Sunday, January 30, 2005

A different Inauguration Day

If I seem to have Inauguration Day on my mind, it's because rituals and symbols are powerful and they matter. I want to share with you a piece by Sister Joan Chittester, whom I have admired for years. Apparently she is living in Ireland these days because she notes what was on the front page in Irish newspapers on January 20. In "What the Rest of the World Watched on Inauguration Day " she writes:

Dublin, on U.S. Inauguration Day, didn't seem to notice. Oh, they played a few clips that night of the American president saying, "The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands."

But that was not their lead story.

The picture on the front page of The Irish Times was a large four-color picture of a small Iraqi girl. Her little body was a coil of steel. She sat knees up, cowering, screaming madly into the dark night. Her white clothes and spread hands and small tight face were blood-spattered. The blood was the blood of her father and mother, shot through the car window in Tal Afar by American soldiers while she sat beside her parents in the car, her four brothers and sisters in the back seat.

A series of pictures of the incident played on the inside page, as well. A 12-year-old brother, wounded in the fray, falls face down out of the car when the car door opens, the pictures show. In another, a soldier decked out in battle gear, holds a large automatic weapon on the four children, all potential enemies, all possible suicide bombers, apparently, as they cling traumatized to one another in the back seat and the child on the ground goes on screaming in her parent's blood.

A few days ago, someone sent me an email full of pictures of the hardships American servicepeople undergo with the instruction: "Support our troops because they are protecting our freedom". Here's what I wrote back:

If anything those pictures should convince us of the horrors of war and make us work more than ever to BRING OUR TROOPS HOME. They are not “protecting our freedom” The Iraqis never threatened our freedom in any way. We attacked them entirely without provocation based on out and out lies thereby instigating a precedent-breaking doctrine for United States foreign policy known as “pre-emptive war”. They did not have weapons of mass destruction and even if they did, so do we. Does that give other nations the right to attack us? They had nothing to do with 9-11 and any suggestion that they did is simply a lie. They were not Muslim extremists – they were a secular state and Saddam had only contempt for Bin Laden. Yes, Saddam was a brutal dictator but there are plenty of those in the world; are we to attack them all? We attacked them to steal their oil and to hand obscene profits to Halliburton. If anything the war is only enhancing recruitment efforts for militant extremists who, because of the instability in Iraq due to our invasion, are now streaming into the country, and who, by the way, hate our policies, not our freedom. Anyway, this administration is doing its level best to take away all our freedoms (remember the Bill of Rights that’s been decimated; all except the 2nd amendment that is. I suppose Gonzales thinks that’s also “quaint” the way he thinks the Geneva Conventions are “quaint”). Heck, nothing probably makes the terrorists happier than to see Americans sell their liberty down the river due to fear. I grieve for my country which I love more than I can tell you and of which I am now deeply, deeply ashamed.

I now feel more than ashamed. I don't even have a word for the feeling I have upon reading about that little girl covered in her parents' blood.


  1. Anonymous9:05 PM

    My heart goes out to all those who will be traumatized forever by this incident. For the soldiers, who had to make a split second decision in an area where car bombings occur, and who could probably not see the children in the back seat. They will have to live forever with the knowledge that their split second decision was wrong, and they left five children orphaned. They are obviously caring people in a bad situation as they tried to administer first aid, and assisted in taking the children to the hospital
    For the parents, who were probably so terrified at having soldiers with guns pointed at them that it never occurred to them to stop.
    For the children, who will always have the memory of their parents being murdered before their very eyes, and will always remember having their parents’ blood all over them.
    I wonder how many more innocent people have to die, and how many more innocent people have to be traumatized for the rest of their lives before we say enough and end this. Carolyn L.

  2. Anonymous11:05 PM

    Alas that Sister Joan is right in so many points. Yes, these pictures could change the minds of many, like the picture of the napalmed child in Vietnam. She is also right that they were not seen in the US due to our very heavily censored press and the fact that the big 3 news networks all belong to large corporations that support the Bush administration. While I cannot "support our troops", I can pray for them and offer compassion. Marilyn

  3. Anonymous9:48 AM

    I too have never felt more ashamed of my country; since this last election, I am still dumbfounded that over half of our nation's people have endorsed the current path we are on. And now we are seeing all the news reports about the Iraqui election, further reinforcing the justification for "our" actions. Thanks for providing a space to discuss this most painful subject.It's good to know I am not alone, although I sometimes feel that I am. A. Callaway


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