On this day in 2003, as part of Human Shield Action to Iraq, 50 volunteers left London for Baghdad to act as human shields in order to stop the impending invasion of Iraq. The group was led by Kenneth O’Keefe — an ex-marine who has since been involved in many similar political actions. By the time of the invasion, the group is thought to have been several hundred strong. Because of their small numbers, they decided to spread themselves out at strategic locations around the country. The whole thing got very complicated, in part because the volunteers wanted to stop the war but were in no way supportive of the Hussein government.
I have two thoughts about this. The first is that those involved in Human Shield Action to Iraq are the most heroic people in the world. I’m constantly amazed that people think serving in the US military is a sign of bravery. Why don’t these people serve in tiny militaries that have little hope of winning? The US military is roughly the size of every other military on earth combined. Signing up to be on the most powerful team isn’t an act of bravery, although I don’t put down people who join the military. There are reasons to do so. But we shouldn’t talk of heroics.
My second thought on this matter is just how naive Human Shield Action to Iraq seems. I don’t know what the people involved in the effort actually thought. But they did get attention. I do remember hearing about the group at the time. But did they really think that the likes of Bush and Cheney cared in the least about killing these people? This was a war of their choice to make them feel brave after being so clearly cowardly during the Vietnam War. None of the men who have sat in the White House cared about all the people they killed. They justify it as being part of the greater good. But for those two, it’s a whole other level.
Regardless, they were brave people. And of the 80 who spent the entire war there, none were killed. The same, of course, can’t be said of the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians who were killed in that cowardly war.