Dear Bring Them Home Now Members,
I read of your actions and anguish with pain of my own. Your loved ones in Iraq will never know the Iraq, the people, I love: Mesapotamia, the cradle of civilization. Your loved ones have been lied to and led to destroy something beyond precious. The country that brought the world all we call
civilized: writing, algebra, mathematics, the wheel, the first time piece, the first written laws.
Abraham, father of Christianity, Islam and Judaism was believed born at Ur, where the great ziggurat, built in the mists of time, has been sprayed with graffiti by US soldiers. Abraham is believed to have been suckled on two fingers - one which gave forth milk and the other honey - thus, 'land of milk and honey'. The US army is building a vast base there. Sacrilege for which history will never forgive. 'Bring down their statues and destroy their high places' says the Book of Numbers. A 'Crusade' indeed.
I write in anguish not in anger. You were, as you have eloquently said, sold a lie. The tragedy is that if the US and UK Administration had spoken to any of those who know Iraq we could have written the script of all that has happened. But they wanted the oil and would not, anyway, have listened. Iraqis are possibly the most nationalistic nation on earth - and so complex a society they make the Balkans look simple. Every decision made at the top, makes your relatives hated more - and it is not their fault, it is the insensitive, crass stupidity of those making the decisions others are forced to carry out. Lack of knowledge of culture is turning even gentle university professors into resistance fighters. Nobody has apparently even told soldiers that to stand with your arm up and palm out in Iraq, means 'welcome', so the 'liberated' drive through road blocks and get their heads
- and children's heads - blown off.
The Pentagon regards Iraqis as non-people. They are people of the richest culture on the planet. Now they have had their history, their past, present and future destroyed. They have no records, no central birth, marriage or death registry, no health registry records, their passports are invalid, their examination records are destroyed - they ARE now non-people. With the water mostly off they cannot wash. This is not alone a health hazard, but washing is integral in Islam - before and after prayer, before and after food - the body must be as clean as is hoped the soul will become. One of your members sends her son bottled water - who sends the Iraqis bottled water? Even when it is available, Iraq's water is a biological weapon.
What about the thousands of 'disappeared'? Iraq has become a vast Guantanamo Bay. What does this say abut the democracy we are inflicting? Iraqi friends tell me in despair that there are more 'disappeared' now than ever under Saddam. What are we becoming? What is being done in our name? A distinguished former UN Assistant Secretary General and UN Co-ordinator in Iraq, Count Hans von Sponeck, said to me in despair not long ago: "The well of hate (for the US and UK) is filling up ..." And it is, worldwide. Bush's ludicrous 'war on terrorism' - in actuality a war to grab whatever he and his cabal wishes, for which your loved ones are endangered and dying - where were the Afghans and Iraqis on 9/11 'planes? Not a one - Pacifists are becoming potential terrorists now, the anger worldwide is so great. US and British citizens where ever they are too are endangered. We are all targets now, for possibly generations to come. Generations unborn may continue to pay the price for Bush's delusional folly - as they will in the deformities from depleted uranium's attack on the genes in the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq - and on those who serve there.
I end with a memory of reconciliation. Three years ago, I was asked by a group of anti sanctions activists, here in the UK, if I would act as a guide for them in a planned visit to Iraq. I jumped at the opportunity and Sheffield Against Sanctions on Iraq and I, joined former Greek First Lady, Margarita Papandreou's sanctions busting flight from Athens to Baghdad's proudly rebuilt, reopened airport. 'There are tears in our eyes every time a 'plane lands' said an Iraqi friend. Isolation had been as hard as the deprivation of the sanctions years. I had traveled numerous times, the up to twenty seven hour road journey into Baghdad, but never flown. As we landed, tears ran down my face.
Due to the dangers of the flight, fears of being shot down by the illegal patrols by the US and UK, all the Olympic Airways crew were volunteers. The Chief Steward sat next to me for landing and touched my hand. I looked at him and his eyes too were full of tears. "God I love this place, these people' he said. He had lived there for some years until the 1991 war: 'I never thought I would see it again.' The airport, a beam of new hope for the Iraqi people, is now another Guantanamo Bay, shaming us all.
To reconciliation: on the visit with the Sheffield group, I had written magical, mystical, Ur into the itinerary. We were a group of twelve and hired a battered mini-bus to tour. On the road to Ur, I kept missing the turning and eventually suggested to the driver that we return to an army checkpoint and ask directions. The dignified Shi'a soldier in charge said he was about to go off duty and lived near the turning, if we gave him a ride, he would point it out. (The Iraqi army was so poverty stricken, most soldiers hitched to and from duty. So much for WMD's.)
The group had printed small fliers in Arabic with a beautifully thought through mission statement, they wanted to see, talk, learn, build bridges with the people of Iraq. It was on green paper - Iraq's color - though under the US, Iraqi policemen are now forced to wear blue and white uniforms
- like the Israeli police. They have 'IP' in english on the sleeve. There is no 'P' in the Arabic language.
The soldier sat in front with the driver and one of the group whispered to
me: 'Should we give him one?'
'Absolutely" I said.
He read it very slowly and carefully, then re-read it. Along the way we had witnessed barely describable carnage of the ongoing US-UK bombings of his region. He turned round and said: 'Here in the south, it is incumbent upon us to offer hospitality to travelers. My home is simple, but I have five chickens, you will eat well.' It was the eve of the great Muslim feast of Eid and we knew for what those chickens were destined - yet he was prepared to sacrifice them to strangers from countries who were still devastating his. I learned about shaming humility and reconciliation, at Ur.
Take your campaign to Iraq, take your anger and grief to Iraq and share it with the mothers and fathers of Iraq - that will Bring Them Home and bring real power and reconciliation to all 'we the people' of our precious planet.
With warmest wishes,
Felicity Arbuthnot has written and broadcast widely on Iraq and with Denis Halliday was senior researcher for John Pilger's Award winning documentary: 'Paying the Price - Killing the Children of Iraq.'