Friday, May 7, 2004

One year ago, I stood on a street corner with two friends and some other persons. We were protesting the US invasion of Iraq.

Some held banners saying "Give peace a chance", others were waving the American flag. One lady held up the flag of the UN.

Passers-by did for the most part not react very much. Many looked at the signs. Some honked or gave a thumbs-up. A few gave a different digit.

A college kid walked up the street past the group, carefully reading every sign. When he saw mine, he was visibly shaken. After reading it a few times, he demanded to know what the meaning was of this sign. How I dared writing those words. In righteous indignation he yelled at the other persons standing nearby, commanding them to declare if this preposterous sign represented their views. He was quickly assured by an old woman in the group, a respected writer, that this sign did of course not present their views, but merely that of him who was holding it. As if that wasn't obvious.

At the time, I did not get it. I thought that what I wrote on that sign was self-evident. I believed you could not possibly deny that 'WMDs' and 'liberation' were nothing but an excuse to invade.

But I was wrong. I came to realize that a significant portion of this nation – maybe even some of those in power in Washington – believed:
  1. that there were stockpiles of nuclear bombs and other such devices sitting in Iraq, waiting for that country's distinctly secular tyrant to put his neck on the line by supplying the likes of Al Qaeda with them, or
  2. that the US was diverting a vast chunk of its resources, from the revenge-driven hunt for the repulsive kingpins that planned the 9/11 atrocities, to invading Iraq for the purpose of freeing its population from "rape rooms and torture chambers".
Which is more horrifying: A country that invades another country, lying about the reasons for it, or an invader that is delusional when it comes to the reasons for his actions, and actually believes his own fabrications on the subject?

What a difference a year makes. You meet fewer and fewer people these days that maintain that peace and prosperity has come to the Iraqis as a result of the invasion. Hardly anyone mentions WMDs anymore. I wonder what the reaction will be when I head back to that street corner with my sign. I somehow doubt that preppy, indignant, young college students will turn up to defend the actions of this country in Iraq.

Their silence will perhaps be the first step in realizing that while the horror on that sign has possibly not still been realized, it could very well be. And soon.

Only a few decades ago, a fairly civilized and ambitious country suffered a devastating blow. This trauma fostered a sick, degenerate atmosphere that bred a complete disregard for human life. It happened gradually, over a few years, treating a presumed "enemy" worse and worse. Going from stripping him of human rights, to imprisoning him in 'detainee' camps, to torture and rape, and finally: Slaughter.

This country needs to wake up and prevent history from repeating itself. It needs to swallow its pride, read the signs and acknowledge that it has made a terrible, terrible mistake: