The Bombing of Iraq

I don't think I was any different from any other American in my reaction to last night's bombing of Iraq. To say I was stunned is an understatement. Not in my wildest dreams did I think the president would order military action on the eve of his impeachment vote in the House of Representatives. But as one who has worn the uniform of my country, any time Americans are put in harm's way, I think first of the safety of those soldiers. When I served President Nixon as his special counsel, there was a war going on, and I never went to bed without knots in my stomach over the fate of some of my former classmates who were in Vietnam. My second reaction, however, is one of deep concern over the timing of this bombing. I don't believe that anybody could be so craven as to put American lives at risk simply to avoid a vote on impeachment. But good judgment would have dictated that President Clinton not act when he did because inevitably the suspicion of the timing is unavoidable—both in American minds and in the minds of people around the world. Do presidents time events like this for political advantage? Most certainly they do. I sat at President Nixon's side when he deliberately timed his nationally televised trip to China so he would return just before the New Hampshire primary in 1972. And he almost laughingly told me he planned the Moscow summit so he would return from it with a hero's welcome just before the California primary. Politicians do these kinds of things. But it's one thing to time trips overseas to look good before primaries, and quite another thing to time a military strike and put soldiers in harm's way for political purposes. This strike, on the eve of the impeachment vote, brings to mind an eerie parallel from the Nixon years. When Nixon was facing an impeachment vote, General Alexander Haig, then chief of staff, told the secretary of defense to call him if the president tried to order any military strikes. He was afraid the president might do something rash. This is why it would have been better judgment on the part of the president to delay these attacks until Friday—just 48 hours—until after the House had acted. He could have been a hero and put behind him any question that these actions were politically motivated. My third reaction is that under no circumstances should the House back down from its constitutional obligations. It indeed may wait a few days, but it is required to act—all the more so if there is a valid suspicion that the timing of this was politically motivated. Finally, I probably feel just as helpless in this crisis as any other American. More than anything else, I want American lives to be protected in combat. I also want to see justice done. It's appalling that all of this is happening just a few days before we celebrate the birth of Christ. I can offer no great wisdom other than to say Christians should be in deep, deep prayer for wisdom on the part of our leaders, for the safety of our men and women in combat, and for justice and righteousness to prevail. Maybe this is God's way of forcing us in utter helplessness to turn to Him—to the place where we find our hope and our answers. Nothing can substitute for it.


Chuck Colson


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