Now We Have Three Swamps
Tim Simpson of the Christian Alliance for Progress writes the following e-mail about the mire that we find ourselves in. It contains more ideas of what we as individual citizens of America and the world must do.
Now We Have Three Swamps
Five years ago, after September 11th, President Bush announced that the US invasion of Afghanistan was intended to “drain the swamp” of the terrorists who had proliferated under the Taliban regime after the Soviets had withdrawn. The sad fact is that where there once was only one such swamp, now there are three.
Swamp # 1
Afghanistan has largely dropped off the radar of the American public due to the debacle in Iraq and because the Western press has closed down their bureaus in that country and now only occasionally send someone there for an update. But what has been trickling out is extremely disheartening, given the fanfare with which we pledged just a couple of years ago to transform Afghan society and create a democracy which would chart a new course for that war-torn nation. For once the cameras were turned off, the soldiers started being redeployed to Iraq and the reconstruction funds disappeared. Now the Taliban are once again in control of sections of the countryside, the opium trade is expecting a record yield from this summer’s harvest, and President Karzai’s authority has bottomed out.
Swamp # 2
Iraq has become the “mother of all swamps” to borrow a phrase from its erstwhile dictator. No one but the delusional believes that the country is any better than when Saddam was in power, as the sectarian violence in combination with the anti-American insurgency have turned the entire country upside down. The unfortunate fact is that the delusional souls who believe Iraq is better are running our country and are thus pouring more money and troops into the ever-widening abyss.
Swamp # 3
The most recent tragedy is in Lebanon, where the US has urged on the Israelis in their counter-productive efforts to smash Hezbollah. There is no question that Hezbollah’s assaults on Israel, both their indiscriminate rocket attacks and the cross border killing and kidnapping of Israeli soldiers, are immoral and that the Israelis were within their rights under international law to respond with force. However, as Michael Walzer, the widely-acknowledged authority on Just War wrote in The New Republic last week, one may be justified in rooting out launching sites for rockets or taking down the guerillas who pose a threat for more raids into Israeli territory, but it is quite another matter to destroy the entire Lebanese infrastructure–power plants, water treatment facilities, airports, roads and bridges, banks and other such public facilities. This goes far beyond the kind of proportionate response that any understanding of Just War would allow and instead becomes simple revenge and retribution that while apparently making the Israelis feel better, in the end will not make them any safer.
Ostensibly the Israelis want the Lebanese government to rein in Hezbollah and control its southern border, rather than leaving that area under Hezbollah influence. That is a perfectly reasonable demand, but their actions have made this outcome a virtual impossibility for many years to come. The already weak Lebanese government has been crippled further by the destruction of the national infrastructure, by the flight of the business class out of the country, and by its failure to protect the Lebanese people and their property from three weeks of unrelenting attack. Whatever hope that there is that the Lebanese government will be both a stabilizing and restraining force within its own borders is fading fast.
Instead of trying to head off this impending disaster, the Bush administration, which seems never to have met a war it didn’t like, have done nothing to stop the Israeli advance. The US support for Israel’s actions has become so lopsided that the Lebanese President actually refused to meet with Secretary of State Rice this past weekend, since he can no longer afford even to be seen with her while his nation is under attack with American blessing.
The Israelis and the US have made a colossal blunder. Hezbollah’s stock is soaring in the Middle East as I write this, with nearly 90% support according to an international poll taken this weekend. A month ago regimes all across the region wanted little to do with the group, whose Islamic fundamentalism is at odds with and even a threat to places like Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Now, however, with images of dead children, flattened buildings and a nation of refugees on the run, the Muslim street has turned even more against both the Israelis and Americans. Worse, the chaos in Lebanon has once again created the seedbed of terrorism, which we know from experience around the world will be the next stage of what develops there. Sadly, our leadership seems to be asleep at the wheel with no coherent policy other than that force is good, which has made our already shaky diplomatic reputation around the world even less respected. As New York Times columnist Tom Friedman said today, the Bush Administration has lots of moral clarity, but no moral authority. We cannot afford the peace and stability of both the nation and the world to be endangered by the poor decisions and declining influence of our leaders. Something has to be done immediately.
What You Can Do
- First of all, every Christian needs to be in serious prayer for peace in the Middle East. What is happening to Lebanon is tragic, but so is what has happened in Israel, where over 2,500 of Hezbollah’s missiles have landed in the past three weeks. Israelis, like their Lebanese counterparts, have also been forced to evacuate their homes and businesses and are watching their futures being dismantled because of the violence. All of these people, whatever their nationality or religion need our prayers and support during this difficult time.
- Second, every Christian needs to pressure our government to do what it can to rein in the Israeli war machine as quickly as possible. We give the Israelis nearly $3 billion a year in aid (in comparison to $40 million a year to Lebanon, who really needs the help) and sell them sophisticated weapons that are wreaking havoc on Lebanon right now. You should call the White House, your Senator and Congressional Representative and tell them that the Israeli incursion into Lebanon has to end and that rather than refusing to talk to the principal players in this dispute that the US should be leading those conversations.
- Third, we need a regime change in the US, one in which reason and faithful values replace reactive and unreflective policies, and we need your help to shape the conversation that will make this happen. The Fall elections will allow American citizens to express their displeasure with the course of events our nation has followed that has brought us to the sad place where we have three swamps in that region of the world, not just the one that did us so much harm in 2001. The peace of the world is at stake in the present crisis and our current leadership has done nothing but exacerbate the problem. Please help us as we move with God’s help to point our nation toward a more just and equitable course which will reflect the values of Jesus Christ and his coming reign.