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From Draft NOtices, January - February, 2004


Fernando Suarez del Solar: Letters from Iraq

— Jorge Mariscal


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

Hello everyone:

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

Hello everyone:

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 Freedom."

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 Mariscal.

This article is from Draft NOtices, the newsletter of the Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft (


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