Letters from Iraq- Dec. 12. Highway of Death

Basrah- 12/12/02
The call to prayer woke me up by 5 AM and I showered and packed up my backpack since we wouldn't be returning to this hotel. It was just turning daylight when the power went off so I decided to write my reflection on the visit to the "Garden of Eden" site and the hospital. There is no sense in reciting the facts about cancers and birth defects again. If you are really interested, others have written much more eloquently about it. Suffice it to say that we are responsible for a monstrous war crime and it has been compounded and worsened by the continued sanctions. President Bush may rail about the ineffectiveness of the UN to do some things but it is a shame and a crime how the UN structure has allowed the US and Britain to make it complicit with this death by bureaucracy. The sanctions were set up with no end defined and the US and Britain are allowed to veto any items they wish to ban under the sanctions regime.

As we are driving south toward the Kuwaiti border, we see row after row of make-shift greenhouses. Mohammed, our government minder, tells us that they are growing tomatoes. What is the effect of growing tomatoes or any other edible fruit or veggie is soil that is likely to have been contaminated with radioactive dust from the war? Occasionally we past the scrap metal or burned out tank alongside the roadway until we come to a small path off the road leading to a much larger pile of scrap metal. These are a few of the vehicles pulled off the road after the war from "the highway of death". As both civilians and surrendered military were fleeing north from the Kuwaiti border on this highway, US planes bombed the road to the north, trapping the people and the vehicles. Then, in what has been since described by some of the military participants as "shooting fish in a barrel", the killing took place. Not all of this was with depleted uranium weapons, although one tank we did look at closely showed several holes where the munitions burned through or pierced more than 3 inches of solid steel. The mixture of military vehicles with cars and vans, obviously civilian in nature, testifies to the indiscriminate nature of this slaughter. Yet many Americans today lament that Bush senior didn't "finish the job".

I gathered the Iraqis who were with our group and ask Amira to translate for me as I apologized to them as an American. Even though I protested the war and tried to prevent it, I bear some responsibility for this slaughter. My taxes are used, albeit against my will, to pay Alliant Tech to make these indiscriminate weapons. I could always do more. I pledge to these new friends that I will return to my country to fight (nonviolently, of course) with renewed vigor to stop this impending war. My new friends want to distinguish between me and my government but the distinction can't be so cut and dried to leave me out of the sense of at least partial responsibility. Can I consume less of the world's resources so my government can use my consumption as an excuse to steal more or to protect what we have from the have nots?

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