Full of affection and respect for the conquering power, no doubt:
Then a young man in the front row only a couple of feet from me said in a quiet voice “We have nothing to say. The last years have been only sad ones.” Again there was silence.
Sami, my host from Najaf and part of the Muslim Peacemaker Team, stood and shared. He told the story of how, after the U.S. bombing assaults on Fallujah, he and others came from the Shia cities of Najaf and Karbala, to carry out a symbolic act of cleaning up rubble and trash in the streets of Fallujah. This gesture, he said, melted hearts and healed some of the brokenness between Sunni and Shia. He spoke of the delegation of peacemakers from the United States who were just in Najaf for twelve days, of the work to build bridges and seek reconciliation.
An impassioned young woman from the middle of the lecture hall spoke up. It was obviously not easy for her. “It is not,” she said, “about lack of water and electricity [something I had mentioned]. You have destroyed everything. You have destroyed our country. You have destroyed what is inside of us! You have destroyed our ancient civilization. You have taken our smiles from us. You have
taken our dreams!”
Someone asked, “Why did you this? What did we do to you that you would do this to us?”
“Iraqis cannot forget what Americans have done here,” said another. “They destroyed the childhood. You don’t destroy everything and then say ‘We’re sorry.’ “You don’t commit crimes and then say ‘Sorry.’”
“To bomb us and then send teams to do investigations on the effects of the bombs…No, it will not be forgotten. It is not written on our hearts, it is carved in our hearts.”
We had a discussion around here earlier in the week about the virtues (or lack of virtues) of empire-building. Countries with imperial intent may conquer others into submission, but that doesn’t mean that they haven’t caused themselves more long term grief, as the conquered people resent what has been done to them.