Healing in Iraq

I've often concentrated on some of the horrendous consequences of the Bush administration's abandonment of the Geneva Conventions in this war. I make no apologies for this; and I'll keep it up. But perspective also matters. And, as I've blogged again and again, the vast majority of the young men and women defending civilization in Iraq are doing great good in extraordinarily difficult circumstances, facing fear that we will never know, displaying courage that we will never be able to imitate. Here's a piece by one of them, a military physician in Iraq, giving medical care to human beings who have tried to kill innocents and her fellow soldiers. There is an inverse analogue to Abu Ghraib - far, far more common than abuse - that represents the core morality of most soldiers, let down by their civilian leadership. Read this piece. Money quote:

A new patient has arrived, lying with his chest exposed and his vital signs electronically monitored. He is ill, and we are taking care of him, but he is different from most of our patients. He lies in bed with a bandanna covering his eyes, not a bandage. At the foot of the bed are two young American soldiers with weapons in hand.

They look at me as I look at our patient, a 'bad guy' for sure, as our Iraqi interpreter calls them. He is an insurgent.

My blood pressure rises a bit. I ask, 'What did he do?' The answer: 'He made IEDs.'

IEDs are improvised explosive devices, bombs that are hidden to explode on the unsuspecting. This man is a terrorist, an evil, mean man who plots to kill our folks, other Iraqis, even innocent young children.

My blood pressure rises even more. Something inside me wants to walk up to this guy, blindfolded or not, and just clobber him. Perhaps I will remove the bandanna, so he can see it coming. People certainly do not see the IEDs coming before they explode, destroying life, injuring arms, legs and bodies.

I look down at this insurgent, an elderly, overweight man. I wonder how we can love our enemies and how we can pray for those who spitefully use us. I have lived a life with no real enemies. Here is a man who would take my life if he could. Hate and anger raged in me for a time.

Other soldiers who see these men without the bandannas tell me that there is often no light in their eyes, no hope, no goodness that you can see. They are filled with a vile fluid that cannot be easily drained. They are cold; given the chance, these men would do us harm.

And yet he heals him, and cares for him, and forgives him. This too is America - and its real heart and soul. And this is now our calling in Iraq. We broke it; we own it. We must now stay for as long as it takes to help heal it; and in so doing, do our part to help heal the world.