The Imprint of War: 2003 redux


Twenty years ago I published my first book, of essays and poems. It was born out of frustration, dissatisfaction, and discontent. Because for years I had tried to make a difference. Make the world a better place. However, nothing I tried worked. Then I thought, okay, I’ll write for real and publish. Sounding Off In Echo Hills is that book.

Recent events caused me to revisit what I wrote. Hmmm. Moreover now I’m thinking – what’s changed?

Let’s take a look back, shall we?

20 years ago today


South of Baghdad, in a rural village, a family of five were eating dinner together–husband, wife, and their three children. A girl of eight and two boys, six and four. They could hear distant explosions and the rolling thunder of bombs blowing buildings apart. From time to time the small bungalow shook from the blasts.

Sudden and unexpectedly the front door of their home slammed open and the barrel of an automatic rifle stared at them. OUT! OUT! the gun barrel motioned.

The husband put his hands up in the air, over his head, and moved out of the house as the gun directed. His family followed his lead. The women began to cry. and the boys were in awe. Fear shook the faces. Then the gun directed them to get down on the ground. They squatted, hands above their heads, trembling.

Two men behind the guns went into the house. Moments that seemed like hours passed. Then the gunmen left. The family and the house were unharmed.


The gunmen were United States Marines–sent to Iraq by their government to liberate (set free) that very family. It is unknown, but unlikely that the family asked for the Marines help. According to criminologist and researcher Lonnie Athens, what happened to them is the first step (being a helpless victim of violent action) toward the creation of dangerous and violent criminals. The title of his 1992 book of the same name.

It is impossible to predict, given what we know, how these three children will react to what they saw and felt. Moreover, to what degree of influence the event will have in shaping their lives. However, as one who studied and worked for years with traumatized children–I know this: It is there, the impact of violence induced fear.

Real Lessons Learned

Without doubt, what the reality and lesson learned was: Power (the ability to compel others to obedience) comes from the barrel of a gun. And the one who possesses the gun is in control.

It’s quite possible, even likely, that at least one of those three kids will resent that fact. They will remember the time when they had no freedom whatsoever. The time of terror as they watched their mother and father humiliated and powerless.

One logical reaction to that would be to fight against such injustice–the injustice that dictates anyone with a gun can break into your home and have their will. Under the threat of that gun, you are powerless.

Time Will Tell

How will that defiant child fight that fight? What approach will they take? Violent or non-violent? The reality is that in a violent, aggressive world–there is no freedom, no justice. Only those with power and those without.

All are victims in a violent world.

At the Central Command briefing in Qatar, the British General told reporters, “The regime took control through fear and violence.” It was unclear what regime he was speaking of.

Afterthoughts: 2023

Here we are again, twenty years later. Innocent children being traumatized by war. One thing is for sure – it’s not their fault. Another thing is, less sure but still likely, violence will continue.

Notwithstanding all the progress we’ve made, this is who we are. And power comes from bombs and bullets. Additionally, force rules.

“The pen is mightier than sword.” Who said that?


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.