Criticism of buildup mounts Religious leaders raise moral concerns

November 13, 1990|By Charles Green and Alissa Rubin | Charles Green and Alissa Rubin,Knight-Ridder News Service

WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration's military buildup in the Persian Gulf faced growing criticism yesterday as the nation's Roman Catholic bishops raised moral concerns about a possible war and a senior Senate Democrat sharply attacked President Bush.

[Several key Republicans also have raised questions about President Bush's reasons for the buildup and complained that he has not consulted Congress sufficiently, the Los Angeles Times reported.

[Sen. Richard G. Lugar, R-Ind., a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations committee who has raised questions about the latest deployment decision, scheduled a news conference for today to expand on his views.]

[Earlier, Representative William S. Broomfield, R-Mich., ranking GOP member of the House Foreign Affairs panel, had called on Mr. Bush to consult more widely with Congress on what Mr. Broomfield termed a "major policy change" in the confrontation with Iraq, the Times said.]

Separately, the top Episcopal bishop in the United States was preparing to request a meeting of religious leaders with Mr. Bush, an Episcopalian, to express reservations about the buildup of troops.

The Catholic bishops, at their annual meeting here, voted 249-15 to endorse a letter sent to Secretary of State James A. Baker III by Los Angeles Archbishop Roger Mahony that questions whether the use of force in the Persian Gulf would be morally justified.

"As the administration assesses the military and geopolitical implications of initiating combat, we also ask you to carefully assess the moral consequences of resort to war," the letter said. "Our country needs an informed and substantive discussion of the human and ethical dimensions of the policy choices under consideration."

Meanwhile, Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D-N.Y., a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, accused Mr. Bush of abusing his authority by moving the country closer to war without adequately consulting Congress.

"It's as if that great armed forces which was created to fight the Cold War is at the president's own disposal for any diversion he may wish, no matter what it costs," Mr. Moynihan said on ABC's "Good Morning America."

"He will wreck our military. He will wreck his administration, and he'll spoil a chance to get a collective security system working."

[Sen. Dale Bumpers, D-Ark., chided Mr. Bush for not taking leaders of Congress into his confidence on gulf strategy and for not justifying the need for greater forces, the Los Angeles Times reported.

["I don't understand this gung-ho attitude about sending another 200,000 men over there and getting ready to invade," Mr. Bumpers said in a telephone interview. "I don't mind sharing the landing if we're in on the takeoff, [but] . . . the president has a duty to notify most members of Congress before hostilities break out."]

The Catholic bishops cited the need for a national debate on war as a reason for raising concerns about Persian Gulf developments.

"There was a serious need to raise the moral questions before, not after, the important policy decisions are made," said Archbishop Mahony. "There is a real possibility of war."

Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of Detroit raised similar concerns, saying any statement should "clearly condemn, on moral grounds, any military involvement. Just the expenditures -- $1 billion a day -- when a billion people live in absolute poverty every day, the discrepancy is so clear. . . . "

Concern over the looming prospects of war spurred presiding Episcopal Bishop Edmond L. Browning to confer with religious leaders of other denominations about a possible meeting with Mr. Bush.

Also, a group of Vietnam veterans from around the country, including former Veterans Administration chief Max Cleland and Vietnam Veterans Memorial Chairman John Wheeler, scheduled a news conference here for tomorrow to call for more public debate before a war is declared.

Until now, Mr. Bush has received little criticism from Congress for his handling of the gulf crisis. But President Bush's announcement last Thursday that he was ordering some 200,000 troops to join the nearly 240,000 military personnel already in the gulf region for possible offensive action against Iraq has triggered growing concerns.

On Sunday, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sam Nunn, D-Ga., a respected defense authority, urged Mr. Bush to give the economic sanctions against Iraq more time to work. Mr. Nunn also said the administration made a mistake in dropping plans to rotate home some of the troops now in the gulf.

Mr. Moynihan was more critical, saying Mr. Bush would be breaking the law if he went to war without congressional approval, a reference to the provision in the Constitution giving war-making authority solely to Congress. "If George Bush wants his presidency to die in the Arabian desert, he's going at it very steadily and as if it were a plan," Mr. Moynihan said.

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