This I Believe

Bert - Atascadero, California
Entered on December 19, 2006

The Way Forward in Iraq

At a local Code Pink meeting the other day I helped string white flags that bore the names of servicepeople killed in the Iraq war. Each small flag contains the name, age, and date of the person’s death. Our group sometimes walks silently through town to display the flags.

We strung the flags in chronological order based on the date of death, and I was working on a series of flags that approached my own birthday. That was a bloody date in 2006. Stringing the flags, I pronounced each name to myself and I imagined a face, a life, the searing absence. Our group planned to march again to commemorate the 3000th death, but that date approaches so fast that we’ve decided to march again on the fourth anniversary of the initial attack.

Who’s making flags for the Iraqi ghosts, I wondered. The six-hundred and fifty thousand whom we are afraid to acknowledge. Watching as the violence spreads across the world, I wonder, how can it end? My only answer comes through my fingers as I touch another name. If I were personally responsible for this person’s death, I could begin to set things right only by following the timeless human path set down in general by the golden rule. I would confess my guilt and remorse, ask for understanding if not forgiveness, and pledge to do my best to make amends. I believe nations can and must follow the same pathway to peace within the human community. We Americans are responsible for this preemptive war and the misery it is causing. I believe that we can begin to set things right only by empathizing with those we have harmed. We must admit to ourselves that we are wrong, admit to the world that our leaders lied to us and that we blindly followed. We must hold our leaders responsible for this growing tragedy and reject them. We should hold open trials, but, more important, begin immediately to show Iraq and the world that we admit our guilt and that we are determined to leave Iraq. We must dismantle the bases we have built there, those intended to be America’s permanent foothold in the middle east, and commit our vast financial resources to helping rebuild Iraq. We must let it be known that we will defend ourselves but that we will never engage in preemptive war. Let us show the world that the USA values its place in the world community and that we accept our responsibility as the world’s most fortunate and powerful nation. We are all in this together and the USA must lead the way toward solving the problems that confront the world, such as hunger and the need for a sustainable economic order. I believe that our nation’s best chance to move forward in Iraq is to follow this simple but most demanding of all moral codes, the golden rule.