Sarah Palin’s Prayer

Sheila Musaji

Posted Sep 9, 2008      •Permalink      • Printer-Friendly Version
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Sarah Palin’s Prayer

by Sheila Musaji

Sarah Palin has been quoted as asking members of an Alaskan church pray: “that our national leaders are sending [soldiers to Iraq] on a task that is from God, that’s what we have to make sure we are praying for, that there is a plan, and that plan is God’s plan.”

Some have found fault with her request because they saw this as somehow saying that the Iraq War is part of God’s plan.  I don’t share that view, and think that it is a perfectly moral prayer. In fact, it is a righteous prayer - God help us to be certain that what we are doing is good and just and part of your plan, something virtuous and not something sinful.  Help us to know if the Iraq war (or any war) is a just war?  Help us to do the right thing!

I truly wonder what Sarah Palin, or the members of the congregation she was speaking to think the answer to that question is?  I also wonder what our government leaders and all of us as American citizens think the answer to that prayer is.

All of the monotheistic religions teach that murder is wrong, that war is a last resort, that there is no justification for attacking others, and yet we seem to find justification after justification for doing just that.

As a person of faith I cannot believe that anyone could believe in their heart that God would sanction a war that we now know was entered into on false pretenses. The government of Iraq did not have WMD’s (except of course for those provided to Saddam by the U.S.), they were not responsible for 9/11, they did not attack us or even make any threats against us, they were no imminent threat to the U.S. The people of Iraq have now had their country bombed into the stone age, had more than 4 million people become refugees, had hundreds of thousands killed - for no reason at all.  And to add insult to injury Christian missionaries who planned to combine evangelization with aid were right behind the troops leading even the Christian Science Monitor to head an article “A Crusade After All?” [1]

The U.S. (our country) attacked another country causing all of this destruction and sorrow, and even when all of the claims [2] for why we needed to go to war were disproved continues the war and occupation of that country.  Who is responsible?  And in whose name is this being done? 

Who might be the legitimate targets of this war when even the “insurgents” are seen by much of the Iraqi population as fighting against an aggressor who is occupying their country.  [3]

And now that we have almost destroyed this country, there are some in Congress who are calling for demanding that the Iraqis pay for the expense of this war.  [4]  Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, promised to introduce legislation that would require the Iraqi government to pay “for the cost of the security that we’re providing them.” 

How is it possible that any of this could be in God’s plan? Does God allow aggression? Does God allow murder? Does God allow occupation, detention, and torture? Are there some occasions where all of these are allowed or even encouraged in order to help God fulfill his plans?  What if it was any other country on earth that had done this to another country? Would it be wrong then? Is there such a thing as American exceptionalism or Christian exceptionalism?  Can any country engage in pre-emptive warfare for its own reasons?

In April of 2007, John McCain said to cadets at the Virginia Military Institute:  “I understand the frustration caused by our mistakes in this war. I sympathize with the fatigue of the American people, but I also know the toll a lost war takes on an army and a country. It is the right road. It is necessary and just.”  [5]  Does he mean that even if we know we were wrong because it would take a toll on us to admit it and leave Iraq and try to make amends, that would be too much to ask?  What about the toll an unjust war takes on the country?

On March 9, 2003 just before the Iraq War began,  former President Jimmy Carter appealed for us to consider just such a prayer for guidance: 

Profound changes have been taking place in American foreign policy, reversing consistent bipartisan commitments that for more than two centuries have earned our nation greatness. These commitments have been predicated on basic religious principles, respect for international law, and alliances that resulted in wise decisions and mutual restraint. Our apparent determination to launch a war against Iraq, without international support, is a violation of these premises.

As a Christian and as a president who was severely provoked by international crises, I became thoroughly familiar with the principles of a just war, and it is clear that a substantially unilateral attack on Iraq does not meet these standards. This is an almost universal conviction of religious leaders, with the most notable exception of a few spokesmen of the Southern Baptist Convention who are greatly influenced by their commitment to Israel based on eschatological, or final days, theology.

For a war to be just, it must meet several clearly defined criteria.

The war can be waged only as a last resort, with all nonviolent options exhausted. In the case of Iraq, it is obvious that clear alternatives to war exist. These options—previously proposed by our own leaders and approved by the United Nations—were outlined again by the Security Council on Friday. But now, with our own national security not directly threatened and despite the overwhelming opposition of most people and governments in the world, the United States seems determined to carry out military and diplomatic action that is almost unprecedented in the history of civilized nations. The first stage of our widely publicized war plan is to launch 3,000 bombs and missiles on a relatively defenseless Iraqi population within the first few hours of an invasion, with the purpose of so damaging and demoralizing the people that they will change their obnoxious leader, who will most likely be hidden and safe during the bombardment.

The war’s weapons must discriminate between combatants and noncombatants. Extensive aerial bombardment, even with precise accuracy, inevitably results in ‘‘collateral damage.’’ Gen. Tommy R. Franks, commander of American forces in the Persian Gulf, has expressed concern about many of the military targets being near hospitals, schools, mosques and private homes.

Its violence must be proportional to the injury we have suffered. Despite Saddam Hussein’s other serious crimes, American efforts to tie Iraq to the 9/11 terrorist attacks have been unconvincing.

The attackers must have legitimate authority sanctioned by the society they profess to represent. The unanimous vote of approval in the Security Council to eliminate Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction can still be honored, but our announced goals are now to achieve regime change and to establish a Pax Americana in the region, perhaps occupying the ethnically divided country for as long as a decade. For these objectives, we do not have international authority. Other members of the Security Council have so far resisted the enormous economic and political influence that is being exerted from Washington, and we are faced with the possibility of either a failure to get the necessary votes or else a veto from Russia, France and China. Although Turkey may still be enticed into helping us by enormous financial rewards and partial future control of the Kurds and oil in northern Iraq, its democratic Parliament has at least added its voice to the worldwide. expressions of concern.

The peace it establishes must be a clear improvement over what exists. Although there are visions of peace and democracy in Iraq, it is quite possible that the aftermath of a military invasion will destabilize the region and prompt terrorists to further jeopardize our security at home. Also, by defying overwhelming world opposition, the United States will undermine the United Nations as a viable institution for world peace.

What about America’s world standing if we don’t go to war after such a great deployment of military forces in the region? The heartfelt sympathy and friendship offered to America after the 9/11 attacks, even from formerly antagonistic regimes, has been largely dissipated; increasingly unilateral and domineering policies have brought international trust in our country to its lowest level in memory. American stature will surely decline further if we launch a war in clear defiance of the United Nations. But to use the presence and threat of our military power to force Iraq’s compliance with all United Nations resolutions—with war as a final option—will enhance our status as a champion of peace and justice.

Jimmy Carter, the 39th president of the United States, is chairman of the Carter Center in Atlanta and winner of the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize.

Carter had obviously prayed for guidance and his answer was clear.  I pray that all Americans including our leaders pray for guidance and then listen to that guidance and attempt to do the right thing!