AN APOLOGY TO THE PEOPLE OF IRAQ

 
 
This is a condensed version of "An Apology to the People of Iraq." To see the entire piece, go to:
http://www.fragmentsweb.org
 

I confess I don't know much about you. In the weeks leading up to the war it was easy to find detailed stories in our media about the daily machinations of our president as he bought, bribed and bullied other countries into a "coalition of the willing," but there was almost nothing about you, the people of Iraq.


I imagine you have beautiful children with dark, wide eyes. I imagine you are afraid that you and your families will be killed when the bombs start falling, that your way of life will be lost forever when our troops come storming in. You must have felt abandoned by the world when the UN  observers, weapons inspectors and western journalists scurried out of Iraq in the last days, leaving you alone to face the rain of fire. I can't imagine the terror you must feel. Just as we know almost nothing about you, I'm sure you have few accurate perceptions of us Americans. Our mutual ignorance makes it easy for our governments to stir the pot of hatred so they can advance their own nefarious policies. This is a shame because I have a feeling we could find much common ground. As you know, recently our country too came under attack, so we have a small taste of the fear and hated that violent aggression can generate. You have every reason in the world to hate us. In 1991 our military dropped 88,000 tons of bombs on you, incinerating your sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, relatives and friends. Over 113,000 civilians died according to the Red Crescent Society of Jordan. Sixty percent of your casualties were children. Your country was once prosperous, a thriving center of learning, literature and art. Now, after years of sanctions, with your cities in ruins and your economy in tatters, the winds of stagnation and despair blow down dusty streets, past the shuttered shops of your towns and villages. Mere survival has become a struggle.


We the people in the U.S. knew about the sanctions, but not enough of us tried to stop them. As citizens of a country with unparalleled international political influence and a monstrous military machine that sprawls around the globe, we have extraordinary responsibilities to restrain the natural tendencies of such a system to dominate and control everything everywhere. Unfortunately, we are for the most part self-absorbed individuals, more concerned about the latest electronic gadgets or Hollywood gossip than the suffering our government inflicts on other peoples of the world.  We are a powerful nation, but a flawed one. Greed and militarism is a dangerous combination. Perhaps we're not greedier than other peopleŚwe just tend to grab more because so much more is within our reach. Because our national resources alone can't support our elevated standard of living, we need to continuously expand our domination around the world to secure access to natural resources, markets and cheap labor. That's why we have had to develop such a fearsome military. To most of us Americans war has become a minor inconvenience. It is a game we watch on TV as high-tech weapons destroy inanimate targets. Real war is sanitized for us, so we never have to see the disembowelled bodies, smell the charred flesh or hear the moans of agony. Our leaders take full advantage of our indifference. They claim we must depose your president for your own good and for the good of the civilized world. I don't like Saddam any more than our president does. I didn't like him even when our government went out of its way to befriend him and provide weapons to him for his bloody war against Iran.

 

Nevertheless, if regime change and disarmament truly were goals of our government, there were many ways to achieve these ends without resorting to the mass slaughter of innocents, ways that might have been more permanent and less destabilizing to the region. Unfortunately, our leaders are men of limited imaginations with "Christian" values that stress machismo and domination rather than consensus and cooperation. From the start, the military option was the only one they ever seriously considered. Some of us Americans fear this war will bring horrendous carnage to your country. We, like our president, pray that the human toll will be much less this time, that our bombs will be smarter and stay away from your schools, hospitals and homes. Still, we know our aggression will kill and maim thousands of you, and in the regional chaos that follows many more may die and suffer the brutality of civil war and political violence.  Unlike many of my fellow citizens, I do not value Iraqi lives less than the lives of American troops. But our soldiers are human too. I hope you understand that most of them are just kids. Many come from poor neighborhoods with ramshackle schools and limited educational opportunities. The military promises them an opportunity to make a better life for themselves and their families through military job training and education programs. Despite their macho bluster, they are frightened like you, and most of them would rather just go home to their families and not  have to kill anyone.


In Los Angeles, on the Saturday before the war, thousands of us marched in a driving rain to show our solidarity with you. We were wet and cold and miserable, but we knew it was not as bad as having a 500-pound bomb dropped on your house. Afterwards, we climbed into our warm SUV's and drove back to our safe, comfortable homes. Merely attending a demonstration does not absolve us of responsibility for this high-tech slaughter. Not enough of us did enough to stop this war. This war is being prosecuted with our money, by our elected officials, in our name. We all have your blood on our hands. I can't speak for my government or the millions of my compatriots that feel murdering thousands of innocents is morally permissible. I can only speak for myself and a minority of like-minded Americans when I say I am sorry for what we are doing to you. Now, as the bombs fall, we can only watch with helpless shame the sickening spectacle of destruction. We pledge to you we will try harder in the future, to agitate and protest and work to make this our country's last imperialist war.