Mother's grief turns to anger over war
by Beth Gorham, CP
WASHINGTON -- Jean Prewitt can't shake the image of her only son's final hours. She pictures him trying to crawl to safety through a gun fight after his convoy was ambushed in Iraq, a huge hole in his right thigh.
"He was out there all by himself for a long time, crawling, bleeding, asking for help," she says in a soft southern drawl, weeping at the thought of his lonely struggle.
"That just about killed me when I found out. Then two medics risked their lives to get him. They thought he was going to be OK, but he was bleeding a lot. And there was a sandstorm so the helicopter couldn't come for him."
Kelley was 24 when he died near Baghdad, a mere three weeks into the Iraq war.
Now, after a year of fighting -- U.S. President George W. Bush announced the start of the war on the evening of March 19 in Washington, when it was already March 20 in Iraq -- more than 500 Americans have been killed. Countless Iraqis are also dead -- no one is keeping track of the number -- and thousands of wounded soldiers are coming home to little fanfare and uncertain futures.
The violence in Iraq shows no sign of receding despite the capture of deposed dictator Saddam Hussein. The major reason Washington gave for going to war, an urgent threat from Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, has been discredited.
Spain said it would withdraw its troops from the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq after a horrific terrorist attack on Madrid commuters. Poland, another coalition partner, expressed dismay about being misled into the war. Surveys suggest the world's opinion of the U.S. continues to decline.
Some think the invasion has increased terrorism rather than helping to contain it. Other U.S. allies are nervous they'll be the next target of terrorist attacks.
Prewitt, for one, is angry at Bush.
"The more I hear about it, the madder I get," says the retired postal worker who lives in Birmingham, Ala. "He lied. I've lost all respect for him."
Not a regular protester by any means, Prewitt participated in a demonstration against the war a week ago.
"I felt a little uncomfortable, but I wanted to let Bush know how I felt about him. I'm very upset over his lack of sympathy for the families. He's so cold about it. He will not admit that he made a huge, deadly mistake. He seems like he has no remorse for that decision."
It's not the kind of war anniversary that Bush would have wished for, especially in an election year. Gone is the total solidarity Americans once showed their war-time president. Those critical of the invasion are increasingly speaking out while trying to respect the 130,000 U.S. soldiers still risking their lives half a world away.
While their numbers are relatively small, veterans and military families are joining peace activists in the kind of protests not seen until years into the Vietnam War.
Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003