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Hope of Healing: for Sundus Shaker Saleh, Iraqi Mother, with my love

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When the US invaded Iraq in 2003 Sundus Shaker Saleh, an Iraqi single mother of three, lost her home and her property, and was forced to flee to Jordan. 

Sundus Shaker Saleh with her family. (Photo: Codepink)

Sundus Shaker Saleh with her family. (Photo: Codepink)

A decade later, Saleh is the lead plaintiff in a class action lawsuit against six key members of the Bush administration. They’re arguing that, since the war was not conducted in self-defense, and did not have the appropriate authorization by the United Nations, it constituted a “crime of aggression” under international law.

On August 20th the United States Department of Justice requested that George W. Bush, Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice and Paul Wolfowitz be granted procedural immunity in the case alleging that they planned and waged the Iraq War in violation of international law. 

We can’t accept this. We demand that these war criminals come forward and hold themselves accountable for the tragic consequences that the war had for Saleh’s family and countless other Iraqi civilians.

In our despair that justice is slow
we sit with heads bowed

even whether
we will ever be healed.

Perhaps it is a question
only the ravaged
the violated
seriously ask.
And is that not now
almost all of us?

But hope is on the way.

As usual Hope is a woman
herding her children
around her
all she retains of who
she was; as usual
except for her kids

she has lost almost everything.

Hope is a woman who has lost her fear.

Along with her home, her employment, her parents, her olive trees, her grapes.  The peace of independence; the reassuring noises of ordinary


Hope rises, She always does,
did we fail to notice this in all the stories
they’ve tried to suppress?

Hope rises,
and she puts on her same
unfashionable threadbare coat
and, penniless, she  flings herself
against the cold, polished, protective chain mail
of the very powerful
the very rich – chain mail that mimics
suspiciously silver coins
and lizard skin –
and all she has to fight with is the reality of what was done to her;
to her country; her people; her children;
her home.
All she has as armor is what she has learned
must never be done.
Not in the name of War
and especially never in the
name of Peace.

Hope is always the teacher
with the toughest homework.

Our assignment: to grasp
what has never been breathed in our stolen
on the hill:

Without justice, we will never
be healed.

The organization, Iraq Witness, has filed suit against the Bush Administration on behalf of an Iraqi single mother, Sundus Shaker Saleh. Saleh alleges that the Iraq War was a premeditated war against the Iraqi people — and now she is the lead plaintiff in a class action lawsuit against six key members of the Bush administration. 

For more information about this inspiring standing up of a mother of five, visit the CODEPINK website,

©2013 by Alice Walker

Alice Walker

Alice Walker is an American author, poet, self-claimed womanist, and activist. She wrote the critically acclaimed novel The Color Purple (1982) for which she won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize.

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7 Responses

  1. seafoid on October 4, 2013, 4:17 pm

    Good luck to her and her family. I bet there will be veteran support. All those injured soldiers who were sold the lie of regime change. Did the US really invade so that Iraq could become a satellite of Iran?

    • pabelmont on October 4, 2013, 5:07 pm

      We fought the Iraq war because there was sufficient agreement (and money-pressure) to do it and insufficient desire (and money-pressure) to oppose it. that’s how American politics works, often.

      In favor must have been: the neocons and militarists and oil companies. I don’t know whether any big-money was in opposition.

      The neocons who supported the war may have done so simply because they had a racist longing to trounce an Arab country and people. Or a pro-Israel wish to do as Israel wished (whatever Israel’s reasoning may have been).

      I doubt you would find any of the proponents for the war desiring to empower Iran.

      Neither, I’d shrewdly guess, did we fight that war for the conscious purpose of bankrupting the USA (as the USSR bankrupted itself “keeping up with the American Joneses” and fighting in ITS long and disastrous Afghani war).

      But the oil companies, among others, promoted war, in their case so the USA could control Iraqi oil, so American oil corporations could profit from its oil. That’s why we built the huge air-base and the world’s largest embassy — so we could stay forever (or as long as we liked) and so Iraq would know that we were the BOSS. so the USA could control the Middle East.

      Perhaps it didn’t work out exactly that way. I’d like to think that not only the American control has failed to materialize but that Israel’s wet-dream of dominance has also proved to be no more than a dream. That’s what the little Iran drama seems to suggest.

      • seafoid on October 4, 2013, 5:17 pm

        What happened the 70% of americans who were doped out on patriotism post 9/11 and ra ra ed along with Friedman when shock.n awe started?

      • seafoid on October 4, 2013, 5:25 pm

        The iraqis lost the war but the yanks lost the occupation. Incredible really. Cobras, .50 cals, SAWs, m 40s, DPICM artillery, 5.56mm bullets, mark 19s , 3 tn dollars and they still lost. And so did Israel.

      • RoHa on October 4, 2013, 10:21 pm

        “But the oil companies, among others, promoted war, in their case so the USA could control Iraqi oil, so American oil corporations could profit from its oil. ”

        Perhaps the US government thought that the US could get total control over the oil, but I find it hard to imagine that the oil companies would think that war and turmoil in Iraq would get them more oil.

  2. MahaneYehude1 on October 4, 2013, 5:45 pm

    “Hope rises,
    and she puts on her same
    unfashionable threadbare coat”

    Thanks Alice. I don’t know if you wrote the above lines since you know the meaning of the name Sundus, a very rare name of Arab women. Sundus means a coat made of fine silk. According to the Qura’an, Allah promises his worshipers to dress them with Sundus in the garden of perpetuity.

  3. just on October 4, 2013, 10:17 pm

    What an incredible and evocative poem! It embraces all of the many heroines, families, people who we have harmed so grievously………and murdered.

    Thank you.

    The Iraq war was/is a shameful act of aggression by the US! I believe it to be illegal, and dearly hope that this woman and her family get justice. I think that at the very least, those 6 US leaders should face charges of war crimes. Thank you Saleh, Iraq Witness, CODEPINK and Alice Walker.

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