This Week's Comment from Network 7 News 

Edition 358 – May 8 2004.  

 This weeks  was written by AWR's  English Language Service Director, Victor Hulbert.  The full programme can be heard in Real Audio on our web-site.

Iraq torture 

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By Victor Hulbert

So what do you think?  Have American soldiers been abusing Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad?  And what about those pictures published by the British “Daily Mirror” newspaper?  Pictures showing British soldiers in the south of Iraq involved in similar, inhumane activity?  Genuine – or not?  That is the debate going on in the press at the moment – and is the cause of anxious investigation in military and government circles.

I don’t know what the truth is, and often in war situations, truth is something hard to come by – a sad fact summed up by Joceyln of Portsmouth, England, in the letters column of the BBC news website.

"I'm sure it is a sad fact of life that a small element of soldiers from whatever country has behaved in this way for centuries. The good thing is that this time it has been exposed. There are brutal people in all walks of life but perhaps the army has more than its fair share of them due to the nature of the job."

That fact was brought home to me in a listener’s reaction to last weeks programme.  You may recall that we shared the story of the Takenos, Japanese Americans, born and raised in the USA prior to the Second World War and who spent several years “interned”, during the war, just in case their loyalties were in question.  We shared their story, not to highlight their treatment, but to show how God could still lead them and be with them in difficult times.  Not everyone got that story of hope.  And perhaps if you or your family were on the receiving end of Japanese hostilities during World War II that might be understandable.

Jim Su felt the Takenos had nothing to complain about referring to the  “tens of millions of Chinese and other Asian people the Japanese military . . .  robbed, raped, bayoneted”  etc.   I’ve greatly abbreviated his letter. 

The point that struck me, reading that letter, and comparing it with the gracious, humble nature of this Japanese couple, is that it is easy to castigate a whole nation or group of people simply because of the actions of a particular group.

 I in no way condone what the Japanese did during WWII.  I have civilian relatives that survived the internment camps of the Philippines.  It left an indelible mark on their lives.  Yet war in itself is brutal.  Horrific.  The trenches of first world war Flanders.  The holocaust.  Vietnam,  The Genocides in Rwanda and the Balkans, the mutilation of children in Sierra Leone.  None of these are attractive sights or the way God designed for mankind to live.  War brutalizes. 


It is also very easy to look at the faults and failings of other nations when all of us have parts of our history that we might like to forget.  For me, as an Englishman, I’m none to proud of us inventing the concentration camp during the Boer war, or going further back, our involvement in the slave trade between West Africa and the USA.  The Spanish may ponder on their treatment of native south Americans in their lust for gold. . . . and similar stories can be told around the world.


But back to the current Iraq  issue – and another letter from the BBC website. Alfred Oresaba write:

"Saying all soldiers are equally to blame and guilty of this crime is like saying all Muslims agree with and carry out suicide bombings. Ridiculous! We are perhaps united in moral bankruptcy. If true it is abhorrent, but vast swathes of the Eastern world would think this of the West anyway (just like West's tendency to see extremists everywhere). Moral hypocrisy perhaps?"

Which then makes me think of the one person who could never be accused of hypocrisy.  Who always made the right moral choice.  Who showed nothing but love, compassion and concern.  And what did we do with him?  Isaiah sums up his treatment:


He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he took up our infirmities
and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.   
Isaiah 53:3-5 (NIV)  

 And the reason Jesus allowed himself to be so harshly mistreated.  The apostle Paul puts it so clearly:

Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners--of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. 

1 Tim. 1:15-16 (NIV)  







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