Posts Tagged ‘military’

As President Obama’s strategy review for Afghanistan commences, let’s hope he’s balancing the information coming to him from his happy-talking generals with some independent news reading of his own.

  • While General David Petraeus serenades the major news media in the United States with the siren song of “progress,” security in Afghanistan is rapidly deteriorating, and efforts in the south to win legitimacy for the Kabul government are failing.
  • Hamid Karzai seems dead set on proving just how corrupt he and his business connections are.
  • Efforts to transform the Afghan National Army from a carpetbagger army to a legitimate, representative force capable of keeping peace in the south are a flop.

All of these reports are clear indications that the massive influx of troops into Afghanistan under Obama failed to improve the situation in that country and very likely made it worse. The president should seize on any of the numerous signs of policy failure–from the massively corrupt Kabulbank fiasco to the collapse of security across the country–and use this strategy review to create a plan that begins immediate U.S. troop withdrawals.

Security Crumbles

Aid groups warn that security in Afghanistan is rapidly deteriorating, and they strongly dispute military assurances that things are “getting worse before they get better.” According to The New York Times:

Even as more American troops flow into the country, Afghanistan is more dangerous than it has ever been during this war, with security deteriorating in recent months, according to international organizations and humanitarian groups.

…Last month, ISAF recorded 4,919 “kinetic events,” …a 7 percent increase over the previous month, and a 49 percent increase over August 2009, according to Maj. Sunset R. Belinsky, an ISAF spokeswoman. August 2009 was itself an unusually active month for the insurgency as it sought to disrupt the presidential elections then.

With one attack after another, the Taliban and their insurgent allies have degraded security in almost every part of the country (the one exception is Panjshir Province in the north, which has never succumbed to Taliban control).

While Petraeus has been on a media blitz claiming that the rise in violence can be attributed to the Taliban fighting back as NATO forces “take away areas that are important to the enemy,” the Times’ story makes clear that his explanation fails to address rapidly deteriorating security in parts of the country where the NATO presence is light. In fact, compared to August 2009, insurgent attacks more than doubled last month.

Kabulbank Corruption

General Petraeus’ manual on how to conduct counterinsurgency refers to a legitimate host nation government as “a north star.” But over the past week, we’ve been treated to a sickening spectacle showing just how corrupt Hamid Karzai and his cronies really are. A real estate market collapse in Dubai rocked the privately owned Kabulbank, exposing the “investment” of hundreds of millions of depositor assets in palatial homes on Palm Jumeirah off Dubai’s cost, handed out to friends and family of the government. As media attention zeroed in on the bank, we learned that presidential campaign contributions were given to Karzai by Kabulbank in exchange for naming a major shareholder’s brother (a notorious war criminal) as his vice presidential running mate; that Karzai’s brother, Mahmoud Karzai, sat at the center of the scandal; and that key campaign advisers had become major shareholders in the bank. Now government forces and security guards are beating people away (literally) as outraged depositors seek to get their money out. Karzai’s inner circle was implicated so thoroughly that now the U.S. is backing off its repeated pronouncements of the importance of rooting out corruption.

In short, we lack one of the prerequisites asserted by Petraeus’ own doctrine for success under the current strategy in Afghanistan, and we’ve stopped even really trying to construct one.

Southern Pashtuns Stay Away from ANA

Another of the key components of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan is to create an army with a sizable enough southern Pashtun contingent to allow the security forces to operate in the Taliban’s traditional strongholds without being seen as an occupying force from the north. According to The Wall Street Journal, that effort is failing:

Recent initiatives to recruit more southern Pashtuns into the Afghan security forces…appear to have backfired.

In January, southern Pashtuns accounted for 3.4% of recruits that month, falling to 1.1% in July and 1.8% in August.

Last month, just 66 of the 3,708 Afghan recruits were Pashtuns, U.S. officials said.

Overall, Pashtuns account for 43% of the Afghan army, but very few of them are from the south.

Afghanistan’s recent history is fraught with internal strife between factions and ethnic groups, including a nasty conflict between those forces comprising the Northern Alliance and the Taliban. Pashtuns in the south likely aren’t going to take kindly to the presence of a U.S.-backed force made up of northerners. The fact that the security forces can’t recruit southern Pashtuns speaks volumes about the failure of efforts to persuade populations in the heart of Taliban territory to support the Kabul regime.

There’s No Time Like the Present

Giles Dorronsoro, a scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, just returned from Afghanistan with a stark warning:

“Washington wants to weaken the Taliban by beefing up the counterinsurgency campaign to the point where the Taliban will be forced to ask for amnesty and join the government. But the Taliban are growing stronger and there are no indications that U.S. efforts can defeat the insurgents…

“Since last year there has not been one serious element of progress and the situation will not improve without a strategic recalculation. …In a year, the Taliban will not disappear as a political force or even be weakened militarily—the longer it takes for negotiations to begin, the harder it will be for the coalition to carry out the best possible exit strategy.  …In the coming months, the American-led coalition needs to declare a ceasefire and begin talking to the Taliban. While negotiations could be an extremely long and fraught process, the sooner they begin the more likely they are to achieve results.”

Every individual factor listed above would be a body blow to the premises of a counterinsurgency strategy according to General Petraeus’ own handbook. Taken together, they’ve exposed the Afghanistan War as a brutal fiasco that’s not making us safer and that’s not worth the cost.

The American people, recognizing the futility of spending more U.S. lives and dollars on this failing war, have turned solidly against it, with nearly six-in-10 saying they oppose the war in CNN’s most recent poll. The president should keep that in mind as we approach our own midterm elections here in the U.S.

We can’t wait until July 2011. Those troops need to start coming home, now.

If you’re tired of this costly, brutal war that’s not making us safer, join us at Rethink Afghanistan:

Sign our petition to tell the next journalists on Petraeus’ media tour to ask tough questions and expose his effort to extend the Afghanistan War.

General Petraeus is on a media tour to sell the idea that the U.S. military is “making progress” in Afghanistan, a well-worn message aimed at convincing elites to extend this brutal, futile war. So far, it looks like the mainstream media is buying it, hook, line, and sinker.

Petraeus kicked off his spin campaign this morning with an hour-long special on Meet the Press with David Gregory. The piece opened with a montage of Petraeus doing sit-ups, and later showed him jogging, with Gregory opining about him wearing out troops half his age. Gregory went out of his way to set up a "Petraeus saves the day" narrative, asking the general if the situation in Afghanistan reminds him of the "dark days" in Iraq just before Petraeus "succeeded" with the surge. Petraeus hammered home his one-word message relentlessly: progress. Gregory feigned tough skepticism, but betrayed his hero-worship with setups like, "Watch how savvy Petraeus is when he answers my tough question." Throughout, Gregory’s sheepish grin conveyed the sense that he wanted to hug Petraeus instead of critically probe his assertions.

As Petraeus battered viewers again and again with his "making progress" theme, Gregory failed to ask probing, skeptical questions. When Petraeus mentioned "oil spots," as if the stain spreading across Afghanistan were one of security, Gregory failed to press him on the huge increase in civilian deaths, the 87-percent spike in violence and the incredible explosion of IED attacks over the last several months. When he brought up the outrageous TIME Magazine cover showing a woman’s mutilated face, Gregory failed to mention the attack happened last year and that TIME Magazine’s cover grossly distorts the choices before the United States. When Petraeus denounced the Taliban’s recent killing of a pregnant woman, Gregory failed to press Petraeus on ISAF’s own killing of pregnant women earlier this year in which bullets were reportedly dug out of a screaming woman by special forces troops before she bled to death. Gregory didn’t do journalism today. He provided a platform for military spin.

Petraeus and Gregory jovially closed the interview by quoting Generals Grant and Sherman, with Petraeus saying he’s no politician. Don’t believe that for a second. The military wants to extend this war, and it sees American public opinion as an obstacle in getting what it wants. Petraeus admitted as much when he told Gregory that the point of his upcoming media appearances were scheduled in the hopes of showing "people in Washington" and the public that we’re making progress (Finish your drink!) and to shore up support for the failing war effort. This media blitz is about Petraeus shaping public opinion to affect the political environment for a future push to extend the war far beyond the bounds implied by Obama’s December 2009 West Point speech. In short, the military is turning its several-billion-dollar public relations apparatus on the American people, and the mainstream media is so far complicit. To quote one of my favorite bands, "There is a war going on for your mind."

If the media fail to ask hard questions, there’s a chance Petraeus could get what he wants: the freedom to extend an extremely unpopular war that’s not making us safer. We’ve got to push back, and we’ve got to do it now.

CBS’ Katie Couric is next in line to talk to Petraeus during his high-profile spin campaign, so we’re starting with her. Sign our petition to Couric and push her to ask tough questions about Petraeus’ claims of “progress” and his attempt to extend the Afghanistan War. If you’re not a Twitter user, don’t worry–there are instructions on how you can participate without it.

General Petraeus’ media blitz is just getting started. We’ve got to push our media–hard–to ask real questions and prevent easily disproved spin from polluting the debate. Petraeus wants to change public opinion, and he’s spending your money to sell you a brutal, futile war that’s not making us safer. If you’re tired of this kind of manipulation, join the tens of thousands of other people working to end this war with Rethink Afghanistan.

Plug into the Movement to End the War

Cross-posted from Rethink Afghanistan.

In case you hadn’t heard, the next stop in General McChrystal’s counterinsurgency plan is Kandahar, the ideological heart of the Taliban. Using the spadework done in advance of the Marjah operation as a template, McChrystal says the plan is to:

"…do the political groundwork, so that when it’s time to do the military operation, the significant part of the population is pulling us in and supporting us, so that we’re not only doing what they want, but we’re operating in a way that they’re comfortable with."

Remember that:

  1. "what they want," and
  2. "operating in a way that they’re comfortable with."

"What They Want"

That was March, and it sure sounded nice. But this is April, and the people who live in Kandahar are telling the Kabul government and McChrystal’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), "Not so much."

Earlier this month, McChrystal travelled with Karzai to a shura in Kandahar, presumably to get the kind of rubber-stamp for the upcoming operation that the Marjah elders gave them prior to Operation Moshtarak. It didn’t go as planned.

Visiting last week to rally support for the offensive, the president was instead overwhelmed by a barrage of complaints about corruption and misrule. As he was heckled at a shura of 1,500 tribal leaders and elders, he appeared to offer them a veto over military action. “Are you happy or unhappy for the operation to be carried out?” he asked.

The elders shouted back: “We are not happy.”

“Then until the time you say you are happy, the operation will not happen,” Karzai replied.

General Stanley McChrystal, the Nato commander, who was sitting behind him, looked distinctly apprehensive. The remarks have compounded US anger and bewilderment with Karzai, who has already accused the United States of rigging last year’s presidential elections and even threatened to switch sides to join the Taliban.

Presumably, ISAF and the Karzai government will keep working the shuras until they get what they need in the way of a signed and sealed invite to flood the region with international and Afghan National Security Forces military and police personnel. But as it stands, it’s clear that a military offensive in Kandahar is not "what they want."

"Operating In A Way That They’re Comfortable With"

If the shura harangue were not enough, yesterday a U.S. troop fired on a civilian passenger bus in Kandahar, killing at least 4 people and injuring 18.

Here’s how ISAF described the incident (take with grain of salt, given their recent propensity for spin):

Before dawn this morning, an unknown, large vehicle approached a slow-moving ISAF route-clearance patrol from the rear at a high rate of speed. The convoy could not move to the side of the road to allow the vehicle to pass due to the steep embankment.

The ISAF patrol warned off the approaching vehicle once with a flashlight and three times with flares, which were not heeded.

Perceiving a threat when the vehicle approached once more at an increased rate of speed, the patrol attempted to warn off the vehicle with hand signals prior to firing upon it. Once engaged, the vehicle then stopped.

However, at least one eyewitness who credibly claimed to be the bus driver had a different story:

Abdul Ghani, an Afghan man who told The Washington Post in a telephone interview that he was the driver of the bus, said the soldiers "didn’t give me any kind of signal. . . . They just opened fire. No signal at all."

Ghani’s account could not be independently confirmed, and other news organizations quoted a different person who said he was the driver. But Ghani, 35, related to The Post specific details about the bus and the incident that suggest he knew what had occurred.

He said the green and white 1984 German vehicle left a Kandahar city bus depot at 4:30 a.m., bound for Nimruz province, seven hours away. Half an hour into the trip, the bus drove up behind the U.S. convoy. The gunfire erupted when the bus was 80 to 100 meters behind the convoy, he said.

The bullets tore into the passenger side of the windshield and struck several rows. The American soldiers walked around the bus after the shooting stopped, Ghani said, then climbed on board without speaking to him. "They saw the people who were killed and left them there. And then they took the injured ones and started doing first aid immediately."

Ghani said he was eventually was able to drive the bus back to the city. "Why we are being killed by these people?" he said. "They are here to protect us, not to kill us."

The locals were understandably enraged, and hundreds of them gathered around the bus shouting, "Death to America!" and related anti-Western phrases. The local NATO commander, Maj. General Nick Carter (no, not that Nick Carter) tried to apologize, but just couldn’t seem to help himself and got a dig in at the local hicks in the course of the apology (Skip to 1:56 in the video below). Apparently, when you shoot up a civilian bus at a checkpoint, "it’s a two-way street" when it comes to responsibility.


"We have shot an amazing number of people [at military checkpoints], but to my knowledge, none has ever proven to be a threat," said McChrystal during a recent video-conference with troops…

But hey, at least he could rattle off "salaam alaikum" at the beginning of the "apology."

Here’s what one local had to say about this incident:

“Zhari [district in Kandahar Province] is where they were planning to do an operation,” Haji Wali Jan said. “Now the people there are furious with the Americans, and everyone knows that without local support from the people, it’s very hard to do an operation.” Haji Jan Mohammed, another elder who lives in Kandahar city, said: “These incidents have a bad effect. Already, most people didn’t trust the foreign troops. With this incident, foreign troops lost all their trust.

“All the elders, everyone knows, if the operation starts, there will be lots of civilian casualties.”

Somehow I doubt that this qualifies as "operating in a way that they’re comfortable with."

Sending more troops to Kandahar will not make us safer. The president should decrease, not increase, the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Had enough? Join us on Rethink Afghanistan’s Facebook page.

As someone who believes that Jesus meant, without equivocation, what he said in the Sermon on the Mount, I am struggling to feel at home in the Episcopal Diocese of Texas. After spending more than a year here, it’s clear to me that this diocese has largely made its peace with the sword, rhetorical denials to the contrary.

Case in point: Recently the diocese met for its 161st Diocesan Council. Here’s the graphic posted on the diocesan website.

Diocese of Texas graphic

Note the military uniforms and the U.S. flag on the right of this graphic. I learned from my rector’s post-council sermon that the council invited uniformed representatives of the U.S. military to “post the colors,” a ceremonial presentation of the U.S. flag.

I learned from the blog for the council that one of the activities organized for attendees of the council was a tour of Fort Hood:

“This tour will be a great opportunity to see inside the Nation’s largest military facility and hear about it’s mission from the experts. Members of Fort Hood’s Public Affairs Office will be leading the tour.”

The Bishop spent a great deal of time talking about Christian formation without breathing one word about the imperative to train our children in the path of nonviolence and peace. To be fair, the word “peace” appeared in his address twice, but it was used in an ambiguous way.

Sir Francis Drake, however, was quoted approvingly and liberally and was romanticized by the Bishop, who described him thus:

Sir Francis Drake was an adventurer and a legal pirate, raiding Spanish ships with permission out of Portsmouth. He was a friend of Queen Elizabeth and a strong Anglican.  Optimistic and courageous he withstood storms of every kind as he circumnavigated the world.

Drake was also a slaver and a participant in the massacre of 600 Irish men, women and children who had surrendered to the British at Rathlin Island. These are only two of his most notorious crimes. He was not a romantic “Christian” hero. Drake was a bloody butcher.

The last thing the world needs right now is Christian formation that turns out “strong Anglicans” like Francis Drake.

The diocese’s insistence on paying homage to the U.S. military, the neglect of nonviolent love in Christian formation and the luminous appearance of Francis Drake in the Bishop’s address are symptoms of this particular Christian community’s inability to diagnose and correct our culture’s obsession with violence, domination and those who wield them.

Did you know that Roman soldiers used to honor their standards with sacrifices and prayer? An early Christian walking into the diocesan council meeting would have probably reacted with horror at the sight of Christians welcoming a flag veneration ceremony into a Christian meeting. And if you think this flag ceremony is a totally different animal than a Roman ceremony, well, make sure you reconsider that question the next time you place your hand over your heart during the Pledge of Allegiance. (When was the last time you placed your hand over your heart when you said words in church? Do you do that when you hear the Sermon on the Mount read aloud? Why not?) Sure, there’s no bloody animal sacrifice on the altar of the banner, but then again, there’s no animal sacrifice on the altar of our temples anymore either. In its place we have a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. Think about that in the context of a flag ceremony.

A flag ceremony has no place in a Christian gathering. We should pledge allegiance to the Slaughtered Lamb and no other. What happened at the Diocesan Convention, both in terms of the flag ceremony and the integration of military veneration and sightseeing into the itinerary, represents an erasure of prophetic distance required between Christians and the kingdoms of this world. The United States of America is no more a Christian nation than it is a wheel of cheese. Calling any nation that spends more than $700 billion on “defense” each year a “Christian” nation is a category mistake. There is only one Christian nation: the Kingdom of God. That nation transcends all lines drawn on maps and rejects the sword in favor of the cross.

This conflation of the affection one feels for the nation and the love due only to God is frequently the result of the inability of much of the modern church to differentiate between things which a church member perceives as “good.” But our veneration of the relative good in the nation (dare I say “power” or “principality”?) is a function of our fallen nature. It’s a dangerous affection, especially when it is confused with universal values and transcendent good, because it has the potential to transmute our spiritual need to serve the common good into a different form of egoism (nationalism) disguised as selflessness. This is why the call to serve a Kingdom of God / Body of Christ (in which there is no Jew or Greek) is so radical–service to a transcendent absolute good resists the seduction to the well-ornamented viciousness of patriotism.

The early church understood Jesus’ teachings against the use of violence to the extent that a person would be rejected for baptism if they would not give up the use of violence, even in service to the state. Hippolytus’ apostolic tradition (c. 200) includes the following:

A soldier of the civil authority must be taught not to kill men and to refuse to do so if he is commanded, and to refuse to take an oath. If he is unwilling to comply, he must be rejected for baptism. A military commander or civic magistrate who wears the purple must resign or be rejected. If an applicant or a believer seeks to become a soldier, he must be rejected, for he has despised God.

As late as the year 250, Christians like Cyprian still held to this rejection of war and its trappings:

Wars are scattered all over the earth with the bloody horror of camps. The whole world is wet with mutual blood. And murder–which is admitted to be a crime in the case of the individual–is called a virtue when it is committed wholesale. Impunity is claimed for the wicked deeds, not because they are guiltless–but because the cruelty is perpetrated on a grand scale!

I would give anything to find a faith community that could maintain this clear moral perspective.

In a diocese where Francis Drake is lauded as a “strong Anglican,” where the warrior profession is paid respect and where the flag of one of the kingdoms of the world has a place of honor in our Christian gatherings, those of us struggling to get our church to take seriously Jesus’ clear, unequivocal teachings on violence and love are unambiguously on the margins.


Note: I know that this blog post could be read as a pointed attack on the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas. That is certainly not my intention. These attitudes are widespread among the diocese. I assume few protests were lodged about the flag ceremony or the tours of massive pieces of a massive war machine. Those of us who many would label as “peace activists” are constantly cautioned to go slow, to be diplomatic, to think carefully before we speak to our brothers and sisters, and rare is the instance when those who disagree with us on these issues are urged to do the same. We are constantly subjected to patronizing head-patting in the form of “wouldn’t it be nice if the world worked that way” preaching and commentary. Militaristic, nationalistic features of the diocesan council and included in the Bishop’s address were certainly not new. I mention them here not as unique or particularly egregious examples but as instances of a far larger pattern in our community.

Oh Good

Posted: May 20, 2009 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

From Men’s Health:

In other words, thousands of American fighters armed with the latest killing technology are taking prescription drugs that the Federal Aviation Administration considers too dangerous for commercial pilots.

A: When it leaves behind 50,000 combat troops and an uncertain number of “advisers.”

From the Guardian UK:

WASHINGTON – Democratic Congressional leaders have expressed dismay that President Barack Obama is planning to leave as many as 50,000 US troops in Iraq even after the long-awaited withdrawal of combat troops next year.

Obama, on a visit to a military base in North Carolina today, will announce plans to make good on his campaign pledge to withdraw US combat troops from Iraq. There are about 145,000 US troops in Iraq and Obama is expected to say that most of the combat troops will be withdrawn by August next year.

From the International Herald Tribune, Feb. 25:

Similarly, defense officials said they did not know how many combat troops would stay behind as renamed “trainers” and “advisers” in what would effectively be combat roles. Military planners have said that to meet withdrawal deadlines, they would reassign some combat troops to training and support of the Iraqis, even though the troops would still be armed and go on combat patrols with Iraqi soldiers.

It will be interesting to see how this plan conforms to the Status of Forces Agreement we worked out with the Iraqis last year that sets a very hard expiration date on the withdrawal of our troops:

Jan. 1, 2012, was set as the deadline for final withdrawal of all U.S. forces, in a status of forces agreement signed last year by President George W. Bush and the Iraqi government.

After the final SOFA had been worked out and Obama won the election, the government started a semantic tap-dance, proposing that we just re-label combat troops as “advisers,” thereby short-circuiting the clear intent of the Iraqis that we be out of their country by the first day of 2012. Fifty thousand troops is better than 140,000 troops, but that’s certainly not the “end” of the Iraq debacle that the peace and justice movement fought for.

P.S. Tens of thousands of our troops in Vietnam were “advisers.”

Update: Obama’s speech at Camp Lejeune appears to leave no wiggle room:

Let me say this as plainly as I can: by August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end.

As we carry out this drawdown, my highest priority will be the safety and security of our troops and civilians in Iraq. We will proceed carefully, and I will consult closely with my military commanders on the ground and with the Iraqi government. There will surely be difficult periods and tactical adjustments. But our enemies should be left with no doubt: this plan gives our military the forces and the flexibility they need to support our Iraqi partners, and to succeed.

After we remove our combat brigades, our mission will change from combat to supporting the Iraqi government and its Security Forces as they take the absolute lead in securing their country. As I have long said, we will retain a transitional force to carry out three distinct functions: training, equipping, and advising Iraqi Security Forces as long as they remain non-sectarian; conducting targeted counter-terrorism missions; and protecting our ongoing civilian and military efforts within Iraq. Initially, this force will likely be made up of 35-50,000 U.S. troops.

Through this period of transition, we will carry out further redeployments. And under the Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government, I intend to remove all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011. We will complete this transition to Iraqi responsibility, and we will bring our troops home with the honor that they have earned.

This seem unequivocal, but “intend” can be a little malleable. All troops out by the end of 2011–this is the standard to which we must hold the administration accountable.

I’ve just finished watching an interview on the website with Gen. William Boykin, whom you may remember fell into a fair amount of controversy a few years ago regarding his use of religious language to describe the war on terror. Right off the bat, Boykin’s interviewer asked him about how he reconciles having to kill people in his profession with his Christian faith. Boykin said he turned to a Christian pastor for guidance in this area early on in his career, and their dialogue regarding violence and Jesus is a sad microcosm of the state of mainstream American Christianity.

Boykin relates three main points from the conversation.

First, his pastor asked him two questions:

“Do you believe that America was ordained by God to be a light in a world of darkness,” and “Do you believe that he intended it to be defended entirely by those who are not religious?” Boykin answered “yes” and “no,” respectively. Then his pastor pointed him to Jesus’ statement to his disciples on the night of his arrest: “If you do not have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.” From this interaction, Boykin came to the conclusion that “…[H]aving to kill people is totally consistent with … my faith and the teachings of Christ.”

Let’s unpack this a bit:

1) America as “a light to the nations.” The phrase “a light to the nations” is a reference to Israel, to the people of God. The idea of the “American Israel” is older than the United States. The Puritans began the tradition of referring to their nascent society as “a city on the hill” and the “new American Israel.” The Puritan allusion to the Israelite story is understandable – they were a people leaving what they believed to be a corrupt society, travelling across the sea, making a home in a land occupied by people who do not share their understanding of God.

But, as N.T. Wright points out in Jesus and the Victory of God, Jesus redefined the renewed Israel as those who gave their loyalty to him. He urged his fellow Jews to give up their inverted idea of election, of chosen-ness, and return to their vocation of being the light to the world, meaning they were to become an example of righteousness to others and draw them to God, rather than seek to win their freedom from Rome through martial force. After Easter, the “light to the world” is to be Jesus, active through the renewed Israel, his church, not a political kingdom of this world that rules through violence and domination. It is a categorical mistake to apply the idea of being a “light to the world” to the United States, which, as a kingdom of the world under the influence of the satan, is distinct from the Kingdom of God.

2) The Christian obligation to defend America as the “light to the nations” is largely negated by the above. Christians “defend” the kingdom to which they belong through self-sacrificing, nonviolent love and by returning good for evil. Christ called us to resist evil by turning the other cheek, going the second mile, giving the shirt when the cloak is asked for. In the Christian view, “those who live by the sword will die by the sword.”

3) “Buy a sword.” Boykin’s pastor severely misinterprets this passage. For a detailed refutation, I recommend Rev. Charles Emanuel McCarthy’s explanation on the Center for Christian Nonviolence’s website (Under “Audio,” scroll down to “Buy a Sword?”)

This kind of thinking is deeply ingrained in American mainstream Christianity, and we have to do a better job confronting it and refuting it if we are ever to regain our nonviolence as a church.