Come this June, it will be ten years since I arrived in Iraq. Obviously adjusting to life in a combat zone was no small task, and one of the things that made it daunting was that the unthinkable had happened not long before I got in country, and that was what is known as “on base fire.” On base fire is essentially what happened this past week at the Navy Yard, and I am convinced there is no worse assault on our troops than when someone who is supposed to be “watching their six,” (or back,) lethally turns on them, whether the perpetrator is military or a contractor.
One of the first things I did as I settled into working in Saddam’s hunting lodge was listen to a soldier who had been one of the targets of the Baghdad incident, and thankfully was spared. I will never forget our conversation as he softly told me what happened. He was shook, as was I. Later during my time in Baghdad an insurgent infiltrated the nascent Iraqi Special Forces and the result was that 12 men, (including the mole,) were kidnapped, 11 beheaded, and the mole who had effectively committed fratricide was allowed to escape. There are no words to describe the pall that settled over our camp.
I am sure that there will be much investigation by “the experts” as to what motivated Aaron Alexis to silently raise his weapon and start shooting, and no doubt we’ll discuss the tragedy again in future issues of Athens Now. But what has struck me in this latest go around is the humble, straightforward grief that was expressed in a statement written by Aaron’s mother, Cathleen: “Our son Aaron Alexis has murdered 12 people and wounded several others,” she said. “His actions have had a profound and everlasting effect on the families of the victims. I don’t know why he did what he did and I’ll never be able to ask him why.”
“Aaron is now in a place where he can no longer do harm to anyone and for that I am glad. To the families of the victims I am so, so very sorry that this happened,” she said. “My heart is broken.”
While there are swirling speculations as to the state of Aaron’s mental health, compare Cathleen’s brokenness with the statements issued by Um Nidal, who is proud that she raised three sons to give their lives for Allah. The following are excerpts from the Hamas website in 2002 before and after an attack perpetrated by one of her sons in which five Israelis died.
“By Allah, today is the best day of my life. I feel that our Lord is pleased with me, because I am offering something [my son] for Him. I wish to sacrifice more [sons] for Allah’s forgiveness, and for the flag [of Islam], ‘There is no god but Allah,’ to fly over Palestine…. It’s true that there’s nothing more precious than children, but for the sake of Allah – what is precious becomes cheap.”
Not in my universe, lady. Give me Cathleen Alexis any day, and as we pass Old Glory flying at half mast to mourn the loss of innocent life yet again, find a soldier to thank for protecting you from Um Nidal.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner