Thursday, May 1, 2008

Collateral Damage from that Other U.S. War

Many of the daily murders committed throughout Iraq are 'sectarian' in nature: an all-encompassing term generally meaning revenge killings. Many are Sunni-Shia, a perpetual dual set of historic enemies. Other murders occur for quite another reason. Many Iraqis are killed because they aided the United States military during this occupation. Traitors or turn-coats in the American Revolution. New Brunswick was the refugee 'camp' for these American-British sympathizers.

I'm not sure if the Iraqi-American 'sympathizers' have a camp to which they can flee. They are rather stuck in the killing fields.

All of this reminds me of the Vietnam War and the plight of the hill people of Laos, the Hmong, who were recruited by the CIA to search the area for American pilots who had been shot down on bombing raids. After the US pulled out of Vietnam, the Hmong were sitting ducks for the vengeance and retribution of the VietCong. As a result, many Hmong were slaughtered- entire villages wiped out. The lucky ones ran for their lives and ended up in Thailand.

Just last evening my wife and I were the guests of a Hmong family that we helped settle in Toledo back in 1979. The husband talked of longing to return for a visit to his mountain village with his wife and older children. "Are you going?" I asked him. He hesitated, looked down, and said, "You know I was part of the American military and the authorities there might recognize me." He said that he longs to return 'to help out my family there because they have nothing.' He wants to bring some money with him to build a mechanical water pump for the village. Now they have a well and a bucket. "They have nothing," he said, "not even running water." His daughter has begun a charity to raise money for that project.

The daughter, visiting from San Francisco, was born in the refugee camps in Thailand and longs to see the place where her mother and father grew up. "I feel like I need to connect with my family heritage," he said to me. "I've only seen photos of the village and the people there and it is so poor and primitive. Look at all we have and they don't even have running water!" Tears welled up in her eyes.

Collateral damage of war. Such an innocuous term for such a monstrous reality. Once again it is being played out- this time on the sands of Iraq.

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