by Doreen Miller
March 1, 2003
According to a recent Fox News report, U.S. leaders are considering prosecuting for war crimes any U.S. citizen who travels to Iraq to be a human shield in an effort to protect the Iraqi people. Yes, the United States now intends to make it a crime to protect innocent people from being killed. In other words, the United States' right to invade Iraq and kill its citizenry supersedes Iraqi civilians' right to life.
In fact, if the current administration had its way, the confidentially and quietly drafted Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003, dubbed Patriot Act II, would already be the supreme law of the land. Under this law, U.S. citizens acting as human shields in Iraq could be stripped of their U.S. citizenship, denied their Constitutional rights, be held indefinitely, and tried secretly as "enemy combatants" based on the allegedly treasonous "intent" of their actions as "aiding and abetting the enemy." The underlying intent of their actions would be judged solely on the interpretation of U.S. leaders caught in an overly simplistic, dichotomous worldview, where U.S. leaders represent all that is righteous, morally superior and good, and any others who believe and behave differently, everything that is unrighteous, morally bankrupt and evil.
If anyone has been paying close attention to all the pro-war rhetoric spewing out of Washington, it would not be difficult to see the absurd contradiction this new announcement for litigation underscores. According to the convoluted logic of the Bush administration, human shields attempting to stop the war, thus sparing the lives of innocent Iraqis, will be prosecuted for giving aid to "the enemy," the Iraqi people, who, by reason of countless declarations by Bush, are not our enemy; after all, our president has made it very clear over the past several months that it's just Saddam who is our enemy, not the Iraqi people.
The Fox News report included several calls from full-blooded, patriotic Americans voicing their support of the president in his condemnation of human shields and ridiculing their actions to protect the Iraqis. What they fail to see is that those opting to act as human shields are there to protect against the reckless loss of civilian lives; they are not "choosing sides," eg. declaring their unconditional support for Saddam and his regime.
Instead of being mocked and threatened with litigation, these people who are putting their lives on the line ought to be admired for their courage and selflessness in remaining true to and living out their most profound convictions. Able to see beyond the myopic world of blind patriotic allegiance, or us/good versus them/evil, they are operating outside the severely restricting and disjointed realm of nationalism.
Answering to a deeper spiritual calling of truth that bids each and everyone of us to uphold the sanctity of all life against violence and murder, they are genuine warriors and heroes who dare to defy the status quo, as dictated by their governments, and are acting to help us all see the greater holistic picture of our shared, common humanity spread out across this fragile earth. They recognize that, just like ourselves, people of other nations have names, faces, families, loved ones, goals, aspirations, and the whole wonderful range of human emotions that accompany life.
They refuse to view our brothers and sisters in Iraq as irrelevant "collateral damage" or expendable numbers in the aggressive, depersonalized war games that military strategists play out in the sterile and morally disconnected atmosphere of their well-protected bunkers, heavily insulated and far removed from the gut-wrenching realities and bloody carnage of war.
In contemplating the actions of these human shields, I am reminded of the countless civilians who selflessly risked their own lives in their attempts to hide, protect and save the lives of innocent Jews from most certain death during the time of Hitler's "Final Solution." Those who were ultimately caught suffered the same fate as that of the Jews: deportment to concentration camps, forced labor, starvation, and murder.
In utter disbelief, the world watches as the pendulum swings 'round once again with frenetic U.S. leaders taking on a role mimicking that of the fascist Nazis in their rush to judge, condemn and prosecute as enemies of the state unarmed citizens who are risking their own lives to protect and shield innocent Iraqi civilians from the unprovoked, violent, military aggressions of the United States.
Not only does our current leadership deride the peaceful intentions of these human shields, it also has made a mockery of the United Nations, whose noble purpose is to spare future generations from the horrors of war by seeking peaceful, diplomatic solutions to international disputes. While going through the prerequisite motions of pretending to cooperate with the Security Council, the U.S. has been simultaneously and overtly escalating a full military build-up of troops in the Middle East with the obvious intention of invading Iraq no matter what the council decides.
U.S. leaders have also engaged in the disgraceful act of bullying and trying to discredit the U.N. Security Council by accusing it of "having no backbone" because it refuses to bow to the desires and interests of the U.S. in its plan for war and regime change in Iraq. I would counter, however, that members of the U.N. Security Council have thus far been exhibiting the greatest backbone by not caving in to the militaristic and imperialistic wishes of the world's only superpower. It takes tremendous courage to stand up for the profound principles of diplomatic and peaceful conflict resolution and not be bullied, bribed or blackmailed into supporting the U.S. position and paradigm of how the world and individual countries ought to be run.
As for the U.S. argument of wanting to "bring democracy" to the Middle East, I, frankly, would not trust a country that over the years has secretly backed the overthrow of countless democratically elected leaders around the world and has tolerated, if not outright supported, the blood-thirsty escapades of such ruthless dictators as the Shah of Iran, General Augusto Pinochet, "Papa Doc" Duvalier, General Suharto, General Castelo Branco, Mobutu Sese Seko, Hugo Banzer, and others, including the infamous Saddam Hussein.
Have we learned nothing from history? Has our sense of morality really become so corrupt that we believe it is right to prosecute human shields, carrying out an act of unconditional love for our Iraqi neighbors, for "war crimes"? Are we to believe that the same God who vowed to Abraham to spare a whole country if a mere ten righteous people were to be found in the city of Sodom now blesses George Bush's rush to destroy a whole country in his hunt for and vendetta against just one man?
Verily, we are living under a dark veil of moral perversion when those who open their arms and hearts and risk their own lives to protect the lives of the good people of Iraq are to be tried for "war crimes," while a rich and powerful nation is allowed to bomb a whole country with impunity, snuffing out the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocents, and is neither questioned for its contempt of the sanctity of human life nor prosecuted for its war crimes against humanity.
Doreen Miller, mother, musician and poet, is currently a Senior Lecturer and educator of international students. She dedicates part of her time to serving the elderly and Alzheimer patients. This article first appeared at Yellow Times.org. She encourages your comments: dmiller@YellowTimes.org