by Art Laffin, Dorothy Day House Catholic Worker, Washington, DC
Today marks the 27th anniversary of the U.S. bombing of the Amariyah Shelter in Iraq. There is no indication that the U.S. government and military will ever repent for this unspeakable war crime. And it is unlikely few, if any religious, political or military leader, will ever decry this mortal sin! But on this day the people of Amariyah and Iraq remember and continue to mourn and grieve, and still ask why?
Jesus instructs His followers–then and now–of the command: “Thou shall not kill!” “Love one another.” God forgive the U.S. for defying these divine commands. Let us pray that our nation will truly repent for this crime, part of a much larger crime of 27 years of U.S. warmaking in Iraq, which has resulted in over several million Iraqi deaths from bombings and sanctions, social upheaval, over four million refugees, immeasurable trauma for an entire society, political instability, and a seemingly endless cycle of violence. All of these factors have served to create the conditions for the rise of the Islamic State. Every effort must be made to resist U.S. plans to continue the cycle of violence by waging war against ISIS. If there is any hope to make true peace with Iraq, the U.S. must express forgiveness and make reparations to the Iraqi people for its warmaking, withdraw all troops, CIA and private contractors from Iraq, and seek a path of genuine dialogue and diplomacy.
In the name of all victims, let us continue to call for the abolition of war and all weapons of war, including killer drones and nuclear weapons, for an end to all U.S. military intervention worldwide, as well as for an end to torture, racial hatred and violence, and all forms of oppression. On this eve of Ash Wednesday, let us redouble our efforts to create the Beloved Community as we seek to live and proclaim God’s reign of love, justice and nonviolence.
The following was written by Art Laffin during his visit to the Amariyah Shelter in Iraq on Feb. 13, 1998, the 7th anniversary of the bombing. Art went to Iraq with a Voices in the Wilderness delegation.
by Art Laffin
February 13, 1991, 4:00 a.m. Over 1,000 Iraqis, mostly women and children still sleeping, take refuge from the terror of U.S. bombs at a shelter in Amariyah, just outside Baghdad.
For several days a surveillance plane had flown over the shelter. U.S. officials say they think Saddam Hussein is there. The U.S. military knows different.
A decision is made in secret by President George Bush, Defense (War) Secretary Dick Cheney and General Colin Powell — bomb the shelter, massacre the innocents!
First one “smart” bomb is dropped to make an opening in the roof, killing scores of people.
Then, through the opening, another bomb falls, reaching deep into the shelter basement, killing everyone in its path.
In total, nearly a thousand Iraqis are murdered, women and children burned alive. No more than 17 survive.
I see flesh still seared on a wall under the basement stairway. People, reduced to mere shadows, form a human silhouette on the stone wall.
A replay of Auschwitz, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Vietnam, El Salvador, Panama.
The crime, premeditated and barbarous.
The sin, mortal.
The perpetrators unrepentant!
Seven years later, eight peacemakers from the U.S. and the U.K. come to pay homage to the victims at this shelter,
Photos and drawings of the dead adorn the walls of the shelter.
We repent, we mourn, we witness
the ongoing nightmare of the survivors.
We eight do what we can –
to console the mourners,
offering love and solidarity to the Iraqi people, already crucified to a cross of economic sanctions.
We stand with the victims, the children, seeking to stay the death-dealing hand of the U.S. empire.