'Lest we forget' is a powerful phrase in the Australian lexicon, particularly in relation to military service. Such memories can be selective however, not least in the understanding and use of rightly remembered tragic military events. As we reflect upon events in northern Iraq for example, and ponder what practical assistance may be given to those who suffer from appalling violence, there seems to be some continuing amnesia about the history of outside involvement, including the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Those of us who are Australians, for example, may rightly not easily understand all the dynamics which have led to the current carnage, yet we might reflect upon our own nation's shaping of some of the forces within it. Saddam Hussein was a terrible tyrant and the Coalition which toppled him understandably felt satisfaction in the liberation of his people from him. Yet it was a campaign of great violence which also destabilised Iraq and left deep scars and divisions. For whilst US-led power could win the war, it had few ideas, let alone a coherent plan, about how to win the peace. Coupled with diplomatic mistakes, the use of torture to extract information, and the cultivation of certain groups over others, this inability to win 'hearts and minds' has been a significant factor in the - let us remember - persistent communal violence in Iraq since 2003, which has now erupted into full-scale war. It gives those of us who vigorously opposed the 2003 Iraq War no satisfaction at all in saying this. Alongside addressing the immediate challenges of Islamist violence, we might however together express some national penitence for our own complicity in today's crisis and pray hard for greater wisdom than we as a nation, led by others, previously exercised. When you have dug yourself into a big hole, it is hard to get out, especially if you keep digging and don't reflect on what you have done.
Jo Inkpin is an Anglican priest serving as Minister of Pitt St Uniting Church in Sydney, a trans woman, theologian & justice activist. These are some of my reflections on life, spirit, and the search for peace, justice & sustainable creation.