As a veteran who served two combat tours in Iraq as an Army medic, I would like to share my response after viewing the exhibit “Navigating the Aftermath” at Regis Center for Art.
The exhibitâÄôs aim is to bring “Iraqi and American (including Minnesotan and veteran) artists together in dialogue on the warâÄôs effects and find ways for Iraqis and Americans to move toward healing.”
Looking back, I think the exhibit gives a very one-sided perspective by solely focusing on the deaths of Americans and those caused by Americans.
The exhibit fails to mention anything at all about the more than 600,000 deaths that Saddam Hussein was responsible for during the Iran-Iraq war and the 300,000 to 400,000 people who were raped, tortured and/or never seen again during his rule from 1980 to 2003.
The exhibit mentioned nothing about the successes that came after the American invasion. It completely ignored how after the 2003 American-led invasion, Iraqis could march to Karbala as part of the Shia faith, dig up the hundreds of thousands of bodies of their relatives from mass graves, speak more freely about politics and vote in their own elections. Or how 70 percent of the population who are Kurds and Shia no longer have to live as impoverished second-class citizens.
My medics and I treated Iraqi people often. When al-Qaida suicide bombed a mosque one mile outside our base in Habbaniyah in 2007, the U.S. medical staff worked its hardest to save dozens of men, women and children after the attack, which killed more than 130 people.
My battalion captured an insurgent torture chamber to find men chained to the wall, some with broken bodies and at least one severed head. The U.S. set up dozens of medical clinics for Iraqis, performed hundreds of goodwill missions and supply distributions to the poor and is supplying technology to raise the Iraqi standard of living.
A young Iraqi interpreter who was my age once told me, “It must be a good thing that the Americans are here,” as he held up what looked like an iPhone. “We never had this technology under Saddam.”
What type of impression does it give when an exhibit only tells about the good humanity of the Iraqis without including that of the U.S. troops, who accidentally killed or wounded them, and how those soldiers will never recover from it?
For this reason, I think the exhibit gives a shamefully biased impression. The act of healing is better served by sharing the entire story.