"You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd." ~Flannery O'Connor

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Iraq and spiritual warfare

Like just about everybody else, I greatly admire the new U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus. He represents the best of America. Whatever hope there is of suppressing the wanton killing in that tortured country now rests on his shoulders, along with the uncertain ones of the Iraqi Government. But I get a deep feeling of sadness for him. He's walking into an outpost of hell; given as much, the weapon needed is prayer even more than counterinsurgency tactics and political realignments. That may sound trite, but I speak literally when I speak of prayer as a weapon.

To be sure, the terrorism and sectarian violence we see in Iraq is murder on a significantly smaller scale, even per capita, than what we saw in many conflicts during the twentieth century. But the nature of it is about as openly demonic as Satan's tactical judgment is likely to permit. Regardless of target, suicide bombing is a directive of hell; car bombs that randomly kill the innocent are directives of hell. Torture and murder by death squads, with the aim of sectarian as distinct from ethnic cleansing, are old hat in human history and thus not so quite obviously from hell. But the provenance is obvious enough all the same in the context of what else is going on. And the criss-crossing lines of division are so irrational that neither mental illness nor lack of conscience are nearly enough to explain them.

For example, the Sunnis don't trust the Shi'ites, who as the majority sect in Iraq happen to control the government. Sunnis want protection from Shi'ite death squads and a fair share of resources and influence in a federal Iraq. And they have every reason to know that American political and military pressure on Shi'ite factions is necessary for reaching those goals. But it is Sunnis, in Baghdad and Anbar Province, who inflict most of the casualties suffered by American troops. Do Sunni insurgents seriously believe that, by causing the Americans enough pain to get them to withdraw, they will end up in a better position to protect themselves from the Shi'ites? Their behavior makes no sense unless what we're dealing with is pure, demonic lust for blood. And similarly with the Shi'ites. It has become obvious that, so long as they use their new power to kill and oppress Sunnis, Iraq will not be at peace. Some Shi'ites, both in and out of government, seem to realize that. But the sectarian cleansing goes on, and the Sadrists want the Americans out. What do they imagine themselves to be accomplishing? Do they really think they can maintain as well as create a regime that oppresses Sunnis as much as the Sunnis once oppressed them? They probably don't know it, but all they're accomplishing is the will of their unseen master: death and hatred for its own sake.

And then there's the Christian flight from Iraq. A disproportionate number of refugees are Christians, who comprised much of the middle and upper classes in Iraq and actually enjoyed more protection under Saddam than they do now. That's one of Satan's jokes. What's happening to them now, i.e., the destruction of a very ancient Christian community, is just what he wants.

What the good guys in Iraq, from Petraeus and al-Maliki on down (assuming the latter is a good guy, which is not yet proven), need most of all in this fight is prayer and fasting from everybody, Muslim as well as Christian. That's what all the debate about military and political tactics ignores. The warfare, at bottom, is spiritual, and only spiritual weapons will suffice.
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