Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Ten Years Later

Today marks an important date in American history as we remember the start of the liberation/invasion of Iraq. I vividly recall ten years ago the building up to the invasion of Iraq and I likewise remember how enthusiastic I was. Saddam Hussein was clearly a bad guy. We were about a year and a half removed from 9/11/2011 and our national blood lust was still running high. As a fairly young Christian deeply entrenched in American conservative evangelicalism I saw nothing inherently contradictory in supporting a war of aggression against a sovereign nation. After all everyone knew that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Everyone knew that Iraq was supporting terrorists. President Bush was "our guy", an unapologetic evangelical Christian Commander-in-Chief. What possible reason would a red-blooded American Christian have for not supporting the overthrow of a dictator, installing democracy and preventing the bad guys from getting WMDs? I was all set to join the military after 9/11 and would have gladly left my family behind and marched off to war to set straight the enemies of America and smite the ungodly Muslim terrorists.

Ten years later I have a much different perspective. I still think that Hussein had MWDs in limited numbers at some point that were moved or hidden. There was a pretty lengthy lead up to the war giving him plenty of time to move them and he clearly possessed them at some point because he used them on his own people. As the snarky saying goes we know Hussein possessed WMDs because we still had some of the receipts. Regardless, by the time we got there they were gone and our justification for the invasion was looking pretty shaky. Was his regime an imminent or even realistic threat to the U.S.? I kind of doubt it. Was the U.S. justified in invading Iraq igniting a conflict that lead to hundreds of thousands of deaths, mostly civilian? Today I would say absolutely not. Our Constitutional mandate to wage war is very specific and invading another sovereign nation without a declaration of war and under false pretenses doesn't qualify. Is America "safer" today? I don't see how. Sure we fought over there instead of hypothetically over here but the tens of thousands of Iraqi dead don't bring me much satisfaction. I am no longer willing to trade dead Iraqi civilians to perhaps avoid dead American civilians.

As a Christian I am even more troubled by my past support for an unjustified war of aggression and the general enthusiaism for this war among my brethren. The Iraqi people and Muslims around the world are a huge mission field and they, quite rightly, see Christianity as an American religion that is at war, literally, with their religion and their culture. Jesus said we are to love our enemies but we have often seen our enemies as synonymous with America's enemies and rather than love them our motto has been "get them before they get us". So questions of who was right and who was wrong, whether a war was justified or carried out ethically, etc. are of far less importance to me than my non-negotiable obligation to love my enemies even as Christ in loving His enemies redeemed me and took upon Himself the penalty for my sins. By and large American evangelical Christians did very little to love as Christ loved in the days and months leading up to and following the invasion of Iraq.

I look back today with sadness. Far from "Mission Accomplished" I see a mission field poisoned against the disciples of Christ seeking to take His message of enemy love to a people who are in desperate need of His redeeming blood. I see us as a people who have lost sight of our primary calling, draping the flag over the cross and reading the Scriptures with red, white and blue lenses. I personally repent of my lust for blood in those days and I call upon my brethren to do the same. This is not an anniversary to celebrate, it is a sober and painful lesson to learn and never forget.

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