By Jacob G. Hornberger
Among the things about the Iraq War that I have never been able to understand is how American Christians have been able, in good conscience, to support this war. After all, no one can deny that neither Iraq nor the Iraqi people ever attacked the United States. That makes the United States the aggressor — the attacker — in this particular conflict. How could American Christians support the killing of Iraqis in such a war of aggression? How could they reconcile this with God’s sacred commandment, Thou shalt not murder.
One possibility is that Americans initially viewed the Iraq War as one of self-defense. Placing their trust in their president and vice-president, they came to the conclusion that Iraq was about to unleash WMDs on American cities. Therefore, they concluded, America had the right to defend itself from this imminent attack, much as an individual has the moral right to use deadly force to defend his life from someone who is trying to murder him.
But once the WMDs failed to materialize, American Christians did not seem to engage in any remorse or regret over all the Iraqis who had been killed in the invasion. It was all marked up as simply an honest mistake. At the same time, hardly anyone called for a formal investigation into whether the president and the vice president had intentionally misled Americans into supporting the war based on bogus exaggerations of the WMD threat.
After the WMDs failed to materialize, American Christians had an option: They could have called for the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. troops. Instead, they did the exact opposite. They supported the continued occupation of Iraq, with full knowledge that U.S. troops would have to continue killing Iraqis in order to solidify the occupation.
That’s when Christians began supporting a new rationale for killing Iraqis: that any Iraqi who resisted the U.S. invasion or occupation was a terrorist and, therefore, okay to kill. Since terrorists were bad people, the argument went, it was okay to support the killing of Iraqis who were resisting the invasion and occupation of their country.
Yet, rarely would any Christian ask himself the important, soul-searching questions: Why didn’t Iraqis have the moral right to resist the invasion and occupation of their country, especially if that invasion and occupation had been based on a bogus principle (i.e., the WMD threat)? Why did their resistance convert them into terrorists? Why did U.S. troops have the moral and religious right to kill people who were defending their country from invasion and occupation?
Instead, people in Christian churches all across the land simply just kept “supporting the troops.” I suspect part of the reasoning has to do with the mindset that is inculcated in public schools all across the land — that in war, it’s “our team” vs. “their team,” and that Americans have a moral duty to support “our team,” regardless of the facts.
Among the most fascinating rationales for supporting the killing of Iraqis that American Christians have relied upon has been the mathematical argument. It goes like this: Saddam Hussein would have killed a larger number of Iraqis than the U.S. government has killed in the invasion and occupation. Therefore, the argument goes, it’s okay to support the invasion and occupation, which have killed countless Iraqis.
But under Christian doctrine, does God really provide for a mathematical exception to his commandment against killing? Let’s see how such reasoning would be applied here at home.
Let’s assume that the D.C. area is besieged by two snipers, who are killing people indiscriminately. Let’s assume that they’re killing people at the rate of 5 per month. That would mean that at the end of the year, they would have killed 60 people.
One day, the cops learn that the two snipers are parked in a highway rest area. There are also 25 other people there, all Americans, men, women, and children, and all innocent.
The Pentagon offers to drop a bomb on the parking lot, which would definitely snuff out the lives of the snipers. The problem is that it would also snuff out the lives of the other 25 people.
Under Christian principles, would it be okay to drop the bomb? I would hope that most Christians would say, No! As Christians, we cannot kill innocent people even if by doing so, we rid the world of those snipers. If we cannot catch the snipers except by dropping the bomb, then we simply have to let them get away. God does not provide a mathematical justification for killing innocent people.
Yet, isn’t that precisely the mathematical analysis that has been used by Christians to justify their support for the killing of Iraqis. What’s the difference?
In their blind support for “our team” and for “supporting the troops” in Iraq, American Christians seem to have forgotten an important point about government and God: When the laws or actions of one’s government’s contradict the laws of God, the Christian has but one proper course of action — to leave behind the laws of man and to follow the laws of God.