ON MARCH 19, 2003
On March 19, 2003, I flew from London to Sarajevo to begin a several day visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina. In my few previous days in London the very visible newspaper headlines shouted out the eminent attack on Iraq by the United States. “War Any Day!” “Decision Made to Attack Iraq!” “Bush Deadline Past!” I had worked for months in my small ways to show that a war against Iraq was a mistake and, in fact, illegal. But President Bush and, in many cases, the U.S. government never paid any attention to international law or the moral foundations for such laws. We have shown Israel the way to act unilaterally and with impunity toward the world community and the fellowship of nations. Self-interest, even when based on lies, turns out so often to BE the higher good. So that first night in Sarajevo I went to my hotel and, with the usual jet-lag that is always a constant companion on such travels, I fell asleep. And, as many of you might know, one of the companions of across-time-line-travels is the curse of waking up according to one’s own body clock. At four a.m. or so, I was wide awake and I knew I would not get back to sleep for a while so why try. I grabbed another international travel companion, the protein bar, and started to eat my early snack. I grabbed one of the too many books that I usually bring along as well on similar trips. I had forgotten the newspaper headlines back in London. However, with eyes not quite able to focus on the print of a book, I decided to turn on the television and see what was happening on Bosnian television – and it would have to be visual since I did not really know much of the Bosnian language. What I quickly found was the CNN International channel I English and, using the remote, I guided the screen to the English 24 hour news. I found myself viewing the first minutes of the horrible steps on the mission: Operation Iraqi Freedom. It was the bombing of Bagdad, the military power of the United States (or was it the “coalition of the willing”?) unleashed against a people who had faced so much loss, poverty, oppression, and death – all because of what some called “bad intelligence,” or “ poor leadership,” when actually it had been planned for years. This war, which was supposed to be over in a matter of weeks, was based on lies and was going to take place no matter what opposition seemed sensible and/or legal, or ethical, because Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney, and Mr. Rumsfeld, among others, lived for this war. It was the blood of their careers and it was hard-wired into their DNA. I don’t like to look back, stir up more conflict, and “cause more problems.” However, isn’t that the way the criminal justice system often works…we have to go back, investigate, find the criminal, have a trial, and punish appropriately those who have committed the crime? The Iraq war cost over $3 trillion, over 5,000 U.S. soldiers dead, many thousands with life-long physical and/or mental wounds, a million Iraqi’s dead, a country with a mall, and daily suicide bombings. So, where is the war crimes tribunal??? Can a private citizen bring “crimes against humanity” charges against specific individuals? I watched the explosions in bright passionate colors on CNN and heard the commentators trying to speak above the murderous noise. Finally, I muted the television, which left me to watch the screen flashing with death and devastation. And gradually, in the quiet of my Sarajevo hotel room, I began to hear the Muslim calls to prayer coming from the many mosques close to my hotel and around the city. I watched the muted violence as the U.S., my country, once again, launched a fiery and vicious attack on ancient, war-ravaged civilization. While I watched I listened to the call to prayer, an invitation to community, the many songs of the muzzeins across Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, a country still recovering from another devastating and brutal war. Could we take a quiet moment and listen to the song?