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A Poem for UmHaider and Candy

by Susan Bright Saturday, May. 31, 2003 at 6:38 PM

Umhaider is an Iraqi woman who lost one of her sons during bombings and she is in the U.S. for the treatment of her other son who has 100 peices of shrapnel inside him and Candy is a gulf war vet who has overcome hatred and bitterness indoctrinated by the army and has gotten a long awaited forgiveness.This is a reminder of who suffers in war



Candy drove a truck during

the first Gulf war,

helped bury thousands of

Iraqi soldiers along the Road of Tears.

She was raped.

She was infected by Gulf War Syndrome.

Candy was horrified by her part

in the carnage, ashamed of

hating Iraqi people ‹

as if one could open a trap door

in the shoulder, behind the neck bone,

on the upper arm of a soldier

and pour in consequence.

The moral impact of violence

filled every cell of her ‹

one woman, a truck driver

in the first Gulf war.

When she went to Iraq in 1999

to work on the water treatment

plants in Basra ‹ the sounds,

smells, textures choked her soul.

Candy wanted to apologize

to the Iraqi people for her part

in the devastation of their country ‹

She wanted to repair something.


When Mustafa and his mother,

Um Haider, visited American school

children shortly after the second

American invasion of Iraq ‹

Mustafa, who was four when

he was injured by fragments from

an American bomb outside his home,

in Basra, in 1998 ‹

said, "Hide, Hide Mother."

He heard an airplane pass over head.

Um Haider, whose name means

Mother of Haider ‹

Haider was killed by

those same bombs ‹

Um Haider said, "No, no they

don¹t drop bombs here."

"Yes, Yes they will," he said.

"Americans don¹t drop bombs

on Americans. Only in Iraq,"

Um Haider said.

"They will know," Mustafa cried.

"They will know we are Iraqi

and they will bomb us."


When the Arab Americn women met with

Um Haider in a circle of women

one asked,

"Where does your strength come



To bring Mustafa to America for

medical treatment ‹

there are more

than 100 pieces of shrapnel

in his body ‹ Um Haider left ‹

four children, her whole family,

just before the horror

of Shock and Awe.

"When I eat," she says,

"I think of my children and I don¹t

think they have food.

I think how can I pass this food

through my lips?"

"They were safe a few days ago,"

her face turns into light, "someone

went to see them, and called me."

I think how wrenching it was

to leave my own mother yesterday ‹

after a heart attack.

Um Haider¹s torn from a whole

country, city, family ‹


When Candy met Um Haider,

and spoke the apology that was her

own best hope for sanity

Um Haider said, "You are a victim

of this war, just like I am."

If you ask Um Haider where her

strength comes from, she will say Iraqi

people are strong. She will say,

"I am a mother."


Candy said, "After I talked to her

I was a different person."

After that she began

the work of cracking open

the ignorance ‹


One woman, and another, and another

begin the long apology ‹

mother to mother,

to mother, to son, to child, to daughter

"forgive us, this is wrong"‹

a million people, more

speaking a long apology

that rains sweet healing down on us

until we are wise and fierce enough

to stop governments from allowing this,

until there is enough forgiveness

to end the violence.

© Susan Bright


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