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Birthday and Bombs in Baghdad

by Jeff Guntzel Tuesday, Mar. 25, 2003 at 5:52 AM
info@vitw.org

Jeff Guntzel's latest on the ground information from Baghdad. March 23, 2003.

Dear Friends,

Tonight, as we mourn the mounting casualties on both sides of the

battle in

Iraq, I wanted to share this excerpt from a statement against war

issued by a

group of women peacemakers during World War One:

"Whoever may be the enemy, our sons are bidden to fight in the next

war.

We know their lives will be sacrificed in vain. War settles nothing.

Every

victory has within its womb the seeds of future war. No country is ever

wholly

in the right or wholly in the wrong. In every nation there are good

and bad.

You cannot punish the pride of an Emperor by killing numbers of his

peasants. We are not willing to go through the long months of

pregnancy

and labor merely to produce more cannon fodder."

One of the first U.S. casualties in Iraq was Kendall Waters-Bey, a

29-year-old Marine from Baltimore, Maryland. He died, along with 11

others,

when his helicopter crashed near Umm Qasr.

Michelle Waters, the Marine's oldest sister, spoke to a reporter for

the

Baltimore Sun shortly after hearing news of her brother's death, "It's

all for

nothing, that war could have been prevented," she lamented. "Now, we're

out of a brother. [President] Bush is not out of a brother. We are."

Similar despair must grip the family members of the two dead Iraqi

soldiers I

saw in a photograph today. Their lifeless bodies were collapsed in a

trench, one soldier still gripping his white flag of surrender.

In the face of such overwhelming tragedy, we offer up an unusual story.

It is

the story of a young girl and a birthday party in Baghdad. We hope you

will

find some glimmer of hope in this parable of the human spirit:

"Amal Shamuri is the fifth child in a family of eight, living in a

small apartment

off Baghdad's Karrada shopping district. Irrepressible and precocious,

Amal joked last January that she wouldn't mind a war if George Bush

would

only bomb her school.

"Today was a different story. Today, Amal celebrated her thirteenth

birthday

on the fourth day of American air strikes on Baghdad with plumes of

black

smoke surrounding the city and darkening the sky, reportedly from oil

set

afire by Iraqi forces defending the capitol.

"Her family and friends gathered with members of the Iraq Peace Team in

a

small garden near the Tigris river to mark the occasion. They blew

balloons

and soap bubbles, strung party streamers, played tag, and ate barbecued

chicken, potato salad, deviled eggs, and chocolate cake. True to form,

the

kids ate the cake first, before serving the rest of the meal to the

adults

present.

"Cruise missiles exploding to the south and east occasionally

interrupted

the party, one powerful enough to rattle tableware and partygoers

alike. The

explosions only temporarily silenced the festivities; but with moments

the

garden once again erupted to squeals of laughter and boisterous

childhood

games, played beneath rising plumes of air-borne debris and smoke in

the

distance.

"'Life is more powerful than death,' said Shane Claiborne, age 27, from

Philadelphia. 'How can George Bush bomb these kids?,' he asked.

"Lisa Ndejuru, age 32, from Montreal, quietly remarked, 'What a day to

be

thirteen.'

"Amal's mother, Kareema, sat silently to one side, watching her kids

play.

Her husband died in a car accident eight years ago, leaving her to

raise

eight children by herself. To her credit, none of them beg in the

streets, and

all save the oldest remain in school. Amal herself dreams of becoming a

lawyer one day.

"When asked what she wanted for her birthday, Amal - whose name means

'hope' in Arabic - smiled and simply replied, 'All I want is peace.'"

For photos of the party, visit:

http://electronicIraq.net/news/377.shtml>

Members of the Iraq Peace Team have begun visiting hospitals in Baghdad

to interview the wounded. We hope to have something to share with you

from those visits soon.

Sincerely,

Jeff Guntzel, for Voices in the Wilderness

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