We speak with Father John Dear, author of more than 20 books on peace and justice and outspoken critic of the U.S.-led invasion and occupation of Iraq about why 75 U.S. soldiers shouted “Kill! Kill! Kill!” outside his front door. [includes transcript]
“I live in a tiny, remote, impoverished, three block long town in the desert of northeastern New Mexico. Everyone in town—and the whole state—knows that I am against the occupation of Iraq, that I have called for the closing of Los Alamos, and that as a priest, I have been preaching, like the Pope, against the bombing of Baghdad….Suddenly, at 7 a.m., the [soldiers’] shouting got dramatically louder. I looked out the front window of the house where I live, next door to the church, and there they were—all 75 of them, standing yards away from my front door, in the street right in front of my house and our church, shouting and screaming to the top of their lungs, “Kill! Kill! Kill!” Their commanders had planted them there and were egging them on.”
- * John Dear*, is a Jesuit priest in Springer, New Mexico. He is author of more than 20 books on peace and justice.
AMY GOODMAN: Father John Dear joins us from Springer, New Mexico. Welcome to Democracy Now.
JOHN DEAR: Hi, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you describe what happened?
JOHN DEAR: I was sound asleep on a Thursday morning, November 20th and I woke up to hearing all of these screaming and shouting and I looked out the window and there were.. it looked like 60 or 75 soldiers in their fatigues marching down main street right past the church. And I thought, wow. It was very disturbing to hear, you know, those typical marine chants, in this quiet, desert town. This was the day after it was announced that they were going to Iraq. So, I got up and I was just, you know, getting some coffee and I sat and tried to meditate and reflect on life in the empire. But after an hour, it got really really loud. I looked out the front door and there they were in front of my house, planted there. And also, I live right next-door to our church. They’re shouting out all of their slogans.
I was very upset about this. I thought, I got to do something. So, I walked outside, Amy, went right into the middle of the street, right into the middle of the soldiers. They all stopped and they were looking at me, and I said, in the name of god, I order you all to stop all of this nonsense. I don’t want any of you to go to Iraq. I want you to all quit the military, disobey your orders to kill. I don’t want any of you to kill anyone, nor I do want any of you to be killed. I went on and said, I want you to practice the non-violence of Jesus and love your enemies. God doesn’t support this war. God doesn’t want you to kill anyone for Bush and Cheney. Stop all of this and go home now god bless you all. And they’re stunned, and I was stunned, too.
AMY GOODMAN: What were the soldiers chanting in front of your house?
JOHN DEAR: Well, I was in the house, so I couldn’t make it out clearly, but it was things like “swing from gun from left to right” you know, that kind of a thing. That chant. “kill, those people, you can do it.” That’s what it sounded like to me, but I couldn’t make it out. you know. I was just so shocked. I wasn’t listening exactly for the wording, but it wasn’t — you know, it wasn’t Christmas carols, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: What was the response of the soldiers to what you said?
JOHN DEAR: They were just stunned silence. Then after about three seconds, they all burst out laughing at me and the commanders dismissed them, they said they could go home.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you think they came purposely to your house?
JOHN DEAR: Well, I didn’t know what had happened. I presumed that’s what it was because they were standing in front of my house and in front of the church. And within hours my parishioners, and it’s a small town, everybody knows everyone. Everybody is related to everyone. They all said to me, a dozen people said to me, of course, it was deliberate. Now, yesterday The Progressive magazine called and got through to somebody at the national guard and said, 'what was going on there'. They said, 'it never even happened. we were never even there'. And today the journal is reporting that the head of the National Guard is saying in fact 'we were there but we didn't mean it personally for him.’ I think they knew exactly what they were doing, and they’re embarrassed now because they, I guess they didn’t expect someone to speak out.
AMY GOODMAN: In the piece you wrote, the soldiers at my front door, that has appeared at Common Dreams .org, you say that they woke you up with their war slogans, chanting “Kill, kill, kill. Swing your guns from left to right, we can kill those guys all night.”
JOHN DEAR: That’s what it sounded to me. That’s why I was so shocked and upset and scared to hear that, You know, right down main street. It was 6:00 a.m. I was asleep. That’s what it sounded like to me. And again, I wasn’t paying attention exactly to what they were saying because I was just so disturbed to hear them marching through town, and then to have them, you know, chanting in front of my house. In front of my house and in front of the church. What does it all mean? You know, how, what is happening to the country that this was, that is where they’re practicing for war? It’s still left me quite amazed and shocked, and appalled. But I’m glad I went out there and spoke my mind, and they all knew it. They all heard me, and I think they were all quite shaken by it.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you very much father John Dear for joining to us, speaking to us from Springer, New Mexico. New Mexico, the purest state in the nation. You are listening to Democracy Now.
JOHN DEAR: Thank You, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: Thank You.