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A Grieving Father Protests Iraq War
Published on Tuesday, December 2, 2003 by the San Diego Union-Tribune
A Grieving Father Protests Iraq War
by Logan Jenkins

Fernando Suarez del Solar of Escondido, center, jokes with an Iraqi boy while Anabelle Valencia of Tucson, Az, looks on as they arrive in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday Dec 1.

Giving peace a chance

On its Web site, Global Exchange, a human-rights group based in San Francisco, suggests nine activities for peace activists desiring U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.

Here's the to-do list (along with my parenthetical remarks):

1. Phone your elected representatives. (Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham and Rep. Duncan Hunter, Iraq hawks, await your call.)

2. Connect with the peace movement. (Google "peace groups" and you'll find hundreds of organizations. I was intrigued by "Code Pink" and the prophetic-sounding "Voices in the Wilderness.")

3. Demand books, not bombs. (Alliteration is a deadly rhetorical weapon when waging war against anything, including war.)

4. Write a letter to the editor. (Hints: Brevity is the key to unlock the flinty hearts of editors. Best to challenge a specific assertion in a story/column; a sense of humor, even if mordant, helps.)

5. Ask for an Iraqi Victims Fund. (Congress is no doubt dying to put this bottomless budget item on the fast track. Slogan: Make debt, not war.)

6. Organize a vigil. (Make sure it's in a public place. Unlike real vigils, peace vigils are not about you.)

7. Learn about the history of American colonialism. (National guilt is the backbone of peace.)

8. E-mail a friend. (You may lose Bush-loving buddies, but there are casualties in every war.)

9. Distribute fliers. (No need to bake from scratch. Copy is available at So there you have the nine things to do.

However, Global Exchange left out the 10th, the crowning achievement, so to speak. Here it is:

Like Fernando Suarez del Solar, go to Baghdad.

December 1- If all goes according to plan, Fernando Suarez del Solar of Escondido landed in Amman, Jordan, and was driven into Baghdad today. With 10 other delegates, he'll be taken under the wing of the International Occupation Watch Center, a peace group operating in Baghdad.

The mission? Show the Iraqi people that some Americans with military ties – three of the visiting group are veterans; five have family members on duty in Iraq – are dead set against the occupation.

While the other visitors have their own reasons for entering a war zone, Suarez del Solar is a special case.

He is the peace movement's poster father.

An American citizen of modest means (his time-consuming anti-war activities cost him jobs at an Escondido printing shop), Suarez del Solar has opened his broken heart to reporters; he's pushed to the front of local anti-war rallies; he's delivered his message in Spain and Washington, D.C.

The Baghdad trip, paid for by donations, is clearly dangerous, but the actuarial risk may be subject to hyperbole. San Diegans probably have an overheated view of Iraq as revealed through the lens of CNN.

The cameras don't seek out the pockets of relative safety where, one hopes, Suarez del Solar will find Iraqi companions in personal desolation.

Ever since his son, a Camp Pendleton Marine, died outside Baghdad, Suarez del Solar has turned mourning into exquisite activism. The camera, an ardent lover of raw, poetic emotion, adores this sad-eyed man who expresses his grief eloquently in both Spanish and English.

"The most important part of this mission is to show the people of Iraq that we also cry because of this war," he said in Spanish to San Diego Union-Tribune reporter Daniel J. Chacón.

During his Iraq stay, he intends to go to the exact spot where his son, Lance Cpl. Jesus Suarez del Solar, died after an American bomb detonated by accident. Like a parent who erects wooden crosses beside a road or goes on a pilgrimage to the World Trade Center, he wants to consecrate the place. He wants to scoop his hands into the earth and bring dirt back to his son's grave in Escondido.

The ticklish question is hard to ask, hard to answer: Do "peace delegations" give aid and comfort to the anti-American terrorists, who want nothing more than a U.S. retreat?

That question remains open. In the murk of Iraq, nothing is clear. Was President Bush's top-secret flight to Baghdad a gesture of strength or weakness? Or both?

What is clear is that a father is offering his grief as a Christmas gift. His Jesus died so others might live, he believes. "He is like a seed we come to plant," he said as his son was buried in the spring.

Love him or leave him, Suarez del Solar is our knight of the sad countenance, as Don Quixote was called.

In Iraq, a land riddled with bombs and bullets, let's hope his tears will not be lost, or murdered, in translation.

© Copyright 2003 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.


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