That said, I'm going to tuck my soapbox back away now. I want you to read this...and I want to know what you think.
November 11, 2002
I am sitting at the window with the traffic slowing as the night advances. What do I see here that is so different from what the US administration or foreign diplomats see as they make plans to destroy this country? Why does their plan seem so totally implausible for me?
Peggy and I just came back this evening from a packed church service at the Chaldean Catholic Church. It was in Arabic, but folks gathered around us afterwards to welcome us, learn who we were, and invite us up for tea and visiting. They provide a Friday school to 300 students who are in a very poor section of the city. A soccer coach there thought the US would not go to war.
A friend joined us at supper. He was in school during the devastating Iran/Iraq War and was finishing his civil engineering degree when the Gulf War happened. He sounded like a conscientious objector to war. He has three young children who are oblivious to the war he sees as inevitable.
That is good, I think.
I look outside and realize that all these urban engineering feats have been achieved as this country moved from being a less-developed country just decades ago. And those years have included two major wars and the most extreme sanctions that have ever been applied to a country. I read that Iraq has had one of the best-educated peoples anywhere because of their emphasis on learning. The sanctions are changing that.
Here there are taxi drivers and others who refuse to take my money because of our peacemaking work even though they are scraping to meet basic family living expenses. Two days in a row a person at the hospital walked me through the streets to the dentist so that I would find the way. He absolutely refused to accept my thank you tip.
At a gathering last Sunday an Iraqi said, "This country is part of a long history of civilization." That history dwarfs our brief moment as the United States on the stage of empire, yet we make plans to re-write the story of the world with radiation and obliteration.
Maybe the difference between me and the US administration is that I've been privileged to meet the people here. President Bush needs this chance to look in the eyes of the people of Iraq. It should be a requirement before anyone can start a war. I was riding down an elevator last week. A stranger asked me where I was from. When I explained that I was from the United States, he said, "So you are my enemy," as, with a smile, he reached out to shake my hand.