It was bound to happen ~ it has just been a matter of time ~ no more surprising than the horrors of Abu Grahib. And yet it breaks your heart for the innocent Afghans ~ for all of us Americans who have now been made guilty by association ~ and of course for the sergent who committed this heinous act of death and defilement. (see the full story in the Times @ http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/12/world/asia/afghanistan-civilians-killed-american-soldier-held.html?partner=rss&emc=rss) Three thoughts intersect tonight as I grieve the whole mess:
+ First, this ugly act is NOT representative of the US military. I know a lot of my progressive and pacifist friends detest the military ~ they know nothing about the military culture nor do they understand the tragic nobility of the warrior ~ but most soldiers have chosen to do a hard and even contradictory job with conviction and even grace. They are people of the deepest integrity who actually hate war and violence as much if not more than the rest of us because, of course, they have been in harm's way. They have sometimes had to take life for the greater good. And they try to figure out a way to live with all these challenges
Who knows what caused this soldier in Kandahar Province to methodically seek out 16 ~ some little girls less than 6 years old ~ and shoot them before setting the bodies on fire? I remember the My Lai massacre in Vietnam when a young II Lt. William Calley snapped under pressure and encouraged Charlie Company of 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 11th Brigade of the AmericanDivision to kill up to 504 unarmed civilians. I know that the psychological report that M. Scott Peck wrote as a follow-up to the destruction was never released. I know that the fear of soldiers under fire who were exhausted and expected to accomplish impossible goals was a part of the problem. And I know that such a horror ~ then and now ~ is NOT what the US military is all about.
+ Second, it should also be clear, however, that when fallible human beings are put into combat ~ trained to kill and destroy the enemy ~ there will be times when our worst acts will rise to the surface. No Code of Conduct can change human sinfulness. No amount of training can keep women and men from becoming bestial ~ especially when they are surrounded by fear and terror. This is a consequence of war ~ ugly and incomprehensible to those who don't want to grasp the depth of human depravity ~ but a fact of life. How did the Apostle Paul put it in Romans 1?
People knew God perfectly well, (what God wanted) but when they didn't treat him like God, refusing to worship him, they trivialized themselves into silliness and confusion so that there was neither sense nor direction left in their lives. They pretended to know it all, but were illiterate regarding life. They traded the glory of God who holds the whole world in his hands for cheap figurines you can buy at any roadside stand.
So God said, in effect, "If that's what you want, that's what you get." It wasn't long before they were living in a pigpen, smeared with filth, filthy inside and out. And all this because they traded the true God for a fake god, and worshiped the god they made instead of the God who made them—the God we bless, the God who blesses us. Oh, yes!
God's wrath is more often than not God's absence ~ not hell fire and brimstone from above and beyond ~ but the slime and violence of human beings living fully into sin.
+ And third, it just keeps getting worse in Afghanistan ~ and those who hate us have increasingly good reasons for that hatred. Some will say, "It didn't have to end up like this." Others will blame Obama ~ or Bush ~ or the military or somebody. But the truth is this war was almost destined to wind up like this ~ with the Koran burnings and Abu Grahib and all the rest. We don't understand this culture. We went into Afghanistan ~ and Iraq ~ like high tech Crusaders eager to kick some Muslim ass. We were certain that our technology and superior intellects would get this war over fast. And now, 11 plus years later, we are experiencing the consequences of our sin and arrogance. America is more hated in the world now by people who could have been our allies than at any other time since the Vietnam War.
What's worse, the hand-writing was on the wall before our troops hit the ground ~ our arrogance, stupidity, sin and trust in technology was going to fail against those who would give their lives for God and country. And we chose to look the other way.
Tonight I pray for my Afghan sisters and brothers ~ who worship the same God as me ~ and I pray for our leaders and our soldiers. I pray for the wounded and hate-filled soldier who murdered my sisters and brothers and know, too that I am complicit in all of this blood and hatred and fear. For the sake of Afghanistan, for the well-being of our soldiers and for the sake of our own national soul: this war must end.
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