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Mourning Iraq
April 17, 2003
By Carol Norris

Please don't talk to me of "precision bombing" and "liberation." Don't talk of "minimal loss of life" and cheering Iraqis. Don't come with your "I told you so." and your "See, the war wasn't that bad."

Because I know better. I know there was little that was precise and liberating about this war. I know while many Iraqis are thrilled to be done with Saddam; they are equally appalled at how this war has played out.

And what of your "I told you so"?

You said the reason we must go to war and flout international law and the UN is because Saddam has weapons of mass destruction and must be stopped. I see none, despite the attempts of the Bush administration to concoct them.

You said we must go to war despite the opposition of the majority of the peoples of the world, galvanizing many of them against us because Saddam was a threat to my safety. He is a despicable man who has done horrible things. If he were able, he would've surely fought brutally. And he would've fought to best of his ability, which is what I imagine he did. But apparently, he was not the threat we thought he was.

So you want me to be proud that the Bush and Blair administrations have defeated a militarily impotent, awful tyrant by way of leaving countless children already weakened from over a decade of sanctions and random US bombs, motherless, homeless and limbless; leaving hospitals and relief agencies looted and depleted to the point of being ineffectual; leaving a decimated infrastructure; leaving thousands with nothing to drink but water contaminated with human waste; leaving annihilated houses and neighborhoods and shops and public spaces.

You want me to be proud of killing immeasurable numbers of men, women and children. And they will be immeasurable because the staggering power of US bombs has turned many of my fellow human beings into "pink mist," the horrific previously-coined term used for what often remains of human life as it rises from the ground after the bombs drop.

I am not proud. I am horrified and sickened and grief-stricken.

I am grief-stricken for the American and British soldiers and their families who have suffered and who mourn injury and death and, like those from the first Gulf war, may very well suffer further from the horrible effects of depleted uranium exposure, sacrificing their quality of life for perhaps the rest of their lives over a war that never should have been.

I am horrified and grief-stricken that some in our government have called Iraq a "deeply sick" society, that some of our soldiers have been indoctrinated so profoundly they have forgotten they are supposed to be liberators as they talk of hating Iraq and looking forward to "taking out" a few people, one soldier saying with chilling glibness, "The chick was in the way" in response to killing an innocent civilian woman.

I am horrified and grief-stricken that the Bush administration and the media unconscionably parade a staged photo-op, where a meager couple of hundred people were corralled to fill a cameraperson's lens, as US marines - not Iraqis - pulled down a statue of Saddam, for all the world to see, using this a "proof" that all Iraqis unite in joyful liberation. The Bush administration knows the people of the US we will cling to this image, desperately wanting to believe it is true, trying to push what many of us know in our hearts - that this war was brutal and wrong - out of our minds.

I am grief-stricken because this photo-op is the cruel addition of insult to injury to the Iraqi people. It unflinchingly demeans their pain, and obscures their reality. Where are the photos of the rest of the millions of Iraqis? Where are the photos of those who have been devastated by the loss of entire families, those who desperately fight one another for a looted chair, who are angry at the US for not protecting them, scrounging for food and filthy water amidst the unexploded cluster bombs and tons and tons of birth-defect causing depleted uranium, hiding in what is left of their homes, if they are lucky, terrified, shell-shocked, and worn?

I am horrified by the colossal hypocrisy of the Bush administration that uses the US-orchestrated voices of a couple of hundred people as ultimate proof of the goodness of this war, yet when millions upon millions of people around the world raised their voices in protest for months on end, Bush relegated them to an inconsequential "focus group."

I am horrified and saddened that the media at times prints grossly misleading polls, saying the majority of Americans are for the war, using sample sizes that wouldn't be considered representative in any credible scientific study. (One major paper, for example, stated 63% of the people of an area with over 6.7 million were for the war. They polled 204 people.) Polls are used to manipulate opinion, not quantify it.

I am horrified and saddened further at how the media has perpetuated the ridiculously simplistic and false assertion that opposing the war equals lack of concern for the troops. Those of us who have voiced our opposition to the war are concerned for the safety and welfare of all involved, including the troops. And we know it is absurd to state otherwise.

I am sickened, yet not surprised, that of all the looting of all the buildings that has turned Baghdad into a free-for-all, one of the only places the US forces guarded with any real effort was the Ministry of Oil.

And I am horrified and grief-stricken over the complete pillaging and destroying of a museum beyond price that housed precious, irreplaceable artifacts from the birth of human civilization. A museum that held reminders that you and I and those the Bush and Blair administrations have killed for no justifiable reason are ultimately descended from the same human cradle.

So, please don't talk to me fortified with TV network slogans and easily evoked sound bites because, like millions around the world, I know better. Come ready to engage in a true dialogue, with well-reasoned facts gotten from outside as well as inside the US. And please, speak in tones reserved for respect for the dead and the grieving. Because along with much of the world; I am in mourning.


Carol Norris is a writer and psychotherapist. She is a member of CODEPINK: Women for Peace. She can be contacted at writing4justice@planet-save.

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