Gulf War — began on August 2, 1990 and ended on February 28, 1991. “The U.S. Department of Defense has estimated the cost of the Gulf War at $61 billion. Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States covered $36 billion.” (CNN)
Iraq War — began on March 20, 2003 and officially ended in December 2011 (troops were recently added to fight ISIS). ”The U.S. war in Iraq has cost $1.7 trillion with an additional $490 billion in benefits owed to war veterans, expenses that could grow to more than $6 trillion over the next four decades. “ (Reuters).
I start with a few facts (although true financial facts are hard to get from the U.S. government) because many people who attended our event: Iraq Aftermath, did not have too many facts at hand for themselves. We were blessed with four people who had been to Iraq personally, spanning the 25 years of U.S. warmaking: Gwen White before the first Gulf War, Joshua Grace at the beginning of the Iraq War, Shane Claiborne during the Iraq War and Scott Krueger once during the Iraq War and twice after. They were full of facts and memories that astounded many of us who listened.
There is a lot I could report. But for today, I want to offer some of the thoughts I remember that highlight the insight that was shared. You may want to add some of your own reflections in the comments section. Here are six things Christian peacemakers can practice right now in relation to the aftermath of the U.S. wars in Iraq.
1. When someone asks you, “What are you going to do but bomb ISIS and saved lives?” what do you say?
How about stepping back, looking at a bigger picture and asking, “How about dismantling structures of violence that caused the conflicts and fuel the violence?” Remind people that violence does not save, Jesus saves. Stand up to other narratives as well, such as the “brotherhood of soldiers” story that gets soldiers to do things their hearts would resist if they were not “protecting” people in their squad from “savages.”
2. We need to pray. Peacemaking is a work of the Holy Spirit or it is just rolling a rock up a hill.
It is going to take a long time to heal from the wounds of Iraq – certainly in Iraq, which continues to be devastated by the war the U.S. started. Perhaps a demon was removed (in Saddam Hussein) but seven other demons have moved in, as Jesus warned might happen. Drone warfare continues to recruit terrorists. The rapidly advancing technology of death and domination has results we can’t foresee, but can dread. We need to pray.
3. How do we get off the merry go round of endless war?
- We can stand against the evil we can stand against and let the ripples we create, large or small, bring us joy rather than disappointment.
- We can keep getting arrested – something happens inside when you have taken a scary stand.
- We can say, “Don’t preserve my ‘way of life‘ if it costs this.”
- We can keep on proactively making peace for the safety of our hearts – then when a colleague does something asinine, we are trained to keep on making peace.
- Many of us deeply feel the temptation to quit – we need to be held accountable to love.
4. No one is upset about war. Why bother?
Many people watch American Sniper and consider it a reasoned explanation of the Iraq War. One person brought up the movie to her employer and she basically said, “You are cute to love peace.” Peacemaking might mean taking the risk to be demeaned. For people of means peacemaking might be taking the risk to feel unsafe. Dialogue transforms – our family business may not seem profitable in the moment, but it has eternal rewards.
We need to consider how the powers learned after Vietnam – news and warfare are very different, with the volunteer army and technological advances which have even resulted in drone warfare. People do not know these things and need to be told.
One person shared how the U.S. has been at war in the Middle East since he was eight years old. The people there have been dehumanized. When they immigrate to the U.S. people are upset when they don’t assimilate. We Jesus followers need to not assimilate as well (as our panel demonstrated lifetimes of perfecting). We need to keep learning, even though one main way many people cope is to avoid and to stay distracted – many are theologically convinced but still apathetic.
5. How can we know what is really going on?
- We created the Peace List to give us space to share. Sign up at the Circle of Peacemakers site. http://www.circleofpeacemakers.com/, FB page is https://www.facebook.com/circleofpeacemakers
- We should keep going where there is no peace so we can know things first hand. Make friends in war-torn places. Almost always our brothers and sisters in Christ are in the middle of things; they can tell us if we are listening.
- Through Twitter, people are eager to share first-hand reporting. @rodofcircle has many connections in his list of people he follows from the Middle East (Palestine in particular).
- Shane suggested Friends without Borders. http://www.friendswithoutborders.net/about/ and Global Days of Listening. http://globaldaysoflistening.org/
- A new friend from Kurdistan told us his story and suggested his own institute, the Dialogue Institute http://institute.jesdialogue.org/
- Gwen recommended MCC Peace work http://mcc.org/learn/what/peace
6. It is easy to tell someone to be pacifist when we speak for peace from safety.
The choices of a person in Iraq are terrifying and immediate. They have been constantly threatened for years. People from the U.S. do not present easy solutions, even when they think they are doing so. Binary choices are rarely true choices (like to kill or to save lives). As believers, we need to remember that Jesus frees us from sin and death eternally, not just for love and justice now – love and justice will not save us; Jesus has.
A recording of the evening is in the works. Here is the first part:
Catch more segments at the Circle of Peacemakers blogsite.