As he crossed the Iraqi desert during the 12-hour drive from
Amman, Jordan, to Baghdad, Fernando Suarez meditated on his long
journey from his youth in Mexico City to moving his young family
to Tijuana and then across the border to San Diego, and now to
his entering the lands of ancient Mesopotamia. As one of the more
recognizable members of a fact-finding delegation organized by
Global Exchange, Military Families Speak Out, and Veterans for
Peace, Suarez was completing the next logical step in his role
as a peace activist. He had come to the country where his son
Jesús, a 20-year-old U.S. Marine, had died on March 27,
2003, after stepping on a U.S. cluster bomb.
Arriving in Baghdad on December 1, the delegation would spend
the next week in a flurry of meetings with Iraqi and American
officials, U.S. soldiers, and the common people of Iraq. Exhausted
after long days and alone late at night in his hotel room, Suarez
sent the following messages to the peace community in San Diego:
December 3, 2003
Today was a very busy day. We had an interview with members
of the Iraqi provisional governing council and a very short
interview with Ambassador Bremer. We went to a hospital where
children are in the last stages of cancer and I gave them the
clothes I brought. It was extremely painful for me, so much
so that I got sick, cried a lot, and my blood pressure went
up, but it was also something beautiful to see the smiles on
their pained faces, to see their mothers expressing gratitude
for your act of good will. Tomorrow I'm going to the site of
my son's tragedy; I don't know how I will react but I hope I
can take it. Things here are very different from what we see
in the media. I'll tell you more later. I'm very tired. It's
11 p.m. Wednesday night and it was a day full of emotion.
Hasta pronto, Your friend.
December 5, 2003
All is as well as can be expected. I was finally able to go
to the place where my son Jesús had his accident, a very
lonely place near where there used to be an Iraqi National Guard
base. I was able to stand in the exact spot where Jesús
fell. I placed the crucifix that my wife gave me in the ground
and prayed, asking that wherever he is that he help us find
peace. I took some earth, which may still hold Jesús'
blood, for my return trip so that I can plant a white rosebush
in a park in Escondido [near our home] and place a sign that
says: "For peace and brotherhood between two fraternal
nations USA and Iraq in memory of Jesús
Suarez del Solar Navarro and all the fallen in Operation Iraqi
It was a painful experience. I wept, yes, I wept out of control
and I asked my son's forgiveness for the times I was a bad father,
for the times I punished him unjustly, and I know that from
that marvelous place he now inhabits he responded that he loved
me very much. I lost strength and the friends who were with
me came to my aid and held me up; they all wept with me. The
press was there and they turned off their cameras and wept too
and prayed that my son's soul rest in peace.
Finally, my spirit calmed itself a bit. I now have more energy
than ever because I am convinced that the energy my son left
in that place has been transferred to my body and that he will
be with me, nearer than ever, always protecting me.
I will tell you about other activities later. Thank you for
your invaluable support, thank you, and receive greetings from
all my travel companions.
December 6, 2003
Hello to all my friends:
Today is my last day in Iraq and thanks to God and my son we
are all well and have not had any problems. I have had incredible
experiences, so many that I cannot tell you about them in one
letter. Nonetheless, I will relate a few.
For example, yesterday on Friday a bomb exploded very near
me as I was on my way to visit an Iraqi family. Their son, a
twelve year old, is now blind and lost the use of his right
leg due to a bomb that landed near his home. Actually, the bomb
landed inside a primary school in a totally residential neighborhood
without any military targets nearby. This family has not received
any financial or medical aid from the U.S. government.
The scene I witnessed filled me with sorrow to see that
youngster with his dreams cut short, with his hopes destroyed,
and such a bleak future. I asked forgiveness from the family
in the name of the American people, and they accepted our condolences
in a very human gesture and told me that they were the ones
who asked forgiveness from me for the loss of my son (INCREDIBLE
HUMANITY). The same day, I visited the school, now in ruins,
and still no one has cleaned up the area, replaced windows or
electricity, nothing. And despite it all, the children go to
class daily as a tremendous act of civic duty.
And so I have many such tales to tell you and others even more
tragic with respect to the government and the U.S. occupation
forces. I also have very interesting stories that I will relate
when I return.
Hoping to see you very soon, your friend in peace.
Media responses to the delegation were generally favorable although
some journalists, trapped in the quicksand of racialized stereotypes,
could not help but cast Suarez as a dupe of sinister forces. San
Diego Union-Tribune columnist Logan Jenkins worried: "Is
he a sort of secular saint? Or is he an unwitting tool of global
organizations with complex agendas of which he has no idea? Does
this sensitive man wind up giving comfort to enemies of the United
States? Or does his pacifist message comfort humanity?"
Others were less encumbered by Jenkins's ambivalence. The Free
Lance-Star Publishing Co. of Fredericksburg, Virginia, implied
that the group was "aiding and abetting the enemy."
In a personal message to Suarez, one active duty serviceman wrote:
"You are nothing more than an anti-American Latino propaganda
activist who seeks to drag down our Nation. . . . You have no
business in going to Iraq and allowing the leftist media punks
to exploit you. . . . You only give these Iraq terrorists more
encouragement to kill more of our boys in arms and stain your
son's honor. Shame on your stupidity."
Undeterred by the vicious attacks on his motives and his intelligence,
Suarez continues to speak out for peace and a timely turnover
of the occupation to the United Nations. Upon returning from Iraq,
the delegation requested meetings with President Bush, National
Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice, and UN Secretary General Kofi
Annan. To date, their requests have received no response.
Information sources: San Diego Union-Tribune, December 4,
2003; Free Lance-Star Publishing Co., December 3 and 10, 2003.
Letters used by permission of author. Translations by Jorge
This article is from Draft NOtices, the newsletter
of the Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft (www.comdsd.org)