The Horrific Abuses of the War on Terror, and Why The American Christian Church Doesn’t Care
Stress positions and humiliation at Abu Ghraib. This is just the PG-rated stuff.
“Let’s talk about waterboarding” former President George W. Bush said with an almost defiant shrug. There was Bush, sitting across from Matt Lauer in a recent interview, now bragging about his role in personally authorizing the waterboarding of key terrorist suspects- which we know occurred up to 183 times per person. “Because the lawyers said it was legal” and ‘keeping the nation safe’ were his favorite justifications, and what thuggish justifications they were to any person with even the most miniscule understanding of justice. And when the glib mockery of the rule of law was finished, and Bush had used every canard he could think of, Matt Lauer still had the look of surrender plastered all over his face, as if to say “I hope my questions didn’t offend you, sir.” Not that it matters all that much; the church, much like the rest of the nation, wasn’t really paying attention.
It doesn’t appear to matter that the evidence to investigate Bush and key members of his senior team for war crimes is substantial and overwhelming. No, George W. Bush gets standing ovations these days instead, like when he appeared on Leno the other night. It doesn’t seem to register that we can no longer expect other nations to take us seriously when we urge them to end, or prosecute their own crimes against humanity because we are not willing to do that at home. I guess it’s trivial that our troops and citizens may no longer be treated humanely upon capture elsewhere because we very publicly do not treat prisoners from elsewhere humanely, from Abu Ghraib to Guantanamo to Bagram. And the church cares about none of this.
After years of disclosures by government investigations, media accounts and reports from human rights organizations, there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current [Bush] administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account. -U.S. Major General Antonio Tagabu, who led the investigation into torture at Abu Ghraib.
The abuse doesn’t stop at waterboarding. Not that the church really cares.
The worst horrors of our war have yet to be revealed—but they will be. Secret prisons, renditions, homicides [while in U.S. custody], torture, and innocents swept up in a vast network of detention—all will be revealed. It is the nature of our openness that it be so. We must start now to recognize our crimes and our complicity. We are all guilty, and we must all take action in whatever way we can. Torture and abuse are not American. They are foreign to us and always should be. We need to exorcise them from our souls and make amends. -Colonel Lawrence B. Wilkerson, U.S. Army (Ret.); former chief of staff to Colin Powell from 2002 to 2005.
These things used to be reserved for the countries that played the villain in our movies.
I thought the church was supposed to be at the forefront of humanitarian and justice issues as an extension of Jesus’ thirst for compassion? Just as long as the issues are politically neutral or occur in distant lands. The church was quick to act against the devastation in Haiti, but when this country’s government commits numerous fundamental abuses and violates basic human rights and the rule of law, the church won’t even speak clearly, much less act to bring those responsible to account. The church just doesn’t care.
Here’s why it doesn’t matter to the church like it should: because things like waterboarding have been politicized, and the debate invented and framed by those seeking to use it for their own gain. Once moral things become political things, the morality suddenly vanishes. I had hoped the church would know better, but the right-wing end of the church is often distracted and belligerent from fighting the wrong battles, and blinded by loyalty to a political philosophy. The progressive end of the church buys into the nonsense that there are two legitimate sides to every policy, and that politics is merely a preference to be discussed around the water cooler. So the progressive wing of church plays the role of the lovable idiot, while the right-wing of the church is justifiably dismissed like an out-of-touch cranky uncle.
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The Khmer Rouge also applied torture techniques such as waterboarding.
As a whole, the church just moves too slowly. We are so nervous to be perceived as extreme about the wrong things that we often fail to arrive when strength and moral leadership are needed most. How disappointing we must be to those marginalized and abused in this case. You know, Muslims. The people who church goers are so often suspicious of, so willing to root for them to be profiled and surveilled within our borders, and when captured inside or outside of this country, we accept when they are beneath the value of a lawful and humane process. All of this- the profiling, the surveillance of Mosques, the religious intimidation related to the Ground Zero Community Center, the torture, the murders while in US custody, the assassination programs, the indefinite detention without trial, and our growing indifference to endless military meddling in the Muslim world- these issues are the young generation’s Japanese Internment Camps. This is our slavery. This stuff started on our watch. A little extreme, you say? Consider some war statistics from Bush’s war of choice, which Colonel Wilkerson (from his own administration) says was sold to the public with manipulated intel gathered in part by torture. I hope you won’t mind if I bold these for emphasis:
4,430 U.S. Troops killed
31,920 U.S. Troops wounded
9,765 Iraqi Police and Soldiers Killed
98,000- 108,000 Iraqi civilian deaths from violence
Over 2,000,000 Iraqis displaced (driven by necessity into neighboring countries)
I guess if someone were to be successful at seducing half the population to believe that unnecessary slaughter isn’t wrong, then the church should just bow down to the new polling numbers and stay quiet? That’s the trend. The abuses of the War on Terror may or may not be the most important issue facing the church, and it’s certainly not the only issue, but it’s a crucial one. History will not erase what’s being done on behalf of our country; history will only augment it. And people will wonder “where was the American Christian church, and who really IS their God?”
Meanwhile, the church continues to brag about its place in the civil rights movement, while failing to start a movement that should be our response to the injustices done in the name of the War on Terror. After all, we’re pretty busy. We’ve got theology to contemplate, self-improvement to share, new church campuses to build, pot lucks to attend, books and speaking events to promote, dreams of Jesus skipping with us in a meadow full of daisies, and Calvinism to argue over. Just read the blogs and listen to the sermons. Tiffany and I talk about some of these things too, because they have value, but it all becomes a bit disgusting when it takes up nearly all of the church’s bandwidth.
We’re enjoying our days in Wonderland. We may find the hangover less entertaining. -Blogger ‘Fabius Maximus’
I pray that the American church will wake up: from its right-wing allegiance and recitation of corrupt talking points, and from its progressive moral cowardice. Then we can come together to share radical love and seek justice for some of this generation’s forgotten ”least of these.”
ps- The conservative mayor of London has written a piece warning George W. Bush not to visit England on his book tour because he could face arrest as a war criminal. Read it here and here. And the church doesn’t care, but if the very same things were done by the leader of another country, you know the church would be preaching against it and crying out for justice in Jesus’ name. Nationalism is such a comforting idol.