As day by day America's shame blazes across the television sets of the world, and we craft a multi-generational bloodbath to bequeath our children, I have a question for my evangelical Christian brothers and sisters: What will it take for us to come to our senses regarding our long gruesome trail of wreckage in Iraq?
First, however, I must confess that despite my conviction from the beginning of the folly of our attacking Iraq, other than having written a couple of articles and expressed my views among a few friends, I have played the coward. I have worried about my own popularity, respect, career, and peace. I have feared men and not God. Now I ask Him to forgive me for my faithlessness and my lack of love for Him and my neighbor. I ask Him to empower me to disregard the fear of man and to speak the truth with boldness to my generation.
What I need to know is what it will take for conservative Christians to cease enabling "our man in the White House," George W. Bush, to carry on his disastrous war against Iraq. The effects of the sanctions our nation placed on Iraq after the first Gulf War and kept on it for twelve years did not do it. That is, our forcing the withholding of water purification chemicals and many other supplies crucial to the health of the people, especially old folks and children. The 227,000350,000 children on-site United Nations officials estimate the sanctions killed did not do it. Nor did the bombs U.S. airmen dropped on the civilian Iraqi infrastructure that contaminated water and prevented hospitals from functioning due to lack of electricity and running water. No, we Christians prefer to call such men heroes and award them medals.
Paul Craig Roberts, former associate editor of the Wall Street Journal and assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury, writes that for a period in 2001, the administration of our Christian President "even embargoed infant vaccines and medical equipment from being sent to Iraq."
A colossal militaristic empire's storming into a small country less than one-tenth its own population and forcing its will and culture on that country did not do it, either. Not the thousands of civilian Iraqi men, women, and children we have slaughtered in our "liberation" of their country, nor the many more killed by anti-American factions for cooperating with us. Professional organizations such as Global Policy Forum, Amnesty International, and the Future of Freedom Foundation report that at least three thousand Iraqi civilians died during the initial Spring 2003 American onslaught, and many thousands more since then.
The nearly eight hundred U.S. soldiers that have died in Iraq, and the thousands of wounded have not brought Christians to our senses. Rather, we support the President as he continues to send and keep troops there.
No, the reported treatment by American soldiers of Iraqi civilians, inside prison and out some beaten to pulp with rifle butts, others shot in the back, others sexually abused, and still others tortured to death have failed to do it. So, too, the wedding party we gunned down "by mistake." Likewise, our Marines shooting up ambulances bringing food, water, and medical aid to hungry and injured civilians, as well as the containers of food and water intended for them. And Fallujah, too, and the other towns, where the soccer fields are now cemeteries for the people.
The American sharpshooter blasting away from atop a tank did not do it, either, as he shot down various Iraqis, resisters and civilians alike, then shrugged and told a disturbed English journalist that the woman he had just blown apart was "just some chick" who got in the way.
Neither did the exposure of a cavalcade of Bush Administration claims for the falsehoods they were: claiming Iraq had “drones of death,” mobile germ laboratories, a stash of Scud missiles, a pipeline to al-Qaida and “poison camps,” chemical munitions bunkers, smallpox or anthrax to unleash on America, that it attempted to purchase uranium from Niger in order to develop its secret nuclear program, that it "continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised," including nuclear weapons.
The tens of thousands of cluster bombs and the brightly-colored bomblets they spawn that we and the English dropped on Iraq did not do it. Nor have the thousands of bomblets which remain undetonated on the ground at this writing, waiting for yet more arms and legs of Iraqi children and adults and American soldiers to blow off. Rather, we prefer to put those airmen on the covers of our own Christian magazines, interview them on our syndicated Christian radio programs, and honor them in our church services.
Perhaps it will take the forcible government conscription of our own children so that they too might gain the opportunity to be separated from their families for months or even years, shot, burned alive in their humvees, or cluster-bombed. Or maybe have half their face blown off by a suicide bomber like my old college buddy did as he worked to help our government pump oil out of Iraq. He calls himself Mr. Pumpkin Head now and says one time when he blew his nose, the air came out his forehead.
We do know, don't we, that some of those Republican Congressional leaders to whom we conservative Christians offer so much moral and monetary support are now calling for consideration of a national draft of our children? This, despite the United States Constitution's prohibition both of standing armies and "involuntary servitude." (Last time I checked, not one Congressman, nor Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity or Ann Coulter is "serving their country" in Iraq, even as they champion the herding of hundreds of thousands of other people's children to do so.)
Or will it take other things, things we wish not to speak or think of, even more heart wrenching than our already-gathering tragedies? Will it take having our own beloved sons or daughters drafted and placed in situations neither they nor we would ever have intended for them, as they attempt to uphold the honor of their country and protect their loved ones? Situations that result perhaps in their beating unarmed prisoners to death, shooting mothers in the head, or blowing up buildings with children in them, as others of our young people have already done in Iraq. Situations they will carry around with them the remainder of their scarred lives. Will that finally do it?
“When you see a child five years old with no head what can you say?” asks one doctor in Fallujah. “When you see a child with no brain, just an open cavity, what can you say? When you see a mother just hold her infant with no head and the shells are all over her body.”
What will it take, fellow Christian?
May 10, 2004
John J. Dwyer (send him mail) is chairman of history at Coram Deo Academy near Dallas, Texas. He is author of the historical novels Stonewall and Robert E. Lee, and the upcoming historical narrative The War Between the States, America's Uncivil War. He also is the former editor and publisher of The Dallas/Fort Worth Heritage newspaper.