Dying For The Lie

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During the “Independence Dayâ€? celebration, the other day I experienced a sort of “twilight zoneâ€? moment. Like most everyone, I found myself observing the fireworks that are so traditional on the 4th of July. Sure, I had looked at fireworks before.     

But this year, as I watched the display of firecrackers streaking and shooting into the sky, I was haunted by the lie of American democracy. For some strange reason, as I gazed at the flaming colors, especially the streaks of red, I heard these words ringing in my head “and the rockets red glare the bombs bursting in air.â€? Simultaneously, I thought of the question reggae singer Ikabah poses: “Can anything good come from a nation of warmongers?â€? And as I pondered this question, the awful contrasts became quite clear, as I analyzed the throngs of revelers before me.     

For, while people were here eating and drinking, 3,000 miles away the Iraqis were starving and dying. And in every blast, amid the cheering mob, I heard the cries of the 50,000 to 100,000 Iraqis blown to bits. In every red streak of fireworks I saw the blood of all those killed by lies orchestrated in the Washington D.C. “situation roomâ€? and at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. And I thought of the all misery they have caused and are causing. And I wondered about the conscience—or lack thereof—of the American people. Why do they celebrate the hate their leaders dictate that is crushing any chance for peace in our world?    

Then I looked at the little girls walking under the protective gazes of their mothers and fathers, and my mind’s eye saw the rape and murder of 15 year-old Abeer Qasim Hamza, on March 12 in the Iraqi town of Mahmoudiya by American soldiers. That crime apparently was perpetrated by Pfc. Steven D. Green, 21, and four other members of the 502nd Infantry. One soldier reportedly has already confessed to his role in the crime. Green has been charged and is facing death if found guilty of the murder charge.     

He will be tried by the federal government since he is no longer a soldier. The victim’s body was burned in an attempt to conceal the most unspeakable of crimes. The girl’s mother, father and seven-year old sister were all shot to death, while two brothers were attending school. One eyewitness, Omar Janabi, a neighbor of the victims stated that the victim’s mother, Fakhriyah, had expressed to him that her daughter was receiving unwanted advances from U.S. soldiers manning a checkpoint that the teenage girl walked through everyday. Janabi said he went to the home of the victims after the attack and “found Abeer sprawled dead in a corner, her hair and a pillow next to her consumed by fire and her dress pushed up to her neck. I was sure from the first glance that she had been rapedâ€? he stated.  In an affidavit filed by FBI special agent Gregor J. Ahlers, Green and the others changed their clothes before committing the crimes in their hope of avoiding detection. One soldier who is cooperating with authorities said that after the rape of Abeer, Green came to the others and said “I just killed them. All are dead.â€? I can’t help but wondered how many more of these outrages have occurred undiscovered? Because, if a few soldiers hadn’t confessed, would we have ever heard about this war crime?

For, in war uncivilized behavior is a norm that can’t be sanitized or rationalized by terms like “isolated incident.� For isn’t the massacre at Haditha an extension of Fallujah? Still, how many realized that over 600 innocent civilians were killed in Fallujah? Do they think that only Americans grieve for their loved ones?

I then thought of the specious spectacle, with all the trappings of phony patriotism before me. Then I looked at all those cars with the ribbons claiming to “support the troops� while a new breed of war veterans are returning with physical and psychological trauma and scars. And now we hear that thousands coming home face the threat of joining the more than 200,000 forgotten homeless American veterans. Yeah, fighting for democracy yet still disenfranchised from owning property. Go figure. “In recent years we have tried to reach out sooner to new veterans who are having problems with post-dramatic stress, depression or substance abuse, after seeing combat,� said Peter Dougherty, head of the Homeless Veterans Program inside the Department of Veteran Affairs. “These are the veterans who most often end up homeless.� To make matters worse 17 out of every 100,000 Iraq war veterans are now committing suicide.

As I left the scene of apathetic indulgence one more image captured my imagination: the sight of teenage boys lighting their firecrackers. I thought of the president’s statement that the removal of American troops from Iraq would be “decided by future presidents.� So, no doubt more innocent adults and children will continue to die for the lie.

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