Today is Easter Sunday, the culmination of a week of intense reflection and emotional turmoil for Christians across the world. Easter is a narrative roller-coaster, laced with bitter and subversive irony: the ‘green mile’ of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem in which the people unwittingly cheered each step that took him closer to his own murder; and the shameful arrest, trial, torture and execution which turned the universe on its head and brought life out of a spiral of death. The good became bad and the bad became good.
Easter 2013 came comparatively early, bringing it closer to the anniversary of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Now ten years on, the bitter and subversive irony is all-too-apparent.
The unambiguously-named iraqbodycount.org estimates the post-invasion Iraqi civilian death toll to be between 111,840 and 122,320, with an added margin of error of a further 12,000 from unverified Wikileaks documents. Iraq may be out of the news but it isn’t out of the woods.
The court-martial and trial of US Army Private Bradley Manning is still under way. Manning, who endured extended solitary confinement and torture at the hands of the US Army, admitted that he did in fact send the ‘Collateral Murder’ tape to Wikileaks. This infamous footage from 2007 shows a US helicopter gunship crew murdering a group of journalists before swooping back around to fire on Iraqi first-aiders going to help the injured and dying.
In this context, just a couple of weeks before Easter in which Christ himself demonstrates the full cost of non-violent opposition to the Empire, former US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld tweeted:
What he meant to say was “We who played a role in history deserve your respect and appreciation.” He didn’t get it; instead he received a storm of hate. The Los Angeles-based comedian and writer Rob Delaney said it best:
Where is the irony? As Rumsfeld begged for respect, adulation and honours for a job well done, the country of Iraq is still stained with the blood of its civilians. One of the men who should be begging for the forgiveness of the Iraqi people is asking for their thanks. This is irony of the darkest kind.
As I left church this morning, I noticed a poster for a new book by Andrew White, the Vicar of Baghdad. With such an Easter-themed title as ‘Father, Forgive: reflections on peacemaking’, perhaps the good Reverend Canon will be able to show a hopeful way forward for Iraq – one that does not rely on ranks, honours and ‘victory’ parades but on self-sacrifice, brokenness and an unimaginable but potent resurrection.