Najaf, Falluja: How Do We Maintain Our Humanity?
by Mina Hamilton
April 29, 2004

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Day by day the violence in Iraq escalates.

US marines shoot four Iraqi school children in Baghdad. Gun battles rage around Najaf. For hours, US gunships and howitzers pound Falluja. US snipers target Iraqi ambulances.

America's grotesque retribution for the March 31 killing and mutilation of 4 US security guards in Falluja is not over. The punishment -- 600 to 800 Iraqis dead, 1700 injured -- is about to be multiplied many times over. Reliable estimates of the fatalities in the most recent US assault won't be available for days.

Blood, blood. I feel covered with the sticky stuff.

The streets of Iraq are wet with blood. Skulls are crushed. Limbs shredded. Brains smeared onto walls. The screams of the dying, of the maimed are ricocheting down the alleys of Cairo, Riyadh, Jeddah, Mecca, Medina, Teheran, Damascus, Basra, Baghdad, Mosul, Najaf, Amman, Beirut, Nablus, Hebron, Ramallah, Sanaa, Islamabad, Kandahar and Kabul.

Are those screams also being heard in Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington, DC, New York, Boston, San Francisco, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Detroit, Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Seattle and San Diego?

My heart is as heavy as lead. My tax dollar splits open human beings, miraculous beings, whose main offense is location. By a nasty quirk of fate, they sit on the strategic prize, the world's second largest reserve of oil.

Iraq, my annual IRS tithe feeds the machines that destroy you. The fruits of my labor, skimmed off by the Pentagon, blasts bits of human flesh into the rubble.

How do we retain our humanity if we don't do more than read (or write) about the growing disaster? How do we go beyond the despairing e-mails to friends, the conversations over dinner in which we express our dismay, but do not take the next step into meaningful action? What is meaningful action now?

Even if we occasionally go to a march, a protest, a meeting or an independent film, surely this is not enough as the US military/government becomes ever more out-of-control, ever more vicious.

How do we express our outrage inside an electoral system that has spawned John Kerry, a Democratic imperialist who now out does Bush in terms of "stay the course" and "send in more troops" rhetoric?

Isn't it time for men and women of decency to say no more business as usual?

What does that mean? Is it time to launch the same kind of boycott that brought the apartheid regime of South Africa to its knees?

Is it time for people of conscience both in the US and all over the world to stop buying American products -- to the extent that's possible? (After all, we have to show up at our jobs wearing something!) Should we boycott Coke, Citibank, Gap - and any and all US companies that do not publicly come out in opposition to this grisly occupation?

Should we pressure our pension funds (if we have them) to pull out of Caterpillar, Halliburton, General Electric and other war-profiteering companies? Lobby our unions to take up this issue, plus board members who control the endowments of our universities and alma maters?

Some might say, why now? Wait until after the election. Now, put all our efforts into the election. Put pressure on Kerry to back off from his new more-right-than-thou position. Even if his foreign policy stinks, at least, he's pro-choice, might not appoint another Scalia to the Supreme Court and cares about the environment. Or, if we can't stomach that fight, then work to elect progressives - or, at least, moderates - to the US Congress. Redouble efforts to get out the Democratic vote. Join campaigns to register new Democratic voters.

I'm definitely of the Let-One-Thousand-Flowers-Bloom school. Those who feel compelled to work on the election do so; those who want to do civil disobedience protesting US imperialist policies at the School of the Americas or elsewhere go ahead; those who favor boycotts jump aboard. Ditto for hundreds of other possible actions.

To maintain our humanity, however, mustn't we go beyond moaning and groaning? We can no longer be armchair, computer-terminal protestors. Not that plenty of Dissidentvoice.org visitors aren't already out there doing the hard work of grass-roots organizing and other actions, but I wonder how many are?

Whatever each one of us is already is doing, it isn't enough because we simply can't bear to inflict one more ounce of unspeakable suffering on innocent women and children. We can't stand the murders of young men who are branded as "terrorists" or "militants" or "guerillas" or "insurgents," but who actually are Iraqi nationalists defending their country from a rapacious occupying force, a foreign army. Yes, alas, there are Al Qaeda and other terrorists now working in Iraq. (Bush's policy has, as so many critics warned in the pre-war months, brought that to pass.) But how many of the dead in Falluja were in this category?

And how many of the next crop of deaths in Falluja, Najaf and elsewhere in Iraq will be in this category? Two percent? Five percent?

Must we re-enact the tragedy of Vietnam? Killing and killing to help a sitting President get re-elected or to help a new President look tough? Blood and more blood so the US doesn't look "weak" and so the neo-cons don't seem stupid? All in pursuit of an insane delusion -- that the citizens of Iraq will tolerate a client/quisling government programmed to rip off Iraqi oil and hand it to Exxon-Mobile and other US oil giants?

Do we have to wait for thousands of GI's to die, for millions of Iraqis to die, for the war to spread to Syria and Iran, and for the violent "blowback" to hit US shores as it invariably will, before we refuse?

Blood, blood.

How do we maintain our humanity?

Mina Hamilton is a writer based in New York City. She can be reached at minaham@aol.com

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