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Why has U.S. war strategy ignored religious minorities in the Middle East?

By Mindy Belz

12/3/2010 Middle East, U.S. (World Magazine) – Three years ago I attended a meeting outside Washington with a NATO adviser recently returned from briefings with commanders of the war in Iraq. The question had been posed to them: If there should be a targeted massacre of Christians in Iraq (the word actually used was genocide), would the U.S. military respond? The answer from the commanders: No.

So it’s always been curious to me that the successful strategy to stamp out sectarian violence somehow did not extend to protecting Iraq’s minorities, particularly a Christian population that stretched back nearly 2 millennia and numbered up to 1.5 million under Saddam Hussein. By December 2007, church leaders estimated, that population had been halved through death and displacement to somewhere under 700,000.

We see similar terror unfolding with the arrests of Christians in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Gen. Petraeus is belatedly taking up that cause (see “Justice delayed”). But the failure of the military to leave a legacy of equal protection for all is part of a larger U.S. failure to address forcefully the authoritarian repression residing within Islam. It will no doubt resound to other minorities and to Muslims who stand against it. Today the Christian population in Iraq is about half what it was in 2007. It may have been spared actual genocide, but to go in one decade from 1.5 million to under 400,000 is extermination by any other name.

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