An Open Letter to President Bush
Read by Eve Ensler at V-Day Paris
March 31, 2003 Paris, France
Dear President Bush,
I am writing as a woman, as a citizen of the world, as an American who
has just visited 16 countries, including Afghanistan, Jordan and
Pakistan, working with V-Day, a global movement to stop violence
against women and girls. I am writing because I believe your
war on Iraq reveals your profound lack of understanding of the world.
I believe your war indicates a desire to dominate, rather transform,
heal, improve, or build relationships.
I do not think you understand that the United States is one country
and one culture and not the only country and culture. That the spirit
of domination threatens the world's diversity and difference-the very
forces that are most magical and essential to the human experience.
I do not think that you have sat with the panicked Afghan women in
Kabul who believe the war will shift attention away from their country
and thus bring an end to their short-lived security. I do not think
you have seen the desperate face of the woman in a Ramallah refugee
camp, a widow who just lost her two sons. I do not think you have been
privy to the generosity of the Muslim women in the ghettos of Cairo,
in the kitchens of Bosnia, in the high offices of Jordan. I do not
think you have allowed these people to enter you.
I think you are in the process of polluting all that is great about
America, destroying the dream, erasing the years of struggle for
democracy, human rights, self-determination, tolerance and peace.
Here is a response to some of your terribly dangerous misconceptions,
based on what I have seen in my travels:
1. The Muslim world is not populated by terrorists. Most people long
for peace, long for justice, long for cooperation.
2. Muslims do not hate Americans. They despise the current American
government as they feel it has no respect for their values, culture,
religion, or ways of being. They are suspicious of a government that
bombs places like Afghanistan with the promise of reconstruction and
then abandons the job before the majority of people have heat, water
or electricity. Terrorists are born in the cracks of broken promises.
3. The people of the Muslim world want to love Americans, as the
experiment of democracy in the United States has been a great
inspiration to them.
4. The loss of American lives is not worse then the loss of Iraqi
lives or Israeli lives or Palestinian lives or Bosnian lives or
Afghani lives. Three thousand deaths--whether it be in the World Trade
Center or the streets of Baghdad or in Mazur Sharif-will always be
equal to the destruction of three thousand dreams, stories, and
5. You cannot help people through force or violence. You help people
by serving them, by asking questions, through humility, by being
engaged in a process of discovery, admitting that you do not have
answers and seeking answers together. You help people by providing
safety and resources so they can do their best thinking. You help
people by trusting they have the capacity to help themselves.
Mr. President, there is a new paradigm. I have seen it manifest itself
everywhere, from Manhattan to Manila, Sarajevo to Johannesburg. Women
and men who have suffered enormous violence are not buying AK-47s or
machetes or weapons of mass destruction. They are not plotting
retaliation or revenge. I have seen how in the Rift Valley of Africa
the women who were mutilated are now opening safe houses to protect
young girls from Female Genital Mutilation. In Houston, Denver, New
York, Los Angeles, and Kauai, women are telling their stories of rape
and domestic battery, risking shame and embarrassment so other women
will be free. In Juarez, Mexico, women activists are risking
assassination as they speak out against the murder and disappearances
of hundreds of poor women. In the refugee camps of Peshawar, Afghan
women who lost every right under the Taliban are bringing up girls and
boys to be equal. In the community centers of Mostar, women who were
raped during the Bosnian war are working with soldiers to heal their
trauma. In Islamabad, women are risking Fatwa to save other women from
acid burnings and honor killings. In the streets of Paris, women are
risking everything to hide women from their pimps and save their
daughters from sex slavery. These are the new warriors--those who
transform the violence into healing. Those who are creative and
imaginative and careful in their response.
Women and men all over the world know that the time of violence is
over. Your war will not divide or distract us or undo this new
paradigm. Yes, the story of violence is in our bodies. But so is the
new determination and strength. We grieve the centuries of rape,
bombings, brutality, and cruelty. We refuse to act in kind. Instead we
hold and transform this violence, and we do everything in our power to
prevent this from happening again to anyone, anywhere.
We urge you to stop the bombing, to stop the dominating. End the old
paradigm. Join us here on the other side.
Sincerely, Eve Ensler Activist/Playwright/Founder, V-Day