24 March 2003

Today at the Vicarage The

Today at the Vicarage ; The Monday Sermon.

7.14 am. I have just completed my two mile circuit around the village, and come back to the house to find that the Grannymobile has a flat front tyre. It is nonetheless a fine Wiltshire Monday Morning, with clear blue skies that feel more like late May than late March. The radio and television continue to pump out news from Iraq. The hot news seems to be that they will avoid a "traditional confrontation", and will fight a guerilla war in the towns. I doubt this comes as a surprise, as it must have been obvious to the Iraqis that any legitimate government or military target will be bombed. Like everyone else, I continue to pray for a swift resolution to this conflict.

9.15 am. Now we learn that the allies have uncovered a suspected chemical weapons factory. I must confess to being a slight sceptic regarding the hotly debated Weapons of Mass Destruction. Perhaps this will be the famous "smoking gun" for which the allies have been searching.

And so to today's sermon. I have for the last few days been struggling with the idea of giving a short ten minute speech at my college next weekend. And then, over the weekend, I read Lieutenant Colonel Tim Collins's speech to his troups, and was reminded yet again how small are my concerns, and how feeble my words. He has the touch of a poet, and the realism of a soldier. I hope this speech has been widely reported. It certainly deserves to be.

"The enemy should be in no doubt that we are his Nemesis and that we are bringing about his rightful destruction. There are many regional commanders who have stains on their souls and they are stoking the fires of Hell for Saddam. As they die they will know their deeds have brought them to this place. Show them no pity. But those who do not wish to go on that journey, we will not send. As for the others, I expect you to rock their world.
We go to liberate, not to conquer. We will not fly our flags in their country. We are entering Iraq to free a people, and the only flag that will be flown in that ancient land is their own. Don't treat them as refugees, for they are in their own country.
I know men who have taken life needlessly in other conflicts. They live with the mark of Cain upon them. If someone surrenders to you, then remember they have that right in international law, and ensure that one day they go home to their family. The ones who wish to fight, well, we aim to please. If there are casualties of war, then remember, when they woke up and got dressed in the morning they did not plan to die this day. Allow them dignity in death. Bury them properly, and mark their graves.
You will be shunned unless your conduct is of the highest, for your deeds will follow you down history. Iraq is steeped in history. It is the site of the Garden of Eden, of the Great Flood, and the birth of Abraham. Tread lightly there. You will have to go a long way to find a more decent, generous and upright people than the Iraqis. You will be embarrassed by their hospitality, even though they have nothing.
There may be people among us who will not see the end of this campaign. We will put them in their sleeping bags and send them back. There will be no time for sorrow. Let's leave Iraq a better place for us having been there. Our business now, is north."

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