1 April 2003
Dear President Bush,
I am quite out of the loop. The internet is down, the phones don’t work - just an occasional email can be sent through an obliging journalist. But I’d like simply to let you know that for the past two weeks of steady bombardment, I’ve yet to see any signs of liberation or of Iraqis eagerly awaiting your liberating wand. What we do hear, whenever a bomb explodes nearby, is a plaintive prayer chanted over a microphone at the local mosque: "Alah alahu akbar." God is greatest. "La il al allaha." There is no God but Allah.
The bombing has been very heavy for the past two nights, with blasts that cause the floors, windows and walls to shudder. Bombing continues during the daytime. Here at our hotel are two little girls whom I’ve grown to love, Zainab (1 and 1/2 years) and Miladh (age 3). They sleep in the bomb shelter with their mother, Umm Zaineb, while Abu Zaineb works as the night manager at the front desk. They laugh and play and sing and cuddle when I join them and their mother on the bed they share. But both little girls grind their teeth now. Miladh, a delicate child, often pretends that an airplane is coming toward her, and then she stiffens her back and flips backward, as though dead. It’s very difficult to distract her from this routine.
Last night, we heard a plane roar overhead and then bombs began falling. Following three deafening explosions, the electricity was suddenly cut. We hurried to supply Umm Zaineb with a flashlight as she guided her little ones, who were startled out of a sound sleep, down a staircase. After the children had settled down, Miladh began to play with the flashlight. I thought of creating "shadow shows" on the wall and of playing "Find Tinkerbell." But Miladh, whose beauty and sweetness would overwhelm you, wanted instead to target her mother, her sister and me with the flashlight and pretend to blast each of us. "All the time, now, you see," said her mother, "she wants only to play war."
President Bush, I promise you, little Miladh never wanted to play war until the sheer terror of it became part of her everyday life.
Could you kindly try very hard to imagine, from afar, what we hear and see here, at the Al Fanar Hotel in Baghdad? And could you please keep us in your prayers? Please pray that Miladh and Zaineb won’t be mutilated, maimed, crushed, or killed. And if you pray "The Lord’s Prayer," and if you utter the line "And deliver us from evil," pray that Iraq’s children will be delivered from the evil murder wrought by US weapons, day and night, here in Iraq.
Very sincerely yours,
Photo Attribution: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lasallian_Youth_2008.jpg