To authority, “why” is a threat. To personal understanding, it is a friend.
The following article appeared Thursday, 22 December 2011, in The Guardian, a well known British newspaper http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/dec/22/fallujah-us-marine-iraq.
I Am Sorry for the Role I Played in Fallujah
by Ross Caputi, former U.S. Marine
It has been seven years since the end of the second siege of Fallujah – the US assault that left the city in ruins, killed thousands of civilians, and displaced hundreds of thousands more; the assault that poisoned a generation, plaguing the people who live there with cancers and their children with birth defects.
It has been seven years and the lies that justified the assault still perpetuate false beliefs about what we did.
The US veterans who fought there still do not understand who they fought against, or what they were fighting for.
I know, because I am one of those American veterans. In the eyes of many of the people I “served” with, the people of Fallujah remain dehumanized and their resistance fighters are still believed to be terrorists. But unlike most of my counterparts, I understand that I was the aggressor, and that the resistance fighters in Fallujah were defending their city.
It is also the seventh anniversary of the deaths of two close friends of mine, Travis Desiato and Bradley Faircloth, who were killed in the siege. Their deaths were not heroic or glorious. Their deaths were tragic, but not unjust.
How can I begrudge the resistance in Fallujah for killing my friends, when I know that I would have done the same thing if I were in their place? How can I blame them when we were the aggressors?
It could have been me instead of Travis or Brad. I carried a radio on my back that dropped the bombs that killed civilians and reduced Fallujah to rubble. If I were a Fallujan, I would have killed anyone like me. I would have had no choice. The fate of my city and my family would have depended on it. I would have killed the foreign invaders.
Travis and Brad are both victims and perpetrators. They were killed and they killed others because of a political agenda in which they were pawns. They were the iron fist of American empire, and an expendable loss in the eyes of their leaders.
I do not see any contradiction in feeling sympathy for the dead US Marines and soldiers and at the same time feeling sympathy for the Fallujans who fell to their guns. The contradiction lies in believing that we were liberators, when in fact we oppressed the freedoms and wishes of Fallujans. The contradiction lies in believing that we were heroes, when the definition of “hero” bares no relation to our actions in Fallujah.
What we did to Fallujah cannot be undone, and I see no point in attacking the people in my former unit. What I want to attack are the lies and false beliefs. I want to destroy the prejudices that prevented us from putting ourselves in the other’s shoes and asking ourselves what we would have done if a foreign army invaded our country and laid siege to our city.
I understand the psychology that causes the aggressors to blame their victims. I understand the justifications and defense mechanisms. I understand the emotional urge to want to hate the people who killed someone dear to you. But to describe the psychology that preserves such false beliefs is not to ignore the objective moral truth that no attacker can ever justly blame their victims for defending themselves.
The same distorted morality has been used to justify attacks against the native Americans, the Vietnamese, El Salvadorans, and the Afghans. It is the same story over and over again. These people have been dehumanized, their God-given right to self-defense has been delegitimized, their resistance has been re-framed as terrorism, and US soldiers have been sent to kill them.
History has preserved these lies, normalized them, and socialized them into our culture: so much so that legitimate resistance against US aggression is incomprehensible to most, and to even raise this question is seen as un-American.
History has defined the US veteran as a hero, and in doing so it has automatically defined anyone who fights against him as the bad guy. It has reversed the roles of aggressor and defender, moralized the immoral, and shaped our societies’ present understanding of war.
I cannot imagine a more necessary step towards justice than to put an end to these lies, and achieve some moral clarity on this issue. I see no issue more important than to clearly understand the difference between aggression and self-defense, and to support legitimate struggles. I cannot hate, blame, begrudge, or resent Fallujans for fighting back against us. I am sincerely sorry for the role I played in the second siege of Fallujah, and I hope that some day not just Fallujans but all Iraqis will win their struggle.
– This piece originally ran on stopwar.org.uk –
Normally, we frame the information we share concerning personal and world events in terms of who, what, when and where. Directly involved or not, we laugh, we cry, we feel disgusted, angry, elated or threatened. Seldom do we ask “why” life is unfolding the way it is. What lies behind the decisions we make, and the actions we take? Why do we think and act the way we do?
Ross Caputi, after his traumatic awakening in Iraq, is starting to ask “why”. Isn’t it time for the rest of us to do the same, and “why” is not the only question we must ask. Who are we? What’s reality? What’s the purpose of life? When we stop asking questions our minds stop thinking, leaving us at the mercy of those all too happy to use our energy against us. Isn’t it time for us to take response-ability for our own beliefs and our own actions?
“Response-ability” is the ability to respond to changing conditions with thoughtfulness, understanding and imagination It increases the probability of peace, freedom and long-term human survival. Freedom, without developing response-ability, creates chaos. Response-ability is proactive while “responsibility” is passive. By not developing our response-ability, we open the door to subjugation and tyranny.
Ross Caputi’s Iraq experience, and the following quote from the poem, Charge of The Light Brigade, by Alfred Lord Tennyson, “Their’s not to reason why, their’s but to do and die,” clearly describes the cynicism and contempt for others that hides behind a nation’s decision to embark upon empire building instead of maintaining national defense. When we treat others as little more than gun fodder, what are we saying about ourselves? Maybe it’s time to take a good long look at ourselves in the mirror, not to define ourselves by our experiences but to learn from them.
Pete – http://realtalkworld.com
“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having (creating) a human experience.” – Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
Instead of money, power and privilege, would love, truth and joy be a better measure of success? One set of values isolates us in the material world of separation, scarcity and competition, while the other not only acknowledges our oneness as well as our individuality, it acknowledges our role in creation itself. Using love, truth and joy to measure success provides us with a moral compass. It encourages us to live for the love of Being and Creation, instead of running from the fear of suffering and death. It inspires us to find and express what’s best in us and ALL we’re a part of, instead of giving in to the least of what we can be.
“How you define yourself and the world around you forms your intent, which, in turn, forms your reality.” – Seth
In other words, we create our own reality from what we choose to believe about ourselves and the world around us.
If we don’t consciously choose the ideas we accept as beliefs, attitudes, values and expectations, we unconsciously absorb them from our surroundings.
If the ideas we accept as beliefs, attitudes, values and expectations create our reality, can we afford not to question them?
The more we love and appreciate ourselves, the better we treat ourselves and each other.
What do we want most for our children, ourselves and the world?
What can we do today for the selves we’ll be tomorrow?
The secrets of the universe lie hidden in the shadows of our experience. Look for them!
Affirm what you believe!