Let the People Speak

The first thing I killed was no kind thing at all: It was an enemy soldier. Which is a hell of a lot easier to say than the first thing I ever killed was a man.”

Steve Mason, Vietnam veteran & poet laureate of the Vietnam Veterans of America.



A sea of people.

Tens of thousands.

A million.

One thing is for sure, Trump knows how to draw a crowd and unite a nation.

Just not in the US.

The only time I can recall seeing anything close to this many mourners united in their grief was when Princess Diana died.

You know what drew people together?

Their love and admiration for her.

No matter what the propagandists claim, the reality is that Iran is a nation united in its love and admiration for General Soleimani.

Americans haven’t admired or loved a commander like that since General Eisenhower. And really the only time we’ve taken to the streets like the Iranians was in protest of Trump’s election.

I did not rejoice when Saddam Hussein was killed. Nor did I rejoice when Osama Bin Laden was killed. Nor am I rejoicing over the death of General Soleimani.  I didn’t even rejoice when Shawn Fields died of cancer in that prison ward years after he murdered 3-year old Karly Sheehan.

I hated that Bush’s White House released photos of the dead Saddam. I thought we crossed a line then. A demarcation that separated us from the evildoers. It felt like we had become our enemies at that point.

I can recall when Daniel Pearl was beheaded. I was in my office working when I saw the photos of extremists holding up Pearl’s head, bragging about killing the Jew. I fled my office and threw up. I couldn’t imagine anyone being evil enough to do that.

I had a similar reaction the time I saw the autopsy photos of Karly Sheehan brutalized to the point of death. I was doing research at the Oregon Department of Justice when I happened upon those photos, stacked inside a bunch of other documents. I left the state building, went to my car where I wept and prayed. After seeing the photos of Daniel Pearl beheaded, I could not return to my office for days. I had to pray my way back into it.

I had a similar reaction to seeing Saddam’s photo all over the nightly news. It sickened me.

I have not slept well since Trump had General Soleimani assassinated. When I hear news reports about how Trump did this because an unidentified American contractor was killed by an alleged rocket blast, I wonder why journalists are so willing to repeat the propaganda this president spews: Where’s the evidence? Who is this person? How old were they? Where are they from? Who did they work for? Where’s their grieving family? Where’s the body being recognized at Dover as a hero?

We are two weeks on from the alleged death of an American contractor and in a world where Congressional leaders and the president alike have tweeted out the name of the Whistle-blower in the impeachment case, we still know absolutely nothing about a reported death of an American that was the alleged impetus for Soleimani’s murder.

I had to walk out of church during communion on Sunday because I was sick to my stomach thinking of the troops deploying for what I believe is yet another wrongheaded provocation that is most assuredly going to cost American lives.

We didn’t kill anyone over the brutal murder of Otto Wambier. We didn’t kill anyone over the brutal dismemberment of the American journalist Khashoggi simply because it was not politically expedient to do so.

I used to wonder what made people leave their comfortable American lives and become radicalized. Why would anyone do such a thing? I couldn’t get my mind around it. I think I’ve finally figured it out. I think people become fed up with all the propaganda and all the exploitation that led to these wrong-headed wars and assassinations.

My mother, a prison nurse, used to tell me that there was very little difference between those who were prisoners and those who were guarding them. At the time I thought that was an odd statement for a nurse to make.

I get it now, though.

Brutalization is brutalization. The only difference is that those in power get away with it, while those with no power pay the consequences for it.

For far too long, our leaders have gotten away with brutalizing others.

I think the people of Iran are putting us on notice that this power imbalance stops with them.

Those held hostage by American power players have taken to the streets and they are singularly minded in their focus: If the American people won’t stop Trump, they will.


Karen Spears Zacharias is author of AFTER THE FLAG HAS BEEN FOLDED (William Morrow).


Karen Spears Zacharias

Author/Journalist/Educator. Gold Star Daughter.

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