Posted in the Newsletter of the Concerned Philosophers for Peace Vol. 26 (Spring – Summer 2006)
“The ongoing difficulties faced by Fallujans are so great that words fail to properly express it.” Words from a cleric in Fallujah as he tried to explain the litany of ills that continue to afflict his city one year after the U.S.-led assault took place.
“All the men in the mosque were from my neighborhood. They were not terrorists.” Words from a young man who said he left a room of men either injured or homeless thirty minutes before the raid on his mosque, the same mosque shown in the now-famous videotape of an American soldier shooting unarmed men lying on the mosque floor.
“There haven’t been any funds for home reconstruction available since the change in Iraqi government last January.” The words of a civic leader from Fallujah as he showed CPTers the still-devastated areas of his city.
There are no words. A city that has been demonized by Americans and many Iraqis, using the words “the city of terrorists.” A city that its residents call “the city of mosques.” A city that even its residents have to enter at checkpoints, often taking up to an hour to traverse. A city that is being choked to death economically by those same checkpoints.
CPTers and a member of the Muslim Peacemaker Teams came to Fallujah to meet with friends and contacts to ask them if the city was planning on doing something in remembrance of the tragic events of last November when U.S. forces attacked their city of 300,000 to root out, by U.S. estimates, 1,500 terrorists.
What we heard in response were words of remembrance, resistance and resilience. The cleric said that a number of civic leaders had come to him with a proposal for an action in remembrance of the anniversary. Their proposal was to raise funds to contribute to relief efforts for the victims of the earthquake in Pakistan. He said that a teaching of Islam is to always look to aid others in need before asking for aid yourself.
The cleric said that he recently traveled to another Middle Eastern country and during his visit he met with a cleric from Libya. The Libyan cleric said that in his city, and in other places in Libya, parents are naming newborn girls “Fallujah” in honor of the city. The cleric said that more than 800 girls had been named Fallujah in his city alone.
Words are inadequate, but words are all we have. Words like “collective punishment” and “ghettoize” come to mind for the current state of life in Fallujah.
What words or deeds could undo the massive trauma faced by the people of Fallujah every day? Everywhere we went during the afternoon young boys listened to our words and the words of those with whom we were meeting. I kept wondering what was going on in their minds as they relived the events of a year ago and the ensuing trauma. What effect will these events have on their lives as they grow up?
There are no words.
Tom Fox was a member of a Christian Peacemaker Team working in Iraq. On March 9, 2006 Fox was found dead in Baghdad. Text reprinted from Nov. 8, 2005 entry from his blog, “Waiting for the Light”.