[NOTE: This will probably be the last extensive post on the war stuff for a while. I didn’t intend so many all at once, so we’ll try to find some less exhausting conversations in the next few days. In the meantime, please continue to respond to and discuss these posts.]
The more I explore, the more of this I’m finding. I highly recommend you read both of these articles:
First, another former antiwar activist and voluntary human shield leaves Iraq, calling for the removal of Saddam after finding the Iraqi people want war if it means an end to Saddam’s regime. For the suspicious, this is not mainstream American media. Read the article here.
Also, check out this article by Ken Joseph, an Assyrian Christian who went to Baghdad as part of his crusade against the war. What he found there transformed him. He begins:
How do you admit you were wrong? What do you do when you realize those you were defending in fact did not want your defense and wanted something completely different from you and from the world? This is my story. It will probably upset everybody – those with whom I have fought for peace all my life and those for whom the decision for war comes a bit too fast. As a minister and due to my personal convictions I have always been against war for any and all reasons. It was precisely this moral conviction that led me to do all I could to stop the current war in Iraq.
He then explains some of the factors of his Assyrian heritage that contribute to his deep feelings for the people of his homeland, and describes the warm connections he felt with the Iraqi people as he entered the country and moved among them. Then a startling experience…
The first order of business was to attend Church. It was here where my morals were raked over the coals and I was first forced to examine them in the harsh light of reality. … Sitting next to me was an older man who carefully began to sound me out. Apparently feeling the freedom to talk in the midst of the mingling crowd he suddenly turned to me and said `There is something you should know.` `What` I asked surprised at the sudden comment. `We didn’t want to be here tonight`. he continued. `When the Priest asked us to gather for a Peace Service we said we didn’t want to come`. He said. `What do you mean` I inquired, confused. `We didn’t want to come because we don’t want peace` he replied. `What in the world do you mean?` I asked. `How could you not want peace?` `We don’t want peace. We want the war to come` he continued. What in the world are you talking about? I blurted back. That was the beginning of a strange odyssey that deeply shattered my convictions and moral base but at the same time gave me hope for my people and, in fact, hope for the world. Beginning that night and continuing on in the private homes of relatives with whom I stayed little by little the scales began to come off my eyes.
I can’t say conclusively, but I have reason to suspect that the church and priest he mentions are the ones referenced by the American Christian in the previous post. He then explains that, by some accident, fluke, or Divine intervention, he wasn’t assigned a government “minder” as is custom for all foreign visitors. As far as he could tell, he was the only foreigner among all those he encountered (including media, activists, “human shields,” etc.) who wasn’t accompanied by a government “minder” (who arrange all interviews, visits and contact with ordinary Iraqis) at all times.
…I was told that I could most help the Assyrian cause by going out and telling the story to the outside world. Simply put, those living in Iraq, the common, regular people are in a living nightmare. From the terror that would come across the faces of my family at a unknown visitor, telephone call, knock at the door I began to realize the horror they lived with every day. Over and over I questioned them `Why could you want war? Why could any human being desire war?` They’re answer was quiet and measured. `Look at our lives! `We are living like animals. No food, no car, no telephone, no job and most of all no hope.`
I wept with family members as I shared their pain and with great difficulty and deep soul searching began little by little to understand their desire for war to finally rid them of the nightmare they were living in. `Life is hell. We have no hope. But everything will be ok once the war is over.` The bizarre desire for a war that would rid them of the hopelessness was at best hard to understand. `Look at it this way. No matter how bad it is we will not all die. We have hoped for some other way but nothing has worked. 12 years ago it went almost all the way but failed. We cannot wait anymore. We want the war and we want it now.` Coming back to family members and telling them of progress in the talks at the United Nations on working some sort of compromise with Iraq I was welcomed not with joy but anger. `No, there is no other way! We want the war! It is the only way he will get out of our lives`
It sounds crazy, but these are desperate people with a desperate hope.
Of course nobody wanted to be bombed but the first sight of the American B29 Bombers signaled to them that the war was coming to an end. An end was in sight. There would be terrible destruction. They might very well die but finally in a tragic way there was finally hope.
Joseph’s discoveries led him to reconsider his mission, and he challenged others to do the same.
Here I had been demonstrating against the war thinking I had been doing it for the very people I was here now with and yet I had not ever bothered to ask them what they wanted. What they wanted me to do. It was clear now what I should do. I began to talk to the so called `human shields`. Have you asked the people here what they want? Have you talked to regular people, away from your `minder` and asked them what they want? I was shocked at the response. `We don’t need to do that. We know what they want.` was the usual reply before a minder stepped up to check who I was. With tears streaming down my face in my bed in a tiny house in Baghdad crowded in with 10 other of my own flesh and blood, all exhausted after another day of not living but existing without hope, exhausted in daily struggle simply to not die I had to say to myself `I was wrong`. How dare I claim to speak for those for whom I had never asked what they wanted!
Joseph then began to use his video camera to capture the new truth he was encountering.
Carefully and with great risk, not just for me but most of all for those who told their story and opened up their homes for the camera I did my best to tape their plight as honestly and simply as I could. Wanting to make sure I was not simply getting the feelings of a long oppressed minority – the Assyrians – I spoke to dozens of people. What I was not prepared for was the sheer terror they felt at speaking out. Over and over again I would be told `We would be killed for speaking like this` and finding out that they would only speak in a private home or where they were absolutely sure through the introduction of another Iraqi that I was not being attended by a minder. From a former member of the Army to a person working with the police to taxi drivers to store owners to mothers to government officials without exception when allowed to speak freely the message was the same – `Please bring on the war. We are ready. We have suffered long enough. We may lose our lives but some of us will survive and for our children’s sake please, please end our misery.’
Joseph also addresses the attitude of the Iraqi people toward the coalition nations.
But what of their feelings towards the United States and Britain? Those feelings are clearly mixed. They have no love for the British or the Americans but they trust them. `We are not afraid of the American bombing. They will bomb carefully and not purposely target the people. What we are afraid of is Saddam Hussein and what he and the Baath Party will do when the war begins. But even then we want the war. It is the only way to escape our hell. Please tell them to hurry. We have been through war so many times,but this time it will give us hope`.
The article ends with a compelling story of escaping Iraq with the video tapes he made. I strongly recommend reading the entire piece.