article by John Dear
I live in a tiny, remote, impoverished, three block long town in the desert of northeastern New Mexico. Everyone in town - and the whole state - knows that I am against the occupation of Iraq, that I have called for the closing of Los Alamos, and that as a priest, I have been preaching, like the Pope, against the bombing of Baghdad.
Last week, it was announced that the local National Guard unit for northeastern New Mexico, based in the nearby Armory, was being deployed to Iraq early next year. I was not surprised when yellow ribbons immediately sprang up after the press conference.
But I was surprised the following morning to hear 75 soldiers singing, shouting and screaming as they jogged down Main Street, passed our St. Joseph’s church, back and forth around town for an hour. It was 6 a.m., and they woke me up with their war slogans, chants like “Kill! Kill! Kill!” and “Swing your guns from left to right; we can kill those guys all night.”
Their chants were disturbing, but this is war. They have to psyche themselves up for the kill. They have to believe that flying off to some tiny, remote desert town in Iraq where they will march in front of someone’s house and kill poor young Iraqis has some greater meaning besides cold-blooded murder. Most of these young reservists have never left our town, and they need our support for the “unpleasant” task before them. I have been to Iraq, and led a delegation of Nobel Peace Prize winners to Baghdad in 1999, and I know that the people there are no different than the people here.
The screaming and chanting went on for one hour. They would march passed the church, down Main Street, back around the post office, and down Main Street again. It was clear they wanted to be seen and heard. In fact, it was quite scary because the desert is normally a place of perfect peace and silence.
Suddenly, at 7 a.m., the shouting got dramatically louder. I looked out the front window of the house where I live, next door to the church, and there they were--all 75 of them, standing yards away from my front door, in the street right in front of my house and our church, shouting and screaming to the top of their lungs, “Kill! Kill! Kill!” Their commanders had planted them there and were egging them on.
I was astonished and appalled. I suddenly realized that I do not need to go to Iraq; the war had come to my front door. Later, I heard that they had deliberately decided to do their exercises in front of my house and our church because of my outspoken opposition to the war. They wanted to put me in my place.
Doesn't that make you feel good about the men commanding these soldiers?