An American soldier has lost his life after assisting an overnight raid early Thursday morning which rescued seventy hostages who were reportedly scheduled for execution by ISIS (also known as IS or ISIL) after morning prayers. The local CBS affiliate posted a related CNN article and video on its website, and the FOX affiliate ran an article from the Associated Press.
The raid was reportedly launched by the Kurdish Regional Government, which requested assistance from the American soldiers stationed in Iraq in an advisory capacity. The U.S. forces were originally to have merely a peripheral role, providing air strikes before and after the raid, transportation by special forces helicopters to the sight, and intelligence. However, when the Kurds began to come under heavy fire, the American forces joined in the firefight and moved into the compound with them.
This is apparently the first time American forces have engaged ISIS on the ground, and reportedly the casualty was the first American death in the fight against the “Islamic State.” An article in The Washington Post adds this is the first American loss of life on an Iraqi battlefield since troops officially withdrew in 2011.
The Pentagon insists the use of U.S. forces in this way was a special situation, and does not mean the U.S. is committing ground forces to the fight against ISIS. An article put out by the Department of Defense contends the mission “was consistent with Operation Inherent Resolve’s counter-ISIL efforts to train, advise, and assist Iraqi forces.”
Besides the one American casualty, four Kurdish troops were wounded, and over twenty ISIS fighters were killed. Six additional members of the ISIS militants were captured, and are reportedly being held in a home of a judge in the town of Hawija. The hostages were said to all be alive and uninjured. While it was thought originally the captives were Kurdish fighters, this does not appear to be the case. Twenty of the prisoners were said to be non-Kurdish Iraqi soldiers, while the rest were presumably civilians. However, it is evident the mission saved many lives.
As this article is being written, the American soldier who gave his life is yet unnamed, waiting notification of next of kin. Those who know the Bible are reminded of Jesus words: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” [John 15:13 NIV] This special forces trooper not only was willing to go into harm’s way for his country, but he quite literally laid down his life for “friends” he had never met.
War is not an easy subject for those who take the bible seriously. It is hard for many to justify American involvement in the Middle-east, and those who criticize the long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have good reason to think as they do. But certainly there are things worth fighting for. There is a role for governments to restrain evil, as the Apostle Paul wrote about in Romans 13. But there is a big difference between fighting to save lives and fighting out of greed. And it’s not always easy to sort out our motivation when it comes to “homeland security.” Are we about preserving our way of life—especially our financial comfort—or are we about saving lives?
Our motivation make a huge difference.