Antipathy Amid Catastrophe
February 3, 2003
This past weekend was one that most of us will never forget for the rest of our lives. In a week that featured President George W. Bush delivering the State of the Union address and the resulting debate about how this country is going to deal with such issues as the economy, unemployment, homeland security and the war on terrorism, all of those issues seemed petty in comparison to what millions of us witnessed on our television sets on Saturday morning.
The United States is still shocked and saddened by the events that happened on February 1, 2003. Words cannot adequately describe the uncontrollable feelings of remorse and loss suffered by the families of those seven brave astronauts aboard the U.S. space shuttle Columbia. Less than two years after September 11th, America is grieving yet another sad moment in our nation’s history.
Nevertheless, even as the United States of America grieves this unexpected tragedy, I was appalled by the reaction to this event in Iraq:
“We are happy that it (the space shuttle Columbia) broke up.”
“God wants to show that his might is greater than the Americans.”
“They have encroached on our country. God is avenging us.”
“They were sent to space to spy on the Arabs and Muslims.”
“I have no sympathy for the astronauts because they were doing something bad to us.”
“Israel launched an aggression on us when it raided our nuclear reactor (in 1981) without any reason, now time has come and God has retaliated to their aggression.”
“Allah punished them because of their bad intentions.”
“I hate the Americans and the Israelis because of what they are doing to our people.”
“God have mercy on them, but if there was an Israeli among them, it was God's response.”
“We don't want innocent people to die, but between us and the Jews, there is enmity.”
As President George W. Bush contemplates going to war to remove Saddam Hussein from power and to bring freedom to the Iraqi people, he is undoubtedly disturbed by the arrogant rhetoric coming in response to a seemingly unrelated event to the situation in Iraq. Or was it?
One of the seven astronauts who died on Columbia was the first Israeli astronaut in space, Ilan Ramon. He has fought as a fighter pilot in several wars on behalf of his native country, including a mission to bomb the Iraqi nuclear reactor before it became online in 1981. This set back Iraq many years in nuclear technology capabilities. In the late 90s, Ramon began training to become an astronaut. He finally got his chance on January 16, 2003.
For the past two years, there has been a relentless barrage of violence in Israel. There are fears in Israel that Iraq may attempt to attack them if war against the United States becomes a reality. Realizing the magnitude of his historic mission into space and the problems his fellow countrymen are preoccupied with, Ramon remarked before leaving, "I think people (in Israel) are very happy to be distracted by my flight."
Little did Ramon and the six American astronauts realize what was in store for them on their return trip to earth just two weeks later. They only had mere moments to complete an historic mission. Instead, it ended in horror.
This leads us back to the question I asked before: was the Columbia mission unrelated to the coming war in Iraq? While there has been no evidence to prove that Iraq or any other terrorist nation was behind the Columbia space shuttle disaster, they have certainly taken advantage of this opportunity to further their propaganda of hatred for America and Israel.
If Iraq is as innocent as all the peace advocates in this country have been spouting to us for the past two months, then why did they feel compelled to react so strongly to the Columbia explosion? It is antipathy amid catastrophe.
These quotes would be unimaginable coming from an American leader in reaction to a similar tragedy in Iraq. Can you imagine what President Bush thought when he heard or read the comments coming from Baghdad in reaction to the space shuttle Columbia exploding? Although he is a compassionate conservative, President Bush is also a believer in justice. This may be exactly what he needed to hear to confirm his decision to proceed with war plans against Iraq.
With Iraq anticipating war against the United States in the coming weeks, those statements certainly do not incite a peaceful resolution with America. In fact, they can only be construed as a point-of-no-return willingness to fight. Iraq is, in essence, saying to the United States “this means war!”
Where does this leave us now? Iraq said yesterday that they want to resolve any pending disarmament issues when the U.N. weapons inspectors return to Iraq this weekend. Secretary of State Colin Powell is expected to present to the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday satellite photographs that will prove that Iraq is hiding banned weapons from the inspectors. Predictably, Iraqi officials say the photographs are fabricated.
Anti-war activists say that President Bush needs to give peace a chance. To his credit, Bush has been very patient with Saddam Hussein and has given him every opportunity to disarm and leave Iraq. Hussein has done neither.
Although our country’s spirits are down because of what happened on Saturday, it will not deter us from our mission to rid the world of terrorism. It will begin in Iraq and not end until every terrorist has been captured or killed. The utter disregard for human life and lack of common decency in the face of tragedy displayed by the Iraqi government this past weekend is all the more reason why war with Iraq is the right thing to do.
Our history books will record the heroic actions of those seven brave astronauts who gave their lives doing what they were meant to do. They will not be soon forgotten. May the one true God of the universe rest their souls and be with them forevermore.