1. Gorman, Geraldine PhD, RN

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On November 7, an op-ed I wrote was published in the Chicago Tribune. In it I highlighted the story of Linda, a friend whose son served in Iraq. What would happen, I wondered, if nurses united to say no to war, to stand in solidarity with people like Linda against sending off their children to kill and be killed? The day the piece appeared I was in Washington, DC, for the American Public Health Association's Annual Meeting. I returned to Chicago to a stack of responses from nurses and mothers. Just what, they asked, are we to do?


When I became a nurse, it took me a while to figure out why I had done so. I knew only that I sought professional sanction to use my hands to lend comfort. Once I discovered the heritage of public health nursing, it crystallized. God, how I loved those feisty women-Lillian Wald, Mary Breckenridge, Lavinia Lloyd Dock-in those wild hats!!


A week after my article appeared, I heard a BBC report on the assault on Falluja. It detailed heavy civilian casualties. All who could flee had done so; only the poorest remained, imprisoned in their homes. Gunfire ripped through the walls of one residence, the family trapped as they prepared to break their Ramadan fast. Both children were critically wounded, American bullets lacerating the liver of the younger girl. Over the mother's anguished wails, the father asked simply, "What has she done? Does she really look like the enemy?" Alone in my car, I rested my head against the steering wheel and wept.


I regarded my swollen eyes in the mirror. Would Lillian weep in defeat? Would Lavinia hide out, whimpering? Hell, no. They'd be protesting this war, just as they had each opposed World War I.

FIGURE. If we dont t... - Click to enlarge in new windowFIGURE. If we don't take a stand, who will?

The Tribune published a couple of responses to the editorial. One nurse reflected, "I would not expect to get much support from our professional organizations. Will the American Nurses Association become a champion for peace? Perhaps, but I think not. The lofty goal of advocating for peace . . . will probably be put on the back burner in order to address day-to-day issues of our profession . . . ." I hope he's wrong.


When I thought about writing this Viewpoint, I whined to myself, Oh, God, I'm so busy: papers to grade, kids to feed . . . and tired-did I mention how tired I am? Then a voice in my head, which sounded like my teenagers but could have been Lavinia, intoned:Yeah, okay. Whatever. Later that afternoon a letter arrived from a faculty member at the University of Washington. "I am your sister," it began, in response to my op-ed (in response to me), and for the second time in 48 hours my eyes filled with tears.


This, then, is my Viewpoint. I am a nurse, and I am bound by the ICN [International Council of Nurses]Code of Ethics for Nurses, which informs me that I must promote health, prevent illness, restore health, and alleviate suffering. More specifically, it says, I share with society "the responsibility for initiating and supporting action to meet the health and social needs of the public, in particular those of vulnerable populations." Further, we nurses "share responsibility to sustain and protect the natural environment from depletion, pollution, degradation, and destruction." As I read it, this mandates nurses to stand against the devastation of Iraq, the slaughter of its children, and the reckless endangerment of our own young. I hope the ANA, as a member of the ICN, takes this responsibility to heart. I hope all nurses do.


I am tired, as I imagine you are as well. But as of this writing, reported American fatalities have passed the 1,300 mark. According to a recent Lancet survey (, an estimated 100,000 Iraqi civilians have died, many of them women and children.


If we don't take a stand, who will? And if not now, dear God, when?