If you pray for peace, why pay for war?


If you think the war in Iraq was justified because Sadaam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and was collaborating with al-Qaida, today’s column is not for you.

If you think that once we’re in a war we’ve got to support the troops by cheering them on no matter how unjustified the cause, today’s column is not for you.

If you think that war justifies torture and indefinite detention of people we think might be bad, today’s column is not for you.

But if you oppose the war, if you think the best way to support the troops is to bring them home and rehabilitate them, if you think that torture and indefinite detention with no trial are never justified, what are you doing about it?

Many people worked hard for us to have the right to object to serving in a war for moral reasons, dating back to the Quakers when Pennsylvania was a colony. Now, if you oppose war — all war, not just ones you think aren’t completely justified — our country can no longer force you to serve in the military. It was a long struggle to get that right, a right that in many countries is not recognized. You will be vilified, demonized if you don’t cheer on the troops and serve in the military, but you won’t be forced to kill.

Yet, in the law of our land, the person who hires the killer is just as guilty of murder as the one who pulls the trigger. Nonetheless, we do not recognize the right of people to redirect their taxes from support for the military. We force everyone who opposes war to violate his or her conscience every April when they have to send in their taxes.

We work hard now to get the Religious Peace Tax Fund bill passed that would allow conscientious objectors to mandate that none of their taxes go to military purposes. It has been presented in each of the congresses since 1972. You can get information about that from the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund at www.peacetaxfund.org.

In the meantime, those who oppose all war have no choice but to live below the taxable income level, or violate their consciences, or resist payment of taxes. It is a hard choice.

For those of us who believe that war is never justified, who believe that to torture someone is a greater evil than our own death, yet are not ready to live below the poverty line to avoid taxes, there is something we can do. We can withhold part of our taxes — the full 50 percent that goes to the military or just one dollar — being very clear on our tax returns that the reason is because to pay that money for the military would violate our conscience to collaborate in what we see as morally unacceptable, and that we are redirecting that money to peaceful purposes. At the very least we can include a letter with our taxes protesting the use of our money for the military. The National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee is a coalition of many peace groups that helps advise on tax resistance. You can go to them for information at www.nwtrcc.org or call them at 800-269-7464. And we can write our representatives and senators to support the Religious Peace Tax Fund bill.

They’re not like you and me, those folks who pray for peace and pay for war.

Arf, formerly known as Dr. Richard L. Epstein, is the author and publisher of books on reasoning and is head of the Advanced Reasoning Forum in Socorro.