Let this gallery of peace vigil paintings stand as an inverted prayer for the peaceful world we believe in. War mongers do not want you to see these images of war. Let the human feeling of anger and dislike well up in your hearts too. Not against America, but against war. I never stopped loving America, but as a nation, America has stopped loving the world and is now a violator of human rights and human dignity.
I do not wish to become the darkness and violence I behold. I do not seek the numbness and silence I witness around me. I do not wish to inhabit the anger and the rebellion I know many, many people feel. I grow weary because the fruit of war is a poison to me and to any who force themselves to see it and to truly witness it.
Various attempts at social reform have been defeated by the overpowering strength of corrupt corporate influence in politics. Capitalistic intrusion opposes us when we try to end the wars or do anything to help working people. The only activity you are free to choose is to stop buying the crap they are trying to sell, sell, sell.
The only free spaces and unclaimed wilderness left to us are inside our minds. Ultimately that is where I have made my peace. I breathe in the darkness and breathe out the light…..to the others who cannot find their way. Be peaceful and abstain from any violence. Violence encourages the unjust and the elite to oppress you more. Don’t throw yourself or anyone on the gears of any machine. Don’t waste your spirit and creativity on violence. Pour yourself into your crafts, your arts, your life and the people you love. It is okay to be mad. Just keep it within your own boundaries or lay it out on canvas or in written lines of angry prose. Even angry Buddha uses peaceful means.
The bad guys will Never, Ever tell you that you are cool. So listen up. There is a higher power or perhaps a set of higher principles which you can choose. In family terms, you are a child of that power or of those principles. Your best shot, your Grace, your moment of honesty and integrity is derived from that same higher power or from those same higher principles. No one can take that away from you. Even though you are hurt, cast off, oppressed on the left and on the right. Even though you fail, your work and life are sacred.
Why make big pictures about the Wars?
To have been silent and complacent in the face of illegal wars, torture, humanitarian rights violations, and dictatorship will prove to be a ‘crime’ if only in retrospect. Witnesses are needed so that these crimes will not be overlooked.
The truth can be told without hatred and without degrading others, without yelling and name calling. We can know through images in an instant, what would take an author a book to describe to us. Feel the pain and do not turn away. May we all grow in our compassion and understanding, even if we have to endure great suffering.
Every September they wheel out the photos of the World Trade Center buildings being hit by planes in a horrific attack which resulted in the deaths of thousands. A cynical ploy is committed whereby we are reminded of our wounds to persuade us to spend a trillion dollars a year on Defense, on wars in foreign lands, on Homeland Security. Korea was pointless and inhuman. Vietnam was pointless and inhumane. People returning from Iraq say it is pointless and inhumane. Those who benefit from these wars are secretly lobbying government for war dollars but are publicly silent. We are more than our wounds and we are also more than our fears. Wake up, brave hearts and end the wars!
Ali Shalal Qaissi of Amman, Jordan was pictured on the front page of the New York Times on Saturday, March 11th, 2006. Ali held a picture of himself standing on top of a box, hooded and attached to electrical wires in Abu Ghraib prison, Iraq. This is now a famous photo, a symbol of man’s inhumanity to man. Since this photo was released more has been learned about the government’s use of torture in Iraq. The General who investigated the torture recently said that he was forced to resign from the Armed Services because the current administration was angry about his exposure of the atrocities at Abu Ghraib. In one of his discoveries, he found a photograph of a woman being sodomized by a soldier with a broom. What will happen to the victims of torture who will bear scars? What will happen to the soldiers who committed these acts who will also bear the guilt of having tortured others?
A Psychologist, Zimbardo, conducted an experimental prison in which some subjects became torturers and some prisoners became insane and had emotional breakdowns due to being tortured. Zimbardo discovered that a prison without rules and without a chain of command will devolve into inhumane treatment of prisoners by guards.
This prison scene is composed from a BBC.com photo circa 2005 of Guantanamo prison. There were news ‘leaks’ about secret prisons and torture. In addition, the painting speaks to the isolation and inhumane treatment of persons detained by our government. Because of the despair experienced by these human beings, I added a holy man to watch over them. They are hooded to symbolize their lack of contact with others. They are in stress positions because this is how they have been terrorized. They are tied to iron stakes because this is how they have been hung like pieces of meat by their captors.
The United States government is now guilty of war crimes that used to be the province of countries the U.S. disliked because of their human rights violations. Some prisoners committed suicide. Some have been forced fed when they refused to eat. The yellow light around each prisoner is your prayer for the end of their suffering.
May 23rd, 2007. New York Times presented first and last real images of the carnage of war. In search of kidnapped comrades South of Baghdad, soldiers dismounted and walked into a land mine. This soldier died from his wounds. ‘The triangle of death’ south of Baghdad has never been secured by coalition soldiers. It was reported that the tip given by local Iraqis about the location of the kidnapped soldiers was a lie and a setup.
Survey of Iraqi opinion indicates that Iraqis do not want our soldiers in Iraq. They also blame our soldiers for the sectarian violence. Later documents (Wikileaks) showed that our Generals cynically played sectarian groups against each other and let these groups kill each other with impunity. It would have been appropriate to turn Iraq over to the United Nations in 2003-2004, but that was not the plan.
The most ignorant response to this painting I have heard is that somehow I do not care if soldiers are harmed. The same thinking I guess concludes that if we do not win in Iraq, it is the fault of the ‘peace movement’ that ‘would not let us fight’. As it stands, the culprits who planned this illegal war have walked free and they have never had to account for their lies (Weapons of mass destruction, Iraqi=AlQaeda).
May 23rd, 2007. New York Times first and last photos of war carnage.
Here, two soldiers help a third who has also been wounded in the blast. At least, this is a picture in which human beings are helping each other. The fact that the current administration has controlled all Iraqi war news does not surprise me. This is a cruel and brutal conflict which is killing our soldiers (our children) and taking the lives of hundreds of thousands of untold Iraqis(our brothers and sisters in Iraq). If the media showed the reality of war, our soldiers would have been home in 2004. It was just an censorship- error that these photos of wounded soldiers slipped into the news. The New York Times has probably apologized to Washington and promised never to do ‘this’ again.
I too question the artistic presentation of war. On some unforgivable level I am making war acceptable by making another person’s distress presentable/digestible for viewing. I have been counseled that I am not killing anyone; and, I know that we all bear responsibility for this war. We live in a democratic society, ostensibly are represented and own this society as our own. Like Gunter Grass who struggled to transcend Nazi Germany’s atrocities and the Holocaust, we continue to eat while others die or kill in our country’s name.
Massacre at Abu Jour
A massacre is the unnecessary taking of life by an unbeatable larger force when it surrounds and intends to exterminate a lesser force. American troops surrounded the populated, vacation town of Abu Jour, which initiated a fire fight. (There was no way out for armed militias.) Civilians were inevitably caught up in the conflict and this little girl was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. Complete disregard for the welfare of civilians has characterized this conflict. The coalition correctly blames the bomb makers for killing civilians, but the coalition denies responsibility for civilians they kill. No one listened to the survivors of Dresden and Nagasaki, Hiroshima, Hanoi. The bitterness they hold for the complete disregard for human life will last for centuries.
Counter protestors sometimes shout out “Kill them all.” It is evident to anyone who bothers to look that the soldiers did just that. And now the disenthralled soldiers who return to peacetime have to square “killing anyone” with the rule of law.
“LATEST SHOOTING BY PRIVATE CONTRACTOR KILLS 2 IRAQIS AS UP TO 40 BULLETS HIT CAR” One of this boy’s relatives was killed in this car. Mercenaries who are not held accountable for indiscriminate shooting of civilians have played a major role in this war fought by ‘small’ armies. Their excuse is that the civilian’s car came too close. They felt threatened and loosed lethal volumes of bullets upon unarmed, innocent people. The State Department claims no responsibility for the actions of these soldiers despite paying their salaries. These mercenaries have no rules of engagement. When I spoke with a former Blackwater employee about this he denied these shootings at first. He accused me of misrepresenting his work. When told that this painting was from a real news photograph, he admitted that he had told his men to stop these shootings and had advised them to dump cinderblocks in front of approaching vehicles. A pattern of using extras emerges here: To practice torture, victims are sent to foreign countries which allow torture and are tortured there. To wage war on the cheap, mercenaries are hired to bolster flagging troop numbers. To suppress dissent through intimidation, communications corporations are hired to spy on the cheap for government spy agencies.
25,000 Iraqis were detained in American prisons in Iraq. Of these, 1.6% were foreign fighters. The fate of American held prisoners was undetermined. They were never brought before a judge to review charges against them, nor did they have access to trial by jury. They were considered to be prisoners of war. Neither the American commanders nor the Iraqi politicians were concerned about this violation of human rights. In addition to imprisonment, while torture by Americans has been denied, detainees have been handed off to Iraqis for torture.
Two million Iraqis have fled Iraq. Two million Iraqis have fled their homes and are internally displaced within Iraq as refugees within their own country. To respond to four million refugees, the Iraqi government offered 800 dollars to returning refugees as an incentive. Then they announced that thousands of refugees are returning. One report stated that an average of twelve per day were returning and that they often found their homes had been occupied. Those unfortunates whose neighborhoods had switched sides ended up without places to live.
Ordinarily such a large humanitarian crisis would be managed by the United Nations but this is an illegal occupation. Unwelcome in neighboring countries whose economies have not provided social services and jobs, the refugees in this picture fled Lebanon in a cargo boat and were captured in Crete. Will they be repatriated to Iraq? Where will they go from there?
Two suicide bombers in a pet market square blew themselves up and orphaned these two boys. Their father was killed. The fabric of any society begins with families. With one million Iraqis killed and four million refugees how will Iraq be stabilized? Call in the United Nations!
In February of 2008 (the time of these suicide bombings) an average of 85 attacks per day devastated Iraq. 300-400 civilians are killed per month in Iraq today (January, 2010). Political conflicts have prevented food, jobs, and housing from being equally distributed within Iraq and civil war continues.
The Siege of Sadr City
It began in March of 2008 as Maliki’s attempt to seize control over this part of Baghdad under the control of the Sadr militia. Without the authorization of parliament which had 12 Sadr Shiite members, Maliki invaded Sadr city using Iraqi Army forces and alleging that he wanted to remove ‘criminals’. Failing to win militarily in Basra, an oil city, Maliki eagerly accepted a ceasefire there and continued to besiege Sadr City. Maliki’s use of force, instead of political process, and threats, instead of incentives for collaboration, mirrored President Bush’s unilateral decision to invade Iraq.
American aircraft traded fire with Sadr militia while the Iraqi army forced its way into Sadr City. This 3-year-old boy was playing outdoors when he was killed. His mother and grandmother and father were inconsolable. He made no choice to be in Sadr City. What did his life have to do with the impatience of politicians?
A mother of a soldier who has returned from Iraq asked me to do a painting about American soldiers, their deaths, and the wounded. This painting is from a black and white photo without any identifying information or credits. Anyone interested in the current numbers can go to icasualties.org to find the current numbers of dead and wounded soldiers.
Nothing about my work dishonors soldiers, only war. War is wrong because people are killed and people kill other people in wars. It is that simple. Recent efforts to tie the pain of war to the economic pain of the country’s descent into the second Great Depression are cynical and disingenuous.
For soldiers who want a way out and for young people who want an alternative career, visit the website www.CenterOnConscience.org. They offer counseling and practical help to soldiers and youth who have decided against war.
Checkpoint murders of civilians.
Obey or Die. This little girl’s parents were killed at a checkpoint in Iraq. Conservative estimates of Iraqi deaths are 76,000 to 94,000 verified media reported deaths. Separate survey techniques studies estimate 75,000 to 125,000 Iraqi deaths since 2003.
Victory in Iraq is a mass media lie. The military presence continues to fuel violence. When the armed forces leave Iraq, Iraqis can begin to assert control over their own destinies, rebuild their country, reconstruct their social institutions and improve the security and welfare for all Iraqis.
Allegedly they started using these in the Balkans. Later, they used them to track Osama Bin Ladin in Afghanistan in the late 1990s. Experts claim that they did not ‘arm’ them until the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but do you trust them? This one carries four Hellfire missiles which can suck the air out of victims lungs when it explodes.
Last year (2009) they reported 800 deaths due to drone attacks. These civilians who are not targets but are killed anyway are called collateral damage. Wikileaks exposed the indifference to killing civilians in their release of a helicopter gunner video in April of 2010.
War is organized murder when someone kills in Afghanistan from a joystick operated in Langley, Virginia. It is still murder even if done from a great distance. The price of each drone, a million dollars? Final product, death.
Wikileaks released a video from a helicopter gunner in April of 2010. The killing of 12 people occurred in New Baghdad in July 12th, 2007, during the much lionized “surge”. There are four small paintings to pay tribute to this war crime:
The twelve civilians were walking along the street. They included two Reuters reporters. They had come to meet with locals who were upset about a lack of services in their community.
They obviously were not shooting at anyone and they were aware of the warship above them. In the second painting they are gunned down so violently that the haze of dust obscures the violence of their deaths.
A lone survivor struggles to get on his feet and the gunner says to him that he wants him to reach for a gun so that he can shoot him. A black van approaches and a Good Samaritan gets out to rescue the wounded man. But the Apache helicopter gunner asks for permission to shoot them.
But instead of leaving the Good Samaritan alone in accordance with International Humanitarian Law, the helicopter gunner kills all of the men leaving two wounded children in the van.
When the ground forces arrive they find the two children alive and they attempt to send them to an American hospital but are told to hand them over to Iraqi police. They find two cameras belonging to the Reuters’ journalists.
It is obvious that Surge meant creating a free fire zone in Iraq in order to suppress any resistance in the civilian population and in the militias. This happens in every war and is only kept hidden through the silence of censors and complicit media.
Mohammed’s Stillborn Dreams
In lieu of the truthful images of war from journalists and photographers who are not killed by the agents of empire, I offer you this painting of a fetus which was killed in its mother’s womb. A Johns Hopkins University study in 2006 estimated that more than 600,000 Iraqis had died since the 2003 invasion. How many dreams of a future family, of a marriage, of a husband or wife, have been destroyed by these wars in Iraq and in Afghanistan? This fetus was killed in the womb from Israeli fire in Lebanon. Why? Can there ever be a ‘reason’ for this wholesale murder of innocents?
Special Ops forces attack suspected Afghanis at night. These raids kill civilians, destroy communities, undermine reconstruction efforts and destabilize local governance. They are opposed by everyone except the imperial American overlords.
If war is hell and it is a sin, why do we persist in it? This is not the end of the story, but this is as far as I have come on my journey.