• From the CPTnet;

      March 19, 2003


      by John Barber

      The people of Iraq are caught in a trap. Two overwhelming powers approach from opposite sides. Like an animal in a steel trap, they gnaw at their own leg, hoping somehow for freedom, even at the cost of a limb. They watch as the smiling hunter approaches, singing songs of freedom, singing songs of righteousness. They hear the words, “In God we trust,” and “God bless America.”

      The clerk looks up and welcomes me “home” with graciousness and a smile each time I enter the hotel. Since we have arrived in Baghdad, this man has been kind to me, patient with my inability to speak Arabic, concerned whether I had a good day or a bad day. He has a deep and abiding sadness in his eyes.

      Tonight, he asks, “John, what do you think about this war?” I explain that I think it is immoral and a tragedy of enormous proportions. “Why did you come?” he asks. I tell him I want to support my Iraqi friends and stand in opposition to my government. I came to Iraq because he is not my enemy, but my brother. He says, “You are better even than us. We do nothing. You come here to help. We can do nothing, do you understand?”

      “My family is here in Baghdad. My father, my brothers. Do you know I go home each night and I just sit. I only think of one thing: ‘What am I to do? War is coming, What am I to do?’ That’s it. Tomorrow, the next day, I can do nothing. I just sit. My brothers, my father, the same.”

      I look deeply into his eyes. Days, months, years, in this trap. “Why this war?” he asks. I cannot answer. I want to console him, but I cannot. I want to hold him like my child, and tell him it will be all right, but it will not be all right.

      “Thank you and your friends for being here, you have good hearts”, he says. He puts his hand over his heart–a common gesture here in Iraq. It is a reminder for me. For a moment we stand across from each other, holding our hearts, holding our anguish. We both begin to cry. When I can bear it no longer, I turn and head for the lift.

      The people of Iraq are caught in a trap. They watch as the smiling hunter approaches, singing songs of freedom, and singing songs of righteousness. Then they notice the look in the eye. The smile is not for them. The hunter merely appreciates the prey. He is thinking he will end it quickly and go home with his prize. The songs are not for them. In the eyes of the approaching power freedom, democracy, and security is only for a select group. As the prey looks up in a final plea for mercy, this truth becomes

      self evident.

      Barber was a member of CPT’s February 1-15 delegation to Iraq.

      Christian Peacemaker Teams is an initiative among Mennonite and Church of the Brethren congregations and Friends Meetings that supports violence reduction

      efforts around the world. Contact CPT, POB 6508 Chicago, IL 60680; Telephone: 773-277-0253 Fax: 773-277-0291.