Warning: This post contains graphic imagery.
When I worked in the mines, I’m ashamed to say that I overheard some very negative and racist conversations from time to time.
One evening as many of us gathered in the motor barn waiting for 3rd shift to start, I heard a fellow maintenance man say, “I think we ought to kill all of the Muslims. They’re all terrorists.” I became disheartened when several around him where nodding in agreement. Many times I heard such things, but this time I wasn’t going to let it ride and I broke my silence.
“They are not all terrorists. If we go by that thinking, than we need to kill all Christians because what they’ve done to millions of people over 2000 years in the name of Christ.”
He, being undeterred from his thinking, countered by telling us all about a holiday he “witnessed” in which Muslim men raped young boys. He tried to make the argument that he had seen them, been around them, and that he knew.
Ignorance, prejudice, bigotry, narrow-minded hatred.
Unless people have lived in many of these “terrorist” countries, all of their knowledge comes from what they’ve seen on television. Some may have a friend who is a veteran of Iraq of Afghanistan which would cause them to think, “What they are telling me is accurate,” but then you have to ask yourself, under what circumstances did these veterans witness these people? In a time of peace or a time of war? Even then, what kind of people did our soldiers most often face? When soldiers and law enforcement are consistently subjected to a small portion of a race or nationality whose hearts have been hardened by the circumstances of their lives, those “peace keepers” will ultimately develop a negative stereotype based on their filtered experiences. Racism and nationalism then develop, much to the advantage of those in power who can then maintain and grow their power by keeping people divided. It certainly worked that way in Germany.
What all of us must remember is that we only see a representative few. Within the Iraq/Afghan wars, hundreds of thousands of innocent lives were lost. Wives, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters. There was a tremendous amount of collateral damage to the Afghan and Iraqi people, people who were good natured and peaceful. Many were just trying to get by in areas of despotic regimes. But make no mistake, we did not invade to help those people liberate themselves from such treatment. If that were the case, we’d have done so decades before. No, we saw many of them as terrorists, we saw ourselves a benevolent force of good committing acts of necessary evil to rid the world of “terrorism.” But that is far from the truth. We became the terrorists.
As Americans living in perhaps the wealthiest nation in the world, we have no idea what it is like to live in the Middle East.
Let me try to help…
Life is tough under a dictatorship. You survive, and sometimes you do what you can in the hopes of eventually overthrowing it, but you have a family. The regime has secret police which will not hesitate to kill and torture you or members of your family. You stay quiet and keep opinions to yourself out of fear.
New spreads that a country will be invading. Word on the streets is that they are coming to liberate your country and get rid of the dictator. While you are at the market trying to get enough food to survive the shortages to come, you hear a tremendous explosion near your home. You run back, arriving to find that the building your family was in is destroyed. Your wife, your small children, their smiles and laughter—gone forever. At first you are devastated, no, you are more than devastated.
A few weeks later you are a shell of a human being. The images you recall of your family and the heart wrenching pain you feel is tearing you apart inside. You have lost weight and you often break down into uncontrollable sobs. You begin hearing about others who have lost as you have.
Months go by; news trickles in. You see and hear of US black ops personnel coming in and shooting at people to protect the rich and affluent business officials rallying to make financial gains from the invasion. You see Haliburton trucks and thousands of US civilian contractors working in the oilfields or rebuilding for the wealthy proprietors. They build bases and tend to the thousands of US troops. Many of the soldiers are scared young men and women, and many are proud to serve their country and protect their families.
Some, but not all soldiers look down upon you calling you a “Haji.” You even hear the words, “Sand n*****.” Some of them are barely 20 years old. They are fed by a hatred and the belief that somehow you and your people caused the planes to crash into a building thousands upon thousands of miles away.
You hear about a father who is confused as he drives his car to get help for his family. He is rushing up to a road block to get help as quickly as possible. A scared young solider pulls the trigger on the car speeding towards him. Rapid pops of gunfire. Bullet holes enter the windshield and red blotches hit the back glass. A father is gone, the loving man who was only trying to help his children.
You have nothing left. You had no one to bury, the only pictures of your family remain as images in your mind. You are relying on others for bits of food and you are harassed by ignorant soldiers as you wander around to get them. You hear of people you know who have lost as much as you. You hear they have started picking up guns to take revenge in the name of their loved ones. Friends are detained for questioning, some taken to different places in the world. Your hatred escalates.
You find that the country who invaded was using the removal of your dictator and a search for WMDs as an excuse to get to the country’s oil, a resource that runs their economy and makes them wealthier.
How would you feel?
What if the tables were turned and we were the ones being invaded by a larger, richer country? It’s hard to think about because it will never happen. But just think if it did. If you saw so much death and destruction, how would you feel? A lot of people would probably start cherry picking the scriptures to allow for vengeance. “Eye for an eye” would be underlined in the King James Bible. In fact, some people did underline it after 9/11 as a way of justifying their support for the war.
It’s hard to fathom living such a life, facing such circumstances because the US doesn’t have an invasion threat. We have nuclear weapons, the strongest, most well funded and technologically advanced military in the world. We would never face such a situation, and for that reason, millions of people in this country have never put themselves into the shoes of other people living in different, less fortunate countries, including those living in the Middle East.
The truth is, we didn’t have to go to war. That has been proven. Even George W’s brother Jeb said he would not have invaded Iraq. But, they did. And we are not blameless as citizens. It was that war and our compliance and/or support of it, that has caused all of this pain and suffering on both sides.
Terrorists were never a serious threat to our country, and still aren’t. Our infrastructure is weak. It would not take much to cause rolling blackouts or interruptions of water to millions of people in our country and affect our economy in much more negative ways than 9/11 ever did. Why didn’t it happen that way? Why hasn’t it happened still?
But it doesn’t matter. Hundreds of thousands of people are suffering and fleeing the continued violence that we, as a Americans, set into motion. They are people like us with families like our ours, with children they are desperately trying to get away from the horrible violence-they are just trying to get their loved ones to safety. Unfortunately, this is something that is hard to fathom for many of us because we live in relative safety.
The most heart wrenching part is how we, and people in other wealthy countries, are turning refugees away. People are calling them all terrorists, saying that they are threats to our own families. Some even complain and worry about straining our resources when we have stores stocked to the ceiling with food that we waste.
So before you support the war on terror rhetoric and turn your backs on Syrian refugees, many of whom were Iraqis who fled OUR INVASION OF THEIR COUNTRY TO GET THEIR FAMILIES TO SAFETY, remember who wanted this war, and who profited from this war: military subcontractors, defense contractors, Haliburton, the Bush Family, the Cheney Family, Blackwater. Remember that your want of cheap, easy transportation and cheap goods brought over on diesel powered freighters, played a huge part in their suffering.
Remember where you received your information about the war, and where you still receive all your information from: NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, FOX news. Remember that all of them are rich corporations who only want to build their fortunes and their power, that they all work together to protect themselves and serve their own interests.
And let us not forget about our own veterans who fought in these wars, who were forced into this mess. They had orders—orders that if not followed would mean prison time or death under the Universal Code of Military Justice. Many are just as much victims who now live with PTSD and mutilated bodies. Some live with guilt for their actions after being put into unavoidable situations by their superiors. There are thousands upon thousands of grieving mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, and children who lost their loved ones overseas. The bravery of our soldiers was used and abused. Their desire to do good and protect the innocent was manipulated for the purposes of a wealthy few. They were told they were defending their country, but in truth, they were ordered by politicians coerced by defense contractors, oil companies, and all other corporations who depend upon oil.
Two wrongs do not make a right. We shouldn’t add another to it. Open your hearts and minds . Stop believing everything you hear from the people whose lucrative bottom line depends upon you to hearing it. Stop hating when you really know nothing about the people you choose to hate.