#WeAreN, But Are We Really? On Hashtags and the Harvests of War in Iraq

Creative Commons Copyright U.S. Army

Creative Commons Copyright U.S. Army

Over the past month, there has been a crescendo of outrage over the horrific acts of ISIS in Iraq and Syria in many American Christian circles.

And it’s justifiable. In fact, it’s hard not to be angry and appalled.

Reportedly, ISIS has been systematically exterminating religious minorities, a campaign of slaughter that left some 5,500 dead in the past six months — some 2,000 in the past month alone — and scores more displaced from their homes.

While the hashtag #WeAreN reminds us that Christians have been singled out for execution, it’s not just our brothers and sisters in Christ facing the violence. It’s also Shiite Muslims and Yazidis who have been targeted for slaughter. Media outlets have reported stories so gruesome they are almost beyond comprehension. Some of them are true, and some of them perhaps are not. And while it’s hard to tell at times which is which, no one is disputing that something truly awful, horrible, and evil is happening at the hands of ISIS.

So, there are calls for prayer. There are calls for solidarity. There are calls for intervention.

But there is also a whiff — and often more — of anti-Islamic sentiment, particularly in some of the social media comments I’ve read. That’s why it’s so important to remember, especially as these reports unfold, that ISIS has been roundly condemned by scores of influential and important Muslim organizations. In fact, ISIS has been so brutal and violent even al-Qaeda broke ties with them. Now, that’s saying something when the world’s most well-known terrorist organization says you’ve gone too far.

So, yes, let’s be outraged. But let’s not be anti-Islamic. Rather, this is the time to join hands with our Muslim brothers and sisters. It is a time to build bridges not burn them with misplaced anger.

But I’m not sure American Christians can do so without first asking ourselves a troubling question.

And I’m not sure we can really say #WeAreN without first looking at the blood on our own hands.

While it is certainly right to be outraged at the systematic slaughter of some 2,000 people in the past month, where was our collective outrage, O American Christians, when our own war there was responsible for the slaughter at least a half-million Iraqis?

Where was our outrage when we unleashed hell in the cradle of civilization, through shock and awe, torture, and extraordinary rendition?

Where was our outrage then?

Because this is what birthed ISIS — our own immoral war there.

Where is our ability now to see that this is a harvest of our own violence, immoral war, and gruesome torture?

For almost a decade, we plowed the ground with bombs. For almost a decade, we sowed the seeds of unspeakable violence. For almost a decade, we poured death into the earth.

And now we are outraged at what has taken root in the soil we polluted with the blood of Iraqis.

ISIS is not innocent, but neither are we. This kind of evil doesn’t happen in a vacuum.  It doesn’t spring up from the bowels of hell by the devil incarnate. Our own military-industrial complex played an important part in the manufacture of this current evil.

No, we aren’t the ones exterminating civilians — Christians, Shiite Muslims, and Yazidis. But to me, it’s hard to ignore that the blame for some, if not much of what is happening in Iraq, lies at our own feet, with the failed U.S. invasion and its half-hearted occupation of the country.

Outrage?

Yes, be outraged at the violence of ISIS, but do not oversimplify it as a bunch of bad guys doing evil.

Yes, pray for the victims, the refugees, the survivors, and the relief workers, but do not believe that we are heroic saviors.

Yes, send aid and money, if you can, to the organizations already on the ground doing work, but do not believe that it will rebuild what our tax dollars destroyed for so many years.

But do not forget, among all the outrage, and all the prayers, and all the giving, to also repent. Before we point the finger at the evil of ISIS and say we stand in solidarity with the persecuted of Iraq, let’s take a look at the plank bomb in our own eyes.

Maybe the next time we tweet #WeAreN, we should also remember that, for as much blood as ISIS has spilled in Iraq, and as awful as it is, #WeThePeople have spilled more.

 

About David R. Henson

David Henson received his Master of Arts from Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, after receiving a Lilly Grant for religious education for journalists. He ordained in the Episcopal Church as a priest. He is a father of two young sons and the husband of a medical school student.

  • Kevin Mullins

    David, I agree with you especially about repentance and soul searching for the Christian church. But I disagree with you about the “we” to whom this is addressed. There were many, many Christians who stood opposed then and stand opposed now to the Military Industrial Complex bloodshed, to the ravaging of sovereign nations, and to crocked up charges for war. Americans have a lot to answer for especially as we elected the psychopaths in our halls of government to arm, train, and fund these “al-queda/al-nusra/ISIS/IS” murderous thugs all in an effort to prop up the petrodollar and the bankster syndicate. Many of us are working to sow seeds of gospel healing and restoration all over the globe and want nothing to do with “Americianity” and the spreading of “freedum.” But then again, maybe the real issue is that this “We” you speak of needs to be removed from the Lord’s church once and for all.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/davidhenson David R. Henson

      I hear you and take your point. There were many, many Christians who opposed the war. I was one of them. At the same time, my faith tradition, in one of its prayers, asks for forgiveness for the “evil done on our behalf.” In spite of my opposition, that evil was still done on my behalf as an American. I’d love to see public repentance from American denominations for what our country did, even if they opposed it.

      I don’t think it’s in anyone’s power to expel folks from the Church. These are our brothers and sisters, no matter how much we may disagree with them.

      The ethical dilemma now is what kind of responsibility, if any, do we have to a country we decimated and who is now being overrun?

      I’m not sure I have good answers.

  • Guy Norred

    Amen

  • Mark Hilditch

    A whole lot of #WeThePeople have not spilled Iraqi blood. A lot of it has been spilled in our name by a US government that never asked if that was how we wanted to be represented on the global stage. “Collective outrage” is not the only valid form of outrage. It cannot be. Literally throwing my dinner at the televised image of Bush43 on the night when he announced the unilateral invasion of Iraq is a valid expression of outrage. Constant voiced opposition the US military adventurism in the Islamic world over the past decade must earn some credibility when it is time to stand up for these under persecution. I have long identified firstly and foremostly with Christians all over the world before I identify as a US citizen. And I always will. Yes, I.AM.N.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/davidhenson David R. Henson

      I love the image of you throwing your dinner at the TV. I think you’re right that constant opposition does give credibility. But we’re still Americans and we still benefit from the unjust actions of our country.

      My faith tradition, in one of its prayers, asks for forgiveness for the “evil done on our behalf.” In spite of my opposition, that evil was still done on my behalf as an American. I’d love to see public repentance from American denominations for what our country did, even if they opposed it.

      • Mark Hilditch

        Well, I live in Mexico 50% of the time, so I guess I am only culpable for 50% of the “benefits!” And while I have an extreme problem with supposedly bearing any responsibility for the actions of the USA government with whom I so profoundly disagree, I do appreciate your notion of the value of public repentance as a prod toward a whole different way of being trapped in an empire not of one’s choosing. Thanks. (Sandlin’ right, you do really good stuff!)

  • Guest

    Can’t think of a better reason to start banning all religions that think an imaginary divinity gives them permission to kill people with a different opinion.

  • Aaron

    Can you explain the difference between a moral war and an immoral war? I’m curious as to where you draw the line. Do you think violence is ever appropriate?

  • Ump 18

    I have difficulty reading comments from liberal or progressive religious people who have failed to do their homework. But even worst are those in the religious community who support such dribble. So let us go back to a time before the
    majority of those who respond were a twinkle in their daddy’s eye.

    First , there is Sayyid Qutb(1906-1966), leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood is credited with be the originator of the Islamist state and an inspiration for violent groups such as Al Qaeda. His two most important works: a commentary of the Qur’an Fi Zilal al-Qur’an (In the Shade of the
    Qur’an), and a manifesto of political Islam called Ma’alim fi-l-Tariq (Milestones).
    These works represent the final form of Qutb’s thought, encompassing his
    radically anti-secular and anti-Western claims based on his
    interpretations of the Qur’an, Islamic history, and the social and political
    problems of Egypt.

    Offering his own explanation in Ma’alim fi-l-Tariq(Milestones), he argued that anything non-Islamic was evil and corrupt, while following Sharia as a
    complete system extending into all aspects of life, would bring every kind of
    benefit to humanity, from personal and social peace, to the “treasures” of the universe. Qutb was hung in 1966 for his role in planning the assassination of the
    Egyptian President. But his teachings lived on through his brother Muhammad Qutb.

    Muhammad had two students one was Osama bin Laden the founder of Al Qaeda and we know what he did. Also, there was Abu Musab al-Zarqawi who may recall he was hit with a big bomb while hiding in a home built in an orange grove.

    Zarqawi is credited with starting this extreme fringe group prior to our invasion. Jama’at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad (abrreviated JTJ or shortened to Tawhid and Jihad, Tawhid wal-Jihad, sometimes Tawhid al-Jihad, Al Tawhid or Tawhid) was started in about 2000. In the early stages the group’s original aim was to establish a caliphate in the Sunni-majority regions of Iraq. Following its involvement in the Syrian Civil War(of which the US did not start or bomb), this expanded to include controlling Sunni-majority areas of Syria. A caliphate was proclaimed on 29 June 2014, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi—now known as Amir al-Mu’minin Caliph Ibrahim—was named as its caliph, and the group was renamed the Islamic State.

    The group, in its original form, was composed of and supported by a variety of Sunni Arab terrorist insurgent groups, including its predecessor organizations, Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) (2003–2006), Mujahideen Shura Council (2006–2006) and the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) (2006–2013), other insurgent groups such as Jeish al-Taiifa al-Mansoura, Jaysh al-Fatiheen, Jund al-Sahaba and Katbiyan Ansar Al-Tawhid wal Sunnah, and a number of Iraqi tribes that profess Sunni Islam.

    ISIS is a violent extremist group that follows al-Qaeda’s hard-line ideology and adheres to global jihadist principles. Like al-Qaeda and many other modern-day jihadist groups, ISIS emerged from the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood, the world’s first Islamist group dating back to the late 1920s in Egypt.

    Mr. Hanson’s statement, “Where was our outrage when we unleashed hell in the
    cradle of civilization, through shock and awe, torture, and extraordinary
    rendition? Where was our outrage then? Because this is what birthed ISIS — our own immoral war there” is pure ignorance at its best. Islam’s ideology has always been to become the world’s religion no matter what it takes. So please, if nothing else do your homework before you agree with a liberal religious person.

  • Y. A. Warren

    Well said, although you haven’t even scratched the surface of the blame that lay at the door of the “Christian” religion, which used the same tactics to “convert” the world to the “Holy” Roman Empire, the root of what we now call “Christianity.” I agree with Bishop John Spong that what is in practice today is actually a political system called “Christendom,” which is still struggling to pretend that the roots aren’t rotted, as they have long been cut from the vine fed by Jesus’s Sacred Spirit on earth.

  • Irv Spielberg

    USA Now Headless !

    Obama seems to think we’re on the
    cutting edge of history. Does he have in mind the predicted beheadings
    (Rev. 20:4) that are increasing? Obama may feel he’d never be targeted
    by ISIS. But isn’t he afraid they’ll soon conclude he doesn’t have a
    good head on his shoulders? (For more on you-know-who, Google “The
    Background Obama Can’t Cover Up.”)


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