‘What do we do with this?’
So, as I viewed the sight where these fine soldiers died, I found myself contemplating the same question that had come to my heart just days before. What do we do with this?
I stirred myself to go back and “check on” those we had lost. I strolled over to where my HMMWV had been. There was nothing but a crater there. All I found was the engine block, about thirty feet from its original location. As my driver and I stared at the wreckage of what was left, we beheld a strange sight.
Beneath what was left of the engine, we found, almost untouched, a small pocket Bible my father-in-law had given me. The pages were ever so lightly burned on the edges, but the integrity of the Bible was sound. It was the only piece of my belongings that survived the blast.
I was struck by the moment. I gathered it in…and then I turned and went back to work. We lost five fine soldiers that day in the battle for Baghdad and many more were wounded. But ultimately, Baghdad fell and it seemed it was this battle that resulted in the end of the war.
That Bible and the image of finding it remained in my mind. And I realized that there was a loose analogy to the emotion associated with the carnage of war. The pages were burned on the edges, but the integrity of the Bible was sound.
This is similar to the conflict we have when we are certain of the just nature of what we set out to accomplish, but sin—and in some cases the nature of life—creeps in and tarnishes it.
I was and I am fully convinced that what our country has done and is doing in Iraq is not only justified but is necessary and righteous. Yet the tragedy of war goes deep—the horror of civilian deaths; the violent, indescribable loss of those fellow soldiers who are so close, so alive, and so important to their loved ones back home; the destruction of infrastructure leading to future trials for a young country.
All of this is a true and given nature of war. But as I stated to a reporter one day, we must always acknowledge that war is a bad thing—a very bad thing. That is a given.
Weighing the costs
Alternatively, the only thing that brings glory to war is the hope of making a previous situation much better. We have to decide when going into a conflict that the cost of the war will be outweighed by what we justly achieve in human—and spiritual—value by the outcome.
The compatriots and friends we lose and those that sacrifice—the father cursing Americans as he holds his lifeless daughter in his arms, the tragedy of the family at the side of the road—manifest this cost in the harshest of images. But it reminds me of the tattered pages of my Bible that I found in the rubble on 7 April. The exterior was burned and it “looks” uglier than it used to. However, the integrity of that Bible and the truth that it represents remain.
There are ugly aspects of war that anyone would like to soon forget. But the hope we have in the outcome—and in this case that of the Iraqi people and the entire region—and the prudent elimination of a regime that posed a threat to us and to others, offsets the cost that many had to endure.
In other words, there are hurtful and, sometimes, ugly memories, but the truth and integrity with which we embarked on this campaign remains.
This is not an apologetic for our nation’s policy. It is an argument for the pursuit of truth and for an understanding of the cost of the pursuit. It sounds trite and it is a phrase that is often overused, but it is true when we say that there are things larger than ourselves.
There are pursuits that are worthy of pain and tragedy. The questions upon which we must remain focused are, “What is true? What is right? What is righteous?”
The answers to these questions are eternal and constant. And we must remember that no ancillary introduction of pain or sacrifice can change the correct answer to these questions.
If we are called to embark on a campaign that we believe to be righteous, whether it be moral high ground, dangerous missions work, lifestyle evangelism, or a military campaign, then tragedy or cost cannot tarnish the truth associated with that calling.
And the reason is that truth, by definition, never changes. It is eternal.