Friday, September 07, 2007


I don't know how to feel.

"Riverbend," an Iraqi woman whose blog I have read since the start of the war, years before I joined the Army even, is gone. She is now a refugee in Syria, having chosen to flee her home in Baghdad like millions of others. She can no longer accept the way things are in her homeland, regardless of what we try to tell ourselves. No matter what we say about the good we're doing over here, this woman's testimony is a seething incrimination of all the ways in which we have failed her.

I'm confused. I should be happy for this woman--I've read and enjoyed her work for so long, and I've worried for her safety when the posts dwindled and eventually almost stopped. I prayed--as much as someone like me is capable of praying--that things would improve for her sake. I should be happy that, at long last, she and her family have found safety outside of Iraq, at a time when our ally Jordan and even our own government are denying Iraqi refugees asylum by the truckload.. I should be happy that at last, she can fall asleep next to her husband and not fear raids from either Shiite death-squads or even my fellow soldiers.

And, all I feel is a profound sadness.

Why is this?

Should I not congratulate her? Should I not be happy for her children, who now need no longer fear the mortars that even now disturb my sleep? Why do I feel only sorrow at what should be a small moment of relief for one innocent in this conflict?

But then I remember: this is our fault. This is my fault. This woman--funny and passionate and possessed of better English skills than most of my fellow soldiers--had to leave her home behind because WE--with our "war on terror" and our goddamned criminal lack of empathy for any country not white enough or Christian enough for our sensitive tastes--WE caused this. We uprooted this woman's life, killed her relatives, tore her family asunder. WE made it so that she, a secular Sunni, could no longer leave her home without wearing a hijab and being accompanied by at least one male relative, for fear of being targeted for her failure to practice "good Islam."

Don't tell me that the terrorists did this. They may have been the bullet, but we were the powder. Regardless of whatever horrors they have committed, the ultimate blame rests with us. The death, the starvation, the crumbling infrastructure. Our leaders knew the risks--going as far back as the 1990s. Our leaders persuaded the public. Our leaders have convinced us, time and time again, to just "give it six more months." We're the ones who went in, ignorant of the culture and history of another people, and destroyed it. Like SHEEP, we have gone where they wanted us to go, even if it leads to the slaughter.

So don't tell me that the terrorists did this.

We appointed every Interior Ministry death-squad assassin.
We provided every unaccounted-for weapon and round.
We pulled every trigger.
We launched every bomb.
We shot every child.

For a long time, I justified to myself that, by contributing to this war effort, by maintaining the force infrastructure so necessary to our cause, I might have been able to help good people such as Riverbend. I told myself that, more than anyone else in my own country, I might be doing my small part to help keep her safe. And now she's gone. She's left. So now what am I fighting for?

River, be safe. I hope that now you will be able to pick up the peaces of your life. I pray that one day you will return, and perhaps even forgive us.