Monday, September 14, 2015

Whom Should We Mourn on 9/11?

You may have seen some stories this past weekend dealing with what seems to be becoming a trend around 9/11. Many people are commenting that they will grieve the lives lost in the 2001 terrorist attacks, but only if they can also grieve the Iraqi deaths suffered during the American occupation.

I am here today to say that such people are right. Not in every detail, and not in the sense they mean, but they are right. We should suffer in solidarity with those who lost loved ones during the war in Iraq, whether American soldiers or Iraqi civilians. This is especially true for Christians.

I feel it is necessary to do so in an honest way. Many of these protests are less than forthright. In the first place, their statistical methods are suspect. A number around 1.5 million deaths has been thrown around online, and with very poor justification. In essence, it includes every civilian who has died since the invasion began, regardless of primary cause, and is continuing to be counted even though U.S. forces have left Iraq. Such a method is overly broad.

Secondly, it is being done in bad faith. By saying the victims of 9/11 should only be commemorated along with the victims of the U.S. occupation, they are suggesting that both events are equally immoral. The protesters would probably say that this is exactly what they mean, but it is too simplistic. It does not take motivation into account.

The invasion of Iraq did not serve the purpose of killing Iraqis. That was, sadly, the result, but it was not the reason. The reasons, agree with them or not, were to end the Hussein regime, seize weapons of mass destruction, spread democracy, enforce international agreements, and take the fight to the Middle East to avoid having it here. For the record, I do not believe any reasons other than #5 were fully justified, and reason #3 is downright foolish. But they were the reasons.

The reason for 9/11 was the murder of Americans. That was the stated purpose of the hijackers and the rest of Al Qaeda. They view us as evil people, not just our leaders, but all of us, and they want to kill as many as possible. That was their motivation then, and it is still their motivation now. To ignore that in favor of a “killing is killing, and all killing is wrong” mindset is to have a blind perspective.

The U.S. has not killed any Iraqis merely for the sake of doing so. Also, more reasonable estimates of the civilian death toll are in the area of 50,000, not 1,500,000. But I have not said all this for the sake of American apologism. Anti-war protesters are wrong about numbers and motives, but not about the appropriate response.

Have you ever taken the time to let it all sink in? 50,000 lives lost. 50,000 men, women, and children, their stories cut short, their families bereaved. 50,000 souls, created in the image of God, extinguished. And I cannot speak with absolute certainty to their eternal fate, but it is not likely that most of them had saving faith in Jesus Christ.

Death is a curse. However and to whomever it happens, it is evil. Sometimes it is necessary, but that never makes it any less tragic. We can and should feel that tragedy even more intently when the innocent die. And we should mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15).

Take some time, if you’ve never done it before. Grieve for the Iraqis who have died as a result of the conflict between our nations. Do this especially if you are a Christian, knowing that it was our Savior who told us to love our enemies (Matthew 5:43-45). And knowing that our Savior, Jesus Christ, loved us and gave Himself for us even though we were His enemies (Romans 5:10).

You can be honest about the reasons, and the numbers. You do not have to equivocate it with 9/11, and neither do I. But acknowledge that it is a shame, nonetheless. Let it drive you to seek peace wherever possible (Romans 12:8). And above all else, let it inspire you to share the love that is peace’s only pathway (Romans 5:1, 2). That is the only way to give this life meaning.

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