Collateral Damage: Bethena
Amman, Jordan - Last month when Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Ray McGovern and I took over 300 people and a petition with over a million signatures to Congressman John Conyers (D-Mi, Chair House Judiciary Committee) demanding impeachment, we believed we were morally correct then. Despite Rep. Conyers' long record of public service to our nation and several private meetings that went absolutely nowhere, and despite the mild to severe criticism we have received, we believed then and still believe now that impeaching BushCo is a Constitutionally mandated requirement and a necessary tool to reclaim our representative republic, end the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan ("The troops aren't coming home while I'm preznit," GWB), and to hold the monsters accountable who have wreaked havoc on our planet.
I believe what we did on July 23rd was the right thing to do because we are all required to be active participants in our democracy. One of the reasons that all branches of our government are so out of control, Dems or Repugs, is that we have been passive voters who have allowed our elected officials to get away literally with murder for generations. The human element of "We the People" has been suppressed by the fascist elite and all but forgotten by an American public that has been lulled into an uncomfortable apathy by the "vast wasteland" of TV and its byproduct: a seductive, yet destructive consumerism that has us constantly striving not only to "keep up with the Joneses," but "smash the Joneses" in our quest for more, more, more. We have thousands, if not millions of Susie Soccer moms in their huge SUVs to NASCAR dad Nick watching high performing, gas guzzling cars go round and round in circles wasting precious oil for our dubious entertainment, while people are dying, being injured and displaced and while our troops receive no more support than a yellow magnetic ribbon on Susie's SUV.
The Rev and I had another dose of reality the other day and our actions in Conyers' office were confirmed for both of us when we visited Bethena in al Jazeera hospital in Amman.
An American fired mortar shell hit twenty-eight year old, former Baghdad resident, Bethena on June 1st of this year. Her husband was also injured in the abhorrent attack and her mother-in-law and sister-in-law were killed. Due to lack of medical care at first, Bethena still has a large hole in her stomach. She was allowed to stay in an American hospital for 7 days, and then told she had to leave. With a smashed arm, broken leg, and another leg amputated above the knee, Bethena had to make her way to Amman for medical help with her sister. She laid in her bed gazing at us with pain-filled, yet very aware eyes and she graciously allowed us to look at her wounds and record them on film. The entire time we visited with her, I couldn't help but reflect that Casey would have been the same age as Bethena just three days before she was mortared, if he hadn't already been killed not too far from where Bethena and her family were hit.
Besides the incontrovertible fact that Bethena was no threat to the USA and we are occupying her country illegally and immorally, her hospital bills are costing the family 750.00 to 1000.00 a day and she still requires two more surgeries. The family had to sell their home in Baghdad and is rapidly going through their savings. Bethena's sister told us that a woman who suffered a heart attack from fright in the same mortar attack had her bills covered by the US, but we won't cover Bethena's bills because she was hit by an American bomb!
We are going to the American Embassy here in Jordan to ask the same simple question: "Why?" Why is the government who harmed her not paying her bills?" and she is just one of thousands. As the war crimes compound in Iraq, the resistance heightens and no one wins in "lose-lose" land.
My campaign for Congress' slogan "People Before Politics" is the exact opposite of what John Conyers told me and my staff in a meeting prior to the July 23rd sit-in: "It is more important to me (Conyers) to put a Democrat back in the White House in '08 than to end the war!" (Even if it is Hillary "If Saddam won't disarm, will we disarm him" Clinton") I can guarantee him that it is not what's most important to Bethena, the people of Iraq and the thousands of mothers in our own country who can't sleep at night, concentrate, eat or do much else for worry of their son or daughter in Iraq for the lies of BushCo and the criminal complicity of Congress, Inc.
I wept in John Conyers' office that day as I wept over Bethena and her plight.
We the People have also failed our soldiers and Bethena and rest of the innocent citizens of Iraq by allowing the partisan politics of greed and destruction to hijack our country. I wish every American could peer into Bethena's eyes and have an epiphany that there are many things more important than partisan politics as usual. I wish news cameras would show an American mother falling on the ground screaming in agony for her needlessly killed child. We see the devastation on Jordanian TV caused in Northern Iraq where over 500 people were slaughtered yesterday: we need to see that on our TVs.
Then maybe, just maybe, this monstrosity would end.
To help Bethena please go to www.electroniciraq.net and donate at the "Direct Assistance Initiative."
Cindy Sheehan is the mother of Spc. Casey Austin Sheehan who was KIA in Iraq on 04/04/04. She is a co-founder and President of Gold Star Families for Peace and the author of two books: Not One More Mother's Child and Dear President Bush.