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Defining an invasion could define the resisters

A few years ago, my family and I took an extended trip around the world and were gone for several months. During that trip, we toured most of Europe and visited place after place that memorialized the heroes of World War II, the people who never gave in to Hitler and his invasion of their countries.
Almost every country that was occupied by the Nazis had an underground resistance that did everything possible to deter Hitler’s success. But nowhere was that resistance more pronounced than in the Netherlands and the city of Amsterdam.
While my family and I were there, we visited Anne Frank’s house, which has been preserved exactly as it was the day the Germans were tipped off, burst into their small, hidden apartment, and took the Frank family into custody in 1944. There are dishes still sitting on the kitchen table, clothes hanging in the closets, and pictures cut out of magazines by 13-year-old Anne pasted on the walls of the little girl’s bedroom.
The day we toured the small apartment, I noticed that other tourists were just as emotionally affected by the visit as we were. Several people cried openly. Everyone was solemn and even though there were several people present, there was a respectful silence. No one needed to say anything. That kind of sadness needs no words.
Later that day, we visited the Resistance Museum in downtown Amsterdam. The items on display there were amazing. The Dutch people, even though they suffered tremendously during World War II, never gave up trying to overcome the occupation of their country by foreigners. Most Nazis, even the notorious Joseph Goebbels, thought that the Dutch people would absorb the Nazi’s National Socialism form of government into their culture. They were wrong.
The Dutch resisted. They invented a printing press that could be operated by pedaling a bicycle which had the rear wheel replaced with a pulley and hooked to the press. They ran an underground newspaper right under the noses of the Germans. They built radios that were so small they could be hidden in matchboxes. They were masters at building false walls that were used to hide Jewish families from the Nazis. They created a system of codes that they could use to communicate by tapping on pipes and radiators. They blew up bridges, preferably with Germans on them, and were couriers for secret documents that were smuggled in and out of the country.
According to the Resistance Museum, 50,000 to 60,000 people were directly involved in underground activities and thousands more indirectly involved, offering assistance and hiding places. More than 10,000 Dutch resisters lost their lives as a result of their courageous efforts. People all across Europe called the Dutch ‘a nation of heroes.’
Since that trip, I have wondered how I would react if a force, one that outnumbered and outgunned us, invaded the United States. Even if the odds were against me, I would resist. And I’m sure thousands and thousands of my fellow Americans would do the same. We’d hide in the woods, sewers, basements, hidden rooms and tunnels. We’d find ways to resist, to build explosives and weapons. We’d find ways to interrupt their supply routes and try our best to pick off our enemies one by one. Whether we succeeded or not, history would label us heroes.
We Americans are capable of being heroes. We’re also capable of acting as if there is only one side to a coin. Thousands of people in Iraq are reacting to the invasion of their country by the United States the very same way we would react if it happened to us. But we don’t call them heroes; we have labeled them ‘insurgents.’ The Dutch didn’t ask the Germans to come in and change their government, and the Iraqis didn’t invite the United States to come in and change theirs. We, like the Nazis, just decided that we knew what was best for them.
When we invaded Iraq, we demolished their military in just a few days. They were completely outgunned and didn’t have a prayer against us. We also disbanded their police force and locked up anyone who even looked or acted in a suspicious manner. Then, while they were in our custody, we tortured them to make them rat out their fellow countrymen. It hasn’t worked on them, and it wouldn’t work on us either. Most of us would die before we’d rat out a fellow American during a war. But what we have done to those people says a lot about what we have become and what the people of this country find acceptable.
The people of Iraq certainly didn’t ask for this invasion. They didn’t ask for, or want to be, a democracy. They have a totally different culture, and we should allow them that. We shoved democracy down their throats at the barrel of a gun because the Bush administration needed to justify the invasion. All of the other excuses for being there proved to be false and misleading. And the Iraqi people know it. It’s a shame that more Americans don’t.
The ‘insurgents’ in Iraq are fighting for what they believe in. Admittedly, there are a few ‘extremists’ who have crossed the Iraqi borders from other countries and are involved in the violence. But even the Bush administration has admitted that the majority of the so-called insurgents are Iraqi citizens. So, we’re killing the same people we’re supposed to be helping. And the numbers being released now indicate that we have killed more than 500,000 of them.
The violence that the insurgents are capable of is a direct result of our leaving all those munitions bunkers unguarded, bunkers that were overflowing with explosives and ammunition. While our troops were doing the mad rush to take Baghdad with ‘shock and awe,’ Iraqis were hauling away the contents of those bunkers. These are people who, at least in their own minds, are fighting an invading military force, and we made it possible for them to acquire the weapons to do it with.
We have lost more than 2,500 of our brave soldiers to this war. But very few were killed in the initial invasion. Most of the losses came later, picked off a few at a time. We fought our war coming in, but we’re fighting their war now. They didn’t have a chance against the United States’ military might when we initially attacked their country. Now, they’re holding their own.
But these people aren’t terrorists. Terrorism is a method of waging war, not a specific group of people. So, who are they? There can only be two answers. We’ve either killed thousands of innocent Iraqi citizens, or we’ve killed thousands of resisters for doing the very same thing that we would have done if we were in their shoes.
The Iraqi people didn’t do anything to deserve what we’ve done to them. Saddam Hussein was indeed a tyrant when he was in power. But really, how powerful was he? The old man crawled off and hid in a hole before anyone even pointed a gun at him. Was getting rid of him really worth what we have done to the people of that country? Was getting rid of him really worth the lives of more than 2,500 of our soldiers? Was getting rid of him really worth the pain and suffering more than 20,000 of our young men and women are going through as a result of being wounded and crippled in Iraq?
We can wave our flags and make patriotic pronouncements. We can pretend to be ‘helping those poor people out of their dilemma’ while at the same time announce plans to ‘stay the course’ and kill more of them, along with our own men and women, all for reasons that still haven’t been made clear by this administration. The reason we are in Iraq changes constantly, depending on whom you ask. George Bush now calls it ‘the war on terror,’ but it’s actually a war on innocent people trying to defend their homeland. They are resisting, just like most of us, and the Dutch, would resist. I wonder if someday the rest of the world will see them as heroes also.