I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel,and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them (Amos 9:14);
March 18th 2003 is a date etched on my memory. It was a sunny day as I walked down Talbot Hill but there was a sense of foreboding weighing on my mind. War was in the air. Two days later I recorded in my diary: “The first bombs were dropped in Baghdad one and a half hours after the deadline [set by Gorge W Bush] had expired…Forty cruise missiles were launched this morning from American warships and submarines. The intension was to kill Saddam Hussein.” Cruise missiles were said to so accurate they could travel along streets turning left and right to hit a specific target. As I strode on I tried to imagine what that might look like here in Bristol. It was a horrible thought. I was worried; where would it all end? But as the war escalated it became apparent that the accuracy of those dreadful weapons was far from reliable. Homes, schools and hospital were hit killing, maiming and traumatising many innocent people. Another aim of the coalition was to seek out weapons of mass destruction which were ready to be launched at us at a moment’s notice – or so we were told. Part of me believed this and why not? Our leaders stressed it as one reason for going to war. But the weapons were never found. So where were they? We had them and began reigning them down like confetti upon (well) who knows who? The object of military intervention in the Arab world was to bring democracy to peoples enduring “tyranny” i.e. to give them what we had. But that was too simplistic. The coalition did not understand the (tribal) nature (or religions) of the countries they were attacking. The result was ham-fisted meddling which had disastrous consequences. The legacy? Chaos. Now, I am no expert in Near Eastern affairs and there were other influences at work too. But, western intervention did not bring peace, stability, law or order but contributed to the destabilisation of the entire region opening the way for extremist factions to move in. The horrific consequences are what we are currently witnessing. Thousands of people fleeing for their lives seeking safety in Europe. Do they really want to come? I doubt it. No-one, lightly, abandons their home-land, roots, culture and history. These people are on the move as an act of desperation. So, should we help? Absolutely! It’s our duty as Christians to reach out to genuine refugees (especially the persecuted Christians of Syria) with compassion as victims of a shameful past. However, the long-term solution must be to establish stability in the countries they have left so that they can return again to rebuild their lives. Is this realistic? Well, it’s been estimated that the “interventions” in the former Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone and Libya cost between three and four trillion U.S dollars. That’s a lot of money. And although we should not doubt the good intensions of past military “interventions” the situation, today is far worse. So, maybe if a similar amount was spent rebuilding these shattered lands there would be an end to death at sea, the cries of lacerated children, the tears of widowed women scratching at the rubble of pulverised homes and the haunting look of devastated parents lamenting the loss of entire families. It’s an appalling mess for which my foreboding, that day in 2003, served as a warning of what was to come. Please help. These people are our neighbours, fellow human-beings and brothers and sisters in Christ. .
In Jesus’ name
Derek Marsh Oct 2015