A security meeting was called at the American institution I’m presently living in immediately after reports were received from the States that a massive air strike against Iraq would occur later that night. News sources had confirmed Iraqi communications were being jammed, making the likelihood of a terrorist attack on our building and persons, remote in the preceding days, more possible.

Approximately thirty of us sat on chairs and couches in a large room with the shades drawn. The first reaction was denial anything would happen.

“It’s unlikely,” the Director said, “a terrorist will want to harm anyone in this room.”

It was a supposition quickly replaced by fear.

“If there’s a war,” the woman sitting beside me said, “and acts of terrorism in the city, then we could be a target.”

There was confusion too.

“She’s right,” said another woman.

“Very unlikely.”

“Anything’s possible.”

“We’re not even sure if there’s going to be a war.”

“We have to act like it will happen.” 

The discussion continued in this manner. Voices were raised, many spoke at once, exacerbating the tension. The Director called for order and asked for suggestions about what could be done to increase building security.

“Police guarding the gates,” said the self-declared 1960’s radical

“Is there enough food and water to last a month in case we can’t leave the building?” asked the ex-Marine.

“We should assume a bomb has already been hidden in the building,” said the man who lived in Beirut during the 1970’s. “It’s not that unlikely.”

These last two comments elicited an outburst of nervous laughter, and a few glances questioning the rationality of the speakers.

In the days before this, while the countdown to the United Nations deadline neared, there was talk about making the world a better place and the absurdity of the beliefs of what those in power on both sides thought was best for the populaces they presided over. But there was also, conversely, the understanding societies, as presently configured, have competing interests, ideas and values that can and will lead to serious conflicts. No matter how much it appears humans have evolved, and it seemed not much from the instincts that determined their social interactions and order 10,000 years ago, it didn’t preclude the possibility of a brutal war.

We woke the next morning to news the single most destructive air raid in history was underway in Iraq. As the television reports came in, “bombs bursting in air,” the song entered my head, it seemed a pitiful waste to see how much of the knowledge, research and technical invention of the last two decades was being used to impose this colossal destruction.

– copied from handwritten pages found in an old file folder