This article is adapted from a speech given by photojournalist Molly Bingham at Western Kentucky University last month. Bingham, a Louisville native, was detained in 2003 by Iraqi security forces and held in Abu Ghraib prison from March 25 to April 2, 2003. Eighteen days after her release, she returned to Iraq to pursue stories for The New York Times, The Guardian of London and others. Taking a short break during the summer of 2003, Bingham had the idea of working on a story to explore who was involved in the nascent resistance that was becoming apparent throughout Iraq. She scanned the papers that summer, looking for an article that would show some journalist had reported the story, had gone deeper to find out the source of the new violence. No one had. So in August 2003, Bingham returned with British journalist Steve Connors and spent the next 10 months reporting the story of the Iraqi resistance. Her account was published in Vanity Fair magazine in July 2004; Connors shot a documentary film on the subject. This speech was a challenge to journalists, and Americans, to speak up and be sure their comments, questions and thoughts are heard, and that the First Amendment is celebrated in all its strengths. Bingham began her career as a photo intern for The Courier-Journal and Louisville Times.
Why would anyone refuse democracy? Why would anyone not want the helping hand of America in overthrowing their terrible dictator? It's amazing to me how expeditiously we turn away from our own history. Think of our revolution. Think of our Founding Fathers. Think of what they stood for and hoped for. Think of how, over time, we have learned to improve on our own Constitution and governance. But think, mostly, about the words I just used: It was our decision and our determination that brought us where we are now.
Recall Patrick Henry's famous speech encouraging the Second Virginia Convention, gathered on March 20, 1775, to fight the British, "Give me liberty or give me death!" Why is it that we, as Americans, presume that any Iraqi would feel any differently? If the roles were reversed, do you think for a moment that our men wouldn't be stockpiling arms and attacking any foreign invader with the temerity to set foot on our soil, occupy our buildings of government and write us a new constitution?
Wouldn't we as women be joining with them in any way we could? Wouldn't the divisions between us -- how we feel about President Bush, whether we're Republican or Democrat -- be put aside as we resisted a common enemy?
Then why is it that this story of human effort for self-determination by violent means cannot be told in America? Are we so small, so confused by our own values that we cannot recognize when someone emulates our own struggle? Even if it is the U.S. that they are struggling against? I want to be careful to explain that I am not saying that the Iraqis fighting against us are necessarily fighting for democracy, but they are fighting for their right to decide for themselves what their nation looks like politically.