A gracEmail reader in Romania writes that U.S. sanctions against Iraq have led to the starvation of about one million innocent citizens. “What have they done to us?” he asks. “Should we punish them because of their dictator? If we do, the same will happen to us. We reap what we sow. ‘Suffer the little Iraqi children to come unto me and kill them not, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven’ (my unauthorized version).”
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In the Old Testament, the land we identify as Iraq was known as Mesopotamia. Ur of the Chaldees was there, and perhaps the Garden of Eden. This land also contained Babylonia and Assyria, two of the most cruel and aggressive empires of ancient times. Cyrus the Persian (modern Iran) conquered this land in 539 B.C., and Alexander the Great conquered it again in 331 B.C. A renewed Persian Empire swallowed it up a century later until Arab Muslims captured it in the seventh century A.D. The Mongols invaded this land in the 13th century and the Turks conquered it in the 17th century, making it part of their Ottoman Empire. Iraq became a British Mandate after World War I, then a kingdom, then an independent sovereign state in 1932.
In 1979, Saddam Hussein became President of Iraq. Like Nebuchadnezzar of ancient Babylonia, or Sargon and Sennecherib of ancient Assyria, this wily potentate cares little for human life, is merciless to his enemies and lusts for the lands of his neighbor states. He is unquestionably evil. He poses a danger to the security of the region and a threat to the stability and peace of the world. It now appears increasingly likely that the U.S. will bomb Baghdad in a move to take Saddam out of the picture. In view of those facts, I would far rather not ask some troublesome questions, but they will not leave my mind.
Is it morally right for us to bomb Baghdad, knowing that Saddam will surround probable targets with civilian men, women and children whom our bombs will kill and maim? What have those families done to us or to others to deserve death? Who appointed the U.S. to be world policeman and law enforcer? And whose laws do we enforce? The U.N.’s? If so, against whom? Iraq alone — or also Israel? What logic determines when we side with corrupt despots and dictators (as we did with Saddam in earlier years, and — at other times — with the Shah of Iran, Marcos of the Philippines, Noriega in Panama, and the list goes on) and when we turn against them? The Cold War with Russia? No longer. Oil? Geopolitics? Strategic interests? Who decides? By what authority? Should Christians ask such questions? Ought we to wonder? To speak out? If my country does bomb Baghdad, will the blood of its babies be on my head? Must the people die for the sins of their ruler?