I blame the decision-makers
The Enterprise news paper published this article on Thursday March 16
By Cory Golden/Enterprise staff write:
There had been close calls before for Fadhil Al-Kazily’s family in Iraq.
A car bomb exploded near the home of the 70-year-old Davis civil engineer’s brother, blowing out all its windows, the shrapnel slicing a rooftop water tank in two. But it hurt no one in the family.
Another relative survived a carjacking.
A rocket leveled a clinic in Baghdad, killing everyone inside. Fadhil’s eldest brother, a doctor, happened to be away from the building.
But then, nine days ago, an e-mail message from a cousin in Australia:
A U.S. solider had shot and killed Fadhil’s 81-year-old uncle, Saadi Al-Tahi, as he drove through an intersection in Mosul, Iraq.
“He was not a political person,”
Fadhil said Wednesday. “He was just an old man. He was very gentle, very kind and loving.”
On Sunday, Fadhil will speak during a Davis community vigil for peace marking the third anniversary of the American invasion.
Other speakers at the event, sponsored by more than a dozen local organizations, will include Pat Sheehan and his daughter Carly of Vacaville. The story of Pat’s son, 24-year-old Army Spc. Casey Sheehan, who died almost two years ago, on April 4, 2004, became internationally known when his mother Cindy staged a sit-in near President Bush’s Texas estate.
The news of his uncle’s death devastated Fadhil, a private person by nature who nonetheless has worked up the courage to repeatedly speak out against the war. When he has, he often explains it as though one part of his body, America, his home since 1964, has attacked another, his homeland; yet he feels powerless to stop it.
Now, his worst fears have been realized.
“I am absolutely terrified to call my family,” he said. “I make five calls (to relatives in Iraq) every Sunday. Now every time I pick up the phone, my heart starts beating fast.”
On March 6, Saadi Al-Tahi posed for pictures with one of his two daughters, Arjwan. An obstetrician in Dubai, Arjwan hadn’t seen her father for 12 years, but she had decided to needed to visit home in spite of the danger.
A day later Saadi steered his car toward his mother-in-law’s home, to pick up his wife. He drove slowly, because of his age.
As his car crossed an intersection, an armored vehicle opened fire from a side street.
The coroner later ruled that the shooting had been intentional. He told Saadi’s family that the bullets pierced the elderly man’s arm, shoulder and neck, likely killing him instantly.
Others told the family that anyone driving through that intersection at that time of day surely would have been shot.
But Saadi was not anyone.
For decades he had been both Fadhil’s favorite uncle and a friend.
A botched kidney surgery ended Saadi’s military career with the Iraqi Royal Army when he was a young major. He lost his first wife to cancer.
Then, though it’s unusual in Iraq, he raised two daughters and a son as a single dad. Saadi refused to bow to family pressure to remarry, until his children were grown and graduated from college.
He taught himself to play the violin and the oud, a pear-shaped stringed instrument popular in Islamic music, and liked to entertain others.
“He could not read music, yet he could make an instrument talk (like a person),” Fadhil said. “He would say, ‘Guess what I’m playing?’ and we could say it in words.”
When Fadhil earned a scholarship to Liverpool University, he wrote home from England only to his parents and to his uncle. They stayed close as both men grew older.
After speaking to his family in Iraq, Fadhil typed up a few lines telling his friends of his uncle’s death.
Among those who received Fadhil’s short e-mail message that night were Laurie and Russell Loving of Davis. Their son is a 21-year-old corporal serving in the U.S. Army — in Mosul.
“My heart stopped,” said Laurie, who will also speak Sunday as a representative of Military Families Speak Out. “I thought, ‘Oh my God, what if my son killed him?’ Then I decided it was unlikely. But I still felt terrible and responsible somehow.”
The next morning, Laurie spoke on the phone to her son, whose name she prefers not to use for fear of reprisals against him because she is an anti-war activist. Her son said he didn’t know about the shooting.
When next Laurie saw Fadhil, she hugged him. They cried together.
“She’s a good person,” he said. “I hope her son comes home unscathed, both mentally and physically. My family has no choice but to be where they are, and her son has his orders. He has to defend himself to survive.
“I cannot blame any young soldier. I blame the decision-makers who put us in this situation.”
At Sunday’s vigil local members of Code Pink: Women for Peace will make a memorial quilt panel for Fadhil’s uncle and three others. Across the country panels are being made for the more than 2,314 Americans and more than 33,000 Iraqi civilians killed since the war began.
Fifteen finished panels also will be on display, including one for Casey Sheehan.
Natalie Wormeli of Code Pink said having a friend lose a close relative will make this vigil, and its message, “profoundly personal” for her.
“When you’re talking about a grown man who is afraid to answer the phone because he might lose a family member or who breaks into tears during a meeting — I know there’s isn’t anything I can do to console him,” she said.
“But we can show him and others we care.”
Fadhil holds close a favorite memory of his uncle.
It comes from after Saadi at last remarried. Fadhil wrote to him, asking for a photo of him and his new wife, Muma.
Time passed. No photo turned up in the mail.
It seemed so out of character for his uncle that Fadhil asked his brother about it.
He explained that Saadi, though he cared for Muma, felt a deep sense of loyalty to his first wife. Out of respect for her, he’d decided against being photographed with his new bride.
Then, in 2000, Fadhil visited his family in Mosul.
He asked his uncle, “May I take your picture with your wife?”
Saadi’s eyes filled with tears. He said, “It will be the first one. But, yes, you can do it.”
“I took their picture,” Fadhil remembered. “Then I had my brother take another, with me and him and his wife together. I still have that picture. And that, of course, can never be forgotten.”
— Reach Cory Golden at email@example.com or 747-8046.
Thursday, March 16, 2006