How many Utah Mormons blindly support President Bush's prosecution of the Iraq war, and how many of them simply support the troops who are in harm's way? Four years ago, six BYU professors didn't support the plan, and the problems they predicted are occurring.
In January 2003, I was busy wondering if I would be called to active duty for the War on Terror. I don't particularly remember the letter to the Deseret News posted by six BYU professors on the 23rd of that month, but I remember thinking that there didn't seem to be enough evidence for us to attack Iraq, regardless of how bad Saddam was.
It is very common in my family and in LDS church meetings to pray for the troops. Usually we hear prayers asking for blessings of safety and success. In my family we have come to add the term "integrity". It is important that United States troops act with integrity in any mission they serve under.
Because we pray for the troops, does that make Utah (and other) Mormons automatic supporters of President Bush? I don't know for sure, but I do know that a lot of people voted for him, and a lot of people still support him in his efforts to win the war in Iraq. The average American (including the average American Mormon), does not fill a great deal of his day, unfortunately, with politics. My personal opinion, therefore, is that Utah Mormons show their support for the troops by expressing support for the President.
Let me also say that I think a lot more Utah Mormons (and everyone else) should involve themselves a lot more in politics. It is said that Latter-Day Saints, of all people, should be inquisitive in every area of their lives, having the Gift of the Holy Ghost to guide them to make wise decisions. This means that we shouldn't simply accept at face value what our leaders tell us, but rather should find out for ourselves whether it is true. In nearly every case, I have come to an independent conclusion that what my leaders tell me is true, but I don't think a lot of Mormons exercise the same diligence. And because they accept what their church leaders tell them, they have a tendency to accept what national leaders tell them, so long as the national leaders espouse social morality. I think this is why most Utah Mormons accept Bush, but didn't accept Clinton.
The BYU Professors (who may not all be LDS) who warned against human rights and moral dangers were very prescient. But they weren't prophetic in the sense that (1) a lot of other people were saying the same things, and (2) the Bush administration had no business ignoring what so many people were saying. They were, however, a very important part of the national conversation that somehow got ignored by a lot of Americans and a lot of Utahns. It's easy to say it now, but I think they were right. Here are some of their points, according to the Deseret News:
The guest editorial welcomed the prospect of Saddam Hussein's removal but correctly warned that:It's good that Saddam is gone, but the way he went made him a martyr instead of a pariah. Had there been a longer time for national debate, the determination likely would have been: don't go. American troops are targets, and that was a given, but now it is looking like we would have to stay there for a long time to bring the society under control (I remember listening to the radio in late 2002(?) when it was discussed that we would likely stay in Iraq for 10-12 years). Many nations have not only judged our attack as unjustified, but have been surprised at the immoral acts of the once shining city on a hill.
• The United States had time for more debate before launching the war;
• American forces in Iraq could become targets of terrorism for years to come;
• A new but weak Iraqi government would invite civil war and widespread human suffering;
• Many nations would judge a preventive attack by the United States as unjustified.