An appetite for Hell

Since commencement of the present war in Iraq, politicos, pundits, and pukes have all had a chance to weigh in on whether or not the invasion was in the national interest. Frequently these minions of public policy forget their role in American discourse and instead attempt to wear the mantle of morality, speaking with a preacher's voice.

President Bush talks often about bringing hope to the oppressed and justice to the people of Iraq. He utters bromides of the unique mission of the U.S., our "special calling." Not content to celebrate the hard work and duty of the troops in the field, he glorifies them with phrases like "faithful" and "peacemakers". He is joined by a chorus of politicians, painted in red, white, and blue, who excuse spending more money on military defense than on programs for social uplift.

The ostensible public servants cast their eyes towards Heaven, but their feet are pointed in the opposite direction.

Sunday morning talk shows fill the airwaves with the latest casualty counts and jawboning about Iraq's current plight. They provide an opportunity for apologists to justify Administration policy and promote arguments for war.

In the banal light of television studios, the latest crop of pundits - most whom have never visited the Middle East much less Iraq - ponder the news of the week with false gravitas. Their network talkety-talk drowns out local religious programming. With deceitful skill, their sharp tongues slice the arguments of opponents.

Masters of the fourth estate concentrate media ownership and fill their treasure houses, thinking little of journalistic righteousness.

Meanwhile, in the sterile corridors of the Pentagon the triumph of victory is heard, drowning out the din of escalating insurgency, continuing horror, and worsening crisis. Despite the fact that the army is stretched razor-thin, the service's top general takes time to find silver in the dross of bloodshed.

General Peter Schoomaker calls the military's experience in Iraq beneficial because the war has helped to give the army "tremendous focus." He says this is the sort of thing that servicemen and women study their entire careers for and that there would be no use for an army that did "nothing but train". Illustrating this he says, "There's got to be a certain appetite for the hell we exist for." He's right.

The general recites with precision the Way-Of-The-Sword. He has seen the inferno and will command living corpses, if compelled, all the way to the abyss.

War is the furthest object from the ideals of faith and religion, and its desires have little to do with reaching either our human potential or serving God. It only masks the cravings of those who combine lust and power with an appetite for wealth. The war in Iraq should be discussed and debated not only by the few who profit from it, but by the many who provide direction for weighty issues of faith and conscience: priests, rabbis, imams, and preachers.

At Riverside Church in New York, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. pleaded with our current generation to be mindful of war's destructive power. He said, "We can no longer afford to worship the God of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation….History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate." King warned of "power without compassion" and "might without morality". He urged us to face reality while working together to overcome the fears and scourges that confront us.

We have entered a new year, and with it many individual resolutions. Let us also resolve - as a nation - to listen more to those who speak with the voice of moral authority, and less to those who converse with demons while making claims of peace.

Then maybe we can reduce our appetite for hell.

Peace, Charlie


Charlie Jackson, founder of Texans for Peace, recently returned from his second trip to Iraq, undertaken through the Christian Peacemaker Teams organization of Chicago. He is a high-tech CEO and lives with his two sons in San Antonio.


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