President Bush has reportedly decided to tell the nation next week that winning in Iraq means a massive troop surge and sacrifice.
The term “surge” means sending upwards of 30,000 more American military personnel to Iraq for an unspecified time and uncertain mission.
The term “sacrifice” remains an empty vessel at this point.
Be assured that it does not mean what sacrifice means, “to make sacred.” That is to give up a treasured possession for a holy, worthy cause: to do a selfless act for the greater good.
Bank on the fact that Bush, Karl Rove and all the pro-war Neoconservatives will not join the National Guard for the next troop flight into Baghdad. Sacrifice does not apply to Sen. Bill Frist’s sons, all the white boys in private schools and members of Young Americans for Freedom. They are not going to volunteer for military sacrifice. Sacrifice does not mean Wal-Mart’s CEO Lee Scott will forgo his massive compensation to work for a minimum wage, donating the difference to purchase medical supplies for mutilated Iraq civilians. It does not mean that Dick Cheney and his cronies at Halliburton will give up their war profits for the war cause. It does not mean that the wealthiest Americans will forfeit their tax breaks.
Sacrifice doesn’t mean sacrifice.
Unless sacrifice is what MSNBC anchor Keith Olbermann prophetically termed it.
Speaking on Tuesday evening on his program “Countdown,” Olbermann gave a blistering critique of the Bush administration’s anticipated call for sacrifice, sounding like a Hebrew prophet–like Amos or Nathan or Isaiah.
Olbermann rhetorically asked, “Sacrifice, Mr. Bush?”
“No, sir, this is not ‘sacrifice.’ This has now become ‘human sacrifice,'” he said at the end of a lengthy statement. “Our meaningless sacrifice in Iraq must stop. And you must stop it.”
A year ago Bush promised the nation that he had a “strategy for victory in Iraq.” His strategy was to turn over the security responsibility to the Iraqis and begin bringing home American troops. That did not happen.
Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee over a month ago, Gen. John Abizaid, the top military commander in the Middle East, was asking about increasing U.S. troop levels.
Responding to Sen. John McCain, Abizaid said (click here to watch) that he had “met with every divisional commander, Gen. Casey, the core commander, Gen. Dempsey.” He said that he had asked them if bringing “in more American troops now, [would] add considerably to our ability to achieve success in Iraq and they all said ‘no.'”
A month later, the Los Angeles Times reported that Abizaid had submitted his plans to retire.
Having shoved aside Abizaid, President Bush can pursue his surge. He will sell it as sacrifice.
We need to oppose now and loudly Bush’s surge and disingenuous call for sacrifice.
While we need the church to serve as our society’s moral surge protector with clear statements by church leaders against the war, we also need individual Christians to reframe the debate.
When the president and his pro-war Neoconservatives rationalize the troop surge, think “human sacrifice.” Every time you hear surge, think human sacrifice. Every time you hear some pro-war Christian advocate the surge, talk about the surge as human sacrifice. At every opportunity, link surge and human sacrifice.
Let’s speak up against human sacrifice.
Robert Parham is executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics.