How Many More Iraqis Must Die for Our Revenge?
The election is over and so we can forget about the Iraq war. It is no longer a political issue and hence matters to no one. The American electorate has followed the tradition of standing by a wartime president and thus endorsing the president's war. It was once his war. Now the election has made it our war. The issue is closed.
A recent report suggested that if one compares the number of deaths that usually occur in Iraq per year with the number since Bush's invasion, the cost of the war in dead Iraqis may be more than a hundred thousand human beings. Now Iraqi deaths don't count because they look funny and talk funny and have a funny religion. Besides they're Arabs, and we have a score to settle with Arabs because of their attack on the World Trade Center. Yet if we are able to sustain the number of deaths that have happened as a consequence of the invasion, we will soon have accounted for as many as Saddam Hussein did. That's a lot of dead Arabs -- and a lot of bereaved spouses, parents, children, other relatives and friends. How many before will we have to kill before we're satisfied with our revenge?
Someone might say that when leaders of a country have caused so many deaths that they might just deserve to be hauled before an international court of justice as war criminals -- especially if the war was based on false premises and conducted with an ineptitude that staggers the mind. It is an unnecessary, unjust, stupid, sinful war. The majority of Americans have assumed responsibility for the war. Therefore they share responsibility for all the Iraqi deaths.
OK, lets say there's only 50,000 extra dead. So that's not so bad, right? Americans are never going to have to render an accounting to their Creator for having supported such a massacre. Right?
I don't judge the conscience of anyone, leader or follower. I am merely saying that there is objective sin in the Iraq war, and our country as a country is guilty of sin. I'll leave it to God to judge the guilt, because that's God's job. I also leave it to God to judge whether there ought to be punishment for that sin. However, I think Americans -- so serenely confident that the Lord is on our side -- should live in fear and trembling about punishment.
The terrorists blew up the World Trade Center because they believed that the United States has done terrible things to Palestinians. The next explosion will be revenge for what we have done to Iraqis. We may not have been responsible for the plight of the Palestinians -- though very few Muslims believe that. We are certainly responsible for what we have done and will do to the Iraqis during the next four years of folly. God help us all.
Because we are the only superpower, there is little chance that our leaders will be indicted as war criminals or that an invading army will punish the American people the way we punished the Germans after the war.
Don't give me that stuff that the Iraq war is not comparable to World War II. That argument deliberately misses the point that a country is responsible for the deaths it causes because of an unjust war, even if the deaths are numerically small compared to deaths from another war. An unjust war is an unjust war and the death of innocents is the death of innocents. Where does one want to draw the numerical limit after which the unnecessary deaths of the innocent become a horrible crime? How many hundred thousand?
The United States has fought unjust wars before -- Mexican American, the Indian Wars, Spanish American, the Filipino Insurrection, Vietnam. Our hands are not clean. They are covered with blood this time, and there'll be more blood this time.
The one faintly bright spot is that our victorious wartime president, now that he has been re-elected, might be able to extricate himself from Iraq more quickly than John Kerry. The war will never end unless and until the American government or the American people say that it's time to get out.
Will that require four more years?
(And before Catholics write me hate mail saying that I'm a disgrace for attacking the war, they should ponder writing a letter to the pope who has made no secret of his opposition.)
© 2004 Andrew Greeley