CHRISTIANS FOR SADDAM?
by Glen Chancy - www.lewrockwell.com - February 25, 2003
Glen Chancy, an Orthodox Christian and life-long Republican, holds an MBA in Finance, graduated from the University of Florida, studying Political Science and History with a concentration in Eastern European Studies, doing substantial coursework study of the Balkans area, which ignited his long-time interest in Islam and the Middle East. He was a lecturer at the University of Adam Mieckiewicz in Poznan, Poland for several years immediately after the collapse of Communism. Glen currently lives with his Polish wife and two children in Apopka, Florida. He holds an MBA in Finance and works in Orlando, Fl as a business analyst for an international software developer.
After the Divine Liturgy a few Sundays ago, I joined several other men from my parish for brunch. The topic of Iraq came up, and one of the men remarked that he had heard that there was a substantial Christian population in Iraq, and that Tariq Assiz, the Iraqi foreign minister, was a Roman Catholic. He was shocked that a Christian could be associated with such a man as Saddam Hussein.
"What can that mean for his witness as a Christian to serve such a leader?" my friend asked in bewilderment.
While I cannot know what is in Mr. Assiz's heart, only God can know that, I can certainly understand, on a basic level, his service to Saddam Hussein. Before we, in the West, become too judgmental of our co-religionists living under Muslim rule, I believe we need to understand the world Iraqi Christians inhabit. It is a brutal world of few good choices, and many potential dangers. Theirs is a truly desperate plight, and it is one that our forthcoming invasion of Iraq is quite likely to make much, much worse.
Background - Iraqi Christians
In Iraq, live an estimated 1 million Christians who are ethnically Assyrian. This community descends from the various Mesopotamian kingdoms that once ruled the area and formed powerful empires in the Fertile Crescent. Their Christian heritage is ancient. Many Assyrians converted to Christianity as early as the second century A.D. Assyrians define themselves as a broad category of Christian groups speaking Aramaic (the language of Jesus) that includes followers of the Chaldean Catholic Church (in communion with Rome), the Syrian Orthodox Church and the Church of the East, among others.
The Assyrians have lived under foreign domination since the fall of the Assyrian kingdom to Persian power in the seventh century B.C. Since then, the Assyrians have been subjected to Persian, Arab, and Ottoman domination. As a result of ethnic cleansing by Iranian, Turkish, and Arab-Iraqi forces in the 1920s and 1930s, the Assyrians lost thousands of people and have found themselves mostly concentrated in the mountainous regions north of Baghdad.
Under various Iraqi governments, particularly those following the British withdrawal in 1945, Christians in Iraq have been politically suppressed. Although substantial numbers of their intellectuals chose to join the Ba'ath regime and identify themselves as Arab Christians, the Assyrians have been subjected to systematic attempts by Saddam's regime to "Arabize" them, a process that includes driving ethnic minorities from their lands and seizing some of their properties, especially in the strategic, oil-rich northern region bordering the Kurdish enclave. This has been done partly out of Saddam's fear of disloyalty on the part of non-Arabs, and partly out of a desire to reward Saddam's political supporters with their land.
"The Iraqi government has also forced ethnic minorities such as the Assyrians, the Kurds and the Turkmen to sign 'national correction forms' that require them to renounce their ethnic identities and declare themselves to be Arabs," says Hania Mufti of Human Rights Watch.
Today, in the Middle East, Assyrians are spread across Iraq, Syria, Turkey, and Iran, where rights groups say they live as small, often discriminated-against minorities under governments largely unsympathetic to their religious and cultural aspirations. In Iraq, most Assyrians live in the North, under Kurdish control in an enclave that was established after the 1991 Gulf War. There, they have achieved a modicum of independence, and are allowed five seats in the Kurdish Parliament.
In fact, this is perhaps the best situation in which Assyrians have found themselves in some time. Given their history with Saddam, and the relative freedom they are experiencing in Northern Iraq, you would probably assume that the Assyrians would like nothing better than to see Saddam's murderous regime consigned to the dustbin of history.
Unfortunately, you would be wrong.
Saddam Hussein - That Bad in Context?
This may come as a shock to many Americans, whose image of Saddam has been framed by comparisons to Adolf Hitler, but the prevalent fear among Assyrians, both in Iraq and abroad, is that what comes next after an American invasion will be worse.
"Our greatest fear if there is a regime change in Iraq is if there will be a substitution of Saddam Hussein's tyranny for a new tyranny," says Ronald Michael, president of the Assyrian American League, an Illinois-based organization representing the estimated four-million-strong Assyrian community in the United States.
Saddam Hussein and the Ba'ath Regime have been, and still are, nasty and oppressive to all Iraqis. However, Saddam has not been particularly oppressive to the Assyrians, at least compared to what has been the norm elsewhere in the region. One must always keep in mind that the oldest members of Middle Eastern Christian communities remember outright slaughters of Christians by the millions. By the yardstick of his neighbors and Middle Eastern history, Saddam just doesn't look that bad.
The secular Saddam has neither encouraged nor permitted the type of anti-Christian riots seen in Egypt and Iran. Further, Saddam has never engaged in actual anti-Christian genocide of the type seen in Sudan, where 2 million Christian have lost their lives in the past decade. Unlike any other regime in the Middle East, Saddam has permitted Christians to occupy high public office. This includes the Iraqi Foreign Minister, Tariq Assiz, who is a Roman Catholic. In addition, Saddam's regime has permitted a degree of free practice for Christians that is positively enviable compared to the situations experienced in such U.S. 'allies' as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Christmas and Easter decorations always abound, even in Baghdad, and attending church does not require an act of courage.
Today, the Christians of Iraq seem to be split between those who support the status quo - de facto autonomy of a type in the North - and those who support Saddam Hussein's continuation in power. Broad support, enthusiastic or otherwise, for the ouster of Saddam Hussein by the U.S. Army seems to be noticeably absent from the political landscape.
Is this anxiety warranted? Should the Assyrians be so concerned about being liberated by U.S. military power? If history is our guide, they shouldn't be afraid.
They should be terrified.
Our Friends The Kurds
As noted earlier, the majority of Assyrians live in northern Iraq in the Kurdish enclave. So far, this situation has been reasonably tolerable for the Assyrians, as the Kurds have been conducting a fairly successful democratic experiment under the cover of U.S. and British combat patrols. Given the historical tendency of the Kurds to victimize and slaughter the Assyrians, the current situation seems quite impressive.
However, Assyrians are quick to ask, have the Kurds really moderated their traditional attitudes and embraced Western notions of civil rights? Or, are they only moderating their tone in order to build a unified front against Saddam Hussein? This leads to a great fear among Assyrians in the north that when the unifying factor of a common enemy is removed, the traditional problems between the Kurds and the Assyrians will resurface with a vengeance.
Among the future problems between the two groups are disputes over land, that for now have been put on hold. "There are outstanding issues of Assyrian villages and lands, which were vacated under Baghdad's forced repatriations during the 1970s and '80s," says Hania Mufti of Human Rights Watch.
Recent events in the north fuel fears that the Assyrians may become victims of Kurdish aggression again. The Kurdish authorities have begun attempts to classify Iraq's Christians as "Kurdish Christians." This appellation is an outright fabrication, but it points to a future in which the Assyrians, who survived 'Arabization' in Saddam's Iraq, may find themselves subjected to a harsh 'Kurdization' at the hands of an independent Kurdistan.
Also, there has been a resurgence of traditional Kurdish attacks on Christians. The Kurdish authorities have resolutely ignored these attacks. As Ronald Michael explains, it is in the best interests of Kurdish politicians to not antagonize their Muslim constituents by being zealous in the defense of Christians.
"The nationalist parties don't want to lose the support of the Kurdish people," says Michael. "The KDP [Kurdish Democratic Party] turns a blind eye to these attacks out of fear of an Islamic backlash."
The Kurds have an estimated 70,000 anti-Saddam soldiers in the north. How extensively the U.S. plans to make use of them in its war effort remains to be seen. However, one thing is clear - these men aren't going away after the fighting stops. If the blind eye turned by Kurdish authorities to violence against Christians becomes outright genocide, will our U.S. military forces intervene against our Kurdish 'allies' to protect defenseless Christians?
If you and I don't know the answer to that troubling question, how do you think the Assyrians feel?
Our Friends the Turks
Turkey has repeatedly warned against any attempt to establish an independent Kurdish political entity. The Ankara government is fearful that independent Kurds will be an example for the millions of Kurds under Turkish domination. Should the Kurds attempt to achieve independence, there is a real threat that Turkey will enter the war in order to stop a Kurdish state from forming.
In fact, there is a chance that Turkey may intervene aggressively in any event. Leading up to the latest Turkish election, which brought to power a party with Islamic roots, nationalist Turkish politicians and senior generals threatened to seize Kirkuk and Mosul in the event of war, citing Ottoman-era claims to the two oil-rich northern Iraqi cities.
In September 2002, Ozdem Sanberk, the former Turkish ambassador to Britain, told a reporter, "If the U.S. intervenes, and in the first days the Kurds enter Kirkuk and Mosul, the Turkish army will move in." It has been reported that the Turkish army already has troops inside the Iraqi Kurdish zone, and is already planning to send more to stop any flow of Kurdish refugees into Turkey when full-scale war breaks out.
Currently, Turkey is driving a hard bargain in exchange for backing the U.S. The details are not all public, but it appears that Turkey is demanding at least 10% of the oil revenues from the area around Kirkuk and Mosul. Even if it receives its wish, there is no guarantee that it will abide by any agreement it makes with Washington.
Should the Turks end up in control of northern Iraq, the outcome for the Assyrian Christians in the area is likely to be catastrophic. Turkish rule would likely be far worse than continuing to live under Saddam Hussein, and could very well spell the end of the Assyrian communities.
No nation in the region has as much Christian blood on its hands as Turkey. The Turks carried out major slaughters of Christians in 1915 (close to two million Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks that year alone), the early 1920's, and again in 1955. To this day, it is the official position of the Turkish government that these genocides did not happen. Further, Turkey has waged a non-stop war of attrition on its native Assyrian, Greek, and Armenian minorities over the last century. Through discrimination, expulsion, race riots, and immigration, these communities have been practically obliterated.
Today, Turkey is almost a Christian-free zone, despite Istanbul serving as the residence of the Patriarch of Constantinople - one of the most important Sees of the Orthodox Church. It is estimated that only 60,000 Armenians, 15,000 Assyrians, and 3,500 Greeks remain in Turkey at the dawn of the 21st Century. Less than 100 years ago, the numbers of Christians in what is now Turkey numbered in the millions.
If a Turkish invasion of northern Iraq leads to genocide against the Assyrian Christians as part of a campaign of 'ethnic cleansing,' will the United States defend the Christians?
History would lead one to conclude that the answer is an unqualified 'no.'
The United States sat idly by and allowed the Turks to massacre Christians in 1923 and 1955. (In fact, U.S. ships in the area even refused to take aboard survivors who were fleeing for their lives. The U.S. was afraid of 'offending' the Turks by helping any of their victims.) The U.S. did not assist the Greek island nation of Cyprus when Turkey attacked it in 1974, and occupied over 1/3 of Cypriot territory. The U.S. has failed to vigorously protest ongoing Turkish abuse of Turkey's few remaining Christians.
Over and over again, the U.S. has proven that it will sacrifice an unlimited number of Christian lives in order to maintain its alliance with Turkey. The Assyrians are well aware of this history, and are terrified that they will be the next sacrifice offered up on the altar of U.S.-Turkish friendship.
Our Friends the Iraqi National Congress
The Iraqi National Congress is an umbrella organization bringing together various anti-Saddam groups. Based in London, it is heavily financed by the United States, and may be expected to play a role in the post-invasion reorganization of Iraq. The groups represented in the INC range from constitutional monarchists to Islamic radicals. Their diversity is representative of Iraq itself, which has a Kurdish north, a Sunni Arab center, and Shiite south. Despite this diversity, however, there may be one thing that all of these various groups could agree on - they are all Muslims.
And this is another fear that grips the Assyrians. In a post-Saddam world, there must be some unifying force to hold the disparate pieces of Iraq together. What that force will be is still to be determined. Will it be an occupation by the U.S. Army? Will it be a new monarchy, loosely based on Islamic principals? Will it be fundamentalist Islam, as in the ethnically diverse nation of Pakistan?
If Iraq turns more fundamentalist after Saddam is removed from the picture, as some future dictatorship seeks to use Islam as a unifying force, the Assyrians could find themselves becoming the sacrificial lambs on the altar of Iraqi unity. It has happened elsewhere in the Middle East - nothing unifies a population like a common enemy to slaughter.
If a new Iraqi government, in control of the whole country, turns on the Assyrians with a genocidal fury, will the U.S. military protect the Christians?
If history is our guide, the answer is an unqualified 'no.'
In Kosovo, we have an example of NATO forces, led by U.S. ground troops, occupying a majority Muslim state. While ostensibly neutral between the two sides at the time of deployment, it became quickly apparent to the Serbs in Kosovo that the NATO forces had little stomach for keeping the Muslims in line. The 'peacekeepers' were only there to keep Serbian forces out of Kosovo, not to protect the Serbs in Kosovo. If they had tried to do so, then it would have invited casualties from Muslim reprisals. That was the last thing any NATO governments wanted. So 50,000 NATO troops stood by while 100,000 Serbs were ethnically cleansed and 112 churches and monasteries were destroyed.
NATO and the United States were, and are, unwilling to make waves in Kosovo in order to save Christian lives and churches - why would post-invasion Iraq be any different?
There is probably no avoiding war with Iraq at this time. Too much has happened for us to turn aside now, even if that might be the best thing for all concerned. Despite some of our wishes to the contrary, the war is probably going to come, and its coming is fraught with danger for many innocent people in the Middle East. But if war must come, then as citizens of the United States, we have an obligation to remind our leaders that the lives of Christians are just as important as the lives of Muslims. A victory in Iraq that destroys the Assyrian community in its wake is no victory. If our President and his staff are not considering the fates of these brave Christians, then it is time for us, as Americans, to remind them of their obligations to our co-religionists in a war that we brought to them.
The Assyrians still speak the language of Jesus, and follow the way of the cross, despite centuries of persecution. The strength of their faith should be a humbling example to us all in the West. The Assyrians have survived the coming of the Persians, the Arabs, and the Turks. It remains to be seen if they will survive the coming of the Americans.
SUPPORTING THE TROOPS
by Glen Chancy - www.lewrockwell.com - April 14, 2003
By 1974, Captain Oliver North had been away from his wife and small children for several years. He had been fighting communists in Vietnam, and training Marines on Okinawa to do the same. He had seen his wife during periods of leave, but that had been about it. Finally, a letter arrived informing him that she wanted a divorce. Mrs. North had decided she couldn't live alone anymore. The letter included the name and address of her attorney. She did, however, want Captain North to keep seeing his children.
He was angry, and at first decided to grant her the divorce. He considered his duties with the Marines more important than his family. Eventually, some of his fellow Marines convinced him to leave his duties in Okinawa and return to the States where he could reconcile with his wife. One of them said to him, "The politicians in Washington have thrown away the lives of so many young men. They don't care if your family gets ruined, or your kids grow up without you."
When his sincere attempts to patch things up were rejected by his wife, he plunged into depression and even needed psychiatric care. What was especially wounding to him was the realization that even though his oldest child was almost five years old - he had never really been a father. Captain North had been actively deployed for more of his children's lives than he had been at home. Even when he had been with them in the same house, he usually left before the children awoke, and returned home after they were asleep. As he admitted in his autobiography, "My children didn't know who I was." The pressures of serving in a military engaged in an endless war in Southeast Asia had claimed the North family as a casualty.
After counseling and prayer, the North family finally got back together. A family catastrophe was avoided, and Captain North resumed his advancement in the Marines. Eventually, as a Lt. Colonel, he would serve President Reagan on the National Security Council. Today he is an 'embedded journalist' for Fox News in Iraq, and one of the chief cheerleaders for putting today's young soldiers in the same situation that he faced in 1974. Evidently, he has forgotten what prolonged separation does to a family.
With our military fighting a war in Iraq, we Americans are told incessantly to 'support the troops' and to 'support our president.' Many of those screaming these two slogans the loudest are the same people who actively endorse the idea of the United States as the world's policeman. It is our duty, so they say, to send U.S. troops into hotspots around the world to free the oppressed, to spread democracy, and to stop weapons of mass destruction. Interestingly, most of the commentators and politicians espousing this policy are lacking both personal military experience and family in uniform. Which is probably why they don't understand that 'supporting the troops' means opposing the U.S. being the world's traffic cop.
Among those who oppose the war in Iraq are those who are concerned about innocent civilian casualties. Others are concerned about both Iraqi civilian casualties and about the lives of our own men and women in combat. Those are valid concerns, but one dimension of this conflict seems to be completely ignored. Conflicts of this nature destroy lives, even when the soldiers come home in one piece. Just ask Oliver North about that.
Humanitarian wars, police actions, 'Operation Iraqi Freedom,' whatever you call them, they all involve the same basic scenario. Men and women, usually aged between 18 and 35, are separated for long periods of time from their families. They are usually deployed near the future combat zone to some staging area for months prior to actual hostilities. After the fighting starts, they are then committed for additional time under highly stressful conditions. After the fighting is over, a large number of them get stuck as occupation troops for a year or more.
The deployed forces miss the births of their children. They miss special birthdays, first teeth, first steps, and baseball games. Their spouses are forced to become single parents for one or more years. The strain is often terrible, as spouses sit at home worried and alone. Especially for stateside spouses without strong family support, the situation can become unbearable.
There is a reason that 'Dear John' letters are a staple of military life in times of war. Marriages are hard enough when husband and wife are together. Toss in continuous separation and extreme stress, and the fragile bonds that tie men and women together in matrimony can snap. Having lived through this, many service members exited the military during the Clinton administration, with its insane tempo of 'humanitarian actions' in Kosovo, Bosnia, Haiti, Somalia, and elsewhere.
As the occupation of Iraq drags on, how many families will crack under the stress? Based on earlier conflicts, it could be quite a number. Despite all the joy among Shiites and Kurds at the fall of Saddam, will it be worth it to the American families who become victims of this war?
Page one of U.S.A. Today reported the story. An element of the 101st Airborne was in a heavy firefight in Baghdad. An Iraqi man carrying an RPG was hit trying to switch firing positions. A ten-year-old boy ran out and picked up the RPG. A young soldier manning a machine gun cut him to shreds. A reporter interviewed him about it almost immediately afterward. The soldier was upset, but was being comforted by his superiors and comrades that he had done the right thing. One small incident, reported because an embedded journalist was at the scene. The young soldier, visibly shaken by the experience, will carry this memory with him for the rest of his life.
In wars involving urban guerrilla and terrorist actions, the fighting gets confused and bloody. Civilians often emerge as combatants. In addition to the ten-year-old boy mentioned above, many other Marines and soldiers have killed civilians at checkpoints already. More killings will likely follow, if a terror campaign is stepped-up by those opposed to U.S. occupation. The legality of those killings isn't at issue as the Marines and soldiers have a right to defend themselves. The point is that we, the people of the United States, have put these troops in an environment where young children and women could be their enemies, and in that environment they have to kill them to stay alive. Has anyone stopped to consider what this horror does to our troops?
How many of our men and women are now killers? What does it do to the psyche of a young person to take human lives, possibly innocent civilian ones? We know the answers to those questions. A lot of our troops have now killed, and while the results vary from person to person, the psychological scars of that usually run deep. Even in 'good wars,' such as World War II, combat soldiers have suffered horribly in the aftermath. Nightmares, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, and various psychological conditions are prevalent among those who have seen combat, and been forced to kill in self-defense.
Those who would commit our forces to global policing are not considering the effects that killing others have on our troops. Even if we are extremely successful, as we have been in Iraq, the survivors of the war will have to live with what they have seen, and what they have done. This is an acceptable though regrettable occurrence when our forces are fighting to protect the freedom of American citizens. When they are sent into battle to liberate or protect foreigners, it is a sacrifice that is absolutely not worth the cost.
On CNN, a story ran in which soldiers and Marines read out loud excerpts from their letters home. As the father of a small child, one of them made my blood run cold. An Army Chief Warrant Officer was reading a letter to his young children. A helicopter pilot, he was definitely a tough guy. Yet, as he read he was choking back tears. In the letter, he asked the forgiveness of his children for missing so much of their lives. He promised to make it up to them, if he could. This officer, this warrior, this exemplar of America, was hurting and distraught over prolonged separation from his wife and children. He will never get those precious moments back. Other troops expressed similar sentiments. Several of them noted in letters that they didn't want victory parades. They just wanted to go home.
Less than 10 minutes after the close of that story, a former Republican Congressman appeared on a CNN talking head show to advocate global policing. He recited a long list of countries including Sudan, Rwanda, and Syria which are oppressive and whose people need 'liberating.' As he said, "As the world's only superpower, the United States cannot continue to ignore oppression and genocide, wherever they occur. We must be prepared for more actions to come." The war in Iraq isn't even over, but this gentleman and his friends are already talking up the next one.
I wondered if the Army chopper pilot weeping for the time he has lost with his children would agree that the U.S. has an 'obligation' to deploy him all over the world to 'liberate' people. The juxtaposition of these two stories couldn't be more jarring, or more indicative of the separation the chicken-hawks have from those who actually do the 'liberating.'
The advocates of global policing are not 'supporting our troops.' They would have us send our military all over the world to liberate or protect complete strangers, at the cost of destroying American families who live next door.
If a man sacrifices everything to save complete strangers, he can be argued to be a hero.
If a man is forced to sacrifice everything to save complete strangers, then he is a victim.
In global police actions, our troops are the victims of our altruism. We feel better about ourselves because we are willing to turn their lives inside out in order to 'help people.' Will God forgive us for what we have demanded from them and from their families?
Soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines swear an oath of allegiance to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States. That oath does not cover liberating Iraqis from their own government, nor protecting Rwandans from slaughter by their neighbors. The parents, husbands, wives, and children left at home desperately seek reassurance that the horrible sacrifices they are making are worth it. They aren't, and inside many of them know that. Iraqi freedom is not worth the empty chairs at dinner, the tears of lonely wives, or the cries of the children who only want their mommies and daddies to come home. This is not even to mention the service members who actually die.
I am unwilling to trade the lives, welfare, and treasure of Americans to protect and liberate non-citizens of the United States from their own governments or their neighbors. To me, the lives of my countrymen in uniform are more valuable than the lives of oppressed Iraqis, oppressed Sudanese, or the oppressed citizens of any other nation.
This is because I am a citizen of the United States, and I support my troops.
CHRISTIANS' NIGHTMARES IN IRAQ
by Glen Chancy - www.lewrockwell.com - September 15, 2003
Many public services such as water and electricity may be spotty in Iraq, but at least mail delivery seems to be going well enough. Christian Assyrian families all over Iraq have been receiving versions of the following letter delivered to them in their homes:
By the name of God the most merciful and compassionate!
"Do not adorn yourselves as illiterate women before Islam."
From the leadership of Islamic troops of "Al-Bader"
To this noble family:
We hope that the head of this family will stand with the "brothers of Muslims" group and follow basic Muslim rules of wearing the veil and possessing honorable teaching of Islam that Moslems have continued from old epoch. We are the Iraqi people, the Muslim people that do not accept any mistakes.
If not - and the message will not be followed, we will take the actions of:
1. Killing. 2. Kidnapping. 3. Burning the house with its occupants or exploding it.
For the Christian community of Iraq, one of the oldest on Earth, the message is crystal clear. Convert to Islam, or at least comport yourself to Islamic law - including the veil for your women. Or else you will regret it.
The threats contained in this letter are, unfortunately, all too real. Since the fall of Saddam Hussein, Assyrians have been the targets of numerous fatal attacks. In Shiite-dominated Southern Iraq, there have been many accounts of Assyrian businessmen being shot dead on the street for such crimes as running liquor stores or selling other goods prohibited by Islamic law.
Under the regime of Saddam Hussein, Christians had been allowed to peacefully conduct such business without fear. Under U.S. and British liberation, many Christians are closing their shops or switching to other merchandise. Church officials have also been attacked. His Grace, Bishop Mar Adai of the Assyrian Church of the East was attacked on the streets of Baghdad. His assailants wanted to steal his gold cross from around his neck.
In the Kurdish enclave of Northern Iraq, America's Kurdish allies have also been paying attention to the Christians in their midst. It has been reported by Assyrians in various villages scattered throughout Northern Iraq that they have been illegally forced out of their own homes and off their land. They report being constantly pressured to convert to Islam in exchange for guarantees of their safety from the Kurds.
Perhaps the worst of all have been the kidnappings. On August 6th the LA Times reported of these crimes, "The kidnappings have a dark, ruthless quality, often targeting children and teenagers, usually from Iraq's tiny Christian community where no tribal networks exist to fight back against the gangs."
Who Are the Iraqi Christians?
-Most Christians in Iraq are ethnically Assyrian. The Assyrians are the original inhabitants of the land now referred to as Iraq. The Gospel was preached to the Assyrians by the Apostle Thomas himself, shortly after the Resurrection of Christ. The majority of the Assyrian population had converted to Christianity by the second century, giving the Assyrians a legitimate claim to being the first Christian nation in history.
Fired by their new faith, the Assyrians began one of the most successful missionary enterprises of all time. By the end of the twelfth century the Assyrian Church spanned the Asian continent, from Syria to the Philippines. Marco Polo reported that during his visit to China in the thirteenth century, he was astonished to find Assyrian priests in the Chinese royal court, and tens of thousands of Chinese Christians. The Assyrian missionaries had been there since the sixth century, and had made such an impact that the first Mongolian system of writing used the Assyrian alphabet.
Over the next centuries, however, Muslim rule and its attendant repression eventually reduced the Assyrians in number and sapped the vigor of their culture. By the mid-1800s wholesale slaughter of Assyrians was being reported at the hands of the Ottoman Turks, under whose control their homeland had fallen. Between 1914 and 1918, two-thirds of all living Assyrians were murdered in a genocide the world has chosen to ignore.
Today, on its ancestral soil, all that is left of the world's oldest Christian nation is a desperate minority of less than one million people. It didn't have to be this way. As one Assyrian anonymously wrote, "Today's Assyrians are the descendents of courageous Christians who resisted many attempts of Arabization and surrender to the Islam. They repeatedly paid with their lives and all their possessions to preserve their beliefs in Jesus Christ. What is so sad, is that I honestly believe that if my ancient ancestors had chosen to adopt Islam instead of Christianity, today, Iraq would be an Assyrian country, not an Arab one. Just like Turkey or Iran, we would be a Muslim country with our own language and identity, instead of a persecuted minority whom the world has forgotten. For Christ, we have sacrificed all."
A Difference of Opinion
-There are Assyrians, both in and outside Iraq, who believe the current U.S. occupation could be the answer to their prayers. They hope that U.S. forces will convert Iraq into a modern state, with a secular constitution and an autonomous region in which the Assyrians can live in peace. To this end, some Assyrians have supported U.S. troops in various ways, even risking their lives as guides and interpreters in the field. A few have been killed in action serving alongside U.S. troops.
There are other Assyrians who are not convinced that the occupation will make life better. They remember that when the British ruled Iraq, in the middle of the 20th Century, their situation actually got worse. Saddam Hussein was a brutal tyrant. He led his people into senseless wars that got hundreds of thousands of them killed. But, as these Assyrians point out, Saddam and his regime did have at least one redeeming characteristic - the genie of Islamic militancy was ruthlessly bottled up. Now that the U.S. and Britain have seized control of Iraq, the cork has been popped.
Islamic militancy is growing, and appears to be gaining steam. To make matters worse, civil wars appear to be brewing within, as well as between, the major ethnic factions such as the Sunni, Shiite, and Kurds.
So far the skeptical Assyrians seem to be the most prescient. U.S. forces in Iraq are spread thin, and taking casualties everyday. They are unable to prevent themselves from being assaulted, even when traveling in armed convoys. U.S. forces also appear unable to guarantee the security of Iraqi civilians. Many Assyrians view the rising tide of anti-Christian violence as evidence of U.S. impotence to protect them.
But even if the U.S. forces could protect the Assyrians from their Muslim neighbors, there is no guarantee that they would even want to. The Wall Street Journal has reported that U.S. policy makers in Iraq consider the Christians to be a "most inconvenient minority." Evidencing too much concern for Iraqi Christians, it is feared, would reinforce the idea that the U.S. is fighting a "war on Islam," thereby strengthening the resistance to U.S. forces. It is obvious to observers on the ground that Washington would prefer if the whole messy problem of Iraqi Christians would just go away.
Occupied Iraq is an unstable and dangerous place. Only now that the true bill seems to be coming due, are members of Congress and concerned citizens asking questions they should have posed months ago. In the cauldron of violence that is Iraq, the U.S. stands ready to lose men, money, and equipment seemingly indefinitely. They are losses that will be grievous, but as a nation, the U.S. will survive.
The Assyrians, in contrast, stand to lose everything, and no one seems particularly concerned.
Conservatives Don't Care About Foreign Christians
-No one expects liberals to care much for the fate of Christian communities in the Third World. On the other hand, almost anyone would expect conservatives to care about the persecution and suffering endured by Christians throughout the world. After all, aren't conservatives pro-life, pro-Bible, and pro-prayer? Isn't the Republican Party the party of the God-fearing? Given the rhetoric of many Republican politicians and pundits, one would definitely expect a great deal of concern.
Sadly, this just isn't the case. Prior to the invasion of Iraq, no conservative politicians or pundits of note expressed concern over what an invasion would mean for the Christian community there. Now that the U.S. has occupied Iraq, and is failing miserably in its obligation to protect the Christian minority, the topic goes unmentioned.
Why Don't Conservatives Care About Christians?
-The answer to this question is surprisingly simple. Conservative politicians and pundits care little for the welfare of Christians outside the United States for one primary reason.
The Evangelical Christian base of the Republican Party doesn't care. There have been no demonstrations protesting the inability/unwillingness of U.S. forces to protect Iraqi Christians. Their cause has not been championed by any of the televangelists. Christian persecution in post-Saddam Iraq has not been a centerpiece article in any of the Evangelical magazines. At the same time, there have been large protests against the Bush Administration's 'Roadmap for Peace,' a plan many Evangelicals opposed as being too tough on the Israelis. The message is clear to Christians outside the U.S. - Israel matters and you don't.
Worse still, even when Evangelicals do pay attention to Christians outside American borders, it is often tinged with hostility. Ask the Serbs or the Israeli Christians about that. Of course, the Evangelicals do not consider Catholic or Orthodox Christians to be Christians. Somehow, though, one has to doubt that Jesus feels that way, especially when so many of those suffering persecution for His name are from those communions. If strength in the faith under adverse conditions is the measure of a Christian, then surely many Catholic and Orthodox believers are among the greatest living. Would that the Evangelicals only recognized that fact, while there is still time to prevent any more suffering.
MORE WAR ARGUMENTS
by Bob Murphy - www.lewrockwell.com - March 25, 2003
... Before I get going, let me make one thing clear:
Because I am a practical pacifist, I consider violence to be an
extremely ineffective tool in achieving one's goals. Consequently, not
only do I strongly oppose the continuation of Allied bombing of Iraq,
but I also think the Iraqi soldiers ought not resist the invading
forces. (I'm not saying they should surrender; I am saying it's foolish
for them to fight and die "for their country.")
... My dad also found little merit in the antiwar argument that claims our imperial foreign policy will cause Arab extremists to hate us, and strike back at the U.S. through terrorism. This seemed like a bad argument, my dad thought, because (and I paraphrase), "Look at 9/11. How much more could they hate us?"
__This is a more complicated issue. Generally, you can't prove a counterfactual statement. The U.S. has invaded Iraq. There will also be terrorist strikes against Americans in the future. No one will ever be able to prove that there would have been more, or fewer, terrorist strikes if the U.S. had decided to leave the Iraqis alone.
My guess, though, is that there will in fact be more
terrorist actions. Think about the analogous argument that a nonviolent
Arab could make to his friends considering jihad: "Look guys, I agree
with you that the U.S. is an evil government bent on world domination.
But terrorist attacks against innocent American civilians are
counterproductive. It will only justify further U.S. aggression against
__I can easily imagine "realist" Arabs responding, "Nonsense! Look at the Iraqi invasion. George Bush has shown that he will bomb anybody he feels like, regardless of world opinion. The U.S. could not possibly get more aggressive than it currently is."
__Needless to say, if both sides (erroneously) believe that they can escalate the conflict without incurring a reciprocal escalation from the other, then we are in store for progressively more horror.
__Finally, my dad pointed out that Saddam Hussein was a bad guy. He told me that he had heard (and perhaps seen footage; I don't remember) that after taking power, Saddam had presided over an assembly of the Iraqi government. Apparently, Saddam had simply pointed out certain individuals in the crowd, and his men proceeded to take these men outside and kill them.
__What is ironic about this argument for the present invasion is that Saddam's alleged behavior concerning other Iraqi officials is the exact way Bush is behaving with regard to Iraqi officials. Saddam had leaders in the Iraqi government killed to further his political aims, just like George W. Bush is having leaders in the Iraqi government killed to further his political aims.
__Of course, the war hawks will quickly point out that the people Bush is trying to kill are "bad." Fair enough; I'm sure they are. But I'll take a stab and guess that many of the rivals Saddam killed (assuming the reports of his brutality are accurate) were "bad" too.
__But when you phrase it this way, it still doesn't seem that Saddam had any excuse for doing what he (allegedly) did. No matter how bad certain officials in the Iraqi government were, it was both immoral and illegal (if "legal" is to have any meaning) for Saddam Hussein to order his men to kill them.
__In the same way, it is both immoral and illegal (if "legal" is to have any meaning) for George Bush to order his men to kill Iraqi leaders. The fact that U.N. inspectors "already had twelve years" to disarm Iraq does not give Bush the right to speed things along by using the military. After all, the U.S. criminal justice system often takes longer than twelve years to execute a murderer, even if he's caught red-handed. This doesn't give George Bush the right to shoot such a criminal in cold blood.