A mother speaks

The following letter to Prime Minister John Howard was written by the mother of an Australian soldier and appeared in yesterday’s Melbourne Age:

“You would not have recognised our son, he was just another face in the group as you met members of the defence forces and their families in Darwin this year.

“You would not have known of the pain trapped in my heart as he held me in his strong arms prior to his departure, reassuring me he would be OK.

“I do not presume to speak for others but simply as a mother whose only son is deployed in Iraq. I feel betrayed and misled by you and your Government regarding the justification for the invasion of Iraq.

“Time passes slowly for me, never more than in the early hours of the morning when unanswered questions, hopes and fears compete for time. Occasionally I am visited by despair. I despair when old men send young men to war, when those detained are mistreated and subjected to acts of humiliation, and the relative ease with which those with opposing views are labelled.

“If I condone this behaviour, what can I expect in the event a member of the Australian Defence Force is detained? I wonder what the Iraqi definition of terrorism might be. Could ADF members be perceived as terrorists by some Iraqis? What might the consequences be?

“If detained, would they be treated in accordance with international law, or an interpretation of the law created to justify the situation? Is there an Iraqi equivalent to Guantanamo Bay? These are the questions that haunt me in the early hours of the morning. I know fear can be irrational, real or perceived. This is my perception, my reality.

“I think of the young lives extinguished in Iraq, and of the Iraqi civilians killed in the conflict. Every death represents the loss of somebody’s son/daughter and perhaps somebody’s father/mother, brother/sister, uncle/aunt, nephew/niece…I wonder about the futility of war.

“I will light a candle as a symbol of hope – hope that those entrusted with the responsibility of leading nations will act with honesty, integrity and compassion in the interest of all humanity, hope for the safe return of defence force members, hope for the safe return of our son.”

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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