U. S. Involvement in Afghanistan Risks Conflict with Pakistan

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Map of Pakistan

Image by Omer Wazir via Flickr

After 9-11, the American people were understandably angry, wanting someone to blame. Osama bin Laden was the target of most of the anger, and rightfully so, given his leadership in Al Qaeda, the organization that planned and carried out the 9-11 hijackings. Mr. Bush’s call for the United States and its allies to attack states sheltering Al Qaeda members, especially the Taliban government of Afghanistan, seemed reasonable to most Americans. However, it was not.

The CIA had the right idea–send small special forces units in to hunt down Mr. Bin Laden and his allies and halt the effectiveness of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Instead, Mr. Bush, on the advice of Mr. Cheney and Mr. Rumsfeld, decided on a full scale attack on Afghanistan for the purpose of destroying the Taliban government. The history since then has been one of intractable problems–a resurgent Taliban, the corrupt Karzai  government that lacks the support of the majority of the people, a rising number of deaths and injuries to U. S. and allied soldiers. What is most dangerous is the increasing danger of conflict with nuclear-armed Pakistan. The NATO attack on Pakistani positions, ostensibly in self-defense, killed two dozen Pakistani troops. In response, Pakistan closed the border with Afghanistan, cutting off 30% of allied supplies. The Pakistani people, especially in the western regions, hate the United States and are pushing for a new Islamic government in Pakistan. The present government hangs onto power by a thread. If that government falls and is replaced by one hostile to U. S. interests, what will allied forces do if attacked by Pakistani forces? They will have to respond in self-defense, and conflict may escalate from there. While one might argue that this will not lead to nuclear conflict since even as Islamic government would not want to face the total destruction that results from a massive allied reply to any nuclear attack, making such an assumption is dangerous. A government totally dedicated to the tenants of extremist Islam may want to go out in a flash of martyrdom if it resulted in the loss of a U. S. base in the region or in a large number of American casualties.  It is only of limited comfort that Pakistan does not have a delivery system to send a nuclear weapon to the United States–unless they employed terrorists.

The United States needs to remove its forces from Afghanistan, allow the Karzai government to negotiate with the Taliban and other interests to set up a solution to the armed conflict raging between tribes and warlords in Afghanistan. The U. S. should have learned its lesson in Iraq–which has a Shite government friendly to Iran, which has done nothing about the wholesale persecution of Christians, and which most likely will not be sufficient to maintain order, even with several thousand mercenaries hired by the United States government. An immediate withdrawal would be ideal to avoid further costs of the war, both in lives, money spend, and in costs to the reputation of the United States in Central Asia and in Muslim countries in general. Then the United States needs to pursue a more humble foreign policy focused on American interests with war being used as a last resort, not a first resort.

Two Sources of Warmongering in the United States

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Bombs

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It is almost impossible to halt any rush to war in the United States. One reason is the power of the military-industrial complex, but there are other key factors involved in warmongering. A major factor is the pragmatic alliance between the “mainstreams” of both the Left and the Right. Members of both these classes support a warfare state–sometimes for similar reasons, and at other times for different reasons. The result is the same–the United States gets involved in yet another war. Neoconservatives have taken over the Republican Party, with Ron Paul being a rare holdout. Neocons have an almost pathological desire to spread “democracy” throughout the world, by force if necessary. “Democracy” becomes a substitute religion that, like religion in the past, must be imposed on people for their own good. Those who disagree will feel the brunt of American missiles and bombs, especially if the country is an easy target. Iraq, for example, was weak, its economy and military capacity devastated by years of U. N. sanctions and bombing. Although American occupation has not been peaceful, with over 4000 American soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead, Neocons believe that the price is “worth it” in order to produce a democratic Iraq out of a tribal culture that lacks a tradition of democracy. Supposedly a democratization of the Middle East and of Central Asia will help keep the region safe–but at times Neocons seem more concerned with keeping the region safe for Israel than with the national security of Israel than with the national security of the United States. But forced democratization in nations lacking a tradition of democracy will ultimately make the world more dangerous. The threat of the Muslim Brotherhood taking over the government of Egypt is real. Hamas won on the West Bank, although they are now working with the Palestinian Authority. Do we know that Libya post-Khadaffi would be better off than Libya Khadaffi? We do not–what if a Muslim Brotherhood-like group ended up ruling Libya? What if Libya became open to Al Qaida establishing a base of operations in Libya? Would promoting “democracy by force” really create a safer Middle East? Most likely, such an action creates a more dangerous Middle East and kills hundreds, if not thousands, of people. In the tribal culture found in many Middle Eastern countries, this can produce thousands of suicide bombers bent on revenge.

The worst warmongers are, all too often, Evangelical Christians who are part of the religious right. Many are premillenialists who allow their tainted theology to determine their reaction to Middle Eastern affairs. They strongly support Israel and long for war against the enemies of Israel. I have been called “dark” for my opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan–by a priest. Almost every conservative Evangelical I’ve known was hell-bent on invading Iraq. They would have been disappointed if the United States had not moved in and fought these nations. Some of them are absolutely bloodthirsty, wanting to “nuke” any country that “gets in America’s way.” I do not believe that Jesus would support such attitudes–certainly not the eagerness to go to war. This “God and country” Christianity is dangerous, reminding me of the movements by German churches in the 1930s to accommodate Nazi ideology. Every decision of the nation-state to go to war is supported, even if there are no good grounds for war. These “Christians” should be ashamed of themselves.

The Left is just as guilty of warmongering. The missionary-like zeal of Wilsonianism has long infected the left with the desire to “spread democracy” and to “nation-build.” Mrs. Clinton is an example of that kind of liberal warmongering ideology. Pro war Democrats outnumber anti-war Democrats in both houses of Congress. The only real debate was over the course of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, not whether to fight them in the first place. Mr. Obama, sadly, has bought into the Wilsonian Democratic point of view–with the president and the majority of representatives and senators in both parties supporting the warfare state, the United States becomes more guilty of shedding blood and having the blood of its young people shed in war.

Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich have opposed warmongering, as has Walter Jones of Tennessee. Paul and Jones are men of the right; Kuchinich is part of the old antiwar left. It will take such a coalition to overcome the combined power of Neocons, the Religious Right, and the Wilsonian Leftists in their path to war. The debt crisis may slow the drive for wars since wars are expensive. If Conservatives would behave as true conservatives; if the antiwar Left works together with them; and if traditional Christians would really follow the “Prince of Peace,” Congress would have no desire to expand the United States’ role in any of the current wars raging in the world. Changing people is difficult. Sadly, so is killing people. This needs to change.

Bloodthirsty Evangelicals

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Jesus is considered by scholars such as Weber ...

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A sad fact of contemporary American Christianity is the open-ended support many Christians give to war. Among the most fervent supporters of George W. Bush’s wars in Iraq and in Afghanistan have been conservative, Evangelical Christians. This is not to say that all Evangelicals support the wars–as with any group, there are exceptions. However, Evangelicals, who are mostly politically “conservative” (though I fail to see what is “conservative” about waging war) have tended to support U. S. military intervention abroad. Many Evangelical churches will have special services to honor our “heroes,” the troops returning from Iraq or from Afghanistan. Evangelicals in general are the most zealous supporters of “American Civil Religion,” with a U. S. flag prominently displayed in church and with patriotic songs sung at services on or near the date of national holidays such as July 4. Christians who protest the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are labeled as “wimps,” “liberal peaceniks,” or worse. Sometimes the rhetoric comes across as saying that a person who opposes these war is less of a Christian than those who support the wars. And some Evangelicals I have heard are bloodthirsty–there is no other accurate description. They will talk about nuking all “enemies of America” with an expression of sadistic glee.

Even if a Christian supports the notion that war is sometimes necessary, that does not imply that the Christian should accept the justness of any war a nation wages just because he is a citizen of that nation. Some advocates of just war theory opposed the Iraq War in particular–Iraq had never invaded the United States and was not a threat to the United States. “Preemptive war” is nowhere a part of just war theory. Yet millions of traditional Christians naively supported Dubya, Cheney, and Rumsfeld in their execution of an unjust war that killed many thousands on  both sides.

Even if a war is necessary, no Christian should support it with glee, nor should the Christian rejoice at enemy deaths. Such a message is contrary to Christ‘s command to “love one another” and to “love your enemies.” A bloodthirsty attitude toward killing is incompatible with Christianity. Such an attitude is so contrary to the message of Jesus that, from a traditional Christian point of view, it is difficult to see how one who accepts that attitude could live in the eternal presence of God. Hatred of others and joy in killing and in war are products of Satan, not of God. “Blessed are the peacemakers,” Christ said in the Sermon on the Mount. Perhaps Evangelical Christians, who are so literalistic on other parts of the Bible, should follow this advice literally.

“Christian” Stupidity

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Quwut-ul-Islam Mosque

Image by Koshyk via Flickr

Some Christians live in another realm of stupidity. The Dove World Outreach Center in Gainsville, Florida plans to burn a copy of the Koran on September 11, the ninth anniversary of the 9-11 attacks. What are they trying to prove? There actually are Westernized, moderate Muslims. There are nonpracticing Muslims who do not attend Mosque, just as there are nonpracticing Christians who do not go to church. Muslims are not monolithic; the entire Muslim religion should not be held responsible for 9-11. Yet these “Christians” are planning an act of inane idiocy. Orthodox Muslims revere the Koran far more than even Fundamentalist Christians revere the Bible. They believe that the Koran was dictated by Allah to Mohammad. Although Muslims do not worship the Koran, they hold it in high honor, and burning a copy is a clear insult to Muslims everywhere. I hope the church will reconsider. The action that they contemplate doing will only put American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan in more danger. Do these “Christians” really want to see more harm done to our troops? Do they want to inflame Muslim sensibilities and perhaps encourage terrorist attacks in the United States? They clearly do not wish to convert Muslims to Christianity, for their actions will only anger Muslims. I hope that moderate Muslims realize that most Christians are like that group in Gainsville. I cannot understand the mindset of people who call themselves Christians and who openly plan to pursue a hateful, spiteful act. I pray they think through this before they cause harm to both Christianity and to the United States.

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