On 1 May it will be 10 years since George Bush landed on USS Abraham Lincoln and announced “In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies (Tony Blair and us) have prevailed.” Above him on the great aircraft carrier was the banner saying, “Mission Accomplished” in case people did not get the message. In further confirmation Bush put his thumb up. But he was wrong.
He was wrong because the trust in the great American war machine, the most powerful the world has known, was false. If we trust and worship these things our hands have made, rather than the true God, we worship a lie. The idol did not work. The war did not finish then, because there are two sides in a war and it is still going on.
He also had not heeded Christ’s words, “Those who take the sword, die by the sword”, words Peter, who first heard them, must have seen more deeply as he too faced a violent death. Sadly, they have again proved true, as if Vietnam was not warning enough. Since Bush proclaimed victory, some 4,600 body bags have come back, and 32,000 more Allied troops have major injuries – amputations and the like - almost certainly a big underestimate.
It was also wrong because this war of “liberation” has resulted in something between 150,000 and a million violent Iraqi deaths, and a nation, a precious and honourable nation, being convulsed in civil war, for wars cause civil wars among the defeated. That is the way the Nazis were born. We, the Allies, have devastated a nation, attacking a disarmed nation, illegally on the basis of a lie. How can a war, destroying people and property, doing evil, produce what is good? It cannot.
And so, 10 years later, this horrendous error appears before us. We can learn from history and wars are wrong. They fail. They have no point. They are not fit for purpose.
We, Christians, should know this from Christ, especially at Easter. Three times he warned Jerusalem and the disciples about war, thoughtless for himself. First he wept over the city when the people were looking for triumph. “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace” and warned them of the slaughter to come.
Then as Jesus left the Temple he warned the disciples that not one stone will be left on another and that the time would come when those in Judea should flee to the mountains. Quite deliberately he said: “See I have warned you ahead of time.”
Then, finally, carr ying his cross with Simon of Cyrene, in an awesome act of selflessness he turned to the mourning women and suggested they think about mourning for themselves and their children. He insisted they would even mourn that their children had been born.
He then quoted the calamities described in Hosea 10, which further says, “You have eaten
deception. Because you have depended on your own strength and on your many warriors, the roar of battle will rise against your people, so that all your fortresses will be devastated.” Then there is the pregnant sentence, “If they do these things (the crucifixion) when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?” The meaning is clear. The Roman horror will come, and it is the children of the mourning women who will be crushed and burned to death.
And so it was. Josephus reports that a million people died in Jerusalem in AD70 and the tight streets ran so thick with blood that the blood put out fires. It was the abomination of war, the awful war, that Jesus had pressed so dramatically on his hearers. His purpose, as we know from John 17, was that not one of the disciples would be lost. When Jesus sees war with such clarity, why should we not?
The time has come for Christians to stand in and proclaim the peace they have received from Christ. It is far fuller than we often allow. Jesus did not say, Blessed are those who wage just wars, for they will be children of God. Just War Theory was born of compromise with emperors, holy and unholy. Peacemaking deconstructs militarism. It disallows both Iraq wars and the selling of the arms that precipitated them, for the West sold the weapons that it then attacked. It disallows faith in arms and militarism, and it follows the depths of the Prince of Peace in unfolding the Gospel Good News to all nations.
Christians worldwide, including Anglicans, can follow Christ in peace-making, in working for full multilateral world disarmament, where all swords are beaten into ploughshares, and the good news of the gentle kingdom of peace will reign over the earth, and the lamb is recognised as rightly on the throne. Now, that will be Mission Accomplished.