The first time it was reported that our friends were being butchered
there was a cry of horror. Then a hundred were butchered. But when a thousand were butchered and there was no end to the butchery, a blanket of silence spread. When evil doing comes like falling rain, nobody calls out 'stop!'
When crimes begin to pile up they become invisible. When sufferings become unendurable, the cries are no longer heard. The cries, too, fall like rain in summer.
Last summer, crimes piled up in Iraq. 3,590 people were killed in July '06; 3009 in August.
In Baghdad alone, the Coroner's Office reported 1,600 bodies arrived at the morgue in June and more than 1,800 bodies in July. 90% of the killings were executions.
It seems impossible to count how many people were tortured in Iraq over the past several months. The chief expert on torture for the United Nations, Manfred Nowak, says bluntly that the current situation is "out of control." The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) released a report in September which said that bodies sent to the capital's morgue "habitually bore signs of severe torture, including acid-induced injuries, burns caused by chemical substances, missing skin, broken bones, backs, hands and legs, missing eyes and teeth and wounds caused by power drills or nails." The Iraqi authorities confirmed that most of the bodies that were found in the past six months bore serious signs of torture.
Not surprisingly, in the past seven months, a quarter of a million Iraqis are now displaced people after having fled the violence.
UN reports estimate that one out of every four Iraqi children suffers from acute malnourishment. The colloquial word for this condition is "wasting."
Why are so many Iraqi children hungry and ill? One major cause of illness is impure water. Although an estimated $30 billion to $45 billion of Iraqi and American financing has gone toward reconstruction efforts in Iraq, only about 55% of the planned water projects have been completed.
Health care delivery has also suffered under U.S. supervised reconstruction efforts. At a September 28th, 2006 congressional hearing, Mr. Stuart Bowen, the Special Inspector General for the Reconstruction in Iraq, reported that the construction of over 150 primary health care centers across Iraq has consumed $180 million dollars but has resulted in the completion of only six centers.
Bowen further noted that Iraq has lost $16 billion in oil sales--and not just because of insurgent attacks. He pointed to situations in which contractors botched the job of repairing the country's oil production infrastructure.
Mr. Bowen's earlier report, issued in 2004, also gave scathing reviews of bungled reconstruction efforts marred by corruption and incompetence.
Now Mr. Bowen can begin to wrap up his investigations. The monitoring project has been terminated and is expected to be phased out by October 2007.
This isn't to say the Bush administration and the Pentagon won't welcome certain reports about projects undertaken by U.S. military contractors and the U.S. military in Iraq. Over the next two years, a D.C. based firm called the Lincoln Group will be paid 6.2 million dollars to develop positive talking points for the U.S. military. This firm was the subject of considerable controversy last year when it was part of a Pentagon project that paid Iraqi newspapers to publish positive articles about the U.S. Coalition.
How will the Lincoln Group find a positive spin for the recent poll which found that 78 percent of Iraqis believe the American military presence causes more conflict than it prevents? 71 percent said American soldiers should be withdrawn within a year. 92 percent of Sunnis and 62 percent of Shiites support attacks on U.S. soldiers.
In September, former Secretary of State James Baker III assured the U.S. government, after spending four days in Iraq's fortified Green Zone, that he and the Iraq Study Group he chairs won't spend any time "wringing their hands in memory of past mistakes that may or may not have been committed."
Brecht's lines in the poem "When evil doing comes like falling rain" would be a fitting backdrop for Mr. Baker's approach to Iraq. Blanket the past in silence. Disparage sorrow over the torture, bloodshed, starvation and ruin as useless "hand wringing." Count on new reports of death and torture in Iraq to become so routine that they're barely reported. Use the leverage of U.S. threat, force and economic manipulation to carve Iraq into three autonomous regions, modifying a once sovereign country into more easily controlled client states. And if anyone does dare to call out "stop," what better alternative can they suggest to reverse the mayhem and chaos? Remember, we won't wring our hands over memory of what caused this havoc.
Participants in the nationwide "Declaration of Peace" campaign likewise don't believe in "wringing our hands" over past mistakes, but we believe it's essential to tell the truth about this cruel, illegal and immoral war. From a perspective of remorse for suffering caused and a desire never again to value convenient control of other people's resources over respect for human rights and human decency, this campaign aims to go forward with a commitment to nonviolently end the U.S. war in Iraq. Elected representatives in the Congress and Senate will be pressured consistently to call for closure of U.S. military bases, withdrawal of U.S. troops and support for an Iraqi-led peace process, including a peace conference to shape a post-occupation transition and an international peacekeeping presence if mandated by this peace process. The Declaration of Peace also calls for return of Iraqi control over Iraq's oil resources and for reparation payments to address the destruction caused by the U.S. war and thirteen years of economic sanctions.
When evil doing comes like falling rain, of course we must call out "Stop!" How could we not do so? But we must also say, "We're sorry. We're so very sorry." Following those crucial words, it might be possible to extend our hands, emptied of weapons, and try to make amends.
Kathy Kelly is a co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence.