Good Friday is the right day to assess the current war. Despite what some may be saying, this is not an Easter moment. It is not a moment of victory or triumph, and certainly not a time for "alleluias." It is a moment for sorrow, anguish and reflection.
Anguish and guilt are what at least some of the soldiers in the Army's 3rd Infantry Division, which has borne the brunt of the fighting in Iraq, are now experiencing. They have found themselves fighting a grossly outmatched opponent. The Christian Science Monitor quoted one 3rd Infantry Division soldier saying, "For lack of a better word, I feel almost guilty about the massacre. We wasted a lot of people. It makes you wonder how many were innocent. It takes away some of the pride. We won, but at what cost?"
The Monitor reported that as waves of Iraqis armed only with rifles came against U.S. armored divisions in Najaf, the U.S. commander called in an air strike on the factory sheltering the Iraqis rather than have his troops continue the slaughter. Lt. Col. Woody Radcliff at the 3rd Infantry Division Operations Center said, "There were waves and waves of people coming at them, with AK-47s, and they were killing everyone. The commander (in the field) called and said, 'This is not right. This is insane. Let's hit the factory with close air support and take them out all at once.'
"They have no command and control, no organization. They're just dying," said Brig. Gen. Louis Weber, as assistant commander with the 3rd Infantry. Last week the Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team killed at least 1,000 Iraqis by direct fire on a single raid into Baghdad, reported Weber.
Should the disproportionality of what that solider termed "a massacre" surprise anyone? I think not. After all, Iraq is a nation whose total Gross National Product equals 15 percent of the GDP of the state of Washington. Half the population of Iraq is under the age of 15. And the annual defense budget was $1.4 billion, as compared with $400 billion for the United States. It has been a little like a pit bull taking on a particularly scrappy kitten. Only the morally atrophied can cheer such a victory, or portray it as Vice President Cheney has as "one of the greatest military campaigns in history."
But inasmuch as we were told that Iraq represented a threat to the national security of the United States, the reality of this war ought to lead us to ask again why we have done this. Such a catalogue of reasons and rationales have been trotted out by the administration that one almost needs a computer program to keep up. Iraq poses a threat to our national security, we were repeatedly told in a blatant and relentless playing on our fears. How is it that the strongest and wealthiest nation on Earth feels so easily threatened?
Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction, we were told. None were used against us. Funny, we haven't found any. Not funny that the documentary "evidence" cited by the president in his State of the Union address to support this claim has turned out to be a forgery, and a very shoddy one at that. Now the president is saying that Syria may have chemical weapons. Is the groundwork being laid for the next invasion?
"Iraq has links to al-Qaida." None were ever shown or substantiated. But that didn't keep the administration from making constant rhetorical connections between Iraq and 9/11. It was a sales job that makes Madison Avenue look like amateurs. And it succeeded. By the time the bombs began to fall a majority of Americans believed that the hijackers of the planes on 9/11 were actually Iraqis, even though not a single one of them was.
Discovering that none of the other stated reasons could hold water, the administration resorted to the "liberation" of Iraq, and "bringing freedom and democracy" to the people there. Only time will tell whether it is democracy and prosperity to which we are committed or a more pliant client state.
On Good Friday, the prayers are repetitive. "God have mercy, Lord have mercy, God, have mercy upon us." These are the right prayers for this time when there is reason for reflection and anguish, not elation or self-congratulation.
Anthony B. Robinson is senior minister at Plymouth Congregational Church: United Church of Christ in Seattle. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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