Today is the 20th anniversary of the U.S. bombing of the Amariyah Shelter in Iraq. There is no indication that the US government and military will ever repent for this unspeakable war crime. And it is likely few, if any religious leaders, will decry this mortal sin! But on this day the people of Amariyah and Iraq remember and continue to mourn and grieve, and still ask why? I can still see the traumatized and sorrow-filled faces of the relatives of the victims of this massacre whom I met when I visited the shelter now turned shrine to the victims on the 7th anniversary of the bombing. In today’s Gospel from Matthew Jesus reminds his followers–then and now– of the command: Thou shall not kill! God forgive US for defying Your command. I pray that our nation and church will one day truly repent for this crime and for the sin of war, and make reparations to all the victims.
The following piece was written by Art Laffin during his visit to the Amariyah Shelter in Iraq on Feb. 13, 1998, the 7th anniversary of the bombing.
February 13, 1991, 4:00 am
Over 1,000 Iraqis, mostly women and children still sleeping, take refuge from the terror of U.S. bombs at a shelter in Amariyah, just outside Baghdad.
For several days a surveillance plane had flown over the shelter. U.S. officials say they think Saddam Hussein is there. The U.S. military knows different. A decision is made in secret by President George Bush, Defense (War) Secretary Dick Cheney and General Colin Powell — bomb the shelter, massacre the innocents!
First one “smart” bomb is dropped to make an opening in the roof. Killing scores of people. Then, through the opening, another bomb falls, reaching deep into the shelter basement, killing everyone in its path. In total, nearly a thousand Iraqis are murdered, women and children burned alive. No more than 17 survive. I see flesh still seared on a wall under the basement stairway. People, reduced to mere shadows, form a human silhouette on the stone wall.
A replay of Auschwitz, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Vietnam, El Salvador, Panama.
The crime, premeditated and barbarous.
The sin, mortal.
The perpetrators unrepentant!
Seven years later, eight peacemakers from the U.S. and the U.K. come to pay homage to the victims at this shelter,
Photos and drawings of the dead adorn the walls of the shelter.
We repent, we mourn, we witness
the ongoing nightmare of the survivors.
We eight do what we can —
to console the mourners,
offering love and solidarity to the Iraqi people, already crucified to a cross of economic sanctions.
We stand with the victims, the children, seeking to stay the death-dealing hand of the U.S. empire.