Friday, March 28, 2008

A Child's Death in Iraq

It's so, so time to leave.

I don't know how anyone can read this and argue for anything, except that it is time to leave. I truly don't.

Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation

"My brother is dead ... and I helped kill him" -- by the Rev. Mike Kinman

Midday yesterday, this email popped into my inbox.

Mohammed's brother Ali died of his wounds today courtesy of shrapnel and flames caused by US missile strike.

He was 9.

Don't expect to hear anything from Mohammed until 40 day of the mourning period is over. XXX* says US soldiers shot at Mohammed as he approached a roadblock they had set up and that he was carrying Ali in his arms trying to get to hospital. He also says that Ali was very badly burned and died screaming.

*Co-worker of Mohammed's, name removed for securityreasons
The words cut through my heart to read. Not because they should have been surprising ... although maybe because I had been living in denial of how predictable they were. But mostly because the friend who sent me this email was telling me my brother was dead, and he died in my other brother's arms -- my brother, Mohammed, who was experiencing pain I could not even imagine ... and not for the first time.

The words cut through my heart to read because I knew.

My brother is dead ... and I helped kill him.

A little background for the perplexed...

I first "met" Mohammed a little more than a year ago. Looking for information about what was really happening on the ground in Irak, I found this website set up by an Irish former UN Peacekeeper who spends a great deal of time there. They set up people on the ground in Irak with laptops and digital cameras to document what is really happening there.

I read this post by Mohammed and was immediately struck by his eloquence and the power of his writing. I quoted it in a sermon I preached the next Sunday and then posted on my blog. Through the wonders of Google alerts, Mohammed found my sermon and commented on it, which started a conversations of posts and comments between us.

I learned that Mohammed was 16 years old, that he worked not just for Gorilla's Guides but also doing things like delivering food to people in refugee camps. I also learned that I couldn't know his real name or any other details that might identify him because their lives were in danger if they were identified as being Gorilla's Guides bloggers.

I learned that Mohammed hated America because America had invaded and occupied his country and killed his people. At the same time, he was willing and even eager to be in conversation with me because of his respect for whom he refers to as the Prophet Jesus (Praise Be Unto Him) and his teachings. That my Christian faith and priesthood and his submission to Islam were a common ground for conversation. So we made plans to begin an online conversation on a private, secure channel.

But before we could begin, I got this email:
Most of Mohammed's remaining family killed in Arbaeen massacres.
Father killed on Tuesday. Mother died of wounds incurred same attack yesterday. Little brother wounded same attack but now released from hospital. One other sibling in refugee camp uniinjured.

Mohammed now head of family in "nuclear family" sense of expression.

Mohammed and brother on pilgimage
The "little brother" was Ali.

When our conversation began again it was hard going. We started from the relatively safe ground of what we each believed as Muslim and Christian, but the conversation quickly turned to Irak and the U.S. I said I hoped we could become friends. He had serious doubts about that but always assured me that we were brothers. "My brother in humanity," he calls me ... and I call him the same.

The conversation was challenging and convicting. Mohammed continually said things that were and are difficult for me to hear as someone who loves my country and believes deeply in the ideals upon which it was founded and to which I believe our better angels still strongly aspire. At the same time, I was carrying on an email conversation with a former student of mine, Paul, who was an Army Ranger stationed in Irak. Paul is one of those people who represents to me the desire to follow our better angels, someone willing to live sacrificially for what he believes in.

The stories and perspectives I was getting from each of them sometimes converged but more often than not were poles apart.

I cannot even begin to go into what Mohammed has taught me not just about what is going on in Irak, but about Islam ... and about my own Christian faith. Holding his story in tension with Paul's was almost always difficult, but I became convinced that no matter how well intentioned and good-hearted soldiers like Paul were (and Mohammed and I went back and forth on that one!), our presence there must end and it must end totally.

There's more...
Go to the jump. Read the rest of the story.


It's time for A Responsible Plan to end the war. Currently endorsed by 43 candidates -- 39 House and 4 Senate.

Not that I ran this story to plug a political plan. I ran the story because it breaks my heart, and because we're so cut off here, from the other side of the story. Even here, in the heart of the progressive blogosphere, unless we're actively seeking out sites such as Iraq Today (on our blogroll) we're simply not getting what's happening in Iraq, as everything we read is being filtered through the American press.

In the first week we were open, I ran an article with the subhead, Corpse & garbage in the streets of Adhamiya. Nothing has changed, except more dead children and soldiers.

We need to leave.