Thu, Jul 22, 2004 - Page 9 News List

The lie that killed my son

Lila Lipscomb believed in Bush's case for war in Iraq. But when her son died in fighting that he saw,and that she now sees, as useless, her faith was shattered

By Emma Brockes  /  THE GUARDIAN , London

"I instilled in my children, as it was instilled in me that, regardless of who is elected the president of the United States of America, it is the position that you honor. It doesn't matter if they are Republican or Democrat. Boy, what an awakening."

She had seen Moore's first film, Roger and Me, a documentary about the closure of Flint's General Motors plant, and was impressed. When he asked her to participate in Fahrenheit 9/11 she watched his last film, Bowling for Columbine. This also, she thought, had merit.

But she had other reasons for taking part: chiefly guilt, for not having spoken up sooner, for having been complacent and gullible enough to believe Bush's arguments for war.

"The reason I didn't hesitate was because I was carrying my son's words with me. And as a mother I have to carry each and every day the fact, could I have done a little bit more?

"Could I have been more vocal so that the president would not have been given that much authority within himself? And nobody can make that go away.

"My son got sent into harm's way by a decision made by the president of the United States that was based on a lie. Would my son still be here today if I had had my uprising then?" she wondered.

The day Michael decided to join the army, she says, "I was so proud of him, so proud of him. It was the first grown-up, manly decision that he'd ever made in his life."

She knew the risks -- her daughter Jennifer served in the first Gulf war -- but she also thought it a smart career move for people in their position, a low-income family. Then, over Christmas 2002, on his last home visit, Michael said something surprising.

"I so vividly remember. I walked out of my bedroom and we have a long hallway upstairs and he was standing there and he said he would have to go to Kuwait and then to Baghdad. And he said he didn't support the war, that he didn't know why he had to go over there. We talked about fear. I was petrified, because in my mind I was thinking that's where bin Laden is, because that's what we'd been told," she said.

She knows better now, she says, about the failure to find a connection between bin Laden and Iraq, about the failure to prove the existence of weapons of mass destruction. Moore's film follows her to the White House, where she tries to have it out with someone, but is refused entry.

Instead, she is berated by a passer-by who accuses her, as an antiwar campaigner, of "staging" many of the tragedies involved in the conflict.

"My son is dead," she said. "That is not staged." And her legs buckle under her.

In its first three days, Fahrenheit 9/11 grossed US$21.8 million -- Harry Potter took US$11.4 million over the same period -- across 868 cinemas in the US; that number will rise this week.

Lipscomb is rapidly becoming a celebrity.

She was spotted twice at airports on the way to Britain.

"Isn't that awesome? And I'm just a mother from Flint," she said.

The downside is that she will probably experience more hostility from people who find her stance unpatriotic.

"Yes, oh yes. There's a few I'm sure who hate me. But that's OK. Because that's what America is all about; you are free to hate who you want to hate and like who you want to like," she said.

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