BIRMINGHAM, June 16 - Presbyterian James Woolsey ran the Central Intelligence Agency during part of President Bill Clinton's administration, so his take on world events carries a certain weight among General Assembly commissioners.
He minced few words when he spoke during an unofficial General Assembly gathering Friday. Woolsey criticized the General Assembly's 2004 decision to consider divesting in companies that refuse to reform such practices as selling bulldozers to raze the homes of Palestinians living on land disputed with Israel.
"We have, I'm afraid, moved into a posture…that, unless what we did two years ago is rejected, we are clearly on the side of theocratic, totalitarian, anti-Semitic, genocidal beliefs, and nothing less," Woolsey declared.
Woolsey wants the 2006 General Assembly to rescind the Mission Responsibility Through Investment process, which seeks to engage companies to convince them to stop practices some Presbyterians find objectionable. If engagement fails, the church would up the ante by divesting its holdings in the company.
He said not only will the strategy not work, but it will punish such companies as Caterpillar, one of five companies selected for engagement. The company has been responsive to victims of disaster, including the tsunamis in Indonesia, he said.
With the Palestinians' Hamas party coming to power, Woolsey sees little room for hope for a two-state solution.
"What bars people from living together is that everyone knows that if Jews in the West Bank weren't protected by the Israeli Defense Forces, they'd be killed," he said.
The region lost its best shot at peace in 2000, he said, when then-Israeli Prime Minister Elahud Barak offered Palestinian Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat a 95-percent withdrawal from the West Bank and $30 billion in compensation.
Woolsey said the proposal was "an extra generous offer, and Arafat turned it down without making a counteroffer, and went back to murdering Israeli women and children in pizza parlors. And yet our church decided to throw its moral lot with the Palestinians."
The wall (Woolsey says it is 90 percent fence and easily can be moved if negotiations warrant it) that Israel built has drastically reduced the number of suicide bombings, he said.
Hamas "doesn't play by the rules," he said. Its charter, from which Woolsey read, blames Jews for everything from the French Revolution to the creation of the United Nations and claims such groups as Rotary International act in the interest of Zionism.
Woolsey displayed photographs from Hamas' Web site that showed 5-year-old boys being trained as suicide bombers and a cartoon of a young Palestinian relieving himself on the Statue of Liberty.
During his hour-long talk, Woolsey also touched on the topic of oil security, noting that a decision by Iraq to interrupt its oil production would send a barrel of crude oil to $100. A terrorist attack interrupting Saudi Arabia's production would push the price up to $200 per barrel.
Today's high prices already are hard enough on such underdeveloped nations as Bangladesh, he said. Global warming is doubly bad for that country, he noted, because raising the world's oceans by 1 foot would put most of the nation under water.
Woolsey wants Americans to start "taking charge of our energy future" by taking steps that are "widely available and inexpensive," such as installing slightly larger batteries in hybrid cars to boost mileage and exploring the production of ethanol out of grasses rather than corn.
It may not be long before waste products, including hog manure, can be turned into diesel fuel, he predicted."We need to get ourselves organized to move toward alternatives to oil," he said. "If the chaotic Middle East finds its way into our lives again, we will have some answers" to help avert an energy crisis, he said.