FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

War Without End

Ten years ago, in March of 2003, Iraqis braced themselves for the anticipated “Shock and Awe” attacks that the U.S. was planning to launch against them.  The media buildup for the attack assured Iraqis that barbarous assaults were looming. I was living in Baghdad at the time, along with other Voices in the Wilderness activists determined to remain in Iraq, come what may.  We didn’t want U.S. – led military and economic war to sever bonds that had grown between ourselves and Iraqis who had befriended us over the past seven years.  Since 1996, we had traveled to Iraq numerous times, carrying medicines for children and families there, in open violation of the economic sanctions which directly targeted the most vulnerable people in Iraqi society, – the poor, the elderly, and the children.

I still feel haunted by children and their heartbroken mothers and fathers whom we met in Iraqi hospitals.

“I think I understand,” murmured my friend Martin Thomas, a nurse from the U.K., as he sat in a pediatric ward in a Baghdad hospital in 1997, trying to comprehend the horrifying reality. “It’s a death row for infants.”  Nearly all of the children were condemned to death, some after many days of writhing in pain on bloodstained mats, without pain relievers. Some died quickly, wasted by water-borne diseases. As the fluids ran out of their bodies, they appeared like withered, spoiled fruits. They could have lived, certainly should have lived – and laughed and danced, and run and played- but instead they were brutally and lethally punished by economic sanctions supposedly intended to punish a dictatorship over which civilians had no control.

The war ended for those children, but it has never ended for survivors who carry memories of them.

Likewise, the effects of the U.S. bombings continue, immeasurably and indefensibly.

Upon arrival in Baghdad, we would always head to the Al Fanar hotel which had housed scores of previous delegations.

Often, internationals like us were the hotel’s only clients during the long years when economic sanctions choked Iraq’s economy and erased their infrastructure.  But in early March of 2003, rooms were filling quickly at the Al Fanar. The owner invited his family members and some of his neighbors and their children to move in, perhaps hoping that the U.S. wouldn’t attack a residence known to house internationals.

Parents in Iraq name themselves after their oldest child. Abu Miladah, the father of two small girls, Miladah and Zainab, was the hotel’s night desk clerk. He arranged for his wife, Umm Miladah, to move with their two small daughters into the hotel. Umm Miladah warmly welcomed us to befriend her children.  It was a blessed release to laugh and play with the children, and somehow our antics and games seemed at least to distract Umm Miladah  from her rising anxiety as we waited for the U.S. to rain bombs and missiles down on us.

kellyiraq

U.S. Marines occupy Baghdad, in March 2003, in front of the Al Fanar hotel that housed Voices activists throughout the Shock and Awe bombing. Photo: Iraq Peace Team.

When the attacks began, Umm Miladah could often be seen uncontrollably shuddering from fear.  Day and night, explosions would rattle the windows and cause the Al Fanar’s walls to shake.  Ear-splitting blasts and sickening thuds would come from all directions, near and far, over the next two weeks.   I would often hold Miladah, who was age 3, and Zainab, her baby sister of 1 ½ years, in my arms.  That’s how I realized that they both had begun to grind their teeth, morning, noon and night.  Several times, we witnessed eight year old Dima; the daughter of another hotel worker, gazing up in forlorn shame at her father from a pool of her own urine, having lost control of her bladder in the first days of “Shock and Awe.”

And after weeks, when the bombing finally ended, when we could exhale a bit, realizing we had all survived, I was eager to take Miladah and Zainab outside.  I wanted them to feel the sun’s warmth, but first I headed over to their mother, wanting to know if she felt it was all right for me to step out with her children.

She was seated in the hotel lobby, watching the scene outside.  U.S. Marines were uncurling large bales of barbed wire to set up a check point immediately outside our hotel. Beige military jeeps, Armored Personnel Carriers, tanks and Humvees lined the streets in each direction.  Tears were streaming down Umm Miladah’s face.  “Never before did I think that this would happen to my country,” she said.  “And I feel very sad.  And this sadness, — I think, it will never go away.”

She was a tragic prophet.

The war had just ended for those killed during the “Shock and Awe” bombing and invasion, and it was to abruptly end for many thousands killed in the ensuing years of military occupation and civil war.  But it won ‘t end for the survivors.

Effects go on immeasurably and indefensibly.

Effects of war continue for the 2.2 million people who’ve been displaced by bombing and chaos, whose livelihoods are irreparably destroyed, and who’ve become refugees in other countries, separated from loved ones and unlikely to ever reclaim the homes and communities from which they had to flee hastily. Within Iraq, an estimated 2.8 million internally displaced people live, according to Refugees International, “in constant fear, with limited access to shelter, food, and basic services.”

The war hasn’t ended for people who are survivors of torture or for those who were following orders by becoming torturers.

Nor has it ended for the multiple generations of U.S. taxpayers who will continue paying for a war which economists Linda Bilmes and Joseph Stiglitz have so far priced at 4 trillion dollars.

For Bradley Manning, whose brave empathy exposed criminal actions on the part of U.S. warlords complicit in torture, death squads and executions, the war most certainly isn’t over.  He lives as an isolated war hero and whistle-blower, facing decades or perhaps life in prison.

The war may never end  for veterans who harbor physical and emotional wounds that will last until they die. On March  19th, on the 10 Year Anniversary of the Shock and Awe invasion, members of Iraq Veterans Against the War, joined by the Center for Constitutional Rights and other activist groups will gather in front of the White House in Washington, D.C. to launch an initiative claiming their right to heal.  Rightfully, they’re calling for health care, accountability, and reparations, and just as rightfully, they’re calling for our support.

A civilized country would heed their call.  A civilized country would demand heartfelt reparations to the people of Iraq and cease to interfere in their internal affairs, would secure freedom and official praise for whistleblowers like Bradley Manning , and would rapidly begin to liberate itself from subservience to warlords and war profiteers.  Gandhi was once asked, “What do you think of western civilization?” And famously, he answered, “I think it would be a good idea.”

Kathy Kelly (Kathy@vcnv.org) co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence (www.vcnv.org)

This article first appeared on wagingnonviolence.org

 

More articles by:

KATHY KELLY co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence and has worked closely with the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers. She is the author of Other Lands Have Dreams published by CounterPunch / AK Press. She can be reached at: Kathy@vcnv.org 

September 20, 2018
Michael Hudson
Wasting the Lehman Crisis: What Was Not Saved Was the Economy
John Pilger
Hold the Front Page, the Reporters are Missing
Kenn Orphan
The Power of Language in the Anthropocene
Paul Cox – Stan Cox
Puerto Rico’s Unnatural Disaster Rolls on Into Year Two
Rajan Menon
Yemen’s Descent Into Hell: a Saudi-American War of Terror
Russell Mokhiber
Nick Brana Says Dems Will Again Deny Sanders Presidential Nomination
Nicholas Levis
Three Lessons of Occupy Wall Street, With a Fair Dose of Memory
Steve Martinot
The Constitutionality of Homeless Encampments
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
The Aftershocks of the Economic Collapse Are Still Being Felt
Jesse Jackson
By Enforcing Climate Change Denial, Trump Puts Us All in Peril
George Wuerthner
Coyote Killing is Counter Productive
Mel Gurtov
On Dealing with China
Dean Baker
How to Reduce Corruption in Medicine: Remove the Money
September 19, 2018
Bruce E. Levine
When Bernie Sold Out His Hero, Anti-Authoritarians Paid
Lawrence Davidson
Political Fragmentation on the Homefront
George Ochenski
How’s That “Chinese Hoax” Treating You, Mr. President?
Cesar Chelala
The Afghan Morass
Chris Wright
Three Cheers for the Decline of the Middle Class
Howard Lisnoff
The Beat Goes On Against Protest in Saudi Arabia
Nomi Prins 
The Donald in Wonderland: Down the Financial Rabbit Hole With Trump
Jack Rasmus
On the 10th Anniversary of Lehman Brothers 2008: Can ‘IT’ Happen Again?
Richard Schuberth
Make Them Suffer Too
Geoff Beckman
Kavanaugh in Extremis
Jonathan Engel
Rather Than Mining in Irreplaceable Wilderness, Why Can’t We Mine Landfills?
Binoy Kampmark
Needled Strawberries: Food Terrorism Down Under
Michael McCaffrey
A Curious Case of Mysterious Attacks, Microwave Weapons and Media Manipulation
Elliot Sperber
Eating the Constitution
September 18, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Britain: the Anti-Semitism Debate
Tamara Pearson
Why Mexico’s Next President is No Friend of Migrants
Richard Moser
Both the Commune and Revolution
Nick Pemberton
Serena 15, Tennis Love
Binoy Kampmark
Inconvenient Realities: Climate Change and the South Pacific
Martin Billheimer
La Grand’Route: Waiting for the Bus
John Kendall Hawkins
Seymour Hersh: a Life of Adversarial Democracy at Work
Faisal Khan
Is Israel a Democracy?
John Feffer
The GOP Wants Trumpism…Without Trump
Kim Ives
The Roots of Haiti’s Movement for PetroCaribe Transparency
Dave Lindorff
We Already Have a Fake Billionaire President; Why Would We want a Real One Running in 2020?
Gerry Brown
Is China Springing Debt Traps or Throwing a Lifeline to Countries in Distress?
Pete Tucker
The Washington Post Really Wants to Stop Ben Jealous
Dean Baker
Getting It Wrong Again: Consumer Spending and the Great Recession
September 17, 2018
Melvin Goodman
What is to be Done?
Rob Urie
American Fascism
Patrick Cockburn
The Adults in the White House Trying to Save the US From Trump Are Just as Dangerous as He Is
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
The Long Fall of Bob Woodward: From Nixon’s Nemesis to Cheney’s Savior
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail