Iraq Army veteran, Josh Stieber, told audiences in the Triangle June 13th and 14th about the painful dissonance US soldiers face as they see themselves killing innocent people. They go to war often for altruistic motives, thinking they’re going to help the people; to free them from tyranny or to keep the evil doers from coming back to hurt their own families and fellow citizens. They find themselves killing people for the slightest provocation or no reason at all—deeds they never imagined they would be part of. Swept along by a mentality of aggression instilled since childhood and the belief that the strong and righteous will prevail, their ideals ultimately collide with a reality of unjustified “collateral murder”.
The wiki leaks video, “Collateral Murder” that brought Josh Stieber to prominence recently (LINK) was not the first time he’d considered the painful contradictions of war. He’d already finished one bike tour across the country speaking about his decision to become a conscientious objector.
In that first tour he met Conan Curran, a former Marine, battling PTSD and his own conscience, and Salam Talip Hassan, an Iraqi journalist studying in the US. Conan spoke of his amazement when an Iraqi man, whose house and beautiful garden he and his fellow Marines ransacked and destroyed, offered him tea and spoke to him kindly in English. This nonviolent response changed his life.
Salam talked about his childhood in Iraq. Like most children here, he too was exposed to violent cartoons and video games. The distant war with Iran in the 80’s did not impact his life, but he knew Iraq was righteous and was supported by the U.S.
A conversation Salam had with an American summed up for him the journey to peace. After talking and sharing their lives for half an hour he asked the American soldier if he would have killed him if he’d just seen him on the street before their conversation. The answer was yes. Would he kill him now that they had talked? The answer was no. We may be only a half hour conversation away from recognizing the humanity of our presumed enemies.
The program ended with a heart rending yet uplifting video from Afghanistan children addressed to the children of Barack Obama. (UPLOAD)
The sponsoring organizations are grateful to these three courageous and nonviolent men for their testimonies, warmth, and commitment to share their message. We need to learn from them and we need to support their journeys.
NC Peace Action, WILPF, Orange County Coalition for Peace and Justice, Elders for Peace, and Triangle Chapter of Veterans for Peace.