I am in turmoil and it serves me right. Any person who is as none judgemental as me deserves to suffer the consequences of his actions. My action was to open The Times newspaper last week and view pictures of an incident which had taken place in Iraq a few days before.
The series of pictures showed a car with bullet holed windscreen and two bloodied (and very dead) front seat occupants. The remaining pictures showed 5 children, all siblings ranging from 2 to 14 and covered in their dead parent's blood — all visibly stunned. The oldest was in tears and the youngest, a little boy, looked at the camera, incomprehensibly. He wasn't crying and I doubt he understood that his mummy and daddy had just been taken from him forever.
The US soldiers looked stunned too. They had signalled for the driver to stop but for some unknown reason he continued towards them without even slowing. Fearing a car bomb attack the soldiers opened fire. It must have happened in an instant. A few short, sharp rounds followed by silence and then screams from the eldest daughter.
“We were driving home,” she screamed, “We had no guns!”
The soldiers took all of the children to hospital for check-ups. All were unhurt, physically. The soldiers were not beasts. They were as much victims as the orphaned children. How can I say that you might ask… keep reading.
My eyes fell back on the picture of the stunned toddler whose unforgettable expression was lit up by a torch in his face. I suddenly had a stomach wrenching urge to pick up and hold my twin boys tightly; to kiss them and smell their skin. But I couldn't. They were being looked after by their grandparents while Varinder and I were on a work trip.
I turned the newspaper to Varinder who was eating her toast. I had decided to ruin her day too.
“Have you seen these?”
She looked quickly. She looked at me with a pained expression. I felt she had stopped looking in order to preserve her cheerful mood that day. I, on the other hand, had allowed the images o envelope me like a dark mist.
“It really cuts me up,” I said. As I spoke I heard my voice falter. I surprised myself at how upset I sounded. Perhaps in my old age (40 this year) my emotions are rising closer to the surface.
Varinder took the paper from me and folded it up.
I wish I could have felt angry instead of tearful. I thought about how many other innocents had been killed, orphaned and tortured in wars which had nothing to do with them. I thought about the soldiers who almost certainly didn't even want to be in Iraq. I thought of the politicians who can justify any situation and have answers for everything.
But why did that little boy, with his mummy and daddy's heads blown open in their front seats affect me so much? Was it because the little boy in the picture is the same age as my twins? Was it because I see Varinder hugging and kissing our boys and know that he will never know a mother's love again? Was it because he is innocent? Perhaps it is all of these things and more.
A week has gone by and I cannot erase the face of that little boy from my mind. He is the last thing I think about before I fall asleep. He is my little boys when I kiss them and love them. May that little boy and his brothers and sisters one day find it in their hearts to forgive and love, rather than hate, those who took their parents away from them.
In the meantime, the knot of anxiety in my stomach tightens. How many more will die and when will there be peace?