by Kathy Kelly
April 1, 2003
Cathy Breen and I visited Amal at the home of her friends, having heard that her home had been further destroyed by ongoing bombing. She then took us to her house which faces the river, graced by a garden where flowers are blossoming. Picking our way through broken glass at the entrance, we entered what was once one of the most well appointed homes in Baghdad. The rooms are in disarray. Several walls are cracked, the windows are all shattered, and a thick layer of dust and grime covers the exposed furniture, books, carpets and floors.
"It was my silly feeling," Amal said matter-of-factly, "that this will not happen. I did not move anything." She emphasized several times that neighbors could have removed everything, in the past two days. "The house is open. The whole area knows about it. But nobody moved anything." Amal wasn’t in her home when the windows shattered and the doors were blown out. "By chance, that night, I forgot my key and for that reason I stayed with my friends." Ten minutes after we arrived at her home, the US began bombing. "They are starting it again," sighed Amal. "We should go very quickly."
We rejoined Amal’s friends, two sisters who, like Amal, are elderly, scholarly, staunch, and furious. I first met them in the summer of 2002, when they invited me to tell a gathering of two dozen or so Iraqi friends about my experiences, in April 2001, inside the Jenin Camp, in the West Bank, just after Israeli troops had destroyed hundreds of homes in a civilian neighborhood, using overwhelming military force. Amal and her friends were deeply angered when I showed them enlarged pictures of homes in the Jenin Camp that were reduced to rubble. They said they’ve always felt intense grief for the Palestinians who’ve suffered under occupation. It was unthinkable, then, that Amal herself would become homeless and face life under occupation less than a
"It is so unfair," said Amal. “From the simplest people to the highest people, all have suffered." Later that night, we learned that Voice of America radio had confirmed that an Iraqi military officer approached a US military checkpoint in Iraq appearing to be a cab driver wishing to surrender. The driver detonated a load of explosives inside the cab, killing himself and four US soldiers.
Amal has paid a high price for guessing wrongly about whether or not the US would wage a massive attack against Iraq. She didn’t bother to safeguard her impressive collection of valuable artwork, books, and other belongings. She and her friends aren’t guessing now. They are positive that US warmakers will pay a lethal and grisly price for any attempts to overtake and occupy Iraq. "We will lose the battle, but the US is not the winner," she vowed. "The children talk about the monster coming. We will push back the monster, with our hands."
Kathy Kelly is co-coordinator of Voices in the Wilderness (www.vitw.org) and the Iraq Peace Team (www.iraqpeaceteam.org), a group of international peaceworkers pledging to remain in Iraq through a US bombing and invasion, in order to be a voice for the Iraqi people in the West. The Iraq Peace Team can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org