Friday, November 20, 2009

Iraqi Freedom

One of my correspondents has said that from what she's heard, the Iraqis appreciate the freedom that the US military is "providing" them. If that's so, they have an interesting value system.

Let me put myself in the position that dozens, if not thousands, of Iraqis, Afghans, and Pakis are in today. Let's say my son and infant grandchildren have just become mangled corpses and my daughter-in-law a half-blind paraplegic because the Chinese have dropped a bomb on "suspected insurgents" in their efforts to liberate us from a government they feel threatens them. I find myself face-to-face with Commander Li, who, it turns out, is a Christian. With tears of gratitude in my eyes, I say, "Commander, thank you from the bottom of my heart. Even though our family has suffered horribly from this bomb, it's worth it to me because ___."

What could possibly go in that blank? How bad could things be beforehand, or what good thing could come as a result, that I would say it was worth losing my son and grandchildren to get it? Isn't it more likely that whatever benefits accrued from the status post facto would be a thin silver lining around a huge black cloud?

It's one thing for me to be willing to die for a cause. It's something else entirely for someone who has no choice in the matter to be killed. Yet this is the situation our government has forced on millions of people in three nations.

Or let's look at a parallel from a neutral country.

All radio stations in Papua New Guinea are owned by the government and are therefore tax supported. The station in the province we worked in played sex rock six-and-a-half days a week and gospel music on Sunday mornings. Now my Christian friends seemed to think that the gospel music (and news and other feature shows) justified the existence of the station: the sex rock was something of a blemish, but all in all the taxman was justified before God in taking the fruits of Christian taxpayers' labor to support it.

I thought that the tax support alone made the station's existence immoral, that the sex rock was proof of its immorality, and that the gospel music was therefore tainted. The cherry on my sundae was that I didn't know of any non-Christians who listened to the gospel music, let alone were converted by it; they were more likely to mock it or simply turn it off.

Now my parallel to the war: Does the gratitude of those who have benefited from the war outweigh and sanctify the suffering of those who oppose it? Or does the suffering of the innocent show the immorality of the war and taint the benefits enjoyed by its cheerleaders?

We shall soon have the opportunity to decide for ourselves, when Uncle Sam provides us the same freedom we have been providing the Iraqis: "Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you" (Lk 6:38). We saw that freedom at work in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, when residents were forced out of their homes, had their weapons confiscated, were prohibited from leaving the city, and were imprisoned in the Superdome. And now the Army has announced that the first of what will likely be many units dedicated to providing us freedom in like situations in the future has been deployed in the US.

What goes around comes around.

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