Iraq and the Christian Conscience

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.”
– Matthew 5:6

“Put not your faith in princes and sons of men, in whom there is no salvation.”
– Psalm 146:3

The Sunday after the election, my preacher and I had a brief conversation in the hallway. He safely assumed that I was among those who were, as he joked, “cursing” the Democratic takeover of Congress.

Actually, I was cheering. Not because I’m a Democrat, but because it gave me hope we’ll finally have checks and balances against a stubborn White House with respect to the war it started in Iraq. The election wasn’t so much a “revolution” for liberal Democratic principles as a mass revolt against President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney and the mess they’ve made in Iraq.

Bush turned Iraq into the most violent place on the planet – 3,700 civilians killed last month alone – and he removed from power and put on death row the only person who can restore order there, the guy who after all the prewar demonizing turned out to be a toothless tinhorn, more a threat to his dentist than anyone else.

Did you know that more innocent Iraqi civilians – mostly children – have been killed and maimed under President Bush than under Saddam Hussein? It’s true. As a Christian, I am absolutely repulsed by this statistic. You don’t hear that one on talk radio, for good reason.

I’m also repulsed by the rhetoric from church pulpits that we must continue to support the war to “support the troops.” I know preachers think they must say that for the benefit of members who have loved ones deployed there. But here’s a news flash: a whopping 72 percent of U.S. troops think Iraq is unwinnable and want out – now. That’s the finding of a recent major poll of troops on the ground over there by Zogby International, the most respected polling firm in America.

And although most of our troops perform their duties honorably and professionally, there are an increasing number who have committed unspeakable acts of evil against innocent Iraqi civilians, including:

  • Four soldiers from the 101st Airborne who raped a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and killed her, along with her parents and her 7-year-old sister, in a village called Mahmoudiya about 20 miles outside Baghdad. After they had their way with the girl, they doused her body with kerosene and set it on fire to destroy the evidence.
  • An entire U.S. Marine unit who went house-to-house in Haditha slaughtering at least 24 innocent Iraqi civilians, including a 76-year-old man and a 3-year-old child, in a premeditated massacre akin to My Lai.
  • Several Marines who, frustrated in their search for insurgents, dragged an unarmed 52-year-old man from his home in the town of Hamdania, put him in a hole, and shot him, leaving a shovel and an AK-47 to make it look as if he were an insurgent caught planting explosives.
  • MPs at Abu Ghraib who attacked detainees with dogs and sodomized others with glow sticks. The general who investigated the systematic torture said in his report that 3/5 of the detainees were not insurgents or terrorists at all, and should never have been rounded up in the first place.
  • This is sadism – pure, unadulterated evil – that should never be forgiven as the “unfortunate business of guerrilla warfare” but should be loudly condemned by good Christians everywhere. And these are just the cases the military brass have agreed to prosecute. There are countless other massacres and abuses that have been reported by locals and human rights groups but not court-martialed.

    But I don’t just blame the soldiers. I blame Bush and Cheney for getting them jacked up to think they were avenging their fellow Americans who died on 9/11. That’s what they were told in Kuwait before they invaded Iraq – that these Muslims were the same Muslims who attacked us. The GI mindset hardened into “So they all deserve a good beatin’.” The conflation of Iraq with al-Qaeda is a worse kind of evil because the commander in chief knew better, as I’ll explain further on.

    I also cringe every time I hear a minister preach or pray about us “fighting for freedom” in Iraq, or fighting to “liberate the Iraqi people.” Please, the Iraqi people never invited us to invade and occupy their country, and they don’t even want our form of freedom (they enshrined Islamic law in their “new and improved” constitution). Here’s another statistic you won’t hear on Rush Limbaugh or Fox News, and it’s from the State Department’s own recent survey in Iraq: 91 percent of Sunnis in Iraq want us to leave, and 74 percent of Shi’ites also want us out.

    Another poll found that more than 3/5 of Iraqis say they back attacks on U.S. troops!

    The inconvenient truth is, there is nothing noble or heroic about the war Bush and Cheney started in Iraq. It was political, not strategic. It had nothing to do with 9/11. We were sold a bill of goods. As a Christian, I cannot support a lie, especially one that continues to grind up other people’s kids for no good reason (while still not protecting us from the true threat from Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda Central, as opposed to the backbenchers and second-string wannabes in Iraq).

    Did Bush, a supposed “born-again Christian,” lie us into war? I’ve read the prewar intelligence estimates. I don’t believe as some do that Bush knew Saddam didn’t have WMD and attacked him anyway. No, Bush didn’t know Saddam didn’t have WMD, but he knew better than to say he had “proof” that he did. The intelligence community had no such proof – the NIE dossier was full of caveats regarding WMD. Yet Bush and Cheney told us they had solid proof. They misled us.

    But in the case of the alleged prewar al-Qaeda connections, they did know better – and they just plain lied to us. They said Saddam and Osama were collaborating and implied that Saddam was behind 9/11. The prewar Iraq dossier, the NIE, said exactly the opposite – no collaboration, no ties to 9/11 or any anti-American terror anywhere in the world, ever. Bush and Cheney knew that and deliberately lied to the public. (And Cheney’s still lying.)

    I’m no Johnny-come-lately in my criticism. Months before the invasion, I warned in my first book, Crude Politics, that Bush was sending our troops to a false front in Iraq. Quoting FBI counterterrorism veterans, I warned it would only buy Osama bin Laden – the real and proven threat – time to establish a new base inside Pakistan where he could train new terrorists. My sources were right. Since he escaped from Afghanistan in December 2001, he’s managed to train the London bombers and the British Muslims who planned to down 10 airliners over U.S. cities. They were all trained and funded by al-Qaeda in Pakistan.

    Bush took his eye off the prize, and hopefully the oversight hearings in Congress next year will determine why. As yet, no one has asked that critical question, even in the press: Why? Or rather, how – how do you attack the wrong country? How do you make a “mistake” like that as president? How do you blow off bin Laden for another five years after what he did to us in New York and Washington? Was Iraq wag-the-dog? Was it about oil? Israel? All of the above? Subpoenas have a funny way of dredging up the truth. Stay tuned, there’s a lot of low-lying fruit left unpicked by the sycophantic, rubber-stamping Republicans who abdicated their oversight responsibilities in the 108th and 109th Congresses.

    Some who are afraid of facing the ugly truth say it’s counterproductive to look backward with hearings and investigations. Too negative, let’s move on. No, it’s what our Founding Fathers intended – a necessary and healthy exercise to maintain the integrity of our republic. If our elected officials are not held accountable for – of all things – lying us into wars, killing innocents abroad, and using our sons and daughters as pawns in whatever private game they’re playing, we only give them license to do it again the next time the opportunity arises. The Iraq fraud may be the most egregious violation of the public trust in our history. Damn right the Founders would want us to hold hearings.

    The Iraq war was wrong from the start, totally immoral if not illegal. If the invasion were wrong, how can the occupation ever be right? To continue to support it in order to continue the post-9/11 charade of blind patriotism is decidedly not right.

    “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied” in Heaven, says the Gospel according to Matthew. Blessed are the truth-seekers.

    Sticking it out in Iraq will only keep other people’s children dying in a false war fought for phony reasons. Gung-ho professional soldiers would be better utilized on the real front along the Afghan-Pakistani border, the same front they were pulled away from three years ago to fight in the false front of Iraq. Al-Qaeda Central is not in Iraq. They’re along the Afghan-Pakistani border, where they’re working with the Taliban to attack our troops based in Afghanistan, and they’re making deeper and deeper inroads every day we dither in Iraq. The Iraq distraction has merely bought them time to regroup and also train sleeper cells to attack us – not in Iraq, but in the heart of London and over the Atlantic and along our Eastern Seaboard. Or possibly even the West Coast, with Los Angeles the next target.

    Who knows, but we have to get to them before they get to us. Yet Bush has us trapped in Iraq – can’t stay, can’t leave. Trapped.

    Is it God’s will that we stay? Christian Zionists and Rapturists may believe that. I don’t. But so long as the Christian Right keeps propping up the Iraq war as a noble cause because they trust Bush to be a noble Christian man, this farce may play out to its bloodiest absurdity. I believe preachers, elders, deacons, and other church leaders will have the final say in how long this farce runs, because they have the moral authority to sway the 3 in 4 evangelicals who still support Bush and his Baghdad bloodbath.

    Will they continue to put their faith in princes and sons of men in whom there is no salvation?