An blog by a member of the Catholic peace movement, Pax Christi, to explore the nexus between contemplation and resistance. "The Christian must discover in contemplation, and in the giving of his life, those symbolic actions which will ignite the people's faith to resist injustice with their whole lives, lives coming together as a united force of truth and thus releasing the liberating power of the God within them." - James Douglass, Contemplation and Resistance.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

The Party of Death

"God, you are known throughout Judah, Israel glories in your name.
Your tent is pitched in Salem, your command post on Zion.
There you break flaming arrows, shield and sword and war itself!
Majestic and circled with light, you seize your prey; stouthearted soldiers
are stripped of their plunder.
Dazed, they cannot lift a hand.
At your battle cry, God of Jacob, horse and rider are stunned.
You, the one who strikes fear; who can stand up to your anger!
Your verdict sounds from heaven; earth reels, then is still, when you stand as judge
to defend the oppressed." - Psalm 76.

"In the first minutes after the shock of the blast, residents said, silence reigned on the street of walled courtyards, brick homes and tiny palm groves. Marines appeared stunned, or purposeful, as they moved around the burning Humvee, witnesses said.

Then one of the Marines took charge and began shouting, said Fahmi, who was watching from his roof. Fahmi said he saw the Marine direct other Marines into the house closest to the blast, about 50 yards away.

It was the home of 76-year-old Abdul Hamid Hassan Ali. Although he had used a wheelchair since diabetes forced a leg amputation years ago, Ali was always one of the first on his block to go out every morning, scattering scraps for his chickens and hosing the dust of the arid western town from his driveway, neighbors said.

In the house with Ali and his 66-year-old wife, Khamisa Tuma Ali, were three of the middle-aged male members of their family, at least one daughter-in-law and four children -- 4-year-old Abdullah, 8-year-old Iman, 5-year-old Abdul Rahman and 2-month-old Asia.

Marines entered shooting, witnesses recalled. Most of the shots -- in Ali's house and two others -- were fired at such close range that they went through the bodies of the family members and plowed into walls or the floor, physicians at Haditha's hospital said.

A daughter-in-law, identified as Hibbah, escaped with Asia, survivors and neighbors said. Iman and Abdul Rahman were shot but survived. Four-year-old Abdullah, Ali and the rest died.

Ali took nine rounds in the chest and abdomen, leaving his intestines spilling out of the exit wounds in his back, according to his death certificate.

The Marines moved to the house next door, Fahmi said.

Inside were 43-year-old Khafif, 41-year-old Aeda Yasin Ahmed, an 8-year-old son, five young daughters and a 1-year-old girl staying with the family, according to death certificates and neighbors.

The Marines shot them at close range and hurled grenades into the kitchen and bathroom, survivors and neighbors said later. Khafif's pleas could be heard across the neighborhood. Four of the girls died screaming.

Only 13-year-old Safa Younis lived -- saved, she said, by her mother's blood spilling onto her, making her look dead when she fell, limp, in a faint.

Townspeople led a Washington Post reporter this week to the girl they identified as Safa. Wearing a ponytail and tracksuit, the girl said her mother died trying to gather the girls. The girl burst into tears after a few words. The older couple caring for her apologized and asked the reporter to leave.

Moving to a third house in the row, Marines burst in on four brothers, Marwan, Qahtan, Chasib and Jamal Ahmed. Neighbors said the Marines killed them together.

Marine officials said later that one of the brothers had the only gun found among the three families, although there has been no known allegation that the weapon was fired."

"Just because I believe in the 'resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come' I must already resist the forces of death and annihilation here and now, and must love life here on earth so much that I try with everything I have to free it from exploitation, oppression and alienation. And the opposite is equally true because I love life, and stand up for its justice, and fight for its freedom wherever it is threatened, I hope that one day death will be swallowed up in the victory of life, and that then 'there will be no mourning nor crying nor pain any more' (Rev. 21:4)" - Jurgen Moltmann.

The forces of death crowd into our hearts every day. I do not excuse the soldiers who carried out this bloody and unjustified massacre, but many of us can recognize the forces that drove them to it - the forces that so easily drive us. The tension straps us into our societal binding - the slightest resistance causes chafing. Every minute, we wonder if a sudden explosion at work will mean an end to all the dreams of our life. We fight without ceasing to preserve a pool of hope that is constantly drying out. Then the explosion comes and the tightness of the binding gives way. We shout - we are momentarily loosed from the bonds that make us see human beings in the faces of others. We become agents of another - our fingers now owned by the machine twitch and twitch and the children die. God save us from the body of this death!

The principal to keep hold of in the face of such massacres is to recognize that what they have done cannot be isolated, much as the military court system and our news media will attempt to do. Their first impulse is to rope off this "incident" (that they were unable to cover up) and point to it as a legal problem. It is not a legal problem - it is part of a much larger picture that includes our own assent to violence in the wake of 9/11. Of course, the picture is much larger than even that. Just as in Vietnam, those soldiers were acting out of a hidden consensus that fundamentally approves of violence and seems incapable of grasping that all violence involves injustice, lies, and oppression. Soldiers are conditioned to be as violent as possible, yet they are told that they must obey rules. But rules turn to dust before the fundamental forces that drove them into the "theatre of war" in the first place. Those forces are the falsehoods that now must be covered up with violence. No matter what the rules say, these men were indeed obeying their master.

"The trouble with violence is that it changes not too much, but too little. Nonviolence is more radical because it is more truthful. Violence always ends up calling on lies to defend it, just as lies call on violence to defend them. By contrast, truth is naked, vulnerable as Christ, its only weapon Christ's own, God's love. So the very love of God that found oppression, poverty, and corruption intolerable, this same love, rather than inflict suffering - even on those imposing it on the poor - took suffering upon itself. What can only be said cynically of another - 'It is better that one man should die than that an entire nation perish' (ah, the demands of national security!) - can be said in utter truthfulness about oneself: 'It is better that I should die rather than a single other person perish.' That's finally how truth disarms, and there is no better way." - William Sloan Coffin.

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