Once you've given birth, your whole perspective on war changes. Once you have laid your baby's head on your chest and breathed in his fresh-to-the-world sweetness, you learn what you love and what you hate. Mothers know the value of life, thus, we know the cost of war.
Once you've given birth, you become so grateful that your child is not the one having to hide under blankets in corners, flee from gunfire and witness the burials of family members as a matter of course. You see your child's face reflected back to you in the newsprint of the daily papers.
When your country is at war, you look at your child differently: You hold his hand more, you keep him closer to you, you whisper "I love you" more than once as you kiss him good night. When your government's immoral acts of aggression have resulted in the deaths of 1 million civilians, many of them children, you love your child with an overly possessive devotion and zeal. You look into his bright eyes when he's excited about going to Chuck E. Cheese and you thank God you are not in Baghdad, huddled somewhere together, your body thrown over his to save the life you brought into the world.
When you meet Gold Star mothers and fathers who have lost a child in this war, the pain you feel after listening to them is incapacitating, though it is only a fraction of theirs. Four thousand thirty-seven soldiers have been killed -- some of my husband's friends with whom he served in Taji, Iraq, and Bellingham's Jonathan Santos among them.
Humanity cannot withstand the exacting toll of our nation's tragic hubris. We need to leave Iraq.
While struggling to formulate an exit strategy, members of Congress are confused. They are bogged down in an intellectual maze believing the debate to be solely about length of time for combat operations, or number of troops to withdraw and when. There is no military solution and there will not be a political solution as long as the U.S. is involved. But there is a moral solution.
It is the moral solution that will hasten an end to the occupation of Iraq. It calls us to stop funding the war; withdraw our troops, contractors and end all military presence; flood the country with internationally led humanitarian relief and reconstruction paid for by the United States; admit our wrongdoing and allow the International Criminal Court to judge our leaders.
While blood flows, U.S. military officials go through epideictic justifications for continued bloodshed. They present color-coded charts to report on danger levels in certain areas where our presence inflames violence; they orate numbered strategies and repeated benchmarks for success and victory. Once you've given birth, however, you go beyond statistics into the hearts of people and you see clearly the measure of things. The moral solution calls us to apologize to the Iraqi people; it calls us to don mourning clothes and pray for the restoration of our own souls.
Until then, there will be no solution to the ravage and ruin we have caused, and the mothers will continue to grieve as their sweet babies die.
Marie Marchand is executive director of Whatcom Peace & Justice Center in Bellingham and mother of a 7-year-old boy.
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