News Archives

Sen. Lugar shares concerns about Iraq with home church

3/10/2003 News media contact: Kathy Gilbert · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn.

NOTE: A photograph is available with this story.

By Daniel R. Gangler*

INDIANAPOLIS (UMNS) - U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) told his home congregation that this will be a "fateful week" as the prospects of war and peace are played out in relation to Iraq.

Lugar spoke Sunday, March 9, to more than 400 fellow members at St. Luke's United Methodist Church in Indianapolis during a noon "Lugar Luncheon," part of the church's 50th anniversary celebration.

With more than 200,000 U.S. troops deployed to the Middle East and ready for a showdown with Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, Lugar, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, outlined the past 50 years of U.S. history in the context of the current crisis with Iraq and terrorism.

He told the gathering that 50 years ago he was on his way to Oxford as a Rhodes scholar and the Cold War was a new reality, with 13,000 Soviet nuclear warheads pointed at U.S. targets. What was just as awesome back then, said Lugar, was that the U.S. had a doctrine of firing back with nuclear weapons if attacked.

A half-century ago, allied nation-states worked together under the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and countries at odds with each other had official diplomatic channels to work through, he said.

Today, said Lugar, the United States faces an enemy in al-Qaida, an extreme Islamic fundamentalist group with no official channels and no center of authority but that is international in scope.

"Our fear is if terrorists ever succeed in getting into their hands nuclear weapons or nuclear materials, things will change abruptly," Lugar said.

Things changed abruptly after Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists used two planes as missiles to destroy the World Trade Center. If any one of the hijackers had a nuclear weapon, hundreds of thousands of people would have died, Lugar said. "That would have been a holocaust of a different kind, one beyond our comprehension."

The threat of weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of terrorists is a possibility that must be minimized, he said. Eliminating such weapons has been part of his agenda to make the world safer.

In 1991, Lugar and Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) sponsored the Cooperative Threat Reduction Act, which led to the disarmament of the former Soviet Union's nuclear arsenal of 13,000 nuclear warheads. Lugar's involvement led to his nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize.

The senator has visited Russia twice a year since 1991 and has observed the dismantling of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. His most recent visit was in December.

Today, that number stands at 6,000 warheads, and it will continue to decrease as the United States and Russia work together in protecting that stockpile and in dismantling all nuclear weapons, he said. Last week, the United States signed a treaty with Russia to reduce the level to 2,000 warheads. "Debt-reduction money must go to Russia to destroy weapons aimed at us, and the Russians are willing to do it," he said.

His experiences with Russia have made his insights valuable to the current Bush administration. During an interview in the March 9 worship service, Lugar told the congregation that National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice had talked with him by phone about going to Russia to meet with leaders there this week. He also had met with President Bush 10 days earlier, when the president outlined his moves for the next month.

"These are fateful times," said Lugar. "This week is especially important." He fears that "one way or another, al-Qaida will get it (nuclear weapons)."

If the United States decides to take military action against Saddam without U.N. support, "most nations will come back to support us in Iraq," Lugar said. When and if this happens, then "we need to welcome them back," he said.

As Russia used to do by playing daily games of hiding weapons, Iraq continues to move and hide weapons of mass destruction. "Our country isn't giving in to it," he said.

The United States needs to continue talks with North Korea as well, he said. "They still have 80,000 weapons pointed at Seoul." He disagrees with President Bush's refusal to talk with North Korean officials. "We can't let these weapons proliferate," he said.

When asked about the anti-war movement, Lugar said he welcomes demonstrations because they are part of being a democracy.

He also answered a question about his Christian faith in relationship to his role as senator. "Our faith is a living faith. It's the way we conduct ourselves, and it comes from our roots. My roots are here," he said, looking around the room. "We need to tell the truth, offer our best and listen to advice. We need to stand up and make wise judgments. We must understand our mortality. Faith speaks to our worries. And we need to pray a lot."

The Lugar Luncheon was one of several activities held at St. Luke's during the weekend. St. Luke's was formed in March 1953 in an American Legion hall on the north side of Indianapolis with 119 members. Today, the church has more than 5,000 members and an average weekly attendance of 3,300 worshipers in one of 11 services. The Rev. Kent Millard is the pastor.

# # #

*Gangler is director of communication, Indiana Area of The United Methodist Church

Back : News Archives 2003 Main

Contact Us

This will not reach a local church, district or conference office. InfoServ* staff will answer your question, or direct it to someone who can provide information and/or resources.


*InfoServ ( about ) is a ministry of United Methodist Communications located in Nashville, Tennessee, USA. 1-800-251-8140

Not receiving a reply?
Your Spam Blocker might not recognize our email address. Add to your list of approved senders.