We the People - Reflections on Iraq
The American led invasion of Iraq in March 2003 deepened the already existing division between the Middle-East and the West, divided America from long-time political allies, and even divided America itself. It even divided Christians. Three years down the track as the American military body count surpasses the number of victims of 9/11, more sober minds are evaluating what the real cost of the war has been.
In October 2006 the Washington Post published the results of a study estimating the number of deaths in Iraq since the war began. The number is staggering. The study revealed that 655,000 more people have died in Iraq since coalition forces arrived in March 2003 than would have died if the invasion had not occurred. This figure is not the total body count of the conflict, but focuses on what could be termed as 'excessive deaths'. ie: Non-combatant civilian deaths resulting from 'collateral damage' during the war and the instability which followed as result of the failure of the invading forces to establish law, order and the repair of essential services. Unlike other death-toll estimates, this estimate used a scientific method called "cluster sampling" and compared official death rates before the war with death rates since. While acknowledging that the estimate is large, the researchers believe it is sound for numerous reasons, and the great majority of deaths were also substantiated by death certificates.
These revelations ought to cause those who supported the war in Iraq to stop for a good long time of reflection and introspection. Iraq may well be rid of it's former dictator, but is no closer to finding a lasting peace than it was before the war began when Saddam was still in power.
Many of us who engaged in public commentary in the lead up to the war predicted all of this - and we were harangued and criticised for our foolishness in asserting it. I was personally criticised by fellow Christians (including some pastors) for my 'political naivety' whilst they gave their tacit support for the invasion of Iraq. Many of those critics, along with other pro-war advocates, have grown very silent as events have unfolded and as the horror and embarrassment of this particular war has emerged.
Hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians have died in what has been a tragic, foolish, ill-conceived and poorly executed military exercise resulting in a pointless and futile blood-bath that many fear may continue for decades to come. The war has incited further extremist hatred towards America and the west in general, limited the access and effectiveness of missionaries (and endangered them) and recruited a whole new generation of young would-be martyrs who believe that killing a western 'Christian' is the greatest thing that they could do for the cause of Allah.
And whilst the world has been distracted and occupied with the events in Iraq, one of the world's most truly repressive regimes, North Korea, really has acquired weapons of mass destruction and has openly expressed a preparedness to use them. Western allied governments can now do little about it, having spent and depleted what limited moral authority they had by drawing upon false intelligence and a lie to take us into a war in Iraq that did not need to be fought. What will these governments do in the future now that their people no longer trust them to tell the truth?
The Need to Repent
The ideological forces which drove America towards the invasion of Iraq did not originate in the mind of George Bush junior or even his father before him. They originated in the minds of the Republican 'Neo-cons' who sought war for the sake of power, profit and their own glory, and took America down the wrong path once again. No doubt many of my fellow believers will draw upon scripture to justify their positions: "Brother, don't you know that in the last days there will be 'wars and rumours of wars'?" But none of this negates the fact that war is not the way of Christ and that we are called not only to understand that the Kingdom of Christ is not of this world, but that we as Christ's representatives are called and blessed to be peacemakers until He returns.
If we are fortunate enough sit in our comfortable homes today, unaffected by the pain and devastation that our respective Bush/Howard/Blair governments have caused in the Middle East, or of we simply shrug and switch the channel when news of yet more killing and violence on the streets of Iraq fills our TV screens, then we should consider this:
If we voted for the Bush/Howard/Blair governments, and if we failed to speak out or raise our voices in protest, then we are implicated and have been complicit in one of the most appalling and misdirected injustices of our time. If we profess to believe in democracy and say we want people in the Middle East to enjoy it too, then we need to understand that we the people appoint the governments that represent us, and we the people have access to local representatives who participate in the decision making processes (or at least have access to those who do). And if we the people remain silent during times of war and atrocities result as a consequence of our silence, then we the people have blood on our hands along with our political leaders. We the people need to understand our part in the guilt that our nation has shared... and repent.
The road to healing in the Middle East, and reconciliation between Muslims and Christians, is a long road and one that will not easily be traversed. Much more blood may be shed and many more martyrs made in the attempt to make Christ known in the Arab world. But we also need to begin the healing at home. We need to repent of our lack of prayer for our political leaders and for leading them believe that the way of war was God's way. We need to repent for supporting those leaders who refused to listen and who led our nation down the path of violence and injustice. We need to repent of our own ignorance. We need to ask God to forgive and save our enemies - not kill them - and to help them to embrace Jesus as their Saviour too (even the Saddam Hussein's and Kim Jong II's of this world!). And we need to ask God to heal the nations that we have participated in destroying and ask Him what He requires of us for that healing to take place.
Tuesday, January 9, 2007 printer friendly version | 23283 reads
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