Thursday, October 14, 2004

THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS

My husband recently told me about a raid he had gone on. They searched dozens of houses in the middle of the night to look for someone who had been shooting at U.S. patrols. Sleeping Iraqis were woken by the unexpected sound of loud, insistent knocks. They were greeted by futuristic warriors wearing night vision goggles, who looked out of place in the cradle of civilization. While the soldiers looked around the house, the Iraqis stood outside and waited.

My husband described one woman to me and she has been in my head ever since. During the raid, many of the women stared at the ground and did not look at the soldiers. But this woman purposely held her head up high, displaying her dignity and her contempt for the intruders. I know that my husband was just doing his job, looking for a “bad guy,” but I imagine that was of no solace to her. I wonder what she thought of my husband. Did she think he was an American infidel? Did she secretly want to spit on him? Was one more anti-American sentiment born at that moment?

I wish I could tell her what my husband is really like, that the image she saw was a mirage. Underneath the body armor and camouflage is a gentle and compassionate man. I want to tell her that before he joined the army, we lived in another war-torn country and my husband was always the first to give out money, food or whatever else people needed. I want her to know that the other men my husband is serving with are good guys, good fathers, good husbands, good sons.

Maybe she wouldn’t believe me, or she just wouldn’t care. Maybe what only matters to her is that U.S. soldiers showed up at her home in the middle of the night, scaring her and her family and humiliating them by showing them they had no power in their own home. Moreover, maybe she sees my husband as a foreign invader, an occupier in her homeland. And I’m sure there is plenty she could tell me about her life, her family, her suffering.

My husband told me of another time when he was out on patrol and he saw a little girl walking with an even smaller boy. When the girl spotted the soldiers, she began to walk faster, pulling the boy behind her. When she briefly turned her head to see where the soldiers were, my husband waved at her and smiled. She hesitated, then smiled and waved back.

I wish the image of the girl was the one that replayed in my head, but it’s the woman with her head held high who stays with me.