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
"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