When I was growing up, my father always told a story about a weapons training class he had in the Israel Army (this was during the War of Independence). An explosives expert led the impromptu class, made up of men and women soldiers, all grouped around the teacher in the hot Mediterranean sun. The teacher held in his hands a class jar with dozens of the explosive caps from grenades (I think I’ve got that detail right). As he spoke, standing there in the hot sun, he idly tossed the jar back and forth between his hands.
My father, a seasoned combat soldier from his years in the RAF during WWII, watched in something of a trance as that jar went flip-flop, flop-flip, flip-flop, in the hot sun. And then, suddenly, at precisely the same time, both my dad and the teacher realized that the jar had taken on a life of its own. My father, a few rows away from the teacher, hurled himself on top of the young woman next to him to protect her from the impact — but it never came. There was a huge explosion, but only the teacher died — because, when he realized what was about to happen, he threw himself on the bomb in his hands, saving the lives of all those around him. I’ve spent my entire life wondering what kind of person could react that way — could coolly embrace certain death to save others around him.
It was a day of ceremony, pride and hope. Dancing Iraqi soldiers celebrated the country’s national army holiday with a new chant: “Where is terrorism today?”
In the central Karrada neighbourhood, an elderly man placed flowers into the gun barrels of three recruits. And then the suicide bomber struck.
Four policemen, three soldiers and four civilians were killed, and many more wounded. The death toll would have been much higher were it not for the three soldiers who threw themselves at the bomber when they became suspicious. They absorbed much of the blast. Without their action, many more would have died… (Emphasis mine.)
The soldiers, presumably, were Iraqi soldiers, willing to die to save their countrymen in a land that is increasingly seeing the hope of peace. Here’s what Paul Schlicta has to say about the story:
The names and photos of these three heroes should have been on the front pages of all the newspapers in the world. What could be a more compelling human story? It would have been a welcome change from the too-familiar faces of the candidates.
To sink momentarily into politics, these three men, by giving their lives, gave the lie to the canard, common to all the current Democratic candidates, that our involvement in Iraq has been a pointless mistake. To most or all of our politicians, the war in Iraq is merely a bargaining chip for getting votes. But to these three, it was a matter of life and death.
We are justifiably proud of the valor and determination of our soldiers in Iraq. But these three Iraqi soldiers, and 135,000 others like them, had even harder choices to make with even more at stake. Unaccustomed to living in a free country, despised by many of their own people as traitors, deceived and betrayed by self-serving leaders, they nonetheless chose to risk their lives and futures for in the hope of winning lasting freedom for their families and their people. If their efforts were to fail, they and their families would become the fugitive targets of reprisals. And when the climactic moment came, they chose to give their lives to save others.
We cannot walk away from these people.
Filed under: Iraq