Pt. 2, AN APPEAL FOR JUSTICE FROM A BLACK MAN IN BAGHDAD
War is possible due largely to the dehumanizing of the act of killing. Iraquis are classed together as being a singular evil person, but they are fellow human beings: people who are loving, scared, brave, and intelligent. They share joy, pooetry and music like us. Alyn Ware
Part two: AN APPEAL FOR JUSTICE FROM A BLACK MAN IN BAGHDAD
For example, the surgeon I spoke to in Mosul told me that most children in Iraq now hate the Americans. To them America is Godzilla, a huge screaming flying lizard with flashing red eyes, breath hissing down from the skies spreading fire and destruction. They see Americans as lizard people whom they identify with the planes sent them into shelters night after night last winter, fearing for their lives. His son, having the idea that Americans are devils, was shocked when he heard his father receiving aid from American relief organizations. The boy urged him not to accept their gifts. Still I am absolutely certain that were I to encounter the boy in any situation, he would be courteous to a fault.
Many of us foreigners have traveled extensively throughout Iraq, either alone or in small groups, conspicuous where we have been by our accents,
, skin color, dress, and behavior. We have passed through numerous military checkpoints often in near or near sensitive areas. In every case, the soldiers have been to a man, nothing but professional, though often armed to the teeth. Indeed I feel safer here in Baghdad than I did in Boston where a visit to the wrong neighborhood could attract a racial slur or stray bullet.
Most Americans are not aware of the strong bonds between the Iraqi people and the Un ited States. The two countries have a history of cooperation going back well into the fifties when the Iraqis were coming back and forth to America as students and professionals.
One Iraqi engineer in Jordan tells me that when he was in the University of Denver in the fifties, there were over 3,000 Iraqi students attending school in the area. He says that because of their dark skin, many were mistaken for blacks or Chicanos and treated accordingly. Therefore, he and many others developed close ties with members of the black community with whom they had often shared eating and toilet facilities downtown. Indeed, in Iraq there is a sizable black population, although Iraqis insist that skin color is not a functional variable in their country.
Over a quarter of a million Iraqis now reside in the Detroit area alone in the United States, working in the auto industry as engineers, managers and technicians. Many others lived in Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, New York, Tulsa and even Toledo. Almost every Iraqi I speak to here in Baghdad has a relative or friend in the United States.
Now many countries are refusing to issue visas to Iraqis. Consequently, the Iraqi passion for traveling, for sharing the riches of other cultures is once again being stifled by political circumstances. Whereas the Iraqi people have demonstrated their willingness not to hold travelers to Iraq accountable for the actions of foreign governments, that courtesy is not extended to them in return. The result is insult added to injury.
So it is another hot day in Baghdad. By noon the temperature will have reached 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The electricity may go off sometime in the afternoon at the Hotel Diwan, but it will come back eventually and stay on for the rest of the day. By tomorrow, prices will have risen slightly, excluding gasoline, currently the cheapest commodity in the country.
One year ago this time, I had just returned from a three month photo journalism tour of southern Africa. In that time I had spent 32 days inside South Africa traveling alone, talking to people in various cities and towns and in the townships.
Almost everyone I spoke to share the fear that South Africa had developed chemical and nuclear weapons as a result of technical assistance from Israel. It is already the strongest military force in all of Africa. No one inside or outside South Africa doubts that South Africa would use the full might of its military capabilities to quell any real threat from its black population. The fact that the United States has tolerated and even condoned the development of this militaristic creature is of utmost concern to all parties struggling for liberation in that country.
South Africa is guilty of everything Iraq has been accused of, including breeching the borders and threatening the sovereignty of a neighboring country. Its record of human rights abuses dwarfs that of any country on earth. The number of political prisoners languishing in its prisons is second only to the overall Black prison population in the United States. Three quarters of South Africa's population cannot vote and are regarded as non-citizens solely on the basis of the color of their skin. So why hasn't the United States moved against South Africa? Why haven't the same kind of sanctions applied to Iraq been applied to South Africa? Why not deprive South African citizens of food and medicine in their country, and then bomb them and rebomb them until they either change their system or die trying. After all, is that not what we want the Iraqis to do?
One answer to the above set of questions is that it is inhuman to make war against a population when political remedies are available. Successive presidential administrations in the United States have stuck to a programme of constructive engagement aimed at inflicting minimal damage on the infrastructure of South Africa while enticing it towards slow but meaningful political change. So why not the same policy toward Iraq?
And why bomb Iraq again? Why rebomb a country that is at this very moment losing infants to typhoid, gastroenteritis and other diseases as a result of sanction imposed by thirty countries? Why rebomb a country that has already felt the
blasts of 109,000 tons of bombs? Why rebomb a country that withdrew from Kuwait, had its retreating army slaughtered from the air, and has accepted the most humiliating set of ceasefire restrictions ever imposed on one nation? Why rebomb one country when everything it is accused of is being perpetrated daily by at least two other countries, both of which are guilty of international infractions far larger than those committed by the country about to be rebombed?
I know that General Colin Powell opposed the initial buildup of offensive forces in the Arabian Gulf. Having read excerpts from Bob Woodward's book, "The Commanders",
I have learned that he questioned the president's motives and at first argued against George Bush, a mean white man bent on punishing a people whom he probably thinks are "uppity". As a black man I know what Colin must have felt, what any Black man feels when called to wield the whip against his brother. He must have felt revulsion. Yet he did what he felt he had to do and he will most likely do it again. For such the yoke we must carry for now.
But how many times can we be called upon to do the bidding of a people who have fallen prey to the idea of hate? How many times can we march off and slaughter decent human beings without thought of long term impact on the idea of God as love.
Previously we might have been accused of striking out in anger and in anger there is some measure of innocence. But now, before the eyes of the world, our actions can only be deemed deliberate, full of pretense and premeditated.
Therefore all deaths that are the direct or indirect result of military actions started or initiated by the United States on or after 25 July 1991, whether the dead be pilots or children, soldiers or civilians, their deaths must be considered murder in the plainest sense of the word.
So I close this appeal with an appeal for restraint, for mercy from the great nation of America, stumbling around now like a mad giant lost in the dust of its own desert storm.
BE STILL GREAT BEAST!
Listen to the voices of the humble people, those whom you robbed and enslaved,
Those who in turn gave you the idea of freedom and justice for all.
Hear the beat of our drums in the cold Dakotas as we flee the long knives. Feel our fear as we run to escape your hunting dogs, not sure of where we are running to, all too sure of the slavery we are running from Know now, that we ain't gonna run no more.
Know mad and angry giant that we do not seek to hurt you that we simply seek to heal you because your power has made you sick. Just do not strike us. Do not kill us, your brothers.
Sit down blind giant. Have some tea. Enjoy the sweet aroma of Turkish coffee. You are safe here even though you have come to make war. All guests are welcome to the house of God.
Stop the screaming planes before they take off, and listen to the soft voices of children here. They call on you for mercy. Please feel the gentle hands of their fate. They will guide you.
Listen to the wailing wind and watch the date palms sway in the summer heat. Yes, it is too hot to fight. Why bother with war when the cool peace makes your angry sweat disappear?
Come hear crazed giant. I will comfort you. I was taught to love mine enemy. Yes, you have forgotten that lesson, but since you have taught me so much, it is the least I can do to teach this lesson to you in return. There will be no makeup test tomorrow.
The blood red sun sets daily over Baghdad. The cold fingers of dawn they fold themselves into the west to become the new twilight.
Rest under the stars of the martyrs, great tired beast.
And don't worry
They died so you can sleep and not worry
So sleep great beast
While the rest of the world watches over you.
And may your dreams bring you
And the people of Iraq
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