Remembering Amiriyah | Sojourners

Remembering Amiriyah

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This week marks 25 years since the horrific U.S. bombing of the Amiriyah shelter in Iraq.

I visited the Amiriyah shelter in 2003. It is one of the most haunting things I have ever seen. I could still see the fingernail marks on the walls left by people as they tried to escape.

Men had not been allowed in the shelter, to ensure that women and children were given priority safety from potential bombs. And so it was packed with hundreds of women and kids when two laser-guided "smart bombs" hit at 4:30 a.m. on Feb. 13, 1991.

At least 408 women and children died.

As we consider what has helped fuel the rage and hostility of extremists like ISIS, we can point to concrete events like the bombing of Amiriyah. It clearly does not justify the evil done by ISIS, but it does help us explain it.

One Iraqi after another told me, "Americans are strange liberators" (a line MLK used about Vietnam), because our war to liberate them has left them deeply oppressed.

When you fight fire with fire, you only get more fire. The more we pick up the sword, the more we die by it. There is another way. Violence is always a failure of imagination.

So this week, on the anniversary of the bombing of the Amiriyah shelter, let us recommit ourselves to build a world free of bombs, drones, and other evil things.

In the name of those who died at Amiriyah, and in the name of the risen Christ, our Prince of Peace, let's say no to war.

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