On Monday and into Tuesday, US-led air strikes in Afghanistan killed more than 100 people, most of them civilians. At least 365 Iraqi civilians died in the cruel month of April. So many were children.
I cannot read about this collateral damage, the chilling, two-word concept contrived to make civilian casualties more acceptable, without thinking of my own children and what I felt and thought when each was born.
Please, don’t ever take him to war.
I had just given birth to my first child whose safety was and still is always on my mind. Same with the second. Please don’t ever take them to war was a plea to the gods or some inscrutable force that either choreographs the universe or naps while it unfolds.
Often, my children have accused me of wanting to envelope them in a protective bubble. I used to answer with paragraphs of anecdotal and scientific evidence to support my neuroses, but, lately, I’ve just uttered a Cheneyesque, “So?” The words I have spoken more than any others to them are “I love you” and “be careful.” I think of all the years of saying this. It’s as if I believed their enunciation had some magic energy that could prevent tragedy.
Do the mothers and wives in the occupied countries of Iraq and Afghanistan have words they use, like mine? Do the women in areas of Pakistan where US drones strike with missiles and bombs? And what about the housewives in Gaza? In late December of 2008 and January of this year, more than 400 Gaza children were killed by Israel Defense Forces (IDF) who acted with the support of most of our Congressmen and women. I wonder if the shell-shocked, grieving, desperate, and despairing housewives/mothers who live in countries blown apart by US savagery say, “I love you. Be careful.” Is this what they cry out or whisper to their husbands and children, hoping that their words will be prayers of protection, insulation against drones, air strikes, ground assaults, suicide bombs, and white phosphorous, the weapons of mass destruction so acute that pervasive depleted uranium becomes less threatening because its effects are chronic?
One night, recently, I turned on the set and landed on Bravo’s mindless bitchfest/schmoozefest, The Real Housewives of New York City, whose “stars” are preoccupied with the Hamptons, tennis, and A-list parties. Who are these people and why would they expose themselves, I thought. And do they ever think of what is being done in their names to the real housewives of war, our sisters in the Middle East whose activities often become deathtraps and whose children, if they survive, will be permanently scarred with a United States hallmark?
When attending weddings or other celebratory gatherings, we aren’t concerned about drone barrages or suicide bombers. No matter where they go or in what activities they allow their children to participate, even remaining in their homes, the real housewives of Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Gaza must always be on alert for an attack, one delivering made-in-the-USA destruction that could kill or maim their children, their husbands, themselves.
Imagine the mothers in Gaza, holding their children close, covering the small bodies with their own to protect them from weapons unleashed by the IDF, weapons developed by US companies and paid for by US tax dollars, weapons that wreak so much civilian carnage that they are banned by international law but employed without consequence by those who decide their use.
Our consciences should throb with shame from invasions where civilian deaths, many of them women and children, are acceptable to our indifferent leadership and a percentage of the electorate, because it is the United States, the Decider Nation, that perpetrates and perpetuates the violence. Our fingerprints are all over the shattered lives.
We must demand an end to the exploitation of those with whom we share this planet. If we continue traveling a trail of blood and tears, we have no right to assume a claim on decency or moral authority. If fact, as long as we allow the choice for war, we have no right to any peace of mind.
Missy Beattie lives in New York City. She’s written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. An outspoken critic of the Bush Administration and the war in Iraq, she’s a member of Gold Star Families for Peace. She completed a novel last year, but since the death of her nephew, Marine Lance Cpl. Chase J. Comley, in Iraq on August 6,’05, she has been writing political articles. She can be reached at: Missybeat@aol.com