Commentary

A Government’s Call and the Call of Christ

To label a government’s policy as “insane” is to go rather far out on a limb. Where the war in Iraq is concerned, I’m ready to climb out there.

The Iraq war is just that. Insane. The facts are irrefutable and damning.

* There were no weapons of mass destruction, as had been promised. Had we given Hans Blix and his team of 250 United Nations inspectors more time, we could have avoided all the bloodshed.

* There was no yellowcake uranium coming from Zaire, as our president so confidently declared in a State of the Union speech.

* We were not welcomed as liberators.

* There was no viable connection between September 11, 2001, and Saddam Hussein. No matter how many times this lie is repeated, the facts don’t change.

The entire war effort in Iraq has been a massive foreign policy blunder. One would like to think we learned at least something from Viet Nam. (One lesson should have been, don’t mess with civil wars.)

Look at the cost of this misguided war. There are now 3,340 U.S. soldiers dead and the number grows daily. Another 25,000 have been wounded. Many have missing limbs or serious brain injuries. It is now estimated that as many as one in four returning soldiers suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition that will likely be with them for the rest of their lives.

Over 3,200 soldiers went absent without leave (deserting their posts) in 2006 alone. Conservative estimates put Iraqi civilian deaths at 50,000. Other reputable sources double or even triple that number.

Recently our nation paused to grieve for 33 students killed at Virginia Tech. This kind of carnage happens almost every day in Iraq, and usually in numbers far greater than what resulted at Virginia Tech.

We have forced four million Iraqis to leave their homes. Two million have had to leave their country. Think what this kind of dislocation does to a nation. This is quickly becoming one of the biggest humanitarian disasters of our time.

And to add insult to injury, the United States is closing its doors to these refugees, people we displaced in the first place. We admitted only 18 in 2005 and just 202 in 2006. This year we may allow 7,000 to enter, but this is only a tiny fraction of all whom we have displaced. By contrast, Sweden this year will admit 35,000 Iraqi refugees, in essence helping to clean up our mess. In addition, over 12,000 doctors have now fled Iraq, with another 2,000 murdered before they could even escape.

And we wonder why the world sometimes despises us!

Then there is the monetary cost of this war. To date the total is near a half-trillion dollars. That’s eight billion dollars a month or 11 million dollars an hour! This is absolutely obscene. And, when you factor in the long-term cost of caring for those wounded soldiers over the course of their lifetime, the price-tag for this war could easily top one trillion dollars.

Imagine how much more beneficially that money could have been spent, alleviating human suffering rather than causing it.

Once again, a government’s call to war has trumped the call of Christ, who told us that if we live by the sword, we shall die by the sword. When violence erupted in the Garden of Gethsemane, Christ — who could have ordered, “Go get those infidels, boys!”, declared instead, “No more of this!” It was the same Christ who wept over the city of Jerusalem, stating, “Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace.”

Our incursion into Afghanistan after September 11 was likely the right thing to do. It’s the home of the Taliban, al-Qaeda and bin Laden. By contrast, our invasion of Iraq has been nothing short of a disaster.

May God forgive us for our ignorance and our arrogance.

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Harrington is senior pastor of Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church, Apple Valley, Minnesota. He is a member of the Metro Lutheran