As the twin American and Iraqi tragedies play themselves out upon the world stage, it has become clear that something is needed from the American people.
It is time for us to apologize to the citizens of Iraq.
The United States is a country that does not apologize easily. Our national mythology paints us as tough, gruff, principled straight-shooters who rarely miss and always check their targets. We wrap ourselves in the flags of democracy, decency and holy righteousness.
We do not acknowledge that Satan resides within and not without. We are shocked by the grisly murder committed next door, the furtive torture conducted in a dark and distant cell, the fiery assault on a monument to economic and political puissance. We call these things aberrations and then we return you to your regularly scheduled program.
A decade will pass before a majority of us are ready to admit what the rest of the world knew from the start: that the war in Iraq was unjust. Recently obtained minutes and memoranda from No. 10 Downing Street, the London offices of U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair, show that he met and corresponded extensively with U.S. President George W. Bush beginning in April of 2002. Their purpose? To game the diplomatic community and force an invasion of Iraq. Blair does not deny the authenticity or accuracy of these documents.
Citizens of Iraq, your fate was decided in secret by two men, who then orchestrated propaganda campaigns to whip up war fever among the peoples of the West.
I bear full responsibility for the estimated 23,000 confirmed and 75,000 unconfirmed Iraqi war deaths. In the summer of 2002, as Bush was shifting his media machine into high gear, I raised my voice in protest. But it was a weak and timid voice, and I did not persist. I did not march in the streets, I did not offer myself up for arrest, I did not organize or ask anyone to organize me. I did not make a stand.
Now I stand with bloody panga upraised, a child’s helpless limbs stretched before me. I have tasted the blood on my face. I have wiped it with the back of one hand and gone back to work. I have told myself that the blood of Iraqis is like water and will wash away clean. The blood of Americans is just a drop and acceptable. What matters is that this work will go forward. What matters is that we finish what we start.
I cannot apologize on behalf of the current population of America. They would laugh at the idea, mocking me and offering arguments in place of apology. But I can speak for the future population, because I am the future population. How many years must pass before Germany no longer stands in the shadow of World War II? It will take that long for the United States as well.
On behalf of myself and the nation, I apologize for invading your country. I apologize for the killings committed, the killings yet to come and the accelerating pace of killing. I apologize for the embrace of torture, abuse and fear as tools for spreading democracy. I apologize for the inadequate troop levels that could not guarantee your security post-invasion. I apologize for the inattention to basics such as providing electricity, clean water and jobs, and the far higher priority placed on extracting profit from your misfortune. I apologize for the decision to use contract rather than local labor, leaving Iraqi men with few options other than joining the Guard or jihad. I apologize for the disrespect shown to your culture, your faith, and the Quran.
Most of all I apologize for the long civil war that your nation, in all likelihood, now faces.
It will take time to reverse the course of U.S. foreign policy, but I will do what I can. I will enlist others in the effort, women and men of conscience who value life for its own sake and not because it serves an ideological or economic goal.
I will support new laws in the United States, laws preempting rash and ill-advised military actions like the ones undertaken in Vietnam and Iraq. I will oppose the American system of ‘values’ that assigns everything a market price based on what it contributes to a U.S. shareholder’s bottom line. The market price of an Iraqi citizen is zero; that of Iraq’s location and resources, priceless. Hence, war.
Americans should stop pretending to be a just people. Instead they should strive to act justly, giving the greater community a chance to judge the sincerity of those actions. Once we have done justice to the citizens of Iraq, we will be able to count each as a friend. I begin today.
Brett Miller is a second-year literary journalism major. You can reach him at mistr_write@ yahoo.com.