“How Did The Missile Choose Us?”
Pages from an Iraq Journal

by Ed Kinane

Editor’s Note: Below are selections from Ed’s October journals. You can read more at <www.peacecouncil.net>.

Ed works with Voices in the Wilderness in Iraq. He returned there in August to experience the US “liberation” firsthand. Voices is a grassroots network based in Chicago that relays the voices of the Iraqi people back to the US. Ed will return home to Syracuse by mid-November. Contact SPC to arrange to have Ed speak to your group.

Rabia Healaa tells us that on April 7 his home in Baghdad was hit by a missile. Although the missile destroyed the house, no one was injured – the family was out having lunch at a relative’s.
As Rabia talks a large tear makes its way down his face. He shows us photos of his family amid the rubble. In one photo he holds a small section of the missile. Rabia has tried to get compensation from the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) – but so far, five months later, no luck.
We explain that Voices in the Wilderness (Voices) isn’t a relief organization. But we agree to survey the damage and report it to our networks back home. We then go to what was his home. From the street there’s nothing of the house to be seen; the rubble is invisible behind a wall. Houses on either side don’t appear to be damaged.
Going inside, we meet Rabia’s wife, Nejat, and several of his children, girls ranging in age from 15 to 4: Dunia, Lena, Dina, and Zahara. They are Muslims in a Christian neighborhood. Rabia asks, “How did the missile choose us?”
In the one room left structurally intact, shrapnel has pocked the wall. Pieces of the missile are dug out of the rubble for us. They feel unnaturally heavy.
Out on the courtyard pavement, their improvised “kitchen” is smaller than my desk. Neighbors provide their water and electricity. Their heaters were destroyed and they are anxious because winter is coming. They sleep in the open in spaces cleared from the rubble.
Rabia’s mother Hela arrives. She is dressed entirely in black. She talks passionately: “All America has done is increase our poverty.” One of her other sons was executed by Saddam in 1988 during the Iran-Iraq war. He reported for duty a month late. The family had to pay 25 dinars (then worth US$75) to defray the cost of the bullets that killed him.
As we part I tell the family I’m ashamed of what the US government has done to them. Outside I tell Rabia his children are beautiful. He says, “I was very happy, but now all happiness has disappeared.”

On Sunday two tall men, identically dressed in black turbans and black gowns, come to our door. They look like princes, with noble noses and neatly trimmed full beards. They should have falcons on their wrists.
One, Sayed Adnan, is our friend Salam’s brother. The other is Sayed Fadhel. “Sayed” is a religious title. Both men are from Hillah, a Shia holy city in the South.
Fortunately Haythem – a non-Shia – soon shows up. Immediately, he runs next door and brings back cans of cold Pepsi for the two men. With his gravitas, in situations like this he makes the ideal translator.
The men hand us a two-page “Call of Peace” from their spiritual/political leader, Sayed Muktade Al-Sadur. It begins: “What happened to you – the supporters and the followers of the Christ (peace be upon him). What happened to you – the followers who love peace, what happened to you …”
Because our visitors have met other Voices folks before through Salam, they say – Salam’s brother does almost all the talking - they feel comfortable with us. They say we are the first to get their message.
They invite us to Al-Sadur’s press conference at 1 pm Monday in Najaf and to their demonstration on Friday in Hillah. They ask if we can inform the Pope about their message. Since they can’t leave Iraq, they want the Pope to come and talk with them. They agree to Cathy’s offer to set up an appointment with the Papal Nuncio here.
Muktade Al-Sadur will announce Monday that he has established a shadow government opposing the CPA, one supported by some members of the Governing Council. The two men see both the CPA and its appointed Governing Council as illegal. The CPA “has brought only a fabricated freedom, a freedom of expression but not a freedom of action.”
The CPA has distributed notices in Hillah saying it will punish unpermitted demonstrations. Since Muktade won’t legitimize the CPA by seeking its permission, Friday’s demo will be unpermitted. Sayed Adnan expects the US forces will attack.
We tell them Voices is dedicated to nonviolence and that we don’t work with those using violence. We ask about their stance on nonviolence. Not hearing an answer to the question, we re-ask it later in the conversation.
They then say they respect Jesus’ statement about turning the other cheek. They say that violence would only be used as a last resort. They ask, “Why should we keep our blood in our bodies?” After one of us says that we believe life is sacred, they say, “Not every life is sacred under all circumstances. Life is sacred if it serves humanity.”
“In the US you have groups for animal rights, but none to protest Saddam’s killings. The invasion leaves nothing for us to feel our humanity. We’ve tried various nonviolent approaches, but it’s useless.”
Sayed Adnan gets out of his seat, crosses over to Cynthia, and takes her handbag. “Now, what are you going to do?” he challenges, brandishing his cane. Cynthia says, “You may keep the bag.” Cynthia doesn’t press the point, but a few minutes later goes over and gently says to him, “May I have my bag?” She reaches over and takes it back.
We mention that various folks in Voices have gone to prison for our nonviolent resistance to the US government. Sayed Adnan says, “Prison for us isn’t enough. Some of us were put in acid. When I was in prison, like thousands of others, they gave me injections that sterilized me…”

In an article I wrote a few weeks ago, I asked which was the wilderness: Iraq or the US? (see the October issue of the Peace Newsletter). Of course, in their own way both are wildernesses.
The CPA has 10,000 detainees. By contrast, the US, a country only ten times as populous as Iraq, has a million detainees. Iraq is occupied by foreign military. The US is occupied by a domestic military and police machine. This machine abuses human rights and chills democratic initiative both internationally and domestically.
Elements within Iraq vigorously resist the Occupation. In the US the Occupation is vastly far more successful and systematic. It is vastly more subliminal and entrenched. Read, for example, Herbert Marcuse’s classic, One Dimensional Man.
The last presidential election was really a coup. Our civil rights are methodically eroded. Why? For the corporate exploitation of US labor, land and resources. For the control of the empire.
US people are largely unaware they inhabit an empire. Further, US people are unaware that they themselves are colonized.
Some US activists come to Iraq to “help”; better that we use the opportunity to resist the same empire colonizing ourselves.