|Published on Tuesday, February 18, 2003 by CommonDreams.org
Presque Isle, Maine Peace Rally Speech
Before 150 Aroostook county residents from around the County
February 15, 2003 - St. Mary's Church
by Charlotte Aldebron
When people think about bombing Iraq, they see a
picture in their heads of Saddam Hussein in a military
uniform, or maybe soldiers with big black mustaches
carrying guns, or the mosaic of George Bush Sr. on the
lobby floor of the Al-Rashid Hotel with the word
"criminal". But guess what? More than half of Iraq's
24 million people are children under the age of 15.
That's 12 million kids. Kids like me. Well, I'm almost
13, so some are a little older, and some a lot
younger, some boys instead of girls, some with brown
hair, not red. But kids who are pretty much like me
just the same. So take a look at me-a good long look.
Because I am what you should see in your head when you
think about bombing Iraq. I am what you are going to
If I am lucky, I will be killed instantly, like the
three hundred children murdered by your "smart" bombs
in a Baghdad bomb shelter on February 16, 1991. The
blast caused a fire so intense that it flash-burned
outlines of those children and their mothers on the
walls; you can still peel strips of blackened
skin-souvenirs of your victory-from the stones.
But maybe I won't be lucky and I'll die slowly, like
14-year-old Ali Faisal, who right now is on the "death
ward" of the Baghdad children's hospital. He has
malignant lymphoma-cancer-caused by the depleted
uranium in your Gulf War missiles. Or maybe I will die
painfully and needlessly like18-month-old Mustafa,
whose vital organs are being devoured by sand fly
parasites. I know it's hard to believe, but Mustafa
could be totally cured with just $25 worth of
medicine, but there is none of this medicine because
of your sanctions.
Or maybe I won't die at all but will live for years
with the psychological damage that you can't see from
the outside, like Salman Mohammed, who even now can't
forget the terror he lived through with his little
sisters when you bombed Iraq in 1991. Salman's father
made the whole family sleep in the same room so that
they would all survive together, or die together. He
still has nightmares about the air raid sirens.
Or maybe I will be orphaned like Ali, who was three
when you killed his father in the Gulf War. Ali
scraped at the dirt covering his father's grave every
day for three years calling out to him, "It's all
right Daddy, you can come out now, the men who put you
here have gone away." Well, Ali, you're wrong. It
looks like those men are coming back.
Or I maybe I will make it in one piece, like Luay
Majed, who remembers that the Gulf War meant he didn't
have to go to school and could stay up as late as he
wanted. But today, with no education, he tries to live
by selling newspapers on the street.
Imagine that these are your children-or nieces or
nephews or neighbors. Imagine your son screaming from
the agony of a severed limb, but you can't do anything
to ease the pain or comfort him. Imagine your daughter
crying out from under the rubble of a collapsed
building, but you can't get to her. Imagine your
children wandering the streets, hungry and alone,
after having watched you die before their eyes.
This is not an adventure movie or a fantasy or a video
game. This is reality for children in Iraq. Recently,
an international group of researchers went to Iraq to
find out how children there are being affected by the
possibility of war. Half the children they talked to
said they saw no point in living any more. Even really
young kids knew about war and worried about it. One
5-year-old, Assem, described it as "guns and bombs and
the air will be cold and hot and we will burn very
much." Ten-year-old Aesar had a message for President
Bush: he wanted him to know that "A lot of Iraqi
children will die. You will see it on TV and then you
Back in elementary school I was taught to solve
problems with other kids not by hitting or
name-calling, but by talking and using "I" messages.
The idea of an "I" message was to make the other
person understand how bad his or her actions made you
feel, so that the person would sympathize with you and
stop it. Now I am going to give you an "I" message.
Only it's going to be a "We" message. "We" as in all
the children in Iraq who are waiting helplessly for
something bad to happen. "We" as in the children of
the world who don't make any of the decisions but have
to suffer all the consequences. "We" as in those whose
voices are too small and too far away to be heard.
We feel scared when we don't know if we'll live
We feel angry when people want to kill us or injure us
or steal our future.
We feel sad because all we want is a mom and a dad who
we know will be there the next day. And, finally, we
feel confused … because we don't even know what we did
Charlotte Aldebron, 12, attends Cunningham Middle
School in Presque Isle, Maine. Comments may be sent to
her mom, Jillian Aldebron: email@example.com