Christian women are being raped and murdered, Christian men are being shot execution-style or strangled or crucified. And now we have reports of Christian children—it rends the soul to say—beheaded and set on display in public parks. This is Mosul in the summer of ’14, under the control of ISIS, the Islamic State.
A man’s blood boils, the heart fills with rage, and you want it to stop. You want to make it stop. We are witnessing the purge of Iraq’s remaining Christians, an exodus through rivers of blood. This summer, ISIS rolled into Mosul and ordered Christians to convert or pay a fine (jizya), then immediately began reneging on the latter, slaughtering those who identified with Christ by obeying their new overlords as much as their faith would allow.
Jizya is Arabic for “reward” or “compensation,” and it is often translated as “head tax” or “tribute.” But “tribute” sounds too civilized for a practice that amounts to a gang of swarthy mob goons holding a gun to your head and shaking you down for a month’s wages in exchange for “protection”—from them.
This developing story is being cast as a human-rights crisis and an offense against religious liberty. Barack “Happy Ramadan” Obama’s friend Mark Arabo, a “life-long San Diegan,” is now telling the story of ISIS atrocities, hoping to shift public opinion toward support of some kind of international intervention. Armchair terminator Jonah Goldberg is blasting Obama for his wild inconsistency when it comes to military interventions and suggesting that Americans should surgically rain down hell upon ISIS, instead of being a mere “bystander to slaughter.”
It’s worth pausing to reflect on the sort of thinking that transformed Iraq and led to this full-scale slaughter of Christians.
Mr. Goldberg was an enthusiastic proponent of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, until he wasn’t, admitting in 2006 that, while he didn’t “enjoy saying it now,” the “Iraq war was a mistake.” He then proceeded to justify the thinking that led to the war and to insult those who opposed it to begin with. “The failure to find weapons of mass destruction is a side issue,” he declared. “The WMD fiasco was a global intelligence failure, but calling Saddam Hussein's bluff after 9/11 was the right thing to do.”
Spreading the blame around the world, he assumed that we’d forget that his neoconservative friends were actively misleading Americans to believe that the source of “terror” that threatened the United States was not insurgent and scattered Islam but those “Axis of evil” countries fingered by President Bush and his speechwriter, David Frum.
“Washington's more important intelligence failure lay in underestimating what would be required to rebuild and restore post-Hussein Iraq.” On one hand, that was a gross understatement, but contextually it assumed that an invading and occupying military force and a swarm of government contractors could “restore” any semblance of civilization. It also assumed that the people of Iraq could, given the right amount of pressure duly applied, submit to a Western mode of liberal thought and live in peace with their tiny Christian minority on that novel basis. It’s as if inside every Third World plebe is an Enlightenment philosophe yearning to be free. Indeed, Goldberg’s 2006 solution (an idea he joyfully admitted that he plagiarized from himself) was to put it to a vote in Iraq: Ask the people of Iraq whether the U.S. military should stay or go.
Today, Goldberg is using the slaughter of Christians in Iraq as a stick with which to beat President Obama, blaming his withdrawal of U.S. occupying forces for the carnage. In today's article, he cites a 2007 interview with then-senator Obama in which he compared Iraq to the Sudan and the Congo. “Obama glossed over a crucial distinction. The slaughter in Congo wasn’t caused by our actions.” (No truer words, indeed.)
“Admittedly,” Goldberg concedes, Obama “couldn’t have predicted the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in 2007 any more than he could have predicted the debacle of his Syria policy and his vacillating ‘red line’ rhetoric, which partly led to the rise of ISIS.” And here, once again, is the neoconservative bald-faced lie, contradicted by this fact: The rise of bloodthirsty Muslim terrorists in Iraq (not to mention everywhere that the Arab Spring sprang) was utterly predictable and, indeed, was predicted by the “unpatriotic conservatives” whom Goldberg and his neocon pals have alternately ignored and maligned. That simple fact derives from a Christian observation on human depravity, combined with a sober reading of history: Squeezed by invading Western powers, Middle Eastern Muslims go ad fontes, and there they find a Muhammad who puts un-submissive dhimmis to the sword. There is no foreign occupying force that can tame aggrieved Muslims with voting booths, satellite TV, and feminism.
Which is why the threat of further entanglement by way of surgical smart bombs rained down on houses and mosques is futile. Most Americans today have a hard time believing that folks in Third World countries could take their religion seriously, and even conservatives reveal their inner Marxist when they think that force-fed economic prosperity or “free elections” will do anything but fan the flames of passion for Allah.
Koran 9:29 is the singular source for the jizya. It states,
Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.
ISIS is “subduing” the Christians of Mosul to the delight of throngs shouting “Allahu akbar.” This stems from pure hatred of their neighbors’ beliefs, and from a canon that does not include an admonition to “love your enemies.” Instead, the very next verse of the Koran states, “the Christians say: The Messiah is the son of Allah; these are the words of their mouths; they imitate the saying of those who disbelieved before; may Allah destroy them; how they are turned away!
What can be done—short of a full-scale invasion, mass-executions or imprisonments, and permanent occupation and colonization—to clean up the mess that we have made in Iraq and stop the slaughter of Christians? If there’s a good answer, I’d love to hear it. Meanwhile, Christians in the United States can sober up from the long night at the bar with the neocons, and pray for those who are asked on pain of brutal death to renounce the name of Christ, that they might make the good confession, the way Father Ragheed Ganni, a Chaldean Catholic, did in Mosul way back in the summer of 2007—a foretaste of the terror to come.
Aaron D. Wolf (1973-2019) was Chronicles' executive editor. His writings have appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers. He was a frequent guest on Issues, Etc. (Lutheran Public Radio) and The Paul Youngblood Show (nta.fm), and has appeared on several other radio programs, including The Tom Clark Show (Wisconsin Public Radio) and Extension 720 With Milt Rosenberg (WGN).