"My Son Is a Murderer" -- The Gut-Wrenching Realities Facing Military Moms
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In 2004, Susan Galleymore traveled 7,472 miles from Alameda, Calif., to deliver a message to her Army Ranger son stationed on a military base in Iraq's Sunni Triangle.
"Don't do anything you'll regret or be ashamed of because it will haunt you for the rest of your life," she told him.
The devastation and despair she witnessed, and the stories she heard in taxis and coffee shops along the way made her realize how disconnected Americans are from the realities of war and occupation -- even those of us who like to think we are well-informed.
She decided that she couldn't return to California and continue life as usual.
Over the next few years, she traveled to Israel, the West Bank, Lebanon and Syria to interview mostly mothers about their personal stories and everyday struggles.
She couldn't go to Afghanistan because she ran out of money, so she interviewed Afghan women by phone and Afghan American women living in the Bay Area in person. She also interviewed a number of American military moms.
Galleymore compiled these first-person narratives, along with her observations and analysis, in a newly released book, Long Time Passing: Mothers Speak About War and Terror.
We meet Elham, a Lebanese mother whose home was bombed by the Israeli air force in July 2006. She says:
"My message to Americans, especially American women, is, 'Please try to feel how Arab women feel.' Why do American mothers send their sons to die in Iraq? Is it for democracy? Shouldn't democracy be built by the people? If it is imposed from those outside, isn't that occupation?
"When Americans talk about terrorists, I look around, and I see people bombing our people, our land, and I wonder just who are the terrorists? The United States doesn't call the Israeli attacks against us in our land terrorism, yet calls our defense of land and our people terrorism.
"America is learning now, in Iraq, what the Israelis have learned, what the British should have learned, what the French have learned, and what the Ottomans learned about Arab resistance. History will not change. Those who don't have a history and who will not learn the lessons of history will not have a future.
"Americans haven't yet understood that it is not only technology that wins in the long run. The spirit of the people to own their own land and their own culture will always win in the end. We have heroes and martyrs for our cause, and their young people are killed just for the material benefit of a few."
In Damascus, Galleymore met Wissam, a "young, fresh-faced and outspoken" Iraqi biologist. Wissam's husband, a Shiite, divorced her, a Sunni, out of fear for his life. She says:
"I cannot find work here. I might find a job selling in a store, but anything that actually used my education and skills would require papers to prove I'm not taking a Syrian's job. I blame the U.S. administration -- not the American people -- for the destruction of our infrastructure, our society, our culture, our historical richness and our independence. All we respected of our land and our people is gone, destroyed by the arrogance of the U.S. administration.
"The Americans didn't bring us democracy, but instead brought a lethal freedom. There is a sense now that anybody can do anything and nobody will be punished. Is this the ethic of democracy, freedom without limitations? When it appears, life is run according to the rule of the jungle."