The Courage to Face the Consequences
By Ray McGovern
-- -- Hope is here. The cold light of truth is
piercing the cloud of lies conjured by Donald Rumsfeld and
others about the war in Iraq—even in the defense secretary’s own
A Matter of Conscience...
Several months ago US Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada decided that US
involvement in Iraq is illegal and immoral. Like so many of us,
Watada concluded that there was “intentional manipulation of
intelligence” was manipulated to justify the invasion. Unlike so
many of us, he has had the courage to stick his neck out and pay
the price for resistance.
We should, I suppose, give the neck its due. It is a pleasant
thing—a convenient connection between head and torso. We do not
risk it out of caprice. But if there is nothing for which we
will risk that neck, then it has become our idol. And necks are
not worthy of this status. Finally, an active duty US Army
officer has refused to engage in that kind of idol worship.
No publicity seeker, Watada earlier this year quietly submitted
a request to resign from the Army. The request was denied. He
then refused to deploy to Iraq with his unit this summer, and is
prepared to face prison rather than violate his conscience.
Meanwhile, he fully expects the kind of ostracism encountered by
those few Army enlisted men who objected to the torture at Abu
Graib. In what might well be the understatement of the month,
Watada says he may be “the most unpopular person at Fort Lewis.”
...and a Gift for Dan Berrigan
Watada may not realize this, but he has presented a pearl of
great price to long-time war resister, Jesuit priest and poet
Dan Berrigan, who celebrates his 85th birthday this weekend in
New York. Facing ridicule and ostracism for acting on their
principled opposition to the war in Vietnam, Dan and his late
brother Phil, were no strangers to prison—or to profound
disappointment at the dearth of those willing to witness in the
way of Watada.
In No Bars to Manhood, Dan wrote:
“‘Of course, let us have peace,’ we cry, ‘but at the same time
let us have normalcy, let us lose nothing, let our lives stand
intact, let us know neither prison nor ill repute nor disruption
of ties...’ There is no peace because there are no peacemakers.
There are no makers of peace because the making of peace is at
least as costly as the making of war—at least as exigent, at
least as disruptive, at least as liable to bring disgrace and
prison, and death in its wake.”
Dan Berrigan will be encouraged by Watada’s resistance. And so,
I hope, will Faiza Al Araji, one of the courageous Iraqi women
who came to the US in March to give first-hand testimony to the
suffering of the Iraqi people. Executive Manager of Arab Water
Treatment Co., Faiza is a highly educated engineer who took a
month off to appeal to US citizens to do something to end the
tragedy of her people.
I had the privilege of sharing speaking duties with her on
several panels arranged by progressives in California. It was
painful. Faiza would pour out her heart, only to be met with
expressions of sympathy—and impotence. After three successive
days of this, she found a way to express her outrage without
wearing out her welcome. We were in Santa Cruz, speaking to a
standing-room-only audience. After Faiza’s account of the
horrors being experienced by her people elicited the
all-too-familiar, hand-wringing moans of “what can we do,” she
Returning to her seat next to me on the panel, she grabbed my
notebook and filled the top page with what she really wanted to
say. Her poignant words, as she wrote them:
“So, Iraqis are in the middle between American people who don’t
know what to do alway? and American Administration who had plans
to war and never listen!
Where is the key to help poor Iraqis?
In the beginning of my meeting I feel sad for American people
but after passing of time my people are dying and Americans
still asking stupid questions like what can I do?
I feel sick.”
Faiza could see it. We are, for the most part, blissfully
(perhaps studiously?) unaware of our own power—the power we
still enjoy as Americans, even as the claws of fascism creep
steadily closer. We in the dominant culture often feel impotent,
despite the power of our inherent privilege. Perhaps it’s a
subconscious thing. Maybe we prefer to remain in denial because,
otherwise, we would have to look in the mirror and decide
whether we have the courage to put that power into play.
...and Becoming Aware
At the Servant Leadership School in Washington, DC, we are
constantly grappling with the debilitating accoutrements of
white privilege and unexplored racism. At one point an African
American trainer threw up his hands, looked at us, and—as calmly
as he could—explained:
“If someone has their foot on my neck, I will say once, please
get off my neck. If you continue to stand on my neck and explain
how you didn’t know you were there and why you were there and
how difficult it is to move, I cannot be nice about it any more.
It’s not about conversation; in the end it’s about getting your
foot off my neck.”
And so, we are back to necks. We must stop the hand wringing and
find ways to get our country’s foot off Iraq’s neck.
What can we do? Get together with a few friends and figure it
out! If we were willing to put something on the line, if we were
willing to stick out our own necks, as Lt. Watada has done,
things could change.
Ray McGovern was an Army officer (1962-64) and an analyst
with the CIA for the next 27 years. He is on the Steering Group
of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS). On May
4 he confronted Rumsfeld directly about the lies he told—and
continues to tell—about the war in Iraq. Ray now works with Tell
the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the
Saviour in Washington, DC.
First published by
t r u
t h o u t .org
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