“Those whom the gods wish to destroy
they first make mad.”
As I ponder the events of the past eight years, I am reminded of a saying wrongly attributed to Euripides, “Those whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad”—a not entirely accurate statement because Scripture teaches us that the gods of this world are demons (1 Corinthians 10:20), and that these demonic spirits are under the ultimate control of our sovereign God (Matthew 11:29, 30; Ephesians 1:11). However, Scripture also plainly teaches that God can use these evil spirits to chasten individuals and nations by sending spirits of deception to convince people to do what is foolish (Judges 9:23; 1 Samuel 16:14-16; 1 Kings 22:23). In my opinion, such folly characterized the major foreign policy event of the past eight years, something anyone familiar with the Middle East could readily foresee:
“The purpose of the terrorist is not always simply to cause the superior force to lose its will to control the less powerful group; it is to provoke the superior force into acts that provoke, in turn, a wider and more intense rage on the part of the less powerful group against the superior force. In other words, terrorist acts are often done to provoke their enemies to act in such a way that the terrorists’ own people are moved from complacency to radical involvement in their cause. We must pray that the decision makers of the United States do not fall into that trap” (Alexandria Daily Town Talk, September 14, 2001).
During the first Gulf War, we had a lot of military people in our congregation. On the night that we actually started the bombing (early morning, Thursday, January 16, 1991 in Iraq; Wednesday evening in Louisiana.), we were gathered for our mid-week supper and prayer meeting, and we had many wives and children of the men involved gathered in our sanctuary for an extended time of prayer. Prior to those men leaving, I did a short Sunday night series on the basics of Islam and gave everybody an outline that is now available on line, essentially the same as written in the late summer of 1991. Toward the end of Desert Storm, when it became obvious that our military was not going to march to Baghdad and remove Saddam Hussein, many people in our community were very upset. But their upset was nothing compared to the poor Iraqi Shiites who trusted us and whom we betrayed—a tale set in the milieu of the closing days of this betrayal is the film, “Three Kings.” However, both during that time and later, when I taught on Islam in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, I supported the first President Bush’ decision not to topple Saddam Hussein. These were my reasons:
1. Some of the nations in the Middle East were arbitrarily created at the end of World War I by British Field Marshal Edmund Henry Hynman Allenby as he set about to stabilize the former Ottoman Empire into territories that would be friendly to the British Empire. As a result of General Allenby’s work, some groups of people who were united by religion and culture were now politically separated. For example, Iraq is a nation whose majority is religiously united with the majority of Iranians; they are both Shiites. But the area around Baghdad is Sunni, while the Kurds are located in an area that is now both in Iraq and Turkey.
2. Islam, like Christianity, has many divisions. The vast majority of the world’s Muslims are Sunnis, but the Sunnis are a broad group with internal divisions. On the one end of the Sunni spectrum, one finds the moderate Muslims who would not strictly enforce Islamic law, Sharia. Saddam Hussein and his Iraqi Baath Party are moderate Muslims; so is Turkey. Both nations were more secularist than their neighbors. At the other end of the Sunni spectrum are the Wahabis. Saudi Arabia is overwhelmingly Wahabi, as is Osama bin Laden. The minority Shi’a sect is almost as strict as the Wahabis, but the gulf between them goes back to the time shortly after the death of Mohammed in the seventh century of the Christian era.
3. The West’s most successful twentieth century attempt to Westernize a Muslim nation was in Shi’a dominated Iran where the Rockefeller backed, Persian Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, ruled with an iron hand. The Shah was decidedly pro-Western, and under his regime significant steps were taken to secularize this formerly conservative Muslim nation. However, a significant element of the Iranian people hated him and his policies that went against Islamic law. Furthermore, he was a supporter of the United States and Israel. Finally, the Shah’s regime crumbled, and in 1979, the Shi’a Ayatollah, Ruhollah Khomeini, returned from exile and led the restoration of Muslim government under Islamic law in the Iranian Revolution.
That restoration to Shiite rule caught the ever inept President Carter with his britches down, and it wasn’t long before our embassy was seized, and our diplomatic team was taken hostage. Most Americans are completely ignorant as to why Iranians felt compelled to seize our embassy. But according to Stephen Kinzer, author of All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and The Roots of Middle East Terror, in 1953 our CIA (led by Kermit Roosevelt Teddy’s grandson) organized a coup and brought back the Shah, and this American operation was carried out using our embassy in Tehran. Kinzer commented: ‘People in Iran are thinking, “It’s all happening again. CIA agents working in the basement of the American embassy are going to organize a coup, and they’re going to bring the Shah back. We have to prevent 1953 from happening again.”’
Mr. Carter was never able to free the hostages, and the stand-off lasted well over a year and cost Carter the Presidency to Ronald Reagan. The hostages were released during Ronald Reagan’s inauguration ceremony, but Ronald Reagan was no more a friend to the Shi’a ruled Iran than Jimmy Carter had been.
4. Late in the Presidency of Jimmy Carter in order to stop the threat of a Shi’a juggernaut in the Persian Gulf region, the United States began to strengthen the secularist Baath, Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein. And in September 1980, Saddam invaded a disputed, oil rich, Iranian border territory. When Ronald Reagan was sworn in, American support for Saddam increased and the war dragged on for eight years with over a million casualties.
5. Democracy as we have known it in the United States is expressed in the form a republic—in our case, a constitutionally limited, representative government that embraces certain democratic values. The origin of democracy in the United States is British, going back to the Magna Carta and radically shaped by the thinking that led to the Second Reformation and the English Civil War. In other words, such doctrines as the Priesthood of the Believer and Sola Scriptura, coupled with Calvinistic republican church government laid the foundation for the American Republic. Without these foundational things, democracy is very difficult to achieve. (2 Corinthians 3:17, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”) The eighteenth century version of American democracy is very compatible with the Moral Law of God as it is summed up in the Ten Commandments, but democracy is not compatible with Islamic Sharia at all given the significant discrimination ensconced there against anyone who is not a male Muslim. Without the tradition of personal liberty and personal responsibility under the fear of the one true God, a democratic society is very difficult to achieve.
Also, the West underwent significant disestablishmentarian change in the wake of the Enlightenment, while liberty of conscience and religious tolerance are still foreign concepts in the Muslim world.
Furthermore, in regions comprising ethnic groups with histories of hate and revenge that go back centuries, liberty is even more elusive. Take, as one example, the Balkans, a geographical football kicked back and forth between Hapsburgs, Hungarians and Ottomans. It took a tyrant like Josip Broz (Marshall Tito) to force these people to live without “ethnic cleansing.” The same is true of that piece of the old Ottoman Empire we call Iraq: without a tyrant as cruel as Saddam Hussein, the Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds are going to continue to attempt “ethnic cleansing.”
6. Putting Points 4 and 5 together, we needed Saddam Hussein in the wake of the Iranian Revolution, in part, to keep the “Iraqi” Shiites from joining up with the Iranian Shiites and also to keep the Sunnis and Shiites from killing each other off. That is why the first President Bush wisely left Saddam in power.
But the second President Bush ousted Saddam and outlawed the secularist Baath party, and he did it with as little disruption to the lives of most Americans as possible—rather, I should say that he postponed the disruption of American lives because the credit card debt for this war is now coming due along with all the debts run up by the Democratic-Republican spendthrift Congress. The invasion of Iraq, especially the way it began, was an incredibly foolish move. “Shock and Awe” brought the social, political and economic infrastructure of Iraq to ruins, but it did not make the successful occupation of the country possible. That required “boots on the ground” and hugely more troops than we had committed. But restoring the draft and radically increasing taxes were not politically possible, so the Bush administration sought to fight this war as cheaply as possible in terms of the disruption of life. America has not known the true disruption of life since our last truly declared war, World War II. Sadly, we are now witnessing the tip of the iceberg of the disruption that is fast coming down on us with the election of a radical socialist President whose faith in John Maynard Keynes actually surpasses that of his immediate predecessor.
We have lost tremendous face before our enemies such as the obese little monster, Kim Jong-Il of North Korea, but we have really lost face in the Muslim world (I travelled there this past June and maintain dialogue with Muslims). We are demonstrating that we cannot successfully occupy even a second rate power like Iraq—Iran is much bigger and would be far more difficult to occupy. But when we eventually pull out, there will likely be a lot of “ethnic cleansing” with the Shiite majority coming out on top and tending to line up with the Iranian revolutionaries. The Sunnis who lived well under Saddam know that they will not do well under Shiite rule, and many of their fellow Sunnis from other Arab nations stand with them. But we oversaw the execution of Saddam and once we did what we did to destabilize the region, no one is going to be able to come to power without much more bloodshed.
However, I see the Iraqi conflict as part of a larger conflict, one that has a supernatural dimension: the spirit of the West is dying and that of Islam is on the ascendancy. This spiritual decline took a giant leap forward on January 20, 2009, as can be seen in the wholesale adoption of the LGBT agenda as the primary civil rights concern of the new White House. Here is but one example of the agenda of the President whose election was made possible by the foolishness of Mr. Bush:
“President Obama believes that we must ensure adoption rights for all couples and individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation. He thinks that a child will benefit from a healthy and loving home, whether the parents are gay or not”
Here is one more:
“President Obama and Vice President Biden will work to overturn the Supreme Court’s recent ruling that curtails racial minorities’ and women’s ability to challenge pay discrimination. They will also pass the Fair Pay Act, to ensure that women receive equal pay for equal work, and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity or expression (Yes, that means that if you prevent a grown man in drag from using the ladies restroom, you will be guilty of criminal conduct)” (Read the other pieces of soon to be law, many of which will probably come by executive order at the Official Whitehouse site).
In my opinion, these policies are one more example of the decline of the spirit of the West. They also press me to believe that God has been judging my beloved country for a generation. It was our Lord God who ordained the evil one to chasten us by our engaging in a land war in Southeast Asia and then tucking tail and running out of Saigon, losing 58,000 American soldiers, to say nothing of our allies—all for nothing! It was our Lord God who ordained the evil one to convince poor Mr. Bush that he could bring democracy to a Muslim nation and that Islam and Christianity are essentially the same. And it is our Lord God who has ordained the things that are coming down on the head of the American Church in the wake of the Obama election—things Satan and his minions are licking their chops to do—things that under the holy Providence of God would not have happened apart from our invasion of Iraq.
These thoughts leave me profoundly grieved as well as greatly concerned for the future. What is my only comfort in life and death?
“That I, with body and soul, both in life and in death, am not my own, but belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ, who with His precious blood has fully satisfied for all my sins, and redeemed me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, that all things must work together for my salvation. Wherefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live unto Him” (Lord’s Day One, The Heidelberg Catechism).
It surely is time to repent of our sins and those of our ancestors and plead that our Lord God will protect us and all his own from the things that are coming.
May God bless us and pity us.