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Motivated by the recent WikiLeaks classified document dump, a “Proper 29 Project” has arisen out of Duke Divinity School in North Carolina to focus on “our moral culpability as Christians in the United States for civilian deaths and torture in Iraq and Afghanistan.” Based on the WikiLeaks document dump, this group of theologians, clergy and seminarians exclusively fault the U.S. and its allies for killing over 66,000 Iraqi civilians. “We acknowledge and lament our corporate responsibility for these acts,” they bewail, without considering that U.S. and allied forces weren’t the only side that was shooting.
“Our preoccupied silence and political support has sustained so brutal a war since 2003,” laments one Mennonite minister with the project. “We are complicit in these crimes,” she insisted, comparing America’s iniquities to the brothers of the Biblical patriarch Joseph who sold him into Egyptian slavery.
A November 21 sermon at Duke University’s majestic Gothic chapel featured a former Christian Peacemaking Team (CPT) activist who was in Baghdad in 2002 to guard Iraq from the impending American-led invasion. “The truth we must face…[is that the] extension of America’s reign has not brought peace to all corners of earth but rather millions of people are living in hell on earth,” he lamented, touting the “Proper 29 Project” message. The CPT activist claimed the Iraq War failed to meet Just War criteria because it is “without end” and because the 66,000 fatalities dispute its moral proportionality. “Weep for us, those who allowed this to happen on our watch,” he bewailed, likening America to wicked ancient Israel against which the prophet Jeremiah inveighed. “We are all participating in a system that is dealing death to millions of people in the world.”
It’s not clear who these “millions” of America’s victims are. The claim sounds suspiciously similar to 9-11 truther and process theologian David Ray Griffin of Claremont School of Theology, another United Methodist seminary. He claims the United States has murdered tens of millions essentially because all war and poverty and illness globally over the last 70 years is directly America’s fault. Evidently, absent the United States, the earth would revert to an Eden, where death exists no more. The citation of over 66,000 Iraqi civilian deaths across 8 years of war is actually more responsible than many of the far Left’s claims of hundreds of thousands of fatalities in Iraq. Where “Proper 29 Project” seems to agree with the kooky far Left is that everybody who has died violently in Iraq since 2003 is America’s victim.
Do the sectarian militias and al Qaeda carry any guilt for the civil war they have attempted to foment since Saddam Hussein’s relatively quick overthrow by Allied forces in 2002? Unlike Allied forces, these militias and terror groups deliberately killed civilians to stoke religious and political resentments they hoped would convulse Iraq into a blood bath. And does Saddam himself, whose tyranny and aggression provoked the armed liberation, carry any responsibility? Or does the liberator bear exclusive responsibility?
There is also the seeming assumption by “Proper 29 Project” that Iraq would have been peaceful and tranquil absent the U.S. led invasion. This fantasy by many war critics ignores that Saddam murdered hundreds of thousands of his own people, and his reign of murder, almost certainly surpassing 66,000, would have merrily continued until the present had he remained enthroned. But Saddam’s countless victims across the years were not typically featured on Western television, and they never merited compassion from the anti-war Left.
In the brutal calculus of the real world, the choice for American policymakers is often not between tranquility and carnage but between massive horrors versus more limited horrors. But recognizing the fallen world for what it is, and fully acknowledging the murderous brutality of many regimes, or the intractability of some conflicts, is difficult to impossible for many on the Left, especially because it distracts from characterizing the United States as chief global villain. Another voice at Duke highlighted by “Proper 29 Project” claims the Iraq War was America’s “quest for 9/11 vengeance,” animated by a “cloud of lies.” Iraq’s poor are trapped in the “crosshairs of the world’s last superpower.” Ostensibly, “Proper 29 Project” wants to “address the gross harm done against Iraq in the name of our national security.”
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