I thumb through the copies of World magazine in the mailboxes at my church as I wait for the early service to finish and Sunday school to begin so I can find out what my conservative brethren are up to. These are people who read their Bibles, pray, and tell the world unashamedly that they know Jesus, are his representatives, and therefore can speak for him.
There's always something to be learned from these sessions, but I should have realized I was in trouble yesterday when I saw the picture that was originally purveyed as President Obama and his staff following the assassination of Osama bin Laden "as it happened." While that photo and caption was front-page news on May 2, by the end of the week the back pages had told those who cared to listen that that photo had been staged; those folks were at least twenty minutes behind real time. The firefight they were supposedly watching didn't happen, Osama didn't hide behind his wife or have a gun, etc. Apparently Mr. Obama is a rat when it comes to domestic issues—World consistenty (and rightly) excoriates him for his evil policies on health care, education, and Social Security—but absolutely trustworthy when it comes to killing foreigners.
But I kept on thumbing, and I found a page that listed a couple of dozen instances of al-Qaeda terrorism: hundreds of murders, maybe a thousand or two, and that's even apart from 9/11. Yup, those al-Qaedistas are no good; they have a lot of innocent blood on their hands.
But though George W. Bush and Barack Obama each have the blood of more innocent people on their hands than al-Qaeda, the Jesus of World mag is OK with that. Al-Qaeda "targets" innocent people, like the spies in the embassies in Dar Es-Salaam and Nairobi and the generals in the Pentagon, to say nothing of the profiteers from the military-industrial complex in the Twin Towers. But those hundreds of thousands of people killed by Clinton, Bush, and Obama are simply "collateral damage": "we" knew they would die as the result of "our" actions, but "our" target was someone else (who got away for ten years), so "we" are not responsible for their deaths.
Of course, World also didn't mention that al-Qaeda was created by the CIA to run the Russians out of Afghanistan in the 1980s, nor that they are currently "our" allies in Libya. This was a time to celebrate the death of bin Laden, not to question the wisdom of our now-vindicated commander in chief.
Then I got to the cartoon page, where I found a connect-the-dots picture of Osama, the message of which was that had it not been for waterboarding, "we" wouldn't have caught him. That the great majority of those waterboarded were innocent of any wrongdoing and had no useful information to give is apparently of no interest to Jesus. Again, it's just collateral damage. "Stuff happens."
A few pages away was a review of a book that states that "some wars are worth fighting." I learned that an operation in Fallujah had turned up torture chambers used by the "insurgents." No reason for those chambers was given, but it's not hard to guess.
"Insurgents," as you know, are those who forcibly resist "liberation" by the US military. Those who object to "our" presence are either supposed to shut up, ask "us" nicely to leave (and shut up when "we" don't), or put on uniforms that say, "Patriotic Front against Imperialist Invaders" and stand out in the open so "we" can shoot them from helicopters. Operating an undergroud resistance was OK for the French against the Germans—they were on "our" side, don't forget—but it's not OK for "our" Iraqi "enemies."
I suspect those torture chambers were the scene primarily of revenge that escalated into gratuitous butchery. I will grant that Muslims and Communists can indeed be excessively vengeful. We saw after the war ended in Vietnam that those Communists who had lost family and friends to US bombs (and their sympathizers) took horrible vengeance on those who had collaborated with the imperialists. They also stuck it to those who hadn't collaborated but weren't sufficiently "patriotic" just for good measure. Human nature being what it is, I expect that those who ran the torture chambers in Fallujah had similar reasons for what they did.
But human nature is what it is, and Uncle Sam is no different. Tired of murder and plunder by Uncle Sam and his proxies (the Shah, Mubarak, Saddam, and Gaddhafi, for starters) in the Muslim world, Islamists took the fight to the US (the bombings of the World Trade Center and the embassies in the 1990s). Two wrongs don't make a right, and those killings were evil. But the US response has been to take the fight yet again to the Muslim world, killing tens if not hundreds of innocent civilians for every US victim of al-Qaeda.
I grew up in the shadow of the Holocaust, where six million people were executed without trial. Christians in Germany feared for their lives, having been starved by the US and Britain after the Great War, and afraid that the Soviets, who had killed a dozen or so million of their own subjects and enslaved survivors in an atheist hellhole of lies, murder, and plunder, would take them out as well. No doubt Jews who had been victims of pogroms under the Czar had sympathized with the Bolsheviks, so it was understandable that Christians would view all Jews as possible enemies. And because they couldn't tell who was innocent and who was guilty, they allowed the "collateral damage" to occur.
How much of that genocide can be traceable to legitimate fear and how much to the corruption endemic to the human soul I don't know. It is obvious that German Christians let their government get away with behavior they would never tolerate from foreigners, or even from their own children in their church nurseries. And US Christians are following that same path.
A friend came in on me while I was gagging on the cartoons. Hoping this was a "teachable moment," I began explaining that I really thought killing Osama was a bad idea, if for no other reason than we could have gotten all sorts of useful information from him.
My comments were swept aside with, "Hey, I'm OK with assassinating that guy."
Jesus, we hardly knew ye.
UPDATE: My friend from the last paragraph tells me he was just being facetious. I guess I take these things too seriously.