The NY Times columnist, Nicholas Kristof, put it like this: The Iraq war is now going better than expected, for a change. Most critics of the war, myself included, blew it: we didn’t anticipate the improvements in security that are partly the result of last year’s “surge.” The improvement is real but fragile and limited. Here’s what it amounts to: We’ve cut our casualty rates to the unacceptable levels that plagued us back in 2005, and we still don’t have any exit plan for years to come — all for a bill that is accumulating at the rate of almost $5,000 every second!

More important, while casualties in Baghdad are down, we’re beginning to take losses in Florida and California. The United States seems to have slipped into recession; Americans are losing their homes, jobs and health insurance; banks are struggling — and the Iraq war appears to have aggravated all these domestic woes.“The present economic mess is very much related to the Iraq war,” says Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel Prize-winning economist. “It was at least partially responsible for soaring oil prices. ...Moreover, money spent on Iraq did not stimulate the economy as much as the same dollars spent at home would have done. To cover up these weaknesses in the American economy, the Fed let forth a flood of liquidity; that, together with lax regulations, led to a housing bubble and a consumption boom.”

And now comes the sobering headline that we've reached 4,000 American dead in addition to the 1,191,216 Iraqi deaths related to the war. Kristof continues: But if you believe that staying in Iraq does more good than harm, you must answer the next question: Is that presence so valuable that it is worth undermining our economy? Granted, the cost estimates are squishy and controversial, partly because the $12.5 billion a month that we’re now paying for Iraq is only a down payment. We’ll still be making disability payments to Iraq war veterans 50 years from now. Professor Stiglitz calculates in a new book, written with Linda Bilmes of Harvard University, that the total costs, including the long-term bills we’re incurring, amount to about $25 billion a month. That’s $330 a month for a family of four.

A Congressional study by the Joint Economic Committee found that the sums spent on the Iraq war each day could enroll an additional 58,000 children in Head Start or give Pell Grants to 153,000 students to attend college. Or if we’re sure we want to invest in security, then a day’s Iraq spending would finance another 11,000 border patrol agents or 9,000 police officers.

Imagine the possibilities. We could hire more police and border patrol agents, expand Head Start and rehabilitate America’s image in the world by underwriting a global drive to slash maternal mortality, eradicate malaria and deworm every child in Africa. All that would consume less than one month’s spending on the Iraq war.

As people of the resurrection - those who are allied with God's enormous "YES" over all the "No's" of the world - Christ calls us into acts of compassion and justice. As a pastor who has now had to love and support soldiers from my church who have been sent into this hate-filled tragedy, I continue to hold them close to my hearts even as I commit myself to a renewed effort to oppose and end this war. It is clearly a paradox of this calling - to love our warriors who would rather not make war - while urging our civilians to become more active citizens for peace. And it is so important to try to do this without stridency or self-righteousness... which is easier said than done.

And so the Prayer of St. Francis returns: Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.


Benjamin Ady said…

Wanted to say thank you very kindly for the link to Justice and Compassion. I shall link you back on our "blogs that link here page"

I *love* bars! I would *so* totally rather go to a bar than a church.

I *love* that prayer from Saint Francis. Thankyou for reminding me of it.

And I really love the image of the person with the whole world on their hands. Very kewl.

You rock.

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