Friday, March 23, 2007

war: anniversaries, rehabilitation, votes, purposes

We passed, this week, the fourth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. There is no need to rehearse the dramatically different expectations that have emerged over time; the people of Iraq did not welcome us as liberators, their democratic process seems to be leading them away from our own national purposes (that have to do ideally with human freedom), the financial cost is to be paid by our children and grandchildren, the human cost of service personnel now serving third and fourth deployments is straining our military in ways that will become apparent in the years to come. All of these outcomes seem to me to be rational facts that are detached from partisan politics.

The cost of war is of course paid by a minute sector of our society, disproportionately poor, historically overrepresented in southern states, which are often adjacent to military bases, and younger than the average age of individuals in our nation. Because of improved medical technology we have suffered fewer casualties on the ground, in Iraq, but a much larger number of traumatic injuries that often result in amputations. Prior to the most recent news cycle, a great deal of light was beginning to shine on our substandard treatment on these returning heroes, especially at Walter Reed in D.C. At times like these, when these human stories of pain and suffering are told, I thank God for that our country has freedom of the press.

Today, the House of Representatives voted for a timetable that would bring an end to the war. Surely, readers of the Old and New Testaments can see within them a blueprint for seeking peace and beating our swords into plowshares. How this happens, or course, is political strategy, but that it should happen is a moral and theological imperative. We pray for an end to the war. We pray for peace.

The loss of life, the destruction of the human body and spirit, the shared suffering on both sides of battle---and my wife and I last evening went to see Letters From Iwo Jima, which I recommend---should surely bring to the surface the core questions: Why are we at war? Is our original purpose relevant to the present reality? Can politicians put aside their egos, and the historical image they are seeking to establish, in order to see the human cost of their stewardship, the children, the young men and women and their destinies, the hatred among nations that is the result of these four years.

My older daughter is a student of Asian Studies, and these words, from the Tao Te Ching, seem timely:

"Where the army marched
grow thorns and thistles.
After the war
come the bad harvests".

And a word from my own scriptures:

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God". (Matthew 5. 9)


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