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Blessed Are the Merciful in Baghdad

December 7, 2005

In January of 2004, two Palestinian college students visited me in Amman, Jordan, the evening before our small Voices in the Wilderness team traveled to Baghdad. “Please, if you can, help our friends,” they pleaded. “They have been in the Bucca compound, south of Basra. We were released from there after six months, but till now we have heard nothing of them.” The young men explained that they had been living in a student dormitory, in Baghdad, and had decided not to return to their families in Palestine when the U.S. threatened attacks against Iraq. Leaving Baghdad might mean losing all the years they had devoted to their studies. One was a pre-med student, the other an engineer. When U.S. Marines arrived in Baghdad, they decided to take over the students’ dorm, recognizing that it had the advantage of being one of the tallest buildings in the area. The students were swiftly placed under arrest and transported to a series of detention centers until they reached the Bucca Compound in a bleak, isolated area of Iraq called Umm Qasr. Our two visitors had been released, perhaps because they spoke English so well. But they were desperate to do something on behalf of the friends they left behind. We didn’t want to raise their hopes, yet we knew that we could at least ask the Christian Peacemaker Team (CPT) members to help.

For Whom They Toll

October 26, 2005

Today, in cities and towns throughout the U.S. and beyond, activists will gather to grieve and protest the carnage wrought by the unlawful and immoral war in Iraq. Thousands will gather to commemorate the 2,000 lives of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq and call upon U.S. people to stop funding the war. Others will focus chiefly upon the well over 100,000 Iraqi lives lost, and, in a campaign launched some months ago, will ring bells 100,000 times –1,000 chimes each in 100 different locations - as names of Iraqi civilians killed since the start of Shock and Awe are read aloud.

Sources of Violence

November 15, 2006

Barely a day goes by when I don’t learn a new report about a beleaguered Iraqi refugee, or of an entire family, in desperate need of help. We think hard, within our Voices for Creative Nonviolence network, about ways to build concern for the estimated three million Iraqis who have been displaced from their homes. Ironically, I think some of the people who can best empathize with Iraqi refugees are the U.S. soldiers stationed in Iraq, far from their homes and families.

Recently, an A.P. reporter in Baghdad described a town hall meeting which U.S. military officials helped organize in a Shi’ite area of northern Baghdad. (“U.S. takes on community building in Iraq” by Lauren Frayer, 11/11/06). Tucked into the article is her observation of two U.S. soldiers who stood guard during the 3 ½ hour meeting. “Outside the auditorium, two U.S. Army snipers clicked their rifles on safety and kicked at tufts of grass to pass the time.”

When Evil Doing Comes Like Falling Rain

October 10, 2006

“The first time it was reported that our friends were being butchered there was a cry of horror. Then a hundred were butchered. But when a thousand were butchered and there was no end to the butchery, a blanket of silence spread. When evil doing comes like falling rain, nobody calls out ‘stop!’

“When crimes begin to pile up they become invisible. When sufferings become unendurable, the cries are no longer heard. The cries, too, fall like rain in summer.”

—Bertolt Brecht

Last summer, crimes piled up in Iraq. 3,590 people were killed in July ‘06; 3009 in August.

In Baghdad alone, the Coroner’s Office reported 1,600 bodies arrived at the morgue in June and more than 1,800 bodies in July. 90% of the killings were executions.

A Challenge to Care for Iraq

June 29, 2005

For the past 15 years, our country has waged war against the Iraqi people. Over 15 years of bombs and sanctions, our country deliberately and with malice destroyed Iraq’s water treatment and distribution system, health care system, and educational system. Over 15 years, our country created the conditions under which Iraqis are forced to seek subsistence on a meagre food distribution system, now under threat of being monetized. Over 15 years, our country destroyed Iraq’s economy, creating a current condition of unknowingly high rates of unemployment.

The Legacy of Debt

June 23, 2005

GENEVA–As I made my journey from Camden, New Jersey to Geneva I became overwhelmed with curiosity imagining what a country that stayed ambitiously neutral during World War II, and had produced such recognized documents as the Geneva Conventions would be like. Would Geneva be a haven of progressive politics and social radicalism? Or would the shroud of Calvinism and the “protestant work ethic” thwart my romantic sway? Upon arriving I found Geneva to be a beautiful city, confident, elegant and spotless! However, the immense “success” of the banking industry fills the poetic potency of the city with the sterile air of classicism. The revolutionary social writings of one of Switzerland’s most well known philosophers, Jean Jacques Rousseau, appear to have been written upon the banks of the Lake Geneva, and washed away by the ever strengthening tides of globalization. His legacy preoccupies my mind as I amble through avenues full of familiar names: McDonalds, Starbucks, H&M …