Nearly 4 years ago, on 23 October 2003, a suicide car bomber attacked the International Red Cross building in Baghdad, killing scores of Iraqis. The words slip from my keyboard like so many other headlines that we have all read and have become numb too. However, I have a special connection to this explosion and this place, so the shock of what happened hurts my soul to this day.
As an American soldier, who took part in the operations at the beginning of the war, my unit was tasked with operating in the neighborhood where the explosion occurred. In fact my small squad of men was tasked, just months prior to the attack, with providing security for the Red Cross. In an effort to remain neutral the Red Cross had never asked for the security, and where unhappy with our presence at their front steps. To the great shock and dismay of the staff of the Red Cross, we showed up with an armored vehicle, machine guns and barbwire. There were a few French staff members in the building and they treated us with the cold, snobbishness and disdain that their compatriots are famous for. There was no love lost between our groups and on several occasions, the head of the organization had asked us to leave. Being soldiers and on orders we ignored him, with a great amount of pleasure.
Next to the building was a family run clinic administered by a kind old man and his beautiful family. He had a pair of very young twin daughters, and one 18-year-old son. The young boy spoke English and loved to come out and speak with us, about all the curious things one would ask strangers from far away. The young girls always smiled, waved and out of pity, they fed us snacks and in the heat of the day, they brought juice and water. They brought beautiful little snacks with exotic names that reminded me of Greek style deserts. Occasionally we would catch the family looking out of their windows, always smiling and waving. Hanging out at the checkpoint soon became one of the few happy moments we enjoyed. Their hospitability held no reservations.
I do not recall any of their names; I think my mind has intentionally lost those facts. Nevertheless, every now and then the horror of what happened plays out in my imagination. In the many horror stories that routinely show in the daily news I see their faces, their hopes and aspirations, their humanity, screaming in fear and loss. I do not know their fate, but I know that if they are still alive then their hearts are filled with 4 years of scars, desperation and sorrow.
Politics and reality live in two separate worlds within the reality of our lives, but at some point, the two merge and form the beast of war. It is a beast with an insatiable hunger for our very humanity and in the end; our humanity suffers and looses its purpose. That is why 4 years after the war began we hear stories of death and destruction while sitting in our comfortable homes and do not despair or show compassion for the grief we are responsible for. I hope that for all of our sakes, clearer minds prevail and end the bloodshed that is destroying a new generation.
WORLD - AN EDGE IN MY VOICE
Copyright © 2010 El_Che
The politics of compassion
Copyright © 2010 El_Che
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