The Rev. Bob Edgar, general secretary of the liberal National Council of Churches, is equating clergy who have supported the war in Iraq to the Pharisees 2,000 years ago who wanted Jesus put to death. Edgar says many then didn't understand Jesus' commands to love our enemies and care for those in need, and that if we followed those words now U.S. forces would not be in Iraq.
Edgar has it backward. Loving Iraqis means deposing the criminals who held them down for a quarter-century. When one angry reader of this column asked recently, "Would you want to see the U.S. treated as Americans are treating Iraq?" I responded, "Absolutely: If the United States were ruled by a totalitarian torturer who used poison gas on the citizens of Michigan and helicopter gunships to mow down rambunctious Texans, I would pray that a coalition of the willing would liberate us."
"What is your Golden Rule, Marvin?" complained another reader. "What part of ‘thou shalt not kill' is unclear to you? Does your Bible have an asterisk?" Actually, any translation that uses the word "kill" should employ asterisks, because the key Hebrew word in that commandment means "murder," not kill.
Killing in self-defense, if necessary, is biblically justified. No one who loves himself wants to be murdered, so if we follow the Golden Rule and love our neighbors as ourselves, it's good to try to keep them from being murdered. Saddam Hussein is said to have murdered 2 million of his countrymen. How many more should we have let him kill?
Should? None. Would? Probably millions more, if we hadn't worried about Iraqi-allied terrorists and weapons of mass destruction hitting us. Let's admit it: the United States can't be "the world's policeman." We're fighting in Iraq not only to deliver Iraqis from evil but ourselves as well. We can't liberate everyone -- but when loving others is the same as loving ourselves, we're finally jolted out of passivity.
As we acknowledge that war is hell, we should also note that the policies of Saddam's regimes led to an average of perhaps 100,000 Iraqis dying per year through brutal repression, slaughter by chemical weapons, government-forced poverty and so forth. It's right to ask about war, "What is it good for?" It's wrong to conclude, "Absolutely nothing." Regime change could save lives and allow oil-rich Iraq to prosper.