Use of weapons of mass destruction is a crime to be condemned without restraint, no matter who is the perpetrator or who is the victim and I do not write to defend Saddam. It is a society imbued with racism, however, that celebrates Winston Churchill as a great man in history while it vilifies, condemns and, presumably, executes Saddam Hussein.
In January of 2004 I visited “Bucca Camp,” a U.S.-run POW camp named for a firefighter lost in the 2001 collapse of New York’s World Trade Center. Located near the isolated port city of Umm Qasr, in southern Iraq, the network of tent prisons had been constructed by U.S. Coalition authorities. Friends of five young men thought to be imprisoned there had begged our three-person Voices delegation to try and visit the camp and find out what had happened to their loved ones.
Once again, US politicians and pundits are beating the drums of war, trying to get our nation involved in yet another conflict. A few years ago it was Iran, with “all options on the table.” Last year it was a red line that threatened to drag us into the conflict in Syria. This time it’s Iraq.
We, the youth of America, have grown up in war, war war. War has become the new norm for our generation. But these conflicts–declared by older people but fought and paid for by young people–are robbing us of our future and we’re tired of it.
There is no future in war.
The shooting of a general at a training facility is seen as more vile than breaking down the door and shooting into a family home. Beheading one’s victims becomes more disgusting than burning them alive with a hellfire missile or with white phosphorous. And for some reason, I haven’t heard Dick Cheney on the radio saying that ISIS waterboarding is not torture.
If we could somehow put aside the double-standards, what would the picture in Iraq look like?
Two facts would not be in doubt: ISIS is a murderous threat to the people in its immediate vicinity and U.S. military force has often been a murderous threat to people in its immediate vicinity and beyond.
Zekerullah tells me that the current education system in Afghanistan is not a good learning environment. His story alerts educators, officials and the international community to understand that the relatively small funds spent in badly-constructed new school buildings isn’t sufficient to provide a good education for the young Afghan population. Moreover, the predominantly militarized approach of aid and development, even in the field of education, reinforces the prevalent methods of teaching by force and punishment. Guns of armies, like rattan canes, aren’t helpful either for Zekerullah or for Afghan teachers.
I have been reflecting quite a bit about “privilege” on many levels since my arrival 12 days ago. We talk about “simple living” in the United States but even those who have chosen to live more closely to the poor typically have continual access to electricity, refrigeration, running water, laundromats and frequently washers and dryers in our own homes. Virtually all have stoves and TVs and most have some sort of transportation—cars, bicycles, or a pass on Muni or BART.
I was just called to the downstairs phone in our house. A woman from Baghdad crying out in Arabic, Please help us, please help us! Explosions! Explosions! I couldn’t make out much more and felt totally helpless to know how to respond, not to mention how inept I am in Arabic. So often in the last months this has been the case. Telephone calls from Turkey, from Lebanon, from Iraq….from relatives of Iraqis in the states, in Canada. Can you help us? Sometimes I don’t have it in me to answer the phone. We have friends within Iraq who are being targeted, who live in open vulnerable areas, who contact us to ask if we can find a country that will take them and their families? Tragically, we [the US] have made all Iraqis the “enemy” and, despite our contacts, we have not yet been able to find countries that will grant them visas, or offer them resettlement.