Monday night is knitting night.
I don’t always get to go, but when I do, it’s like being a teabag spending an hour steeping in wholesome goodness. There is knitting and there is cake. And there is good conversation.
I’m a pretty heinous knitter, and even though there are apparently only two stitches in knitting, I only know one. There are girls in knitting circles who are knitting washcloths for boys. I am lucky if my own mom wants to use the cloths I knit.
But I have decided that it’s not really about the knitting. It’s really about the conversation. And somewhere in the middle of my fourth row of knit stitch, Nancy begins to talk.
She and her husband have just gotten back from a trip to Washington, D.C., where they attended the Annual National Prayer Breakfast. I like prayer and breakfast, so I look forward to what she will say.
She relays her airplane trip. As she and her husband boarded the plane to Washington, they began to take notice of the large number of young, Arab men sitting around the rows of their seats. In a terrorism-sensitive society, that knee-jerk apprehension that occurs when young, Arab men board airplanes is fairly common. It’s unfortunate that the apprehension levels rise. Unfortunate, but a reality. I knit another row.
Nancy’s husband opens a news article on, ironically, the Iranian and Iraqi conflict. The young Arab man sitting next to him glances at the article and says, “Saddam is an evil man.” And the dialogue begins.
I am entirely comfortable calling war “an evil thing.” War is an evil thing. But we do not live in a world that has the luxury of removing ourselves from evil things. George Bush has been called many things of late, including “a coward.” But the decision to choose the hard thing when one has to choose, is the bravest of actions in a world that lauds cowards.
The Arab sitting next to Nancy’s husband is an Iraqi. He is also a Kurd. He relays stories about the massacre or Kurds throughout the tenure of Saddam’s regime. Tens of thousands of Muslims rounded up and either forced into military service or routinely executed. Thousands of Kurdish families who never see husbands or brothers or sons again.
The Iraqi continues to tell of the atrocities his people have suffered under Saddam Hussein. Saddam is not a Muslim. He is Pol Pot. He is Ceausescu. He is Franco. He is Hitler.
There is a whole history of “bad men” that the forces of good have stood against. Of course the United States has economic interests in Iraq. The global community is now too vast for any action we take in the world to be truly apart from our interests. But the existence of economic interest in Iraq does not automatically nullify the appropriateness of huge regime change. And sometimes the only way to initiate that change is to take as drastic a chance as war.
The Kurdish Iraqi is wearing a Department of Defense name badge around his neck. He, and the other 20 Arabs raising the apprehension levels on the plane, are headed to Kuwait to serve as interpreters in the American war effort. He is going as a liberator for his country.
“George Bush is my hero,” he says.
I knit a few more rows. If we invade and initiate a war with Iraq, we will suffer casualties. Men and women will die. We will experience economic hardship. And the people of Iraq will be better for it. Because sometimes in an evil world, the hard choices turn out to be the right ones.