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The Iraq War is a War on Christians

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Almost two years ago, I reported that there are no more churches in Afghanistan, according to the U.S. State Department. Now, Andrew Doran at AmCon Mag tells the story of how the Iraq War became a war on Christians. Hopefully, the U.S. will not repeat the mistake for a third time in Syria.

Did you know that prior to the invasion of Iraq, Pope John Paul II sent Cardinal Pio Laghi, who was also a Vatican diplomat, to see President George W. Bush in order to convince him not to attack? The Vatican had the wisdom to see what many in the world could not: that an invasion would result in a protracted war with tens of thousands of deaths and an increased hostility to Christians in the region.

Obviously, Bush and Co. didn’t listen.

Read More→

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At The Libertarian Standard, Anthony Gregory writes an incredible essay commemorating (or in shame of, alternatively) the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War. The piece covers libertarian perspectives on war that span decades of great writing by great libertarians.

The relationship between war and libertarianism has interested me since 9/11. In the aftermath of those terrorist attacks, I witnessed in grim fascination many libertarians make excuses for government in the realm of national security. The proper libertarian position on war has become a matter of controversy, although I believe it shouldn’t be. “War is the health of the state,” as Randolph Bourne said, as well as being “mass murder,” in the words of Murray Rothbard.

It behooves us as Christian libertarians to understand war precisely because it is an issue of life and death, hence why you see so much material on this site dedicated to peace. Many thanks to Anthony for giving us such a great resource. Read the rest of Anthony’s essay here.

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I am not positive at all toward Jim Wallis’s left-leaning positions on government intervention in the economy and social issues. Nonetheless, he is completely correct in his criticism of John McCain and Vietnam/Iraq:

Let me state some clear convictions from many of us in faith community. The war in Vietnam was morally wrong. The war in Iraq was morally wrong. And John McCain has been morally wrong on both of them. Christian judgments of war should always run a narrow spectrum — from the peacemaking ethic of Jesus which rejects war to the just war theology of Augustine and Aquinas. But even in the just war tradition, conflicts have to pass a number of moral tests and be the option of “last resort.” The burden of proof is always on those who support war to justify the taking of life.

Well said, Mr. Wallis. However, I find it odd that while Wallis has repeatedly gone out of his way to criticize wars initiated by Republicans, he has been nearly silent on the five or six lower-profile wars his friend and confidante President Barack Obama has initiated.

Wallis is walking a very fine line at the edges of political power, and I would encourage anyone who reads Sojourners to consider what a principled stance against state-sponsored violence really entails.

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Soldiers in Fantasyland

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Disney World in central Florida recently opened a large expansion and renovation of its Fantasyland area. Kids can ride Dumbo the Flying Elephant, the Mad Tea Party, the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, and Peter Pan’s Flight. Although adults can ride too, the difference is that they know these things are all fantasy – or at least they are supposed to.

Some American adults have not only ridden the rides at Fantasyland, they live in Fantasyland. Their conception of what the U.S. military accomplished in Iraq and Afghanistan belongs in a ride in Fantasyland. It is wishful thinking. It is pure fantasy.

It is bad enough when civilian American adults live their lives in Fantasyland; it is even worse when soldiers do.

I recently responded to a former soldier who had written to me concerning my article, "Marines, Why Do You Do This To Your Families?" I quoted this paragraph from his letter:

So was it worth it? Ask the women who now have fundamental human rights for the first time. Ask the children who can now attend school and get an education (schools that groups of insurgents haven’t hidden a cache of weapons and explosives underneath). Ask the farmer who can now grow crops to feed his family, and his village, rather than poppy fields to create opium to line Al Qaeda’s pocket (because if he didn’t, they would systematically kill his family until he complied). Ask the people of Iraq who no longer have to worry about Saddam Hussein’s regime of terror.

For the sake of argument, I did not dispute the soldier’s claims. Instead, I pointed out that for many, many others besides these women, children, farmers, and Iraqis, the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan was not worth it at all. I did the same thing in my article about the end of the Iraq War, "Was It Worth It?":

Okay, suppose it’s all true – and then some. Suppose it’s even better than anyone could have imagined. What if Iraq is now a model democracy for the rest of the world? What if Iraq now has a constitution that rivals our own? What if there is now no more sectarian violence in Iraq? What if Iraq now has a free market? What if Iraq is now an American ally? What if Iraq is now a friend of Israel? What if Iraqis now have freedom of speech and freedom of religion? What if Iraq now respects the rights of women and minorities? What if all Iraqi children are now in school? What if Baghdad is really the best city on earth instead of the worst?

Would it now be worth the life of your son? Can you look your son in the face and tell him that you would have sacrificed him to bring about these changes in Iraq? And if your son had the misfortune of dying in Iraq, how do you think he would feel if he could now hear you say that his death was worth it?

So, this time, let’s take an interactive ride through the Fantasyland that some soldiers (and their supporters) live in.

In the soldiers’ Fantasyland, they see women who now have fundamental human rights for the first time. In reality things are otherwise. According to "Women in Afghanistan: A Human Rights Tragedy a Decade after September 11," published by the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA):

Over a decade after the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States and the military campaign in Afghanistan, there is some good news, but still much bad news pertaining to women in Afghanistan. The patterns of politics, military operations, religious fanaticism, patriarchal structures and practices, and insurgent violence continue to threaten girls and women in the most insidious ways. Although women’s rights and freedoms in Afghanistan have finally entered the radar of the international community’s consciousness, they still linger in the margins in many respects. Overall, the situation for girls and women in Afghanistan remains bleak.

The situation for Afghan girls and women remains deplorable, despite concerted efforts to improve their freedoms, rights, and quality of life. In a June 2011 global survey, Afghanistan was named as the "world’s most dangerous country in which to be born a woman.

In the soldiers’ Fantasyland, they see children who can now attend school and get an education. In reality things are otherwise. According to a recent NPR story:

In Afghanistan, girls are required by law to go to school. However, many of them never do. Death threats, acid attacks and bombings by Taliban militants and other extremists lead many parents who support female education to keep their daughters at home. Sometimes, it’s the families themselves who stand in the way. School officials in conservative communities say relatives are often more interested in marrying off their daughters or sisters than in helping them get an education.

According to the UN’s Inter-Agency Information and Analysis Unit, in Iraq "one in three girls aged 12-14 is not enrolled in school, while one in ten of the same age group has never attended school, according to the Iraq Knowledge Network Survey. Traditional cultural and social factors often remain obstacles to improvements in girls’ access to education."

In the soldiers’ Fantasyland, they see farmers who can now grow crops to feed their families and their villages rather than poppy fields to create opium. In reality things are otherwise. Heroin production by Afghan farmers rose between 2001 and 2011 from just 185 tons to 5,800 tons. It increased by 61 per cent last year alone. But that’s not the worst of it:

Some 15 per cent of Afghanistan’s Gross National Product now comes from drug-related exports.

The UN says there are now 17 provinces in Afghanistan affected by poppy cultivation, up from 14 a year ago. Experts say the Taliban’s involvement in the drugs trade ranges from direct assistance – such as providing farmers with seed, fertiliser and cash advances – to distribution and protection.

Ironically, the Taliban had overseen a significant fall in heroin production in the months before the invasion. Their leader Mullah Mohammed Omar – collaborating with the UN – had decreed that growing poppies was un-Islamic, resulting in one of the world’s most successful anti-drug campaigns. As a result of this ban, opium poppy cultivation was reduced by 91 per cent from the previous year’s estimate of 82,172 hectares. The ban was so effective that Helmand Province, which had accounted for more than half of this production, recorded no poppy cultivation during the 2001 season. However, with the overthrow of the Taliban opium fields returned, despite the destruction of crops by coalition forces and initiatives to persuade farmers to switch to other produce.

In the soldiers’ Fantasyland, they see Iraqis who no longer have to worry about Saddam Hussein’s regime of terror. In reality things are otherwise. Iraqis now have to worry about a despotic Islamic state under Sharia law instead of the secular government that existed under former U.S. subcontractor Saddam Hussein. Article 2 of the Iraqi constitution reads:

Islam is the official religion of the State and it is a foundation source of legislation.

No law may be enacted that contradicts the established provisions of Islam.

And then there are the first three articles of the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan:

Afghanistan shall be an Islamic Republic, independent, unitary and indivisible state.

The sacred religion of Islam is the religion of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

No law shall contravene the tenets and provisions of the holy religion of Islam in Afghanistan.

Iraq and Afghanistan were invaded and occupied by U.S. troops who killed hundreds of thousands and died by the thousands to install militant Islamist governments with new constitutions that formally enshrine Sharia Law.

U.S. soldiers (and their supporters) are living in Fantasyland if they think that their actions did any "real and permanent good" in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The question, then, is why do so many U.S. soldiers (and their supporters) continue to live in Fantasyland? It is time that they begin to face reality. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are not just wars; they are monstrous evils. U.S. soldiers were not and are not defending anyone’s freedoms, keeping Americans safe from terrorists, fighting "over there" so we don’t have to fight "over here," or defending the country in any way. U.S. soldiers are attackers, invaders, trespassers, occupiers, aggressors, and, yes, killers.

It is time to leave Fantasyland. As Jacob Hornberger, president of the Future of Freedom Foundation puts it: "After 10 years of invasion, occupation, torture, killings, incarcerations, renditions, assassinations, death, destruction, anger, hatred, and the constant threat of terrorist retaliation, it’s time to admit that the military invasion of Afghanistan, like that of Iraq, was horribly wrong."

Originally posted on on January 14, 2013.

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Is War Worth It?

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Believe it or not, I like getting e-mails from military veterans.

I do admit, though, that this might seem like the last thing anyone would expect after looking through my LRC article archive and reading all the negative things I have written about the U.S. military.

I have termed U.S. soldiers invaders, occupiers, killers, destroyers, criminals, and murderers. I have placed the responsibility on them for their actions. I have charged them with helping to carry out an evil U.S. foreign policy as the president’s personal attack force. I have blamed them for putting their families through unimaginable and unnecessary suffering. I have said of the U.S. soldiers who died in Iraq and Afghanistan that they died unnecessarily, duped, for a lie, in vain, and in vain again.

Yet, in spite of this, most of the mail I receive from veterans is positive – and especially from Vietnam veterans. Most of them realize that they were young, ignorant, deceived pawns of the U.S. government and the military industrial-industrial complex, whether they volunteered or were drafted. Most of them also acknowledge that no American soldier had any business going to Vietnam in the first place. Many of them say they still have bad memories of the people they killed and the things they did that are known only to them and God. None of them have ever written to me and said they were proud to be a Vietnam veteran. I know there are some proud Vietnam veterans out there, for I have seen their hats and bumper stickers, but not the Vietnam veterans that have written me.

It seems as though the further back the war, the more anti-war the veterans are. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a single note from any World War II veteran that expressed anything but disgust and/or regret for fighting in the "good war."

But this works both ways.

Some of the most vile hate mail I have ever received has come from veterans or active duty military personnel who have fought in Iraq or Afghanistan. Although this type of e-mail more often originates from armchair warriors, red-state fascists, reich-wing nationalists, bloodthirsty conservatives, or war-crazed Republicans who have never been in the military themselves, there is nothing more pathetic or tragic than a self-righteous soldier who claims he fought in Iraq or Afghanistan on my behalf so I could have the freedom to write the anti-American attacks on the very military that is keeping me safe from terrorists.

I recently received a lengthy response to my article "Marines, Why Do You Do This To Your Families?" from a Marine veteran of Iraq or Afghanistan, I’m not sure which (he said one reason he joined the military was "for the Iraqi and Afghani people"). Because the writer was polite, didn’t threaten to do me bodily harm, didn’t tell me to "go f___ yourself," didn’t call me unpatriotic or anti-American, and didn’t tell me to leave the country and go to North Korea or Cuba, I thought I would respond to something he said at the conclusion of his letter:

So was it worth it? Ask the women who now have fundamental human rights for the first time. Ask the children who can now attend school and get an education (schools that groups of insurgents haven’t hidden a cache of weapons and explosives underneath). Ask the farmer who can now grow crops to feed his family, and his village, rather than poppy fields to create opium to line Al Qaeda’s pocket (because if he didn’t, they would systematically kill his family until he complied). Ask the people of Iraq who no longer have to worry about Saddam Hussein’s regime of terror.

I have no doubt that most of the women who now have fundamental human rights, children who can now attend school, farmers who can now grow crops, and people of Iraq who were maltreated by Saddam Hussein think that the U.S. invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan were "worth it."

But for others it simply wasn’t worth it.

First of all, I only said "most" people in Iraq and Afghanistan think it was worth it because some of them who lost arms, legs, or loved ones to U.S. bombs, bullets, or drone strikes, saw the dead bodies of people they knew missing body parts because U.S. soldiers took trophies of their kills, or saw photographs of smiling U.S. soldiers next to civilians they murdered for sport might not be so enthusiastic about the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraqi and Afghanistan.

Secondly, thousands of American soldiers have lost arms, legs, and/or genitals. How many of them think their injury was "worth it" for the cause of women’s rights in Afghanistan? Thousands of American soldiers suffer from PTSD or a traumatic brain injury and will never live a normal life. How many of them think their injury was "worth it" so children in Iraq can attend school? Thousands of American soldiers are paralyzed or require constant medical care. How many of them think their injury was "worth it" so farmers in Afghanistan can grow their crops? Thousands of American soldiers can’t tell us what they think about women’s rights, children’s education, and farmer’s livelihoods in Iraq or Afghanistan because they committed suicide. More U.S. military personnel died by their own hand this year than in battle with "terrorists" or "insurgents."

Thirdly, the long-term costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will exceed $4 trillion dollars. How many American taxpayers think that restoring the rights of women in Afghanistan and educating children in Iraq was worth $4 trillion? How many of descendants of American taxpayers fifty years from now still paying the war bill will think it was "worth it"?

Fourthly, there are 4,400 U.S. soldiers who died in Iraq and 2,100 who have died so far in Afghanistan. Each one of those dead American soldiers has a son, a daughter, a father, a mother, a brother, a sister, an aunt, an uncle, a grandmother, a grandfather, a niece, a nephew, a cousin, and/or a friend who won’t see them this Christmas. How many of them think it was worth it? How many parents of dead American soldiers think that women in Afghanistan now having fundamental human rights makes the death of their son "worth it"? How many children of dead American soldiers think that children in Iraq now being able to attend school makes the death of their father "worth it"? How many grandparents of dead American soldiers think that farmers in Afghanistan now being able grow crops makes the death of their grandson "worth it"? How many friends of dead American soldiers think that because people in Iraq are no longer maltreated by Saddam Hussein that the death of their friend was "worth it"?

And finally, there are tens of thousands of Iraqis and Afghans who don’t think the U.S. invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan were "worth it" because they are now dead thanks to direct action of the U.S. military, sectarian violence unleashed by the U.S. military, or collateral damage courtesy of the U.S. military.

It doesn’t matter what "good" has come from the U.S. invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. None of it is worth an American soldier stubbing his toe or breaking a fingernail. And people question my patriotism?

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