An Iraqi's Story: "My Brother Is Dead...and I Helped Kill Him"

Midday yesterday, this email popped into my inbox.


Mike,

Mohammed's brother Ali died of his wounds today courtesy of shrapnel and flames caused by US missile strike.

He was 9.

Don't expect to hear anything from Mohammed until 40 day of the mourning period is over. XXX* says US soldiers shot at Mohammed as he approached a roadblock they had set up and that he was carrying Ali in his arms trying to get to hospital. He also says that Ali was very badly burned and died screaming.

*Co-worker of Mohammed's, name removed for security reasons
The words cut through my heart to read. Not because they should have been surprising ... although maybe because I had been living in denial of how predictable they were. But mostly because the friend who sent me this email was telling me my brother was dead, and he died in my other brother's arms -- my brother, Mohammed, who was experiencing pain I could not even imagine ... and not for the first time.

The words cut through my heart to read because I knew.

My brother is dead ... and I helped kill him.

A little background for the perplexed...

I first "met" Mohammed a little more than a year ago. Looking for information about what was really happening on the ground in Irak, I found this website set up by an Irish former UN Peacekeeper who spends a great deal of time there. They set up people on the ground in Irak with laptops and digital cameras to document what is really happening there.

I read this post by Mohammed and was immediately struck by his eloquence and the power of his writing. I quoted it in a sermon I preached the next Sunday and then posted on my blog. Through the wonders of Google alerts, Mohammed found my sermon and commented on it, which started a conversations of posts and comments between us.

I learned that Mohammed was 16 years old, that he worked not just for Gorilla's Guides but also doing things like delivering food to people in refugee camps. I also learned that I couldn't know his real name or any other details that might identify him because their lives were in danger if they were identified as being Gorilla's Guides bloggers.

I learned that Mohammed hated America because America had invaded and occupied his country and killed his people. At the same time, he was willing and even eager to be in conversation with me because of his respect for whom he refers to as the Prophet Jesus (Praise Be Unto Him) and his teachings. That my Christian faith and priesthood and his submission to Islam were a common ground for conversation. So we made plans to begin an online conversation on a private, secure channel.

But before we could begin, I got this email:

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