute our witness and mislead our friends by suggesting that the National Council of Churches is a partisan, left-leaning organization.” However, his tune changed after the UMC letter. Thomas Hoyt, then President of the National Council of Churches, said that Edgar now “has acknowledged that the letter was sent from the development office without proper review.”

The IRD, on the other hand, has a clear political agenda. Unlike the National Council of Churches, their agenda is transparent and their sources of funding are very public. But the biggest difference between the NCC and the IRD is their constituency. Whether you love them or hate them, the IRD’s members voluntarily and directly subscribe to their values and principles. The 45 million members that the NCC claims to represent are so buried under multiple levels of bureaucracy between their local churches, associations, conferences and denomination offices that there is literally no connection between the NCC and it’s members. Further, since the NCC claims to speak with a prophetic voice on a range of issues, it has a moral obligation to publicly disclose it’s sources of funding and political alliances – but it does not. At a minimum, the IRD report provides a level of transparency that the NCC won’t disclose on it’s own.

liberal pastor said...

I am not sure how this post is germane to mine. But I already responded to the untruth that the IRD is more open about its source of funding than the NCC. The president of the IRD said it himself. See the comments to the post "Christian Groups Trade Barbs."