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Remembering the Amariyah Shelter Massacre in Iraq


Today marks the 23rd anniversary of the U.S. bombing of the Amariyah Shelter in Iraq. There is no indication that the U.S. government and military will ever repent for this unspeakable war crime. And it is likely few, if any religious leaders, will ever 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? Jesus reminds his followers–then and now–of the command: "Thou shall not kill!" "Love one another." God forgive the U.S. for defying these divine commands. Let us pray that our nation will truly repent for this crime and for the crime of 20 years of U.S. warmaking in Iraq, which resulted in over several million Iraqi deaths from bombings and sanctions, social upheval and political instability for an entire society and a seemingly endless cycle of violence with no end in sight, and make reparations to all the victims.

The following was written by Art Laffin during his visit to the Amariyah Shelter in Iraq on Feb. 13, 1998, the 7th anniversary of the bombing. 


Amariyah

by Art Laffin

February 13, 1991, 4:00 a.m.
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,
turned inferno,
turned shrine.
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.

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