War in Afghanistan

We went to war. While I find myself uneasy with that concept, I know it is unavoidable. They attacked us in a most heinous manner, the American spirit calls for nothing less than retaliation. We can only hope that innocent people aren’t killed, that collateral damage is minimal, that relations with allies and would-be enemies don’t worsen, and that the terrorist response is stopped before more people are killed. War is not easy.

What I don’t completely understand are the protesters. Today a crowd several hundred strong marched outside a federal building in downtown Minneapolis. Half a dozen police officers from the station across the street watched over the demonstrations, and behind the rally I saw a few official looking guys in “Police: Federal Protective Services” jackets. I’m not familiar with that federal agency. The protesters wanted their voice to be heard, they wanted the media and the public to know that not everyone agrees with war. According to an ABC news poll, they must be the 6% of the population that disagrees with the U.S. action.

They carried signs that said “No Racism! No War!” and “An Eye For An Eye Makes a World Blind!” I sympathize with their situation. War is not easy. But I don’t understand their position. President Bush made it clear that this is not a war on Islam or the Afghani people. It is a war on terrorism. Our targeted attacks make that clear. Last night we launched only 50 cruise missiles. Several years ago when we attacked Bin Laden for bombing embassies in Africa, we used several hundred cruise missiles. Are the protesters agreeing with Bush and reinforcing his statement, or do they think Bush is lying?

And ‘an eye for an eye’ may not be the best policy. But then what do you do? One college student I talked to said that attacking the terrorists will only cause more terror. Then what do we do? Won’t hunting them down and bringing them to trial cause just as much terror? And we can’t exactly bring them to trial when the Taliban won’t cooperate. I find myself torn between the kind of peace Jesus modeled, and the practicality that a nation must defend itself.

How do we protect the poor, the fatherless, and the alien when we have no muscle to fight the very things that endanger those we wish to protect?

I do find it a consolation, if a blatant contradiction, that we are dropping humanitarian aid as well as bombs. If we were warring against the Afghani people, why would we be feeding them? This is a compassionate gesture, from a nation that’s good at hating our enemies.

I also find myself worrying about the Muslim backlash. Bush made it clear that this is not a war on Islam. Bin Laden made it clear that this is a war of Muslims vs. Christians. Who do you believe? Protesters in Pakistan seemed to side with Bin Laden as they burned buildings and rioted. The danger is that Muslims everywhere will side with Bin Laden and rise up against the U.S. I don’t think it’s likely, but the repercussions wouldn’t be pretty.

The whole thing isn’t helped by the fact that a piece of wreckage was pulled from the World Trade Center site in the shape of a perfect cross. It was erected on the site and officially blessed. This only reinforces the image of Christianity vs. Islam. A concept that is completely untrue. We are not a Christian nation. We are a nation of free religious expression. We are a nation of Christians, yes, but also of Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, and more religions than you can count. It seems to me that encouraging crackpot ideas like Bin Laden’s holy war will only make this more difficult.

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