Of course, we find a year later that things have not turned out like expected. In April thus far, up to 1,200 Iraqis and 116 American soldiers have been killed (more than in any month since the war began). Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfield muses that we may be creating more terrorists than we are killing. Some Iraqis (even those glad to be rid of Saddam Hussein) say that they felt safer when Saddam was in power than they do now. No weapons of mass destruction have been found.
In one sense, we should not be at all surprised by any of this. Moments of liberation often do not turn out like expected. Most people know the story of the children of Israel’s liberation from slavery in Egypt. If they haven’t read the biblical book of Exodus, they have at least seen the movie and its vivid portrayal of the children of Israel passing on dry ground through the sea. Only those who have read the book know the rest of the story. After a short time, many longed to return to Egypt. The security of Egypt seemed preferable to the freedom of the wilderness. That generation of Israelites did not get to enter into the promised land because they were not yet ready to do so. They had been liberated from slavery but had not yet learned how to be free.
Freedom is a difficult thing. It is not just something you can be given. It is something that you must continually work for and be willing to grant to others as well. Many Iraqis, it seems, would gladly give up their freedom in exchange for the “security” of the rule of Saddam. We Americans should not be too quick to fault them. We Americans seem all too willing to give up some of our freedoms too in exchange for security. That’s why the U.S. Supreme Court this week is listening to lawyers debate whether or not it is permissible for the administration to imprison American citizens indefinitely without charging them with a crime or permitting them to see a lawyer.
The point is we Iraqis and Americans are in the wilderness together, and we will be there together for a long time---maybe even 40 years. It will cost more lives and many more billions of dollars. We might not have all chosen to be there. In hindsight, we might have chosen to do some things differently, but we can’t go back. We can only go forward. May God give us all, Americans and Iraqis alike, the wisdom to go forward in the best way, and may we arrive at last in the promised land of freedom and security.
©2004 C. David Hess