March 19, 2003



John Barber

The people of Iraq are caught in a trap. Two overwhelming powers approach

from opposite sides. Like an animal in a steel trap, they gnaw at their own

leg, hoping somehow for freedom, even at the cost of a limb. They watch as

the smiling hunter approaches, singing songs of freedom, singing songs of

righteousness. They hear the words, “In God we trust,” and “God bless


The clerk looks up and welcomes me “home” with graciousness and a smile

each time I enter the hotel. Since we have arrived in Baghdad, this man

has been kind to me, patient with my inability to speak Arabic, concerned

whether I had a good day or a bad day. He has a deep and abiding sadness

in his eyes.

Tonight, he asks, “John, what do you think about this war?” I explain that I

think it is immoral and a tragedy of enormous proportions. “Why did you

come?” he asks. I tell him I want to support my Iraqi friends and stand in

opposition to my government. I came to Iraq because he is not my enemy, but

my brother. He says, “You are better even than us. We do nothing. You come

here to help. We can do nothing, do you understand?”

“My family is here in Baghdad. My father, my brothers. Do you know I go home

each night and I just sit. I only think of one thing: ‘What am I to do? War

is coming, What am I to do?’ That’s it. Tomorrow, the next day, I can do

nothing. I just sit. My brothers, my father, the same.”

I look deeply into his eyes. Days, months, years, in this trap. “Why this

war?” he asks. I cannot answer. I want to console him, but I cannot. I want

to hold him like my child, and tell him it will be all right, but it will

not be all right.

“Thank you and your friends for being here, you have good hearts”, he says.

He puts his hand over his heart–a common gesture here in Iraq. It is a

reminder for me. For a moment we stand across from each other, holding our

hearts, holding our anguish. We both begin to cry. When I can bear it no

longer, I turn and head for the lift.

 The people of Iraq are caught in a trap. They watch as the smiling hunter

approaches, singing songs of freedom, and singing songs of righteousness.

Then they notice the look in the eye. The smile is not for them. The hunter

merely appreciates the prey. He is thinking he will end it quickly and go

home with his prize. The songs are not for them. In the eyes of the

approaching power freedom, democracy, and security is only for a select

group. As the prey looks up in a final plea for mercy, this truth becomes

self evident.

Barber was a member of CPT’s February 1-15 delegation to Iraq.


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