On October 23, 2006 a U.S. soldier or marine peered through the telescopic sight of his M24 sniper rifle and trained it on the face of Nora, a five-year-old Iraqi girl. Her pretty face was close enough to kiss. Instead, he squeezed the trigger and sent a 7.62 round slamming into her skull. The medical report read, “Nora sustained an explosive bullet injury to her head that smashed the skull bones and ruptured her cerebral membrane.” Nora survived the sniper’s bullet.
During the battle for Falluja in 2004, U.S. snipers positioned themselves on rooftops covering the entrance to the only hospital still in operation, creating what locals called “sniper alley.” Iraqi men, women, and children seeking medical treatment were fired on. Ambulances delivering patients and supplies were fired on. Unlike Nora, many did not survive the sniper’s bullet.
On May 30, 2006 Nabiha Nisaif Jasiam and her cousin, Saliha Mohammed Hassen were shot from behind by a U.S. sniper as they drove to Samarra General hospital. Nabiha was about to deliver her third child. Neither survived the sniper’s bullet.
No U.S. president or general or lowly lieutenant acknowledged, much less apologized, for these illegal and immoral shootings. No sniper was held accountable.
On May 19 the commander of U.S. forces in Baghdad, Maj. General Jeffrey Hammond, apologized to community leaders and imams from the Baghdad neighborhood of Radhwaniya after it was discovered that a U.S. sniper used a copy of the Quran for target practice.
Gen. Hammond told the angry crowd, “I come before you here seeking your forgiveness. In the most humble manner . . . I say please forgive me and my soldiers. The actions of one soldier were nothing more than criminal behavior.”
Sheikh Hamadi al-Qirtani, speaking for the tribal sheiks of Radhwaniya, called the sniper’s behavior “aggression against the entire Islamic world.” The Association of Muslim Scholars condemned “this heinous crime against God’s book” and warned Gen. Hammond, “God preserves his book and [is] the Great Avenger.”
We need some perspective here!
Nora and the other innocent Iraqis shot by snipers are made of flesh and blood and a brain capable of remembering yesterday and hoping for tomorrow. They are their god’s “Islamic World,” the living testament to faith in a sacred covenant. It is these human beings who are the victims of a “heinous crime” and deserve to be avenged by their god, if not at least apologized to by Gen. Hammond.
Holy books, on the other hand, are made of cardboard and paper and ink. They are made for profits (pun absolutely intended). These books are not manna from heaven. They are manufactured here on Earth and there is nothing sacred about their physical presence. Whatever “sacredness” there may be in holy books can, like little Nora, survive a sniper’s bullet. If it cannot, then it is most assuredly the creation of men, not of gods.
To seal his apology at Radhwaniya, Gen. Hammond ordered a soldier to kiss a new copy of the Quran and present it to the community. That done, he assured them, “I have punished this soldier. [He] has lost the honor to serve the United States Army and the people of Iraq here in Baghdad.” The soldier was sent home to his family.
Is it any wonder that the Vietnam War lasted for more than a decade and claimed the lives of 58,200 Americans and over two million Vietnamese? During that war, soldiers and marines had to shoot themselves instead of a book in order to lose the “honor” of serving the U.S. military and the people of Vietnam and get sent home to their families.
With that in mind, consider this proposal for a “holey” workable Iraq peace plan: Mothers write to your son, wives to your husband, and kids to your dad. Beg him to drill a few 7.62 holes into a holy book of his choice, turning it into an instrument of peace. Have him respectfully submit this symbol of peace to his commanding officer with a notarized photograph to the unit chaplain or local imam. He will no longer be allowed to “serve” the people of Iraq and will be safely home in a week. The war will be over by Christmas.
It seems unlikely that either the Peaceful Prophet of Islam or the Prince of Peace of Christianity will have a problem with 140,000 holey holy books if it means saving twice that many lives and the ending of an immoral war and suffocating occupation.
The Peaceful Prophet said, “Whoever kills a single soul . . . it is as though he had killed all of humanity,” while the Prince of Peace made it clear, “Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethrens, ye have done it unto me.”
Neither Prophet nor Prince ever said anything about “killing” a book. It is the “living testament” that is sacred to them, not something made of cardboard and paper and profits.
ROBERT WEITZEL is a contributing editor to Media With a Conscience. His essays regularly appear in The Capital Times in Madison, WI. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org