The Whore of Babylon

The Whore of Babylon July 24, 2013

The Whore of Babylon

*The following post is adapted from Preston Sprinkle’s forthcoming book: Fight: A Christian Case for Non-Violence (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2013). Preston’s book is due to release on August 1.

As I was writing the chapter on Revelation for my book Fight, I flipped on the news and was oppressed by the horror: a young man named Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and gunned down twenty-six people, including twenty children. The Newtown massacre produced a wave of rage, confusion, and disgust across America. And it reached Washington DC. Three days after the event, President Obama visited Newtown to mourn the tragedy and comfort the many friends and family whose suffering will continue for years. We will use “whatever power” is in our hands, declared Obama, to stop such massacres from happening again.

As a parent of four children, I mourned this tragedy. I fear that one day I might wake up to that phone call: “Sir, I’m sorry to tell you this, but you need to come down here because …” Ugh. I can’t imagine! My heart goes out to those who are suffering from this horrific evil.

But there’s a bit of irony in Obama’s outrage. As I was googling around to find updates on the killing, I typed in “children killed in …” and before I could tap my keyboard, I was struck by the next thing that automatically popped up. It wasn’t Connecticut, it wasn’t Newtown, and it wasn’t school. The next words that popped up were drone strikes. I was instantly reminded of the horrors of killing children—both in America and abroad. Drones are unmanned aerial combat vehicles. Or in layperson’s terms, they are flying robots armed to the teeth with rockets and controlled by a pilot with a joystick in Missouri. They’ve been used in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and elsewhere in the Middle East. The genius of drone strikes is that they can kill bad guys without any threat of losing American lives. And Obama has been a major advocate of drone strikes. In one sense, they have been a remarkable success. According to one study, since Obama took office there have been over three hundred drone strikes in the Middle East, resulting in over 2,500 deaths.

But who are these 2,500? Terrorists, no doubt! Unfortunately, this is not the case. According to one Pakistani report, 50 civilians are killed for every terrorist.46 Another report says that of the 1,658 to 2,597 killed in drone strikes, 282 and 535 were civilians (that’s between 10 and 32 percent).47 The CIA, however, says that it has killed over 600 militants in drone strikes and not a single civilian has died.48 Pakistani reports will most probably inflate the numbers, and the CIA will probably reduce them. But even if we take a mediating position and say that 25 civilians are killed for every terrorist—that’s a lot of civilian deaths. The number that I keep seeing from several different sources—including horrifying pictures—is that there have been 168 children blown up in drone strikes since Obama took office.49 If this happened on American soil, we’d call it terrorism. It did happen in Connecticut, and we called it murder. Yet few Americans are outraged over the killing of these innocent children in the Middle East.

“We can’t tolerate this anymore,” mourned Obama during his speech at Sandy Hook Elementary. “These tragedies must end.… If there is even one step we can take to save another child, or another parent, or another town, from the grief that has visited Tucson, and Aurora, and Oak Creek, and Newtown, and communities from Columbine to Blacksburg before that—then surely we have an obligation to try.”50

I appreciate Obama’s concern, but I find it ironic. Can we extend his sympathy to the Middle East? Are the deaths of 168 incinerated children any less a tragedy than the massacre at Newtown? Or does their color, ethnicity, and religion justify their deaths? Better their kids than ours, said Time magazine’s Joe Klein.51 I mourn both tragedies—the death of innocent, beautiful children in Connecticut and of the precious children in the Middle East

Both tragedies are evil. Both will be vindicated. Both will be judged. I also mourn the hypocrisy of the millions of Americans who endorse a military tactic that spares American soldiers at the cost of foreign children. “In her was found the blood … of all who have been slain on earth,” cries the angel in John’s vision (Rev. 18:24). I fear that the whore of Babylon might not live across the pond.

Notes

46. David Kilcullen and Andrew McDonald, “Death from Above, Outrage Down

Below,” New York Times, May 16, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/17/

opinion/17exum.html?_r=3&.

47. Chris Woods and Christina Lamb, “Obama Terror Drones: CIA Tactics in

Pakistan Include Targeting Rescuers and Funerals,” The Bureau of Investigative

Journalism, February 4, 2012, http://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/2012/02/04/

obama-terror-drones-cia-tactics-in-pakistan-include-targeting-rescuers-and-funerals/.

48. Scott Shane, “C.I.A. Is Disputed on Civilian Toll in Drone Strikes,” New York

Times, August 11, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/12/world/asia/12drones.

html?_r=1.

49. This number is confirmed by several diverse reports. See for instance, Rob Crilly, “168

Children Killed in Drone Strikes in Pakistan Since Start of Campaign,” Telegraph, August

11, 2011, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/pakistan/8695679/168-

children-killed-in-drone-strikes-in-Pakistan-since-start-of-campaign.html.

50. Christina Bellantoni and Terence Burlij, “Obama: Nation Must Answer ‘Hard

Questions,’” PBS NewsHour: The Rundown, December 17, 2012, http://www.pbs.

org/newshour/rundown/2012/12/obama-in-connecticut-nation-must-answer-hardquestions.

html.

51. Glenn Greenwald, “Joe Klein’s Sociopathic Defense of Drone Killings of Children,”

Telegraph, October 23, 2012, http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/oct/23/

klein-drones-morning-joe.

 

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