From the very beginning, the brutality, ruin and deceit of the American aggression in Iraq has been compounded by an unshakeable ignorance. This deadly cloud of unknowing has enveloped the entire chain of command, from the witless president who didn’t know the difference between Sunni and Shia Islam to the troops on the ground who believed – as they were no doubt drilled to believe – that the invasion was “payback for 9/11,” a righteous war of self-defense against a terrorist nation that had attacked America.
This implacable ignorance was on perfect display this week in a “feel-good” story put out by one of the Pentagon’s myriad PR engines: “Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Official Website of Multi-National Force – Iraq.” (Oddly enough, the official website of the “Multi-National Force” is entirely in English, and geared exclusively to American operations. Apparently, all the other vast armies in the “Multi-National Force” don’t need to know what’s going on in this collaborative, cooperative multi-national operation.) The press release carried the kind of culturally sensitive headline you would expect from a Western occupying force that launched a war in the heart of Islam that has killed a million Muslims: “God’s Glory Abounds at Camp Victory.”
No, it wasn’t an account of Dick Cheney’s visit to Iraq last week; it was an Easter story, provided by the Public Affairs Office at the not-at-all permanent base at the Baghdad airport. It told of a sunrise service at “at the temporary chapel at Al Faw Palace, Camp Victory, to celebrate the wonder of Easter.” (See, we told you it wasn’t a permanent base; it’s got a “temporary chapel,” for God’s sake!)
The officer in charge was Chaplain (Major) Lane Stockeland, who explained to the grunt from Public Affairs that “the service in front of the palace was very similar to the Easter Sunrise Services held in cities all across America where people gather to greet the morning by giving praise to Jesus Christ” – a Middle Eastern rabble-rouser who, you might recall, was executed by a Western occupation force.
But beyond providing the troops a taste of home, the service at Camp Victory had a “deeper meaning,” according to the major:
My, isn’t it wonderful that the American invasion – and the million deaths it has spawned – have allowed people to hold services giving praise to Jesus Christ….in a land where services giving praise to Jesus Christ have been held uninterruptedly for almost 2,000 years.
Yes, back when the good major’s European forbears were practicing human sacrifice and looking at goose entrails for divine guidance, strong Christian communities were thriving in what is now Iraq, most of them speaking Aramaic, the language of Jesus – as some Iraqi Christians still do. Major Stockeland, a chaplain for the holy-rolling, tongue-speaking Assemblies of God, is not only ignorant of the culture he is helping to destroy – and ignorant of the history of his own religion – he is oblivious to what is actually happening to the Christians of the “liberated” land.
The reality, of course, is that Iraqi Christians were far freer to practice their religion before the American invasion. In fact, the illegal attack launched by the oh-so-Christian Coalition of George “Jews Are Going to Hell” Bush and Tony “I’m a Fervent Catholic, When It’s Politically Convenient” Blair has been one of the greatest disasters to befall Iraqi Christians in two millenia. The Anglo-American bible-thumpers have empowered – and armed – religious extremists and violent sectarians throughout the conquered land, while destroying the infrastructure of secular, civic society. The draconian sanctions inflicted on the Iraqi people before the war – not only by Jews-in-Hell George and Convenient Catholic Tony but also by born-again Baptist Bill “Forgive Me, Lord, For This Here Blowjob” Clinton – had already brought Iraqi society to the breaking point, clearing the way for sectarians to step in with the solace of religion – and the public services that many of them still provide in the shattered state.
The result has been the relentless persecution of Iraqi Christians, who had once been protected from attack by Bush’s own personal jihadis. Before the war, there were approximately 800,000 Christians in Iraq; now, many religious organizations estimate that at least half that number have been forced to flee the country. The Christian churches of Iraq – which have survived since the 1st century AD – are now dying out, as a direct result of the brutality, ruin, deceit – and ignorance – of the occupying forces. But Pastor Major Chaplain Stockeland can’t see that — not even when he’s standing in the middle of it.
Truly, a parable for our times.
(Thanks to Angry Arab for flagging up this story.)