Thanks much for sending me this essay:
"Advent in Iraq, Rush Limbaugh, and reality"
by Ryan Beiler
concerning the Christian Peacemaker Team
held hostage in Iraq by the Swords of Righteousness Brigade. I would not otherwise have come across it, and I found it to be very interesting reading, for expressing the author's point of view.
The overall impression I get from the whole thing is the awesome and brave sacrifice both groups are willing to make on principle for strangers they don't even know: the American soldiers and the American selfstyled peacemakers. They have a lot in common in this. That both groups are in Iraq and that both are changing Iraqi and other Middle-Eastern minds about Americans is all to the good, I believe. We need all the help we can get there.
As the author said, "am I willing to take the same risks for peace that those in the military take for war?" Both groups, pacifists and the military, are sacrificing their lives and resources for the benefit of others ("Greater love hath no man than to lay down his life for his friends," etc.). Some hearts and minds benefiting by this will be persuaded by the actions of one group, and some will be won by the other. It's to America's credit that we can and do offer both kinds of individuals who choose to go.
The author certainly implies that the military way is nothing but wrong. And perhaps implies that only the pacifist/peacemaker way is the only right way of action. I don't share those moral beliefs. I have arrived at the view, after considerable thought, that pacifists are essentially self-indulgent (primarily concerned with their own moral scruples) at the expense of the innocent (victimized by bad guys with the pacifists not lifting a finger but only a prayer). I have searched my own heart and read history (the Quakers on the Pennsylvania frontier, etc.), and I know for a fact that (even if it means I am a terribly flawed Christian) I would be among those who would and could choose to personally kill to protect my children, family, and friends, or other defenseless victims. Abstracting from that conviction, I could also give my life for a principle that would benefit others, even strangers, if the principle were important enough. That is, I would kill and fight to defend and preserve my family's safety and by extension our homeland, were it under threat. I would fight for self-defense and to defend the innocent from evil.
You probably disagree (and I'm pretty sure the author of the essay does), but many Americans (including me) now believe that the U.S. fighting the current war against terrorism/Al-Qaeda/jihadists is precisely that, a war of pre-emptive self-defense that along the way will ultimately benefit the innocent Afghani and Iraqi citizens--and that we are fortunate to be able to take the battle to the jihadists thanks to our military, and not have to primarily fight it here in the U.S. among our own American civilians.
This is a hugely debatable and complex topic and has polarized the U.S. and much of the world. But there are so many components and arguments to be made on all sides, it should not be taken for granted by any one side that the right belongs entirely to them (that's my opinion).
That many mistakes have been made by the U.S. in its military action in Iraq is indisputable, regretable, tragic. If I were an Iraqi getting along under Saddam, whose home or family had been destroyed by the recent military action, I would probably hate the U.S. and I understand why most in that situation do. But many are not in that situation and don't. As far as Americans, I think it just depends on how cynical an individual is about our country and about people in general that determines how one views the American military presence and actions in Iraq.
If peacemakers, for example, are able to forgive Islamic butchers, why not forgive the U.S. military for its mistakes as well?
I find it very curious that the author did not want to criticize the kidnappers holding (and maybe executing) the hostages, as this would "not seem productive at this moment." Huh? "Productive"!? What an odd word to use. A sudden flash of pragmatism in what is otherwise a sheerly moralistic essay?? I just can't understand that, neither the word "productive," nor the tone and the choice of argument, and then I wonder further what the heck is up with this guy. To be so willing to hold the U.S. military, "Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz" as the bad guys but not breathe a word against the actual killers of the peacemakers, Saddam, or the other factions blowing up civilians in Iraq?
Maybe this is supposed to show the author as being even more amazingly sacrificial and forgiving. It does not convince me, however, that this person has clear sight, is willing to call a spade a spade, or more precisely, killers killers. To me his whole argument lacks common sense. It is interesting reading as a point of view but doesn't say much to persuade me as to his reasonableness or wisdom in grasping the whole larger picture. To me he seems one of many starry-eyed evangelicals with passionate selective vision who pop up throughout history. Pacifist martyrs perhaps do win hearts one by one, which is all to the good. Jesus certainly sacrificed his own life without raising his hand against his killers. And many good, decent, even saintly people have willingly gone to their deaths in hopes their sacrifice would teach a lesson (even today Christian missionaries and just plain Christians are being martyred). But Jesus, I'm thinking, would've loved the American soldiers facing death for others just as much as he would've loved this guy, and this guy clearly does not love the American military. This guy has selective love to prove his point.
The peacemakers putting themselves into harm's way are brave, and so are these women:"These Are the Modern-Day Trailblazers; Iraqi women, fighting for their future, in a new country, where they can"
America deserves some thanks for that, and for a lot more.
We've been friends a long time, and never really getting into discussing our political differences much is probably one of the reasons why. I really should get a blog where I can vent like this and not inflict my contrary opinions too much on my friends!