People of many faiths are gathering this weekend in Washington DC to protest the ongoing killing in Iraq, with religious services on Sunday and lobbying on Monday. A new analysis has suggested that at least 45,000 Iraqi civilians are now being killed each year. Despite press reports playing up suicide bombings as the primary culprit for all the destruction in Iraq, these calculations suggest that most deaths are still caused directly by American military forces. With 600 traffic checkpoints in Baghdad alone, and the doors kicked down on 2000 private Iraqi homes a day, the daily life of average people in Iraq is unspeakably grim. It is impossible for us as Americans to imagine ourselves and our children living under these kinds of daily threats to our lives and our mental health. But the astounding irony is that it is being done by Americans, who pride themselves in being protectors of civil rights, in the name of freedom from fear, which is unimaginable for average Iraqis in the foreseeable future.
Attempts to demonize the opposition have also come under new scrutiny. An article in the Christian Science Monitor cites the Center for Strategic International Studies (CSIS) for new findings suggesting that US and Iraqi authorities have knowingly propagated a “myth” that foreigners are fueling the Iraqi insurgency. CSIS suggests that the true number is less than 10% of the estimated 30,000 insurgents. Meanwhile, new allegations have been published of US Military abuse of prisoners in Iraq by officers of the 82nd Airborne Division of the Army. Three former soldiers gave evidence last week to Human Rights Watch and to Republican Senators John Warner and John McCain alleging widespread use of blunt trauma with the intent to break limbs, exposure to extremes of temperature, and malicious sleep deprivation at “Camp Mercury” near Falluja. President Bush’s well-calculated effort to paint his torture policies as the result of “a few bad apples” are now proving that it is George Appleseed himself who bears the full moral responsibility for the inhumane treatment of these thousands of people in their own country.
How can we as Catholics tolerate the perpetuation of torture in our name; of killing without end, for purposes of a heretofore unexplained Administration imperative for permanent occupation of Iraq; of military adventurism dedicated to maintaining an oil-based economy that is driving the indisputable fact of global climate change, even as the number and intensity of hurricanes around the world is spiraling upward? The good men and women of the US Military have dutifully complied with orders from the top, and our continued support for the civilian leadership places moral responsibility for all the killing squarely on our own shoulders. Are "preserving our way of life" or "defending American credibility" reason enough to stay one more day in Iraq? As St. Paul writes this weekend so beautifully in Philippians 2, “Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but also for those of others.”