Embedded Iraqi journalist shows photos of war-torn home

The theater was full of graphic war images for a conflict he couldn’t justify.

CoffmanâÄôs theater was turned into a window of chaos and destruction Wednesday night as the projector pictured a bloody Iraqi man, crying and holding his twin brotherâÄôs head. The photo was one of many Haider Hamza took as an embedded journalist for U.S. media covering the Iraq war, which has so far claimed more than 90,000 Iraqi civilian lives, according to Iraq Body Count . But this wasnâÄôt always the case. Hamza grew up in an upper middle class Bagdad neighborhood, which he abandoned to cover the armed conflicts in Afghanistan and later the war in his own country. He flashed another picture, this time of a cell inside Abu Ghraib , the notorious Iraqi prison where the soldiers he was embedded with put him because he took pictures of U.S. Army casualties. During the 12 days he was in prison, Hamza said, several of his inmates died in the 140 degree Iraq summer heat. Luckily, his media connections got him out of the prison, he said, and he got to take pictures of his old cell, jammed with over 20 people in it, and he snapped shots of children camping outside of the prison, waiting for their fathers to be released. Students from student groups ranging from Hillel, the Muslim Student Association, and the ROTC stared at the photos, while Hamza occasionally punctuated the theaterâÄôs dark silence with cutlines from his photos. Dan Garon , a University sophomore and the eventâÄôs main organizer, said Hillel brought Hamza to the University to âÄúraise awareness and, ultimately, to start a dialogue.âÄù And as the slides kept coming, more people started asking questions ranging from what soldiers could do to prevent violence, to what types of weapons were being used. Soldiers back from tours abroad commented on how the U.S. military didnâÄôt mean to cause civilian casualties when it used white phosphorus, as Hamza showed pictures of charred humans clearly burned by the chemicals. But perhaps the most moving image Hamza captured was a photo of a line of Iraqi civilians, stripped of their clothes, handcuffed, and waiting for their inevitable execution from an American seeking revenge after another American officer was killed. âÄúAs human beings, we always take the things that are good for granted,âÄù Hamza said. âÄúThis gets much more focus and attention.âÄù Campus ROTC advisor John Zillhardt said some unfortunate instances like this occurred during his tour in 2003. âÄúWhy didnâÄôt someone right then say âÄòDonâÄôt do that?âÄôâÄù he asked. âÄúOne act can undo 100 good acts.âÄù After myriad displays of death and destruction, Hamza reinstated that his purpose in showing the pictures wasnâÄôt political, but to present the idea that all war is bad. An American soldier in the crowd asked what he and other soldiers should know when they serve their tours. âÄúI hope this helped raise some of the issues, and that it helpsâÄù Hamza said. Zillhardt stressed that much of the violence and death in Iraq occurred after the fall of Saddam Hussein because the American forces didnâÄôt have a concrete action plan. âÄúOur thought process was no further than, âÄòWe will topple Saddam,âÄôâÄù he said. âÄúOK, mission accomplished, now what?âÄù Hamza said the conflict is raising deep hatred among the Iraqi people and many children are choosing to avenge their families by becoming insurgents, and Americans are isolated from this message because they chose to ignore it. âÄúThe largest most dangerous misconception is [American people] think we are fighting an enemy, which is completely inaccurate because they donâÄôt know who theyâÄôre fighting,âÄù Hamza said.