I have a heart connection with the Iraqi people. I spent time there during America’s war. It was an experience that changed my life and motivates my work today. It was 2004, the war was exploding in cities and civilian deaths and injuries were mounting while aid organizations were pulling out or were shutting down. Then came the battle of Fallujah, the largest battle of the war inside a city the size of Cincinnati. Thousands of civilians were being killed and injured and hundreds of thousand were fleeing to the surrounding farmlands. Massive numbers of refugees were left without food, water or medical attention.

Team-Mark_ManningI joined with a group of Iraqi civilians who were determined to deliver aid to Fallujah General Hospital. We lived with refugees from the battle in the farmlands of Al Anbar and made daily trips into the city to deliver medical supplies. It was a deeply moving experience and I made some very close Iraqi friends. As war and destruction reigned around us, I was in awe of the depth of character and grace of my Iraqi colleagues. Each day I witnessed amazing acts of heroism by people willing to die to help friends, neighbors and strangers alike. These were true profiles of courage and compassion. I realized that these were the very same people we, at home in America, were more than willing to write off as collateral damage and expendable lives in a ‘preemptive’ war of choice.

In honor of the Iraqi people, I have created this blog as a new war rages in Iraq. It is a situation that is, in my view, a direct consequence of our intervention in 2003. One of the things I learned from my experience is the value of getting to know the humanity behind the headlines and stories of our time. What we missed in the USA during the lead up to the war, the political debates, talking head roundtables and pontifications about what would happen and what was best for Iraq, was the one thing that really mattered; the voices of the Iraqi people. Their voices are the missing path to peace.

Click here to go to the “Voices of Iraq” page to read more reports.