Anyone for Golf?
Who will you vote for Prime Minister – John Howard or Kevin Rudd?

Reflections on the War in Iraq

IraqThe war in Iraq continues to be a topic of fairly heated political discussion across the globe.

I personally believe that US President, George Bush, would have been better to wait until a United Nations joint decision before choosing to invade Iraq. The 'weapons of mass destruction' that were the cause of the invasion soon turned into the 'weapons of mass disappearance'. Saddam Hussein is gone but the war continues to drag on and on, at the cost of many lives. Rebuilding the nation has become an almost impossible task, much like the complex situation that developed with the Vietnam War last century.

Last year, I was privileged to be invited to a World Vision dinner with special guest Tony Campolo and a number of Christian leaders from around Melbourne. At dinner time, Tony was asked what advice he would give President Bush in regards to the war in Iraq. Without hesitation he said he would advise him to do three things immediately:

  1. Apologise for invading Iraq. The weapons of mass destruction simply weren't there.
  2. Immediately withdraw all American troops. They are struggling in an unfamiliar environment and culture. The nearby Saudi Arabian government has offered to send troops to help the Iraq government. These troops are familiar with the environment and culture and would do a much better job helping to bring order to the country.
  3. Donate half of the billions of dollars that are being spent on the war to help rebuild Iraq as a nation. The other half should be invested back into America, to help alleviate poverty and other social issues that have been much neglected due to the drain of funds used to finance the Iraq war.

I must admit, I thought that was advice worth considering.

More recently, Tony addressed the question, "What would Jesus do about the war in Iraq?" You can read a transcript of his message here.

Have a read and let me know what you think. You may not always agree with what Tony says, but he always has something thought-provoking to say.

Tony will be one of our guest speakers for our REDLINE men's conference on May 23-24th, 2008.

Comments

Well done Mark! In a world of political and religious correctness, it's refreshing to see people stating the unbiased Biblical view on current events. I wonder what the outcome would have been, had the West invaded Afghanistan and Iraq with missionaries and Christian humanitarian workers! Rom 12:21; 1Pet 3:9

Hey Mark,

I happened to find your blog and have been reading it the last couple of days. Very Interesting stuff. I enjoy your perspective on so many of the topics you discuss. Thank you for being real and not being afraid to share your opinion.

I recently read Tony Campolo's book Tough Questions. I found it interesting and challenging. While I didn’t agree with everything, and even though I found myself wanting further clarification on some things, I found his book challenged me to become more understanding, more open-minded, and more compassionate. I appreciate what he offers to the body of Christ.

As far as the war in Iraq is concerned, I have my own opinions. The weapons of Mass Destruction thing is I think a little more complex. General Georges Sada (Former general of Sadaams army) insists that Iraq did have weapons of mass destruction and Sadaam moved them to Syria before the American Invasion. See: http://www.nysun.com/article/26514 . Georges Sada is a Christian, and serves an advisor to the current Iraqi PM.

I read the Article by Tony. I thought it was a great thought provoking argument. Again, given Tony's ministry I appreciate the side he brings to the table. I'd like to add two more scriptures though to his article. I think this first Scripture is so cool because it shows the wisdom of God in how relevant the Bible is to this day. It's the Scripture of the Soldiers coming and repenting at John the Baptists message. I think it is particularly interesting that at this moment of repentance John doesn’t tell the soldier to get out of this corrupt Army. Instead, he gives them this advice: Luke 3:14 ¶ “What should we do?” asked some soldiers. John replied, “Don’t EXTORT money, and don’t ACCUSE people of things you know they didn’t do. And be CONTENT with your pay.” Be A soldier and do what your doing, but don’t abuse your power to get your own way. Treat your God-given position with the Fear of God...Seems relevant to me.

Next is the classic from Romans:
Rom. 13:3 for rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you.
Rom. 13:4 For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not BEAR THE SWORD for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.

The way I see it the Bible says that God has given government the responsibility and the power to protect their citizens and also to punish evil. The Bible says Government is God's agent...By the way I’m not saying America is right in what we are doing in IRAQ. However, I will say there is no way of knowing for sure that what we are doing over in Iraq is wrong.

If tomorrow as I’m going to Work and I see a 16-year-old Rugby player beating the snot out of a 5 year old. I mean beating the snot out of him to the point of almost killing him. Should I do nothing as a Christian? Or should I get out of my car and because I'm a Christian just get in his way and let him beat the snot out of me? Or should I defend the child and myself?
Can evil reach such a place that it requires doing the unthinkable thing sometimes? What did God think about dropping the bomb on Hiroshima? The allied forces were expecting to lose 1 million men on D-Day in Japan. Japan had trained woman and children to resist at all costs. Should American and Europe just let Germany and Japan just have their way with the world? I ask these questions because although Tony's perspective brings a check and a balance to us, I do believe that it is not just pragmatically wrong I believe it is biblically flawed as well in the sense that it doesn’t contain the tension of both sides in scripture. I say this humbly knowing Tony is an extremely intelligent person.

Just My Opinion.

Hi Mark, Tony's article certainly struck a chord with me. I do believe there are times when we should defend our nation and help people and nations who are weaker or in trouble - I also believe this is scriptural. However, I see a major problem with being quick off the mark with aggression rather than showing God's love and mercy.
I have first hand knowledge of the damage done to unbelievers when they are constantly bombarded with "war-cries" from leaders professing to be Christian. Very early in this Iraq war, people around me who are not Christian, have been saying "if aid was dropped instead of bombs there would be a very different outcome". I have the same thoughts myself.

Hey Mark,

I found Tony's comments thought provoking but naive. The US has ~150-160,000 troops in Iraq yet Saudi Arabia has 190-200,000 troops in its entire army (including reserves). The Saudi defence budget is relatively big at 31 billion USD but it is dwarfed by American spending in Iraq alone - $94 billion in 2006 just for Iraq. I find it difficult to believe any country would take on such a burden unless they got access to Iraq's oil or expected the US to fund them.

Also, given that many conservatives in the US suspect people in Saudi Arabia of funding terrorists (and that several 9-11 hijackers were Saudi's) any bill allowing US withdrawls to be replaced with Saudi troops would never pass congress.

Finally, giving aid to Iraq instead of defence spending is also incredibly naive. Billions of dollars in US aid have gone missing in Iraq right under the nose of the American military and State Department! How much more will go missing when the US isn't there?

Some good dialogue here.

Anthony, thanks for that data - definitely sheds some new light on Tony's suggestions.

Mike - yes, I agree that there is an appropriate role that government authorities take in enforcing justice and protecting its citizens. Bonhoeffer was part of a plot to assassinate Hitler because he believed, for example, that if you saw a maniac driving a school bus of children towards a cliff, as a Christian you would be responsible to do anything within your power to stop him. With Iraq, I think the US acting independently, without waiting for the joint UN decision (who were very slow!), was not the best. However, something needed to be done. Also, there needs to be greater consistency, as there are many other countries where intervention is needed. Hey, good to hear from you. Hope you are well.

Mark

Interesting thoughts.
I don't think we can justify a comparison of the Iraq INVASION to Bonhoeffer's reasoning towards Hitler and Nazi Germany. It is one thing to protect a nation and its citizen, but we are moving on a totally different realm when we are the ones doing the invading.
Campolo's argument may be overly-simplistic, but they certainly deserve merit. The Christian faith is radical - a radical response to Iraq would have been the greatest weapon available against evil - the sort of Christ-like love that doesn't make sense.
Growing up in third world nations I found this whole debacle ironic. Somehow I doubt this sort of force would have been shown if there where no oil wells involved. Right now our globe is facing genocides and the devastation that corrupt leadership brings - yet there's hardly a blip in our media regarding these situations. Hmmmm? Maybe the worst of it all: using the Bible as a leverage for war and destruction and the loss of thousands of civilian lives.

In my opinion, the problem with Iraq is its lack of unity. Were all occupying troops to leave, it is entirely possible that the country would tear itself apart in sectarian violence, as is already beginning to happen. Currently, it would probably be safer for civilians and noncombatants if (and I realise that this is a very controversial thing to say) the collective anger of the extremists is directed at the invading forces, who have the means to defend themselves, rather than innocents who merely want to live. Otherwise, we will be directly responsible for a bloody civil war.

What about withdrawing all foreign noncombatants from Iraq, and allowing Iraqis a chance to rebuild their country themselves, using the troops already stationed there just to ensure that nothing gets out of hand? That way, the number of troops stationed there can be reduced, and the Iraqi people are put in charge of their own future.

Rather than give the money to the government, invest it in the people to rebuild and hopefully repair the rifts that have grown...

All I can say is, thank God Tony Campolo isn't the President of the United States. One can only imagine the destruction that sort of withdrawal would wreak a people who deserve so much more than they have been given.

Casualty rates for both the US and the UK have collapsed, Fallujah and Ramadi - two very famous cities for their danger - are safe now. News organisations no longer go there because it is 'boring'. By nearly all reports, Al-Qaeda no longer controls any major city or town in the whole of Iraq.

No Arab nation could possibly handle Iraq due to the Sunni/Shia divide.

The West has a just mission in Iraq. Most Iraqis agree on this point. Their courage in fighting for democracy has been simply inspirational. In many places Iraqis didn't walk to the polling booths, for fear of being shot. They crawled. They were willing to risk their lives just to vote - and achieved a participation rate of over 60%, one of the highest in the world.

The enemy in Iraq is totally evil. This is in a way a good thing, because it has caused large swathes of the population to change sides this year. Former insurgents are now fighting alongside the Americans.

I only really started following the Iraq War in the past 12 months or so but what I have read has given both remidners of the depth of human evil and the triumph of human courage. It has also been very surprising. We hear all the negatives all day long.. I guess the positive stuff isn't newsworthy.

Why pull out when just on the verge of victory? Even if it was wrong to enter, we have a moral responsibility to stay and secure the future of Iraq.

BTW re : consistency in application towards other nations, this a very comment argument against the Iraq War.

There's no doubt in my mind that Bush wants to go into places like Darfur, and he has spent enormous amounts of energy trying to get the UN to do SOMETHING.. ANYTHING... to save those poor people.

He can't go outside of the UN because he's basically lost all his political capital. Noone will go into battle with the USA to help people in places like Darfur, and tens of thousands just... die while the world watches on...

Ok having just been told I should back my comments up, here goes:

United States close to declaring victory over Al Qaeda in Iraq:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/14/AR2007101401245.html

The opinion of an Iraqi : (in summary, he says if the US goes home he will seriously consider suicide): http://www.michaeltotten.com/archives/001502.html

Al-Qaeda massacring a whole village - http://www.michaelyon-online.com/wp/bless-the-beasts-and-children.htm

Bush announces sanctions against Sudanese-
http://weblogs.chicagotribune.com/news/politics/blog/2007/05/bush_on_darfur_us_will_not_ave.html
Key points - Sanctions against Sudanese companies. - Bush calls on other nations on Sec Council to pass resolutions but they're not doing along with it. - US delivers US$1.7bil in aid to Darfur.

The UN has relented to US pressure and is putting 20,000 peacekeepers in, in addition to the 7000 African Union troops.

I probably overstated re: Bush on Darfur but his actions have been far more commendable than anything Clinton, Bush Snr or Reagan ever did.

I think this subject has been covered quite well already but want to add a couple more comments. One person could have prevented the US invasion of Iraq and that was Saddam Hussein. Why he never stepped up when he saw the US preparing for a repeat of Desert Storm showed his depraved state. His evil regime suffered the fate of Old Testament failed kings and remember, it was Iraqis who hanged him, not Christians. So much for our "lack of mercy".
The UN is a failed organization, you see many instances of its inability to unite and contribute to solutions. A lot of people fail to understand how 9/11 changed America. The US took action because it took the threat seriously, but of course a price is to be paid.
Personally I think it's a brilliant tactic to concentrate the fighting in the Middle East rather than have terrorists more actively doing their evil around the world. And they certainly would be far more effective if so many weren't bottled up in caves or fighting their jihad against a skilled military in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is truly a unique war on a world-wide scale and the US knows something about fighting for freedoms. No free pass though, we know they made mistakes too.

Finally, my own perception is that the situation in Iraq could be changed overnight by God (we see precendents in OT accounts) and He probably would if the nations would call on His Name. We have left this situation for politicians and military to deal with. Does anyone know of a drive to unite the people of US and Australia in fervent prayer for His deliverance? Does anyone have the ear and voice of God and know what He wants us to do? Am not criticising here, just wondering. I believe our best solution lies with Him. There is no "good" military solution.
Someone has mentioned the failure of Christians to supply for Iraqi children. True, it would have been an excellent demonstration of love back then although I question whether Saddam's regime would have stood by to let the food reach the needy ones. So what's stopping us now from doing the same? Or have we really abandoned all hope?


All I can say is I wish Tony Campolo had been President of the USA and we may not have had the civilian bloodbath that is a reality of this war.
QUote from Lynne Hybels, WCA magazine:

"Here’s another bit of information that shakes me: Prior to the 20th century, 90% of the casualties of war were soldiers. That soldiers die in war is tragic, but in the last century “collateral damage” has turned tragedy into insanity. Now, worldwide, approximately 90% of the casualties of war are civilians and an estimated 75% of them are women and children."

Tip: the stories of courage are certainly inspiring, but research into other media coverage will uncover some not so pretty stats and stories - this is a key in research - look at all sides:
http://www.iraqbodycount.org/
http://www.obleek.com/iraq/
http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/meast/10/11/iraq.deaths/
http://www.infowars.net/articles/march2007/270307Iraq_toll.htm
"BALTIMORE, Maryland (CNN) -- War has wiped out about 655,000 Iraqis or more than 500 people a day since the U.S.-led invasion, a new study reports.

Violence including gunfire and bombs caused the majority of deaths but thousands of people died from worsening health and environmental conditions directly related to the conflict that began in 2003, U.S. and Iraqi public health researchers said."

Keep your glamerous comments on the "evil enemy" - sometimes the enemy is far nearer than we would like to admit!

"The consequences of downplaying the number of deaths in Iraq are profound for both the UK and the US. How can the Americans have a surge of troops to secure the population and promise success when the coalition cannot measure the level of security to within a factor of 10? How can the US and Britain pretend they understand the level of resentment in Iraq if they are not sure if, on average, one in 80 families have lost a household member!!"

However, I don't think pulling the troops out of Iraq is the answer. The US and its allies certainly now have an obligation to bring this nation from devastation to functionality. There has to be resource poured into medical clinics, education and rebuilding of infra-structure.
ANd as for the "evil enemy" - Jesus gave us a radical thought - Matthew 5:44-48

CAMPOLO FOR PRESIDENT!

To keep doing the same thing in the same way, when it is already a disaster, is the definition of idiocy. No business would survive with such a mentality. The war has been going on for four years. It is a disaster. And I just do not believe that it is almost over! Or on the verge of success! No offence to the brother who said that above, but it is a statement of hope and considerable naivety. Vietnam had far more American soldiers there than Iraq has (about half a million at its high point), and the US could never get victory there.

And from a Christian point of view... a Christian point of view, not a Mosiac one... to get a New Covenant point of view, not an Old Covenant one... : keep Jesus at the forefront of our thoughts and actions! Jesus fulfilled the old covenant and changed things considerably. We are no longer under the laws and ways of Moses. We are under the final and complete revelation of God in Jesus. So put Jesus' words first if you say you follow him. If he is your Lord and Saviour. If he is your Master and example. But if you follow Moses first, copy his ways and limit yourself to the old covenant ways.

[Even then, under the Old Covenant, there is more in the OT about NOT warring but rather trusting God to be your savior. Time and time again we see God telling his people not to make alliances with powerful neighbors, not to take pride in armies as if they can save them, not to use armies for protection, but rather trust God himself... And we see good God fearing Kings on occasion go on very bad wars - like Jehosophat going on a war with Ahab! and nearly getting killed as their armies got defeated. ... We forget a lot of the OT teaching in our shallow rush to justify war.]

But in the end, Jesus is the final and ultimate revelation of God. He is our focus. As Hebrews 12:1-2 says: You are surrounded by great witnesses (in the OT - all of Hebrews 11), but keep your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith.

And Jesus said to Pilate: My kingdom in not of this world, if it was of this world, my disciples would fight, but it is not of this world. He told Peter when he swung the sword in the garden to put it away, and that those who live by the sword die by the sword. He told his people to be ambassadors of peace (blessed are the peace makers). He told us to love our enemies. He told us to bless those who curse us.

What is the mandate of the church? Are we meant to run nations in this world and force our ways onto everyone else? Or are we meant to be light and salt and witness to the world, making disciples of all nations, and showing love to all people, while being "aliens and strangers" (Peter)and recognising that our "commonwealth is in heaven" (Paul). Are we meant to build up treasures on earth? or in heaven? (Jesus)

How can it be so hard for us to acknowledge that Jesus was not one to ask his disciples to war and depose evil rulers in the world? Is that our mandate? We are losing sight of our call in our desire to support the decisions of our preferred leaders of nations! We are confusing the work of the church with the work of nations. They are NOT the same thing!

May God raise up more Tony Campolos to speak prophetically to the church and shake us back to Jesus!

Wow, Mark looks like you have opened a hot topic. Well I think it is good to stir us up hopefully it will get us moving in some direction instead of just debating verbally (or written) for or against.

I just finished a novel by Karen Kingsbury called Ever After. I know a chick novel but I found it very impacting in looking at the life of a soldier and the people around them. It helped me get a more "these are real people" perspective.

Thanks for the recommendation, Rachel.

Hello Mark

I have just returned from a UN Peace Keeping Mission in Sudan (June - Nov 06) and have had conversations with a number of my fellow Australian Army Officers and Soldiers who have spent time in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I was fortunate to have the then Mr Rudd visit our small contingent based in Khartoum in Sep 06. He was invited to Sudan as a guest of World Vision and took the opportunity to visit Australian military and police.

Iraq and the Coalitions involvement is a complex issue. I believe the justification for our involvement in Afghanistan was strong however the intelligence reports for Iraq have been found to be wanting or the WMD were removed before the Coalition forces arrived. Once commited however, there is then a responsibility to bring stability to the region. There are different approaches to bringing forth this stability.

An Iraqi officer who fought with the Iraq Army in 1991, studied with me on a tactics course in 2004 in Canberra and he advised of Sudam Hussein's mistreatment of the Iraqi people. This opended my eyes to the regime under the dictatorship.

Does this however provide justification for a Coalition to remove the dictator? There are a number of dictators around the world. Economic prosperity (oil) is an underlying issue. Some countries will have greater resource wealth than others ie Middle Eastern and North African countries may have a dictator however different approaches are taken.

As a Military Christian I pray for both military and politcal decision makers. If I am approached to serve in these countries, I seek God's will and then serve to the best of my ability often to the detriment of those close to me.

I am the Vice Chairman of the Military Christian Fellowship in Australia that provides a network and prayer support for those in the military both in Australia and for those in deployed locations. I'd appreciate your prayers for this ministry.

The comments to this entry are closed.