Last Sunday, as bemused citizens in scattered areas of Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee faced the reality of a seriously devastating multiple tornado attack, the President of the United States made a surprise “mission accomplished” speech. During the elections, the resilient rookie Senator from Illinois had promised to hunt down and kill the man whom the Bush administration blamed for the unnatural disaster that shook New York on September 11, 2001. Now, half way through his presidency as his approval ratings wane, our Commander in Chief has declared that another promissory task can be struck from his ambitious and often controversial “to do” list.
Following the announcement, it did not take long for jubilant throngs to assemble on national shrines at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and New York’s “Ground Zero.” The youthfulness of the initial assemblers betrayed a generation whose teenage years were dominated by the legacy of a President who had drawn a line in the sand as he declared a war against all “terrorists” who hate American democracy and her freedoms. The son of Laden was their real life bogeyman who was the archetypical incarnation of the terrible Lucifer, son of perdition. If this one man could be stopped, the collective blood of those for whom the World Trade Center marked their final earthly destination would be atoned.
For those who celebrated the assassination of the obviously dangerous ideologue, vehement hatred of the Saudi national had nothing to do with political affiliation. Barack Obama despised him just as much as George W. Bush. Disdain for Osama bin Laden was as American as apple pie and the fourth of July. Anyone who dared question the evidence that pointed to his guilt was a treacherous and unpatriotic enemy of the State who better keep his conspiracy theories to himself. This man, and this man alone, was responsible for the reckless destruction of prime New York real estate and the cowardly mass murder of thousands of unsuspecting humans whose weekend plans would never materialize.
Apparently, the quest to quiet bin Laden was such a national priority that no expense would be spared. Totally ignoring the rapidly increasing deficit and insensitive to the fact that most citizens of nations are innocent victims of their leaders decisions, former President Bush burdened trillions of dollars on future generations and commanded United States troops to wantonly waste brown skinned souls in Muslim countries. Innocent American lives are precious, but the innocents “over there” are “collateral damage”–disposable nuisances who only obscure the ability to see the real targets. The rule of law was ignored and moral sensibilities suspended as “enemy combatants” were tortuously enslaved in America’s Cuban prison. On the very island where the leader is decried for suppressing human rights, a nation quick to cast stones is forced to confront the beam in its own eye.
The Cost of Revenge
Not wishing to be outdone, the son of a Kansan (whose American authenticity would never have been questioned if he had not also been a son of a Kenyan), eagerly grabbed the military baton from his predecessor. He had something to prove. He may not have been raised with a hunting rifle in his hand, but he knew the real narrative behind the super-heros, war movies and “cowboy and injun” serials that have shaped the ideology of several generations. Americans must never turn the other cheek or portray any semblance of humility. We are the unrivaled Super Power, and the only way to prove it to the world is to military dominate rogue nations that don’t have the resources to resist. Surprising the pacifists and the premature attempt at preemption by the Nobel Peace Prize committee, flower power was defiled by F16s as Barack Hussein Obama transferred the center of American violence from Baghdad to Kabul to Karachi.
Has it all been worth it? Judging from the exuberant renditions of patriotic songs and the staccatoed chants of “U-S-A” that permeated the nation after the announcement, some would say yes. The trillions of dollars fighting wars on several front were worth it. The hundreds of thousands of non military, non American lives were worth it. The thousands of military corpses that the media never shows were worth it. The missing limbs from tens of thousands of veterans were worth it. The psychological damage done to hundreds of thousands of youth who tasted and wore the exploded blood and flesh of colleagues in their units and enemy combatants was worth it. The insulting incitement of Native American sensibilities by code-naming the operation to kill bin Laden “Geronimo” was worth it. But has it really all been worth it?
The Real Terrorist
As a student of Scripture, I know there is absolutely nothing that the United States can do to eradicate global evil. If anything, the violent attempt at democratization has mainly served to inspire others whose disdain for western imperialism will manifest itself in Islamic extremism. Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda and others who resort to violence to dominate–both foreign and domestic–are merely reflections of the paramount face of evil, the great deceiver, Satan himself. Whether the orders come from a walled compound in a Pakistani suburb or a government fortress in Langley, Virginia, those who order the “kill” are really carrying out the command of the true purveyor of destruction.
When I think of all the souls that have been sacrificed to get to Osama bin Laden, my contempt for Satan increases. Here is an entity who has actually beguiled people into thinking that they have the ability to eradicate evil. And how does he coerce them to do it? By committing further acts of evil. His circle of influence spreads as children are made to make automatic heros of those trained to kill and to spurn those who seek peaceful solutions to global problems.
Conclusion: Our Responsibility
Now, more than ever, those who are called by God’s name need to take a stand for the Kingdom of Peace. We must resist the urge to submit to the pressure of patriotism and respond to the voice of the One who has united all nations by His blood. He has not called us to fight evil with evil, but challenges us to lift Him up through acts of charity as we witness his magnetizing power. He challenges us to not only pray for the families of those who died in the terrible attack on 9-11, but to intercede in behalf of Osama bin Laden’s wives and children.
He invites us to invite others to lay down their M15s and pick up instruments of healing. They must be told that salvation for Americans is not attained by following a road stained with the blood of countless souls to Osama’s hideout; but salvation can only be found in the infused blood of the One who laid down his life for the people of all ages and bids us to follow Him as he walks His path. One day soon, that path will be consumed by eternity and all who have followed Him will see that the mission accomplished on Calvary’s cross is the only solution to stopping terrorism and tornadoes. Until our faith becomes sight, always remember that a tree is known by its fruit.
Keith Augustus Burton is a member of the Advisory Board for the Adventist Peace Fellowship, and wrote the chapter “God Bless Afghanistan” for the collection of essays, The Peace Making Remnant.He has several close friends and family members who serve honorably in various branches of the United States military.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/3147