A Personal Expression of Apology for
the Iraq War
As an American citizen, I feel a need to ask forgiveness for some of our actions
over the past four years. I address these comments to our friends around the
world, to the people of Iraq, and to my fellow citizens.
To people around the world who expressed their condolences to us immediately
after the attacks of 9/11/2001, I want to say how sorry I am that we have
squandered so much of the goodwill that was evident in your expressions of
brotherhood. I’m afraid that we were so hurt and frightened that we were unable
to summon up our wisdom, and instead, driven by anger and seeking revenge, have
fallen into looking for enemies. When we declared a “war on terrorism” we put on
a mantle of self-righteousness, and forgot our ideals. We told you that you
either supported us or you sided with the terrorists. We quickly alienated
ourselves from much of the world.
I cannot say how sad I feel for the thousands of parents and spouses whose sons
and daughters, husbands and wives have gone to war believing that they would
help to make the world a safer place, only to come back traumatized, maimed or
dead, with so little to show for it. Not only do I grieve for American families,
but I grieve for all those who have suffered loss in Iraq. The number of lives
that have been destroyed by our actions are uncountable.
After the fall of Saddam Hussein, we inadvertently created an environment of
antagonism between the Sunnis and Shiites, people who had lived together
peacefully in mixed neighborhoods for generations. Our occupation of Iraq has
created a situation in which death squads and suicide bombers from both sides
are now engaged in daily acts of violence, and our ongoing presence in that
country is the cause.
To the Iraqi people, I want to express my sorrow for all the death and
destruction we have caused in your country—over 40,000 civilian deaths, the
total collapse of the Iraq economy, and now wholesale civil war. We are
responsible for this and it brings the deepest sadness to me that we have done
My deepest regret is for my own country’s loss of humanitarian principles. We
easily espouse our commitment to human rights, but our actions belie our
hypocrisy. How can this country claim to represent human rights or peaceful
means for resolving differences? Our use of coercion, threats of violence and
military force are fundamentally no different from the methods used by those we
are fighting. We detain people who have no access to legal representation; we
have engaged in the mistreatment and torture of prisoners, and have used
unrestrained violence against noncombatants. Often times we cannot ourselves
even distinguish between combatants and non-combatants.
I am so sorry that our arrogance, our unwillingness to admit our mistakes, and
our self-righteousness blind us to the obvious: we really have no clue as to
what we are doing in Iraq. We like to think of ourselves as good guys and those
we kill as bad guys. But are we deluding ourselves? The world will never be safe
if we continue in this way.
I long for an America that is united with the rest of the world in peace.
October 29, 2006