Jarring propaganda: At left, the father of this four-year-old girl, an Iraqi army officer, has yet to come home. At right, David Toughill of the British 7th Armored Brigade ("Desert Rats") plays with a girl in Zubayr. (AFP photo by Ahmad Al-Rubaye at left, Pooled Reuters photo at right)

A note to the American and British troops in Iraq

Your leaders in London and Washington sent you there with the best of intentions. You are to rid Iraq of a warmongering dictator who used weapons of mass destruction to oppress his own people, massacring tens of thousands. You know what a terrible responsibility it is to have those weapons, because they are also at your disposal.

It is a worthy end, but one that is to be achieved with the direst of means: the invasion and occupation of a contained, pacified Arab state, inevitably causing the deaths of many innocent Iraqis, the very people who are to benefit from your actions. Does the end justify such means? Since it is not your normal prerogative as soldiers to ask that question, please know that there are those back home who can, and do, according to the constitutional principles you have sworn to uphold with your lives. 

You are there to liberate the Iraqi people, not to kill them for your immediate safety -- even though that is what you have been occasionally forced to do. It is their land, their homes you're trespassing now. It is their parents, siblings, spouses and children you've been slaughtering, in battle or otherwise.

  

Utter Devastation: Razzaq Karem al-Khafaj thought he was bringing his family to safety when they fled Nasiriyah for the village of Al Hillal. The village came under attack by US helicopters, and in the carnage Karem lost his father, mother, two brothers, wife and six children. (AP photo by Ali Heider) 

On April 1, 2003, US marines killed seven unarmed women and children at a checkpoint near Najaf, for failing to stop their vehicle. It was not the first time deadly force had gone astray; it was not to be the last.

     

No one, not even your enemy, doubts your courage and honor. No one forgets that you, too, suffer death and injury amongst your ranks. Should you ever wonder why your toil and sacrifice would seem so out of place, please realize this.

The Iraqis, at least those fortunate enough to have survived your onslaught, are indeed celebrating the passing of their murderous tyrant at the present moment. Once the euphoria subsides and the looting is done, they must come to terms with the fact that, contrary to the lies that have been force-fed to them by their government since 1979, they are and have long been a defeated people. The fate of their war-torn country must again be decided in part by foreigners, as it was in colonial times.

Be wary of overstaying your welcome. The Iraqis still remember you as the forces that have impoverished them under twelve years of economic sanctions. To them, you represent the powers that founded and defended Israel, upon lands that once belonged to their Palestinian brethren. To them, you appear to act as proxies of outsiders that covet their reserves of oil, the second largest in the world.

   

Now, your overwhelming superiority of strength brings immediate destruction and shame to a proud people, who see themselves as caretakers of Mesopotamia, the cradle of Western civilization. Some of them will fight on, resorting to guerilla tactics against impossible odds, just to restore their pride. Respect these defenders as you capture them en masse, granting them the pride they inherently deserve, even if they are too defeated to show it.

Wars cannot be fought without death and suffering at both sides. You are there, voluntarily, to do a job few would do, however one that many do deem necessary. 

Please end this war soon, as only you know how. You are dearly missed at home.

Charles Weng, 2 April 2003, revised 9 April 2003

  
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