Rev. Peter Kakos: Justice awaits the war-mongers
NORTHAMPTON — As Christians around the world observe the infamously cruel crucifixion of that singular Jewish peasant from Nazareth, called Jesus, over 2,000 years ago, not many are aware of the terrible context of life under the eagle-bannered occupation of brutal, imperial Rome.
In order to keep their conquered subjects in a state of perpetual terror, every 20 years, troops along the borders were ordered to return to the major cities where they randomly rounded up Jews, in order to nail them to rude crosses along well-traveled major roads. This had the obvious effect of keeping the populace in a state of paralyzing fear, lessening thoughts of insurrection.
As if that were not enough, this included a particularly excruciating form of torture. Each victim was suspended so close to the earth that the soles of his feet would feel the subtle but too real breath of the earth’s moisture, driving him insane while his ribs were collapsing onto his lungs in self-suffocation, a normally three-hour hell, the envy of today’s waterboarding experts.
We recently observed the 10th anniversary of our country’s blitzkrieg-like bombing and subsequent invasion of a relatively defenseless Iraq. With that came the rounding up of certain people to face contemporary forms of ruthless torture and humiliation at the Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan and today in Guantanamo, where 86 innocent men cleared of charges by our own military rot.
Striking similarities come to mind. I see a superpower, embarrassed by 9/11’s ghastly intrusion of our air space, seek to see the head of an old nemesis on a stake, none better than Saddam Hussein. At the same time, this superpower secures a much-needed excuse to unleash its tremendous firepower for all the world to see, especially nations eager to import the latest advances in weaponry.
After all, it had been nearly 10 years since the other Persian Gulf war. By 2003, the warehouses were full and in serious need of being emptied, in order to justify further research and manufacture.
As we look back at age-old justifications for senseless war, we see what ugliness lies ahead.
The “masters of war,” as Bob Dylan put it in song, are sitting fat, dumb and happy. Having showcased the latest weapons of mass destruction, they gladly welcome new orders, here and abroad, to do their part to help keep America humming along. After all, with the introduction of robotic and drone warfare capabilities, think of how few of our brave soldiers will need to be maimed, permanently brain-damaged, or sacrificed.
I worry that this enables more wars to happen even sooner, with the public less and less concerned, as the human price on our side decreases. Let the technically savvy in energy-efficient war-rooms fire away, their coffees at hand hardly getting cold.
Even so, those with a conscience worth their soul’s weight must carry on in the face of today’s mechanized industry, as war becomes ever better for business. We must keep putting pressure on elected officials, such as our state attorneys general, who have the power to subpoena those who persuaded our terrorized and emotionally wounded nation to unleash the massive monster of war upon the nearest and most obvious bad guy, regardless of any ties to 9/11.
Charge them with nothing less than the first-degree murder of our sons and daughters of their state, who obeyed orders and were killed, as they killed civilians and the battered military of a nation that had not the remotest connection to al-Qaeda. The White House of President George W. Bush committed treason before a distraught nation, eager to cede all reason and power to her experts.
Bringing them to justice may be the only way to silence the heart-piercing drumbeat of perpetual war. Those whose blood was shed for us, and those who now hang suspended on 21st-century crosses, deserve nothing less.
The Rev. Peter Kakos of Northampton, former minister of the Edwards Church, is pastor of the First Congregational Church of Hatfield.