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The war in Iraq: Perspectives from a scholar, an Army colonel, a soldier’s wife

Three diverse Christians offer their views on the war and a faith-based response to some issues it raises.

Lee Camp is associate professor of theology and ethics andsenior faculty fellow for the Center for International Peace and Justice at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn.

“To families who haveloved ones in Iraq, or whohave lost family members in Iraq,the church should certainly grieve with them, pray for them and uphold them. Itis, in this sense, that we should most definitely ‘support the troops,’ and itis terribly important work to do.

“Simultaneously, wehave before us a variety of painful questions with which Christian discipleshiprequires us to wrestle: First, whether war-making is a Christian calling. Itsimply takes a great deal of hermeneutical gymnastics to avoid the clearwitness of Scripture, which teaches us a manner of dealing with enemiesentirely different than the manner employed by modern nation-states, includingthe U.S.A. Jesus has called us to love our enemies; President Bush has calledus to ‘hunt down’ our enemies. Moreover, most of our 19th century forebears inthe Stone-Campbell restoration movement contended that war-making is not alegitimate Christian practice. And well before that, the first three centuriesof the early church fathers entirely contended that war-making is not alegitimate Christian practice.

“Second, even forthose who nonetheless embrace the so-called Just War tradition, we are facedwith the terribly difficult reality that the most trusted interpreters of thattradition have, at best, raised serious questions about the legitimacy ofcalling the pre-emptive war in Iraq a justifiable war; at worst, the Just “War traditioninterpreters have stated without reservation that this war makes a mockery ofthe Just War tradition. That is, thoughmany Christians in the U.S.A.claim to be adherents to the Just War tradition, the moral requirements of thattradition are not being taken seriously.

“If that’s true,then, third, we should question whether we have not been simply taken captiveby waves of blind nationalism. As oneexample, consider that President Bush has employed millennial sounding hopes indescribing the U.S.: ‘Whenwe come together and work together, there is no limit to the greatness of America,” (reelection speech), or that the U.S. actually takes on the Messianic role of”ending tyranny in our world’ (‘The State of the Union,’2005). Such language, and the popularsupport of Christians that has gone with it, suggests that we are hereflirting, if not outright in bed with, idolatry. Perhaps the third anniversaryof the war is a good time for us to practice repentance.”

Army Col. Ken Roberts, a member of the Northlake Church ofChrist in Tucker, Ga., is executive officer for the Georgia National Guard’s48th Brigade Combat Team. The team has lost 25 soldiers since the unit deployedin May 2005, and more than 160 wounded soldiers have received Purple Hearts.

Thanks for the email— let me start by saying that I think progress is being made in creating asovereign Iraq.However, the main ingredient and most crucial piece is yet to stand on its own— the establishment of good governance and legitimate Iraq Security Forces(ISF). Of course,

the race is to”win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people (LN)” and marginalizethe insurgent force before the support of the coalition forces and theirgovernment and population ceases. During our tenure here we have operatedacross the spectrum of operations and across most of Iraq. As you know, the sentimentand reception of the LN is different

depending on thearea, tribe, ethnicity and religion. It is a very dynamic equation and like allwars for freedom before it will require many years of certainty before thefinal outcome is known. But can we afford to not see it through?

The dilemma is inbalancing what we call lethal operations

against non-lethaloperations. The non lethal method is the only way to establish a free thinkingnation that can withstand the future trials and tribulations every sovereignnation is subject to. However, it becomes hard when fellow comrades are lost tonot revert to what our military forces have been trained to do — close with anddestroy the

enemy and force ourwill on him. On the other hand, we all know the long-term solution is to createan environment where people feel like they can control there destiny through asecure and prosperous environment. Once they get a taste of this they willstand up as a nation instead of as individuals. Unfortunately, right now theycontinue to stand up as individuals and small groups, leaving them quitevulnerable to the wrath of the insurgency. The basic need we see they

are still missing,which is also an advantage to the insurgents, is employment opportunities. Whenunemployment remains as high as it is, it creates a labor pool for the enemy torecruit from.

To that end, there isan absence of Non-governmental

Organizations (NGOs),due to the security climate that would normally help to organize businessinfrastructure and organization. Therein lies the crux of the problem — do youspend resources on security apparatuses or essential services buildingprojects? Unfortunately they are

interdependent andmust sustain each other with probable setbacks in each as we move along thefreedom train. Patience is the key — something that Americans and westerncivilizations as a whole lack over history. I

believe that challengesgenerally look uncertain while in the moment, yet when we take it step by stepand stay the course time has a way of softening our perspective on how perilousthings might have been (or never were as long as faith remains).

As far the Americanpublic and what can we do to help the cause, people in church ask me that allthe time and I struggle for a viable answer. As you may be aware, one of ourunits took on the Baby Noor project that is well publicized in the ATL area.More good-news stories

like that should berevealed as I believe success feeds success and not enough of the good in thisendeavor is reported to the world. If bad news didn’t sell as well as it didwould more people be less inclined to join the wrong team? BL – some type ofcity-to-city partnership, similar

to what happenedafter the fall of the USSR,would go a long way in connecting the Iraqi people with the rest of the freeworld.

Bob, I have rambledon long enough, but I would be glad to talk with you sometime as I have also usedthis experience to conduct some of my own soul-searching and continue to seekwhat God wants my purpose along life’s journey to be. I continue to strugglewith letting God have control of my life. In contrast, the Arab people seem toaccept what

ever happens as”God’s will” (inshallah, as they say). Sometimes I wonder what is theright answer — has the Arab custom of laidback, inshallah-approach and lack ofacceptance for responsibility contributed to the inertia that this countryseems to have with respect to standing

up for their ownrights/freedom. Interesting thesis here?

Well, gotta run. Iapologize for the random fashion I have presented some of my thoughts on myexperiences but I look forward to your comments.

Misti Stevens, whose family attends the Monte Vista church,Phoenix, is the wife of Army Lt. Col. Robert Stevens, who returned to Iraq for thesecond time in January. This is a letter she wrote.

I am a proud militarywife of patriot who is currently serving in Iraq and a history teacher. Wereturned to America onlyfour weeks ago from a three year assignment in Germany, what I have heard on thenews and from various individuals in the minority since I returned has sickenedme. When I took my children to have their haircut this morning I heard theproverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. This is my response to thatindividual and to all the gainsayers who trusted a biased press that refuse toprint the good that is being done by our heroes serving in Iraq.

Dear Sir,

First let me thank youfor your previous service to our country. Today when we were discussing the troops in Iraq and how Sadam Hussein comparedto Hitler I heard you say, “I am just not sure that we aren’t the Nazisthis time.” I was so shocked to hear that from you I didn’t know how torespond. In fact I have thought of little else sense this morning.

When we were in Germany I heardnearly the same comment from a former Nazi soldier and I would like to say toyou what I wish I had been able to say to him. If you want to know thedifference between our cause in Iraqand the Nazi cause in World War II you should ask a Kurd. Sadam killedthousands of them based on their religion. He not only killed them his soldiersraped wives in front of husbands; they poked out children’s eyes in front offathers; and Sadam constructed a society of no tolerance and hate, just likeNazi Germany.

On the other handwhat American and Coalition forces have done are used military doctors to trainIraqi doctors with new technology, built schools that young girls can alsoattend, built bridges to help commerce and strengthen their infrastructure, andrestored the simplest comforts such as running drinkable water. Only last weekdrinkable running water was restored to Baghdadfor the first time in over eight and a half years.

Since the OperationIraqi Freedom have the Bathist and other extremist suffered? You bet, they heldthe country and the world hostage for years with their oil and rogue nationtactics, what they are going through now is called consequences and it is abouttime they answered for their crimes against humanity. So please don’t wonderwhether or not we are the Nazis because anyone who is a student of history thatlooks at the honest situation over in Iraq will come to the same conclusion,American forces are once again the liberating force.

Be proud to be anAmerican and salute both the soldiers and the noble mission that they arefulfilling.


Misti Stevens

March 1, 2006

Filed under: International

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