Dear Mr President,
It occurred that at this time when Americans have celebrated with family and friends, said individual prayers of thanks for the bounties granted during the year, you might have been a bit challenged, given the gargantuan disasters and tragedies your policies have engendered. And of course a little local difficulty at the mid-term elections and growing mutterings of impeachment growing from various quarters.
Incidentally, no pun was intended over ‘bounties’, I was not talking about oil in Iraq, gas pipelines in Afghanistan and the murderous bounty hunting of the soldiers of whom you are Commander in Chief (buck stopping and all that stuff) or bounties for your pals in Halliburton, Carlyle, Bechtel etc., etc., and the raiding of Iraq’s entire national coffers. Heaven forbid one should be so cheap with words.
America’s archives have some memorable words. George Washington, speaking of Thanksgiving celebrations on 26th November 1789, gave thanks for the gift of: ‘… peaceably establishing a government for (the) safety and happiness ‘ of the nation.
On 3rd October 1863, Abraham Lincoln asked: ‘ God to care for all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, sufferers …’
Given the ‘ widows and orphans …’ created by your policies perhaps you were looking for mea culpas – rather than thanks – to God. Respectfully, here are a few ideas.
1.First, obviously, as a professed believer, to the Supreme Being, for invoking His name in demented decisions. He who instructed (for believers) forgiveness, the love of thine enemy and above all: ‘thou shalt not kill’. He had a bit to say about not coveting that of others, too. For denigrating His name, and declaring you acted on His instructions. Mea culpa?*
2.Since your ultimate political loyalty is to the people of America – and your country is now regarded as the biggest threat to peace and Americans the most despised peoples in many global polls – a mea culpa that their ‘safety and happiness’ may not be taken for granted, for possibly decades to come – anywhere?
3.For a perception now written on demonstrators’ placards: ‘ War is the only way Americans learn geography.’ For the deviant perverts, the torture, murders, the masochism of Abu Ghraib. For the disappeared in an illegal obscenity: Guantanamo. For one man who represents the “Guantanomisation” of America itself : U.S. cancer specialist, Dr. Rafil Dhafir, who cared for his patients so deeply, that he paid for their treatment himself, if they could not afford insurance and were unable to afford therapy. An Iraqi, with American citizenship who has lived in America for thirty years, he raised money and contributed to one a half million dollars worth of medicines for Iraqis, over the embargo years (1990-2003) when children were dying of often easily curable ailments for want of simple medications. For this he has been jailed for twenty two years. ‘You have ‘criminalized compassion.’ ** Mea Culpas?
4.For the destruction of Afghanistan, one of the poorest nations on earth, whose people posed no threat to anyone. For poisoning that nation and your own and ‘allied’ soldiers with depleted uranium, designated a weapon of mass destruction (i.e.: illegal) by three U.N. Sub-Committees. For your State Department erecting a floor to ceiling exhibition of the destruction of the World Trade Center, in Kabul’s Museum of Modern Art – the only building standing in the district. Bewildered Afghans viewed aghast – because most had no idea of the event or why these pictures had been visited on them, or why they were being bombed – who then stumbled out into their very own ‘ground zero, courtesy the U.S.A. Two mea culpas?
5.For the war crimes of your troops in that country, too long to list. The slaughter of its innocents and legitimate residents. For failing to tell Americans that the CIA brought the Taliban in to being. For overthrowing a legitimate government – whatever it’s hue. For returning the nation to a worse state than under the Taliban, but with a bigger poppy (heroin) trade than when they were overthrown, by orders of magnitude, set to decimate the US, UK’s and West’s young. Four mea culpas?
6.For the destruction and illegal invasion of Iraq, kidnapping of a sovereign government. For destroying the ‘cradle of civilization’. For the desecration of Qurna, believed site of the Garden of Eden; destruction of Babylon, site of the Biblical Hanging Gardens; desecration and destruction of parts of Ur, where the Father of your religion, Abraham (for believers) was suckled on two fingers, one which brought forth milk and the other honey (thus: ‘land of milk and honey’.) The decimation of Kufa, first Arab capitol, where the dove is supposed to have brought back the olive leaf to Noah’s ark, indicating the receding of the flood. And the looting of the history of humanity. Your actions have snatched the world’s heritage from generations to be born. Sackcloth and ashes and walking barefoot over broken glass till life’s end, would not even get near an adequate mea culpa.
7.For the sins of your father, who implemented an embargo which cost one and a half million excess Iraqi deaths, a silent holocaust (the most amongst the under fives) continued by your predecessor and extended pitilessly by you, until your overt rather than covert, war against children of March 2003. Broadly half the population of Iraq is under fifteen or sixteen, depending on which Reports are read. For the responsibility for the six hundred and fifty five thousand further estimated excess deaths (no doubt even that an underestimate) since the invasion. For the three thousand estimated widows a month, responsibility for which, lies at the door of the Oval Office. For the one hundred thousand Iraqis a month, fleeing their homes, belongings, their all, to escape the thugs under your command and the murderous unaccountable militias and mercenaries they brought in with them. Perhaps, ponder on what mea culpa Abraham Lincoln would have advised.
8.For your and allied dead soldiers, other mothers’ sons and daughters (not yours or those of your Administration) who died for lies – and lies and lies. For more use of depleted uranium and banned white phosphorous, poisoning Iraq, the region – and your own, as you talk of their ‘sacrifice’. For the slaughtered Iraqis you deem ‘not productive to count’, of Falluja (so many, their graves fill football pitches) Tel Afar, Mosul, Ramadi, Al Quaim, Hilla, Basra, Mahmoudia, Iskanderia, Haditha, Balad – and throughout Iraq. For the ‘insurgent’ and ‘terrorist’ babies and toddlers shot by your soldiers, on their mothers laps in cars at roadblocks (with their families) and in their beds. For the barbarians representing your country who reportedly strung dead bodies as ‘trophies’ round their tanks in Fallujah. For the sick old man gunned down in a Mosque in that famed ‘city of mosques’. For those across the country, slayed as they prayed, their mosques defiled and defaced, by obscene graffiti, by men representing your country. Destroyers of life, dreams, beauty, history’s jewels, ‘from sea to shining sea.’ Your descendents too, will surely be burdened with mea culpas, for all time.
9.For your country consigning the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, signed by every nation on earth except yours and Somalia, to its burial among the mass graves of the children of Iraq. For the cancers and birth deformities in numbers of enormity, caused by the weapons used, which will, is and has, affected the Middle East and allied troops alike and will haunt their future generations. For selling the same weapons to your client state, Israel (or is the ‘client’ the reverse?) to decimate Palestine and Lebanon, who do not even have an army. Mea culpas are meaningless.
10.For the two hundred and sixty to five hundred people who died in Iraq, on Thanksgiving Day, whilst you and your family exchanged presents and enjoyed a banquet. ‘We will track down those responsible, where ever they are’, you are fond of saying: For not looking in the mirror. For the destruction of Baghdad’s Abu Hanifa Mosque the same day, which has its genesis in 767A.D. (That’s an era, not an airplane, Sir.) For the destruction of the golden Mosque at Samara, which survived the Mongol hordes, but not yours – and for that of places of beauty and reverence of which you could never even dream. For the deaths of nearly two hundred foreign and Iraq journalists, truth seekers in this disaster, killed by your soldiers, collaborators or under their watch – in absolute defiance of the Geneva Convention. For the probably five hundred towering academics and Professors, who have joined them. For not even knowing the collective name of the people being killed in your name, each precious life means so little: ‘Iraqians’ you said. No Iraqis or Afghans have been shown such Presidential compassion. Ten is an appropriate place to stop – multiplication by tens and tens and tens is so simple, even the numerically challenged would realize that even mea maxima culpas, have run out.
U.S., Presidents symbolically ‘pardon’ two turkeys at Thanksgiving, who then live out their lives without threat of seasonal slaughter. No Iraqi or Afghan has been shown such Presidential compassion. The ‘liberated’ rate even below American turkeys.
By the way, Iraq’s dead of your national Thursday, were buried, drenched by torrents of tears, on the day America refers to as Black Friday. Indeed. And as America celebrated, Native Americans held their annual memorial for their lost country, at Plymouth Sound, where the first fundamentalists landed. That original grab for land and assets sure set some precedent. I hope you enjoyed the turkey (notice you didn’t pop in on the troops in Iraq for a photo op, with one which transpired to be plastic, as in 2003. But no doubt you check constantly that those you met are not in Arlington.) Hope you weren’t ambushed by those pesky Pretzels.
I’d like to wish you a good year, but somehow I cannot find it in my heart. Oh, and I’d think twice about Iran – as has been pointed out before, you have an awful lot of hostages next door.
*Sinners’ repentance to God, in the Latin Mass: ‘I am culpable’; my fault alone, or Mea maxima culpa : ‘ My most grievous fault.’
Felicity Arbuthnot is a veteran war correspondent based in London.