August 06, 2005

An Apology to the Iraqi People

Posted at 02:14 PM Found, Gems

From Islam Online


by Larry E. Park

This is an apology to the Iraqi people from a hospital medic who cared for some of the most severely injured men, women, children, and babies from both sides of the Vietnam conflict.

I held the dead of war in my arms and I understand war’s catastrophic toll in the present and the impact it will have on future generations.

This is my personal sobering apology, and it may or may not reflect some of the feelings of the other 49 percent of Americans who voted against unjustified aggression.

I feel shame and outrage when I watch on TV and read reports of unimaginable acts against humanity in Iraq. You are witnessing these horrific acts of violence and human debasement up close, which is probably filling your heart with hate and anger towards Americans. I’m sorry and I understand.

I feel shame that I did not raise my voice in dissent prior to this horrific conflict between cultures. I survived Vietnam with full understanding of what a guerilla war means and the futility of large, noisy, highly visible armies attempting to subjugate citizens by force instead of winning hearts and minds over to a more positive pursuit of happiness.

I feel shame that I did not raise my voice in dissent prior to this horrific conflict between cultures.

With a great sense of doom, I have watched the events over the past three years as a complacent bystander, not knowing how to make a difference in public opinion. I was silent, not exercising my freedom of speech or finding creative means to make my voice against unjustified death and destruction heard effectively.

I made a mistake in judgment and action. I knew better. I am very sad about what is happening in Iraq to the families, their homes, schools, hospitals, shops, and places where they work to support their families. I apologize for not defending your right to choose how you live and what style of leadership you support.

I understood that my leaders, prompted by public opinion, had to deliver visible signs of revenge against Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, and most of the world seemed to support that conflict, but when I woke up one morning to the specter of my countrymen invading Iraq to make a regime change, I squirmed with discomfort. I, like you and most of the world, held the motivations of the United States to be suspect and driven by self-interests in oil.

Rhetoric about freeing the Iraqi people from an oppressive regime seemed righteously hollow, and a revolution against Saddam Hussein’s entrenched regime and all its supporters was not ours to wage.

The DU we use is our weapon of mass destruction and I am downcast and ashamed.

I apologize for our arrogance in thinking we knew what the best course of social/political direction for Iraq was—and then we intervened militarily in such a destabilizing and catastrophic manner. Our vision of the future is not yours, and you must decide how you will help each other achieve and maintain basic freedom and happiness. I apologize for denying knowledge of your basic beliefs and belittling your ancient core cultural values; and from your perspective, I understand why we are the barbarians on your land.

Freedom is not a gift; it is a choice requiring daily action to reaffirm long-term goals and guide one in the pursuit of happiness. Your people are in the midst of personal and national conflict revolving around differences in opinion on how to equitably achieve goals within the context of your many subcultures. Intervention by outsiders has made the process more complex. I apologize!

Freedom from greed and uncontrolled material, selfish interests can only be acquired by a heart focused on the more important desire for pleasant human relationships. Freedom’s seed is planted in one heart at a time; and each of us on the planet has the ability to shape our own sense of personal freedom. I am sad that we chose force and destruction instead of kindness.

I am ashamed of our recent example of democracy in the presidential race for power. If we are attempting to persuade you to adopt our form of democracy, then I am less than proud on how we spent billions to get out the vote and prompt individuals to exercise freedom of choice. Decisions seemed to be made based on whether or not a candidate hunts innocent winged creatures for sport, or who tells the most convincing lies and makes the best promises that we all know can’t be kept—like “Independence from foreign oil.”

From your perspective, I understand why we are the barbarians on your land.

A campaign pledge to establish a Presidential Commission to explore what compels our enemies to make plans to destroy person and property might be a better basis for casting a vote. It’s Biblical to seek your neighbor out before sunset of each day when you sense he is unhappy with you for some reason. Unresolved conflicts lead to a war of terror. America has long enjoyed beautiful sunsets without responsibly resolving issues with its neighbors. This unfinished daily business has ruined the view of the daily rising sun; and boasting about our ability and resolve to preserve our selfish way of life—which consumes an inequitable share of the earth’s limited resources—is not a good way to start negotiations.

I have seen the consequences of war and revenge, and it is not pretty. History is replete with stories of rape, pillaging, burning, and destruction of person and property; and within the last ten years starting with the Gulf war, Desert Storm, we the United States of America introduced weapons of mass environmental and genetic destruction.

I am ashamed of my ignorance about my government using depleted radioactive uranium munitions in Iraq.

Looking for the splinter of WMD in the enemy’s eye while being blinded by the railroad tie poisoned by depleted uranium sticking out of our heads must make us appear really outrageous in the eyes not afflicted around the globe.

Being a responsible citizen and taking a stand on issues that will affect the only planet we have is hard work—even though now the sand in my eyes in retrospect did not hurt as much as the knowledge I have gained about my country’s use of depleted uranium.

I am outraged at the possibility of my tax dollars contributing to the use of depleted uranium in munitions which might cause alterations in the genes of humans and plants. This is our weapon of mass destruction and I am downcast and ashamed.

If one believes in a Creator God called Allah, who loves the Biblical people of Iraq so much that He buried some of the world’s richest oil reserves below their barren deserts, then one would have to believe that He planned to care for their needs.

Poverty in such an oil-rich land, where many of its inhabitants want for the basics, can only be understood in the light of mismanagement and the greed of its ruling class. As an American I am ashamed to admit that even though our wealth is accumulated differently, we too have large numbers of disadvantaged and impoverished families. Those who have more always use overt or covert methods to suppress those who have less; and when the status quo is upset, many are willing to fight to the death to regain their previous advantages and social standing.

I apologize for being so selfish and wanting more than most families in Iraq have.

Right or wrong, I apologize for the manner in which my country has upset the balance of power in Iraq.

If the God known as Allah, Father, and Yahweh exercised any control over the distribution of natural resources over the face of the planet, then one would have to conclude that He has forced all the inhabitants on earth to be interdependent in the struggle to survive. Trading relationships based on the need for energy has propelled us out of the agrarian subsistence farming cultures of ages past and it seems quite obvious that the Gods have favored countries other than the US with an abundant supply of this liquid black gold. Our use, allocation, and distribution of the planet’s limited resources, and how we manage the products of an industrialized world, demand cooperation and interdependence. Our mutual survival depends on successfully building and maintaining these relationships in an atmosphere of trust and hope.

I am outraged at the visible destruction of your mosques, hospitals, schools, homes, and infrastructure in our zeal to root out those who are attempting to protect their families and way of life. I am very sad when I think about how hard it will be, and how long it will take your people, to rebuild their homes.

Iraqis buried in mass graves will be remembered longer by their families than the visible reconstruction of your cities.

I feel intensely sad about the mess your people find themselves in when the sun rises every day, and I apologize for not attempting to convince leaders of my country to pursue a more positive course of helpful interdependence.

God challenges us to mature, abandon the tempestuous, undisciplined behavior of adolescence, and learn how to be kind to our neighbors at home and abroad.

I mourn for all the families around the globe forever changed and damaged by conflicts that diminish their sense of hope.

I feel ashamed by the darkness spread throughout your land by the American invasion, and my hope for the future is that countries of such diverse cultural beliefs could at least agree to search for ways to be mutually beneficial and cordially interdependent without devastating conflict and long-term damage to the environment.

I carried a typewriter to Vietnam—not a gun—and instead of killing humans, I planted flowers and was awarded a Bronze Star medal for extending hope to others.

I’ve seen the desert bloom and I fervently wish that the Iraqi people, in the darkness of wartime death, can find their way into the hopeful light of flowers once again blooming in springtime.

I feel immensely sad that the leaders of my country seem not to remember the lessons learned by those who served in Vietnam and I apologize.

“I’m sorry! I am very sorry! Mommy, I won’t do it again! Please mommy, stop whipping me! I’m really sorry!” Those are the words screamed out by a young boy while receiving a harsh whipping. I’m whipped!

I wish I could speak for the leaders of my country and tell you, “Yes, we made a mistake and we won’t do it again in your country or anywhere else on the planet ever again.”

They will have to speak for themselves and answer to the reality of history, not their dreams.


Larry E. Park

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