Bill Marx

Messages from Iraq

Last updated 20030211 by jow
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20030212 Received 20030212 3:47 AM EST (GMT-5), posted here 20030213 10:15 AM EST.  Second photo from Bill to local friends and Dave Robinson of Pax Christi and a prior CPT team (who spoke here in Buffalo recently).  Subject: Photos from Iraq

From: [Bill Marx -- While still in Iraq]
Sent: Tuesday, February 11, 2003 7:58 PM
Subject: Photos From Iraq 1

 

Dear Dave:

    Greetings from Iraq from Kathy, Cynthia and all the rest of the Peacekeepers here in Baghdad.  We are loved and appreciated by the Iraqi people just like you were back in December.

    Cynthia and I knew you would value the "War Kills The Innocent" picture from our action this morning at the U N headquarters where we and about fifty others gave the U N Inspectors a hearty sendoff.  The theme of the Iraqi Peace Team's (IPT) tent site made known to the world by our banner was, "Inspections Yes - Invasion No."

    This afternoon we visited the Taji power station to post a banner as a warning to the Bush administration that the U.S. will be guilty of international war crimes if it bombs civilian infrastructure targets as it did in 1991.  Such bombing during the Gulf War reduced Iraq's electrical output of 9,000 mW by 75%, to its 1920 level.

    In solidarity with our efforts here, we are encouraging the folks back home who really care about our brothers and sisters, to place "BOMBING THIS SITE IS A WAR CRIME (Geneva Convention Article 54)" at similar locations in their home towns.  In addition to telling George Bush that the world is watching, we also want to send a message to our fellow U.S. citizens that peace can still be preserved if they act now.  If Americans in sufficient numbers withdraw their consent from the Bush administration; if they speak out for peace, they can help save many thousands of lives--lives of some of the very people we have met while in Baghdad.  Peace & love, Bill Marx


 

20030212 Received 20030212 3:47 AM EST (GMT-5), posted here 20030213 10:15 AM EST.  Second photo from Bill to local friends and Dave Robinson of Pax Christi and a prior CPT team (who spoke here in Buffalo recently).  Subject: Photos from Iraq

From: [Bill Marx -- While still in Iraq]
Sent: Tuesday, February 11, 2003 7:59 PM
Subject: Photos From Iraq

 
Hear is the other photo.
 
Peac & love to Iraq,
Bill Marx

20030211 Received 20030211 4:10 AM EST (GMT-5), posted here 20030211 9:40 AM EST.  Message from Bill Marx to friends and contacts at sponsoring and supporting organizations who will publicly distribute final versions.  Subject: Nine Days in Iraq

To the Nine Days and the Expected Became the Indescribable

By Bill Marx

 

 

            It’s Sunday and we arrived in the ancient northern city of Mosul after a five and one half hour drive through ever-changing landscape.  The openness, then the clutter at widely spaced cross roads where it seemed everyone from nowhere gathered to buy chicken or lamb, or to have their car or truck repaired on the way to or from Baghdad.

            The shepherds, very young and very old, tended their flocks along side of the road or between the lanes where there was some green for them to munch.  The homes ranged from tents to old and broken, to new and beautiful adobe type structures.

            It seemed strange to have a minder with us to be sure we didn’t go where we shouldn’t and to arrange and obtain approval for the places we did visit.  Strange, but not unusual considering that the United States apparently infiltrated the weapons inspectors in the past in order to plant electronic devices at a number of military installations in preparation for the Gulf War.  Strange, but now I can empathize with so many in the world who have far less freedom than what I often take for granted.

            One of the places we visited is probably the reason I felt so strongly that I should come to Iraq.  It was the Children’s Hospital of Mosul.  I brought several little stuffed Valentine teddy bears for just such an occasion.  As aware as I was that Iraqi children under age five have been dyeing at the rate of 5,000 every month which has been happening for years due to the sanctions, I was totally unprepared to come face to face with one of them.  The mother of this four year old who stood helplessly at his bed was almost uncontrollably angry at me, a United States citizen, for the fact that the sanctions we insist be left in place, were taking away her only son from her and his five sisters.  Could anyone blame her?  Will anyone hear her?  Does anyone care?

            There is so much more to tell about my visit to Mosul, but as the world tries to establish reason over might and stop the rush to war with Iraq, I am consumed with the desire to stop us from killing their children with sanctions.  These sanctions against the children of Iraq must be lifted.  It is a crime against God and humanity to use innocent victims as pawns in the chess game for oil!

 

 

20030211 Received 20030210 5:06 PM EST (GMT-5), posted here 20030211 9:30 AM EST.  Received from Claire Evans and forwarded on behalf of the Team that includes Bill Marx.  Subject: 2 CPT Iraq delegation releases by Matthew Bailey-Dick

----- Original Message -----
From: "Claire Evans" <cpt3@igc.org>
To: <cpt3@igc.org>
Sent: Monday, February 10, 2003 12:20 PM
Subject: 2 CPT Iraq delegation releases by Matthew Bailey-Dick


[The author, of Waterloo, ON, is part of the Feb. 1-15 Christian Peacemaker
Teams delegation to Iraq. Other delegates are: John Barber (Deerfield
Beach, FL), Mabel Brunk (Goshen, IN), Lynn
Coultas (Havana, FL), Scott Diehl (Burlington, VT), Peggy Gish (Athens,
OH), Maureen Jack (Fife, Scotland), Cor Keijzer (Leeuwarden, Netherlands),
Cliff Kindy (North Manchester, IN), Scott Kerr (Downers Grove, IL), Lisa
Martens (Winnipeg, MB), Bill Marx (Derby, NY), Jane Pritchard (Toronto,
ON), Linda Sartor (Santa Rosa, CA), and Betty Scholten (Mt. Ranier, MD).]

"Nevertheless"
Iraq release by Matthew Bailey-Dick
Feb. 7

It seems that war does not have the final word. Such is my impression as
our CPT delegation continues to visit people and places in Baghdad. While
the brutal realities of violence become painfully evident as we learn about
what happened in the last Gulf War and listen to people talk about the
current threat of war, the powerful images for me are of people whose very
lives seem to say, "Nevertheless! Though the raging war looms closer,
nevertheless we will live!"

The first "nevertheless" came in the form of a visit with a Dominican
priest who told the story of what he did during the last Gulf War. As the
bombs began to fall in January 1991, this priest decided that he would stay
in the church compound and listen to what God wanted him to do. He
discovered that his task would be quite simple: he would make candles. For
the duration of the war, he spent his days melting down discarded candle
wax and producing new candles that he distributed to families in the
surrounding neighbourhood. Since electrical power had been cut off because
of the bombing, a candle became a very practical necessity during the
nights of bombardment. Nevertheless. Though the bombs were falling,
nevertheless the possibility of even a very small light continued.

The second experience happened while being driven through the bustling
streets of Baghdad. We heard music and discovered that there was a bus
directly in front of our car in which a live brass band was playing and
children were dancing. Through the back window of the bus, you could see
the trumpet player swinging the bell of his horn and several children
bobbing up and down with smiles on their faces. As we passed the bus, we
saw that it was part of a wedding procession. Nevertheless. Though the
future has become uncertain and full of fear, nevertheless this couple's
wedding commitment stands as a testimony of tremendous hope.

The third experience was of a visit to a music hall in which over two
hundred people were gathered to listen to traditional Iraqi "macam" music.
The atmosphere in that basement hall was absolutely electric with laughing,
smiling, and many warm greetings as people arrived. The music consisted of
a fiddle player, flute player, percussionists, and several singers who sang
with gusto. Nevertheless. Though much of life is at risk during these days,
this musical concert spoke of the determination of traditional Iraqi culture.

Threatening words are in great supply these days, as are words that bend
and distort the truth of what is going on here in Iraq. Nevertheless, war
will not have the last word. At this point I go on a gut feeling that the
babbling voices of those who justify war will not prevail over those who
honestly name the violence of the economic sanctions and the immorality of
any military action. In some deep and unfathomable place inside of me, I
know that there is something mysteriously at work here to inspire
candle-makers, marriage-makers, and music-makers to stand as witnesses to a
future with hope.

*******************
"The Taxi Driver"
Iraq release by Matthew Bailey-Dick
February 9

"My wife's mother called from Detroit last night and she said we should get
out of Baghdad." The taxi driver speaks with visible emotion as he tells me
about this recent phone call from America. He maneuvers the car expertly
through the busy streets, but I can tell that his heart is swirling around
somewhere within the menacing news of the day. This is one of the more
spontaneous and informal ways that we as CPTers find ourselves being
present with Iraqi people.

For a taxi driver to speak with me about such things is quite astounding.
Here I sit as one who represents America, one who represents precisely
those powers that might unleash yet again the nightmare of bombing on this
beautiful city. Nonetheless, this taxi driver seems to want to establish a
connection with me, so he continues.

"We love life. We love life and we are warm-hearted people. All we want is
an easy life." His words seem to carry such weight. Am I projecting too
much to think that he is saying all of this in bewilderment, not knowing
why anyone would be so inhumane as to bomb a place where people just want
an easy life? I struggle to know what to say to him, especially when what I
would say and what my government might do in my name are so different.
Then the question finally comes, "Do you think there will be a war?" This
man wants an answer in a way that is hard for me as a North American to
understand. While my news of the day often comes in the form of carefully
laid-out newspaper articles and sanitized television reports from afar, the
news for this taxi driver comes in the form of fear, nervousness, and a
possible evacuation of these very streets that provide shelter and a day's
work. I can only reply that I do not know what will happen but that I will
hope and pray for peace.

We reach our destination. As I pull money out of my pocket to pay the fare
he turns to me and says, "My name is Riad. Welcome." We shake hands
vigorously as I tell him my name. He repeats several more times, "Welcome
here. Welcome here." I thank him and tell him that I will return to my home
with stories about all the people of Iraq whom I visited. He nods and
thanks me, I get out of the taxi, and then he drives away.

So how can I come home and tell Riad's story of living with the impending
destruction of his home and his people? How can I convey his message about
the warm-hearted and life-loving people of Iraq? How can I put into words
the emotion I felt in that taxicab, or the emotion I have heard from other
people with whom we have talked? Even if I find a way to respectfully bring
these stories back to North America, who will listen?

They say that the first casualty in war is truth and I understand the idea
behind that. However, considering the truths I have heard from Riad and
others here in Iraq, I think we can rephrase the statement and say that the
first casualty in war comes when we cover our ears. The people of Iraq tell
their story but the listening is up to us. In this way, truth does not live
or die somewhere way out there on the battlefield - or even in the
headquarters of the major media outlets - but in ourselves and in our
capacity to embrace the truth. Everywhere I go in Iraq, I am hearing truths
about the absolute catastrophe if war would be fought. What are you hearing
from your perspective?



Claire Evans
Personnel and Delegation Coordinator
Christian Peacemaker Teams
PO Box 6508
Chicago, IL 60680
Tel: 773-277-0253; Fax: 773-277-0291

Christian Peacemaker Teams is an initiative of the historic peace churches
(Mennonites, Church of the Brethren, and Quakers) with support and
membership from a range of Catholic and Protestant denominations.

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20030210 Received 20030210 10:33 AM EST (GMT-5), posted here 20030210 13:45 PM EST.  Received from Claire Evans and forwarded on behalf of the Team that includes Bill Marx.  Subject: “The Bomb Shelter”, Iraq CPT Delegation Release


[The author, of Waterloo, ON, is part of the Feb. 1-15 Christian Peacemaker
Teams delegation to Iraq. Other delegates are: John Barber (Deerfield
Beach, FL), Mabel Brunk (Goshen, IN), Lynn
Coultas (Havana, FL), Scott Diehl (Burlington, VT), Peggy Gish (Athens,
OH), Maureen Jack (Fife, Scotland), Cor Keijzer (Leeuwarden, Netherlands),
Cliff Kindy (North Manchester, IN), Scott Kerr (Downers Grove, IL), Lisa
Martens (Winnipeg, MB), Bill Marx (Derby, NY), Jane Pritchard (Toronto,
ON), Linda Sartor (Santa Rosa, CA), and Betty Scholten (Mt. Ranier, MD).]

"The Bomb Shelter"
Iraq release by Matthew Bailey-Dick
February 5, 2003

Twisted lengths of reinforcement rod seem to be bent like pipe cleaners.
The hole in the two-meter thick concrete ceiling looks like punctured
tissue paper. Blackened outlines of human figures on the wall remain as
final documentation of the lives that were forever lost. Our CPT delegation
is standing inside the bomb shelter in which over 400 Iraqi people were
bombed to death during the last Gulf War.

On the night of February 13, 1991 a U.S. fighter pilot dropped two bombs on
the Amariya bomb shelter in Baghdad. From the sheer power of the initial
detonation, fourteen survivors were knocked out through the doors which
were blasted open, but 408 others who had taken shelter - mostly women and
children - were torn apart and incinerated by the explosion. The oldest
victim was an 80-year old grandfather, the youngest a baby that had been
born four hours earlier. From the mouths of U.S. military personnel, this
atrocity became re-cast as another regrettable instance of "collateral damage".

As our CPT delegation group stands inside this place, I find myself feeling
raw inside. As the guide explains what happened in the bomb shelter that
night, I feel like I am back in Chiapas (Mexico) listening to the
explanation about how 45 unarmed Christian pacifists were massacred by
paramilitary forces. I feel like I am back at Stoney Point (Ontario,
Canada) listening to the explanation about how a First Nations man was shot
to death by provincial police for participating in an action to assert
native treaty rights.

The loss of human life cannot be measured one against the other, and yet I
feel like I am hearing another wretched version of the same story of
violence. Enemies are fabricated, hostilities are encouraged, people are
dehumanized, easy justifications are made, and yet again we have a
situation in which the horrors of violence become accepted as necessary for
"national security" or "the greater good."

Today this punctured bomb shelter speaks about the huge loss of life that
happened 12 years ago, but it also speaks about the tragedies to come if
the U.S. and its allies choose to go to war. Our guide told us that because
of what happened at this shelter, most everyone in Baghdad will be scared
to enter bomb shelters if war breaks out. How many people then will be
killed in their homes as the bombs drop? How can we imagine what life must
be like for the millions of people in Iraq who live with the threat of
bombardment every day now?

As with many sites throughout the world where people have been killed, the
Amariya shelter now features a large memorial that tells the story of the
massacre and stands as a reminder that such violence should never happen
again.

Our delegation group left the Amariya shelter feeling deeply emotional
because of what we saw and heard. I wonder what George Bush would feel if
he were to visit Baghdad today and take the tour through this bomb shelter?
I wonder what Tony Blair would feel if he were to visit the homes of Iraqi
people and hear their stories about the effects of the war and economic
sanctions? I wonder what would happen if citizens would hold their
governments accountable not just because of physical memorials like this,
but because of their own inner realizations about the insanity of violence?


Claire Evans
Personnel and Delegation Coordinator
Christian Peacemaker Teams
PO Box 6508
Chicago, IL 60680
Tel: 773-277-0253; Fax: 773-277-0291

Christian Peacemaker Teams is an initiative of the historic peace churches
(Mennonites, Church of the Brethren, and Quakers) with support and
membership from a range of Catholic and Protestant denominations.
 

20030210 Received 20030210 10:32 AM EST (GMT-5), posted 20030210 13:40 PM EST.  Received from Claire Evans and forwarded on behalf of the Team that includes Bill Marx.  Subject: Iraq Peace Team Response to Colin Powell Speech

Note:  The Christian Peacemaker Team delegation now in Baghdad is part of
the Iraq Peace Team.

A Response
By the Iraq Peace Team
To the Presentation before the United Nations Security Council
By U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell
On February 5, 2003

         Last night U. S. Secretary of State Colin Powell provided to the
United Nations Security Council the Bush administration's most detailed
argument to date to justify a war on Iraq.  We believe both from what Mr.
Powell said, as well as from what he did not say, that the U.S. case falls
far short of the legitimate justification for war embodied in international
law and in the United Nations Charter.
         Mr. Powell stated that his presentation had two purposes: to
support the assessments of the UN weapons inspection team and to provide
new information about Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction and
involvement in terrorism.  Regarding the first purpose, we are glad to see
that the U.S. says that it will support the UN weapons inspection
team.  According to Mr. Powell, "We are providing all relevant information
we can to the inspection teams for them to do their work."  This is a
welcome change.  Only one week ago head of the inspection team, Dr. Hans
Blix, had to publicly request that the United States share information with
him.  It is not at all clear why the U.S. has hampered the work of the team
by withholding information until now.  Nevertheless we applaud this change
and hope the U.S. will follow through with the promised support.
         The "new information" that Mr. Powell presented at some length
turns out to be not all that new and relies to a large degree on hearsay,
interpretation and innuendo.  We are skeptical of the information Mr.
Powell uses to justify war for a number of reasons, not the least of which
is the number of times the U.S. government has deliberately manipulated
information in the past to convince the American people and the world
community to support its military adventures.  The Gulf of Tonkin incident
that led the U.S. Congress to authorize an unlimited expansion of the war
in Vietnam turned out to be contrived and misreported.  Before the
beginning of the 1991 Gulf War, in order to justify not making further
diplomatic efforts to avoid war, the U.S. claimed it had evidence that
Iraqi troops were converging at the southern border for an invasion of
Saudi Arabia.  Later it turned out this was a fabrication.  Mr. Powell's
own remarks in this presentation do not give us confidence that he is
committed to being entirely straight forward.  For example, Mr. Powell
claims that "Saddam Hussein forced out the last inspectors in 1998".  He is
surely aware that this is not quite true.  UN weapons inspectors were
ordered out of Iraq by the chief of the weapons inspection team, Richard
Butler, just days before the Desert Fox bombing began in December
1998.  Iraq did not let the inspectors back in when it became known that
the inspectors were providing intelligence information to the U.S. and
Israel and that some of the information may have been used for targeting in
the bombing campaign.
         Mr. Powell studiously avoided calling for "war", but repeatedly
called on the UN Security Council to do "our duty", to fulfill our
"responsibility to the citizens", and to enact the "serious consequences"
called for in Resolution 1441.  He reminded the Council members that they
were well aware of "what serious consequences meant if Iraq did not comply"
with the resolution.  By leaving the words war, bombardment, and invasion
unstated Mr. Powell avoided reminding the Council about the reality of the
course of action he is promoting.  He seemed to prefer that we not
recognize that the "serious consequences" he has in mind may involve the
death of over a million Iraqi civilians, primarily those who are most
vulnerable - children, the elderly, and people who are sick or
pregnant.  He would encourage us to see this as a chess game between
military strategists - not the tragic, widespread destruction of Iraqi
people that his strategy would be.
         In the end Mr. Powell would have us presume that if Iraq is in
material breach of Resolution 1441, that is a sufficient justification for
war.  It is not.  The United Nations charter is very specific about the
conditions that need to be present before war can be justified.  Written at
a time when the world community better remembered the real consequences of
war, Article 39 of the Charter says that the UN Security Council can take
action only after it has determined a "threat to peace, breach of peace, or
act of aggression".  Article 42 allows for armed force only when all
non-military "have proved to be inadequate" to restore or maintain
peace.  The UN Charter supercedes any Security Council resolution in the
same way that the U.S. Constitution is above any law passed by Congress.
         It is clear that Iraq has not made a breach of peace or act of
aggression.  That is why Mr. Powell devotes his entire presentation to
allege that Iraq is a "threat to peace".  Yet Iraq has not threatened
anyone.  Even if all of Mr. Powell's assertions were true, even if he could
demonstrate that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, Mr. Powell would
still need to show that Iraq intended to use those weapons in an illegal
and aggressive manner.  There is no evidence whatsoever that Iraq has that
intention.  Even the head of the U.S. CIA concludes that the only time Iraq
would be motivated to use weapons of mass destruction or to provide them to
terrorists would be if Iraq were invaded.  The U.S. government seems
determined to create the very conditions that will promote what they say
they are trying to avoid.
         Many countries have weapons of mass destruction.  Israel, for
example, has over 200 nuclear warheads and the missile technology to bomb
other countries (including Iraq).  Israel is in defiance of numerous UN
resolutions and is guilty of massive human rights violations.  Yet the U.S.
seems to be unconcerned about this.  So why does the U.S. promote the
destruction of Iraq?  This blatant double-standard of  U.S. policy fuels
national and religious animosities and undermines the prospect of peace in
the region.
         We must conclude that Secretary Powell has failed to make his
case.  There is no evidence that Iraq intends to use whatever weapons it
may possess in an unlawful or aggressive way.  Iraq is not an imminent
threat.  The inspection process has not failed and is not concluded.  An
invasion of Iraq will produce massive civilian casualties.  We hope the
Security Council will uphold the UN Charter.  Further we call on all people
to oppose this unjustified, illegal, immoral, and counterproductive war.

Issued by Iraq Peace Team in Baghdad, Feb. 6, 2003


Claire Evans
Personnel and Delegation Coordinator
Christian Peacemaker Teams
PO Box 6508
Chicago, IL 60680
Tel: 773-277-0253; Fax: 773-277-0291

Christian Peacemaker Teams is an initiative of the historic peace churches
(Mennonites, Church of the Brethren, and Quakers) with support and
membership from a range of Catholic and Protestant denominations.
 

20030208 Received 20030208  3:32 AM EST (GMT-5), posted 20030208 10:40 AM EST.  Message from Bill Marx to friends and contacts at sponsoring and supporting organizations who will publicly distribute final versions.

Johnny:  Please feel free to edit, etc. the following:  All is well here.  I’m overwhelmed by all there is to assimilate but will continue to try and put it into words as requested.

 

I’m also including the “First Day In Baghdad” story I sent on Wednesday since I’m not sure how well the other path to you works.  Peace & love to all, Bill

 

 

 

First Day In Baghdad

By Bill Marx

 

            Just over twelve hours in Baghdad, Iraq, and my eyes, ears and heart have experienced more than anyone could anticipate.  I want to go home, not because I’m tired, homesick, missing the comforts of the Western world or any other such selfish reasons.  I want to go home so I can share overpowering feelings with everyone, in every available way and to be able to look into their eyes and say, “listen, listen, listen, time may have run out but until a bomb drops or the U.S. Military places foot or shell on Iraqi’s sovereign soil, we must do ALL in our power to stop the war.  And, we must do it now or live with our neglect to advocate the gospel of nonviolence to everyone we can reach, in every way available to us.”

            As I write this, I wonder how do I reach our Bishop and the priests of the Diocese from here.  How do I contact Senators Clinton and Schumer, and Representative Quinn, all of whom ignored the fact that I was going to Iraq, but more importantly, ignored the fundamentals of democracy when they abdicated their Constitutional responsibility to be the ones to determine if and/or when we go to war, when they voted for the President’s War Resolution last October.  How do I make them aware that the women and children of Iraq are not our enemy and have already inhumanely suffered too much for people loved by God to allow.  I believe that God called me to be here at this time and now believe that God is calling you to carry the message of peace to everyone you possibly, not conveniently, not comfortably, but possibly can.

            You may ask why I write this way.  You may question my assumptions.  But, please don’t question the need for all good people to come to the aid of those in need, now!  The people of Iraq have little hope left.  They have suffered a war with Iran which we encouraged, the reaction by the West for their war with Kuwait over the oil Kuwait was steeling by “angle drilling”, and twelve years of U.S. encouraged UN sanctions which among other human rights violations, is resulting in the deaths of 5,000 children under the age of five every month.  They have been treated so badly by so many for so long that they have come to believe that their only hope is Saddam Hussein.

            One example of the reality is what happened on February 13, 1991 at 4:00 AM.  The United States of America, under the guise of disabling a military communications center, tested the effectiveness of a smart bomb that penetrated the 2 meter thick, steel reinforced concrete roof of the Ameriyah shelter containing 400 children, women and elderly men seeking safety from our aerial attacks on their President.  After opening an enormous hole in the roof, a second bomb was sent through the hole to incinerate the building’s contents.  As I observed the blackened walls with the imprint of human bodies upon them and gazed through the twisted steel in the hole over my head, I was transported back fifty years to when I stood inside the remains of the building at ground zero in Hiroshima, Japan, where the first atomic bomb had been dropped a few years before.  I couldn’t help relating the second bomb into the shelter/communications center to the bomb exploded over Nagasaki.  I am appalled by man’s inhumanity to man and asked forgiveness for my allowing my government to do such things in my name.  You see, by not insisting that the gospel of nonviolence be observed, I too, abdicated my Constitutional responsibility to act as an empowered citizen.  That was before I had the “plank” removed from my eye last March when I joined Pax Christi USA and began to learn about justice and peace.

            To be continued . . .

 

Prepared by:  Bill Marx, part of a 15 member Christian Peacemaker Team (CPT) in Baghdad, Iraq.  February 5, 2003

 

 

 


Six Days in the Middle East

By Bill Marx

 

 

            It’s Friday, February 7, 2003, 6:30 AM in Baghdad, Iraq.  The east coast of America has yet to tune in the February 6th 11 o’clock news or come to the end of the sixth day since I left for Iraq.  At the Buffalo International Airport that afternoon, there were many friends and family; banners, signs and cameras, both personal and media and gifts of medicine and chewable vitamins for me to take to the children of Iraq.

            I couldn’t risk having to leave those precious gifts of love at the Jordanian-Iraqi boarder because of the inhumane sections that have been in place for the last twelve years.  Thanks to the Mennonite Central Committee in Amman, Jordan, I am assured those gifts will reach there intended destination, the children of Iraq.

            The children of Baghdad are unbelievable.  They have lost family and friends from the results of our irresponsible acts to destroy the infrastructure of their homeland during the Gulf “war.”  Their water is not pure, their sewage treatment inadequate, their food allowance lacks proper nutrition, the cancer rate has quadrupled and their country is helplessly waiting for us to “finish the job”, according to President Bush’s remark, that the Columbian astronaut from Israel began twelve years ago.  Yet, their faces are the image of a loving God.  As Father Yousif  Thomas Mirkis, O.P., pastor of Al Fikr Al Masihi Catholic church, drove us back to our hotel after our most cordial, informative and revealing visit with him, we were engulfed on the streets of Baghdad by mini-buses loaded with dancing, smiling, laughing, happy children enjoying the music and excitement of a wedding celebration in progress.

            Life goes on in Baghdad in spite of the impending doom.  Streets are under normal repair, buildings are being built or refurbished and shopkeepers are selling their wares.  Taxis, cars, busses and trucks are beeping their horns like they all are in a post wedding procession, or as though they were a part of the growing number back home, supportive of our peace demonstrations as they drive by with their beeps of approval.  But the faces are different from the children’s.  Many have lost the hope they displayed to the “peacekeepers” before us.  They know that time is running out and that our country is determined to once again demonstrate our military superiority over the defenseless, fellow human beings in Iraq.  There are no visible signs of any preparations to defend themselves.  How can they defend themselves?  They are not even planning to use the thirty-four remaining bomb shelters in Baghdad this time around.

            “Why Iraq,” I ask myself.  Is it because it is one of the weakest nations in the Middle East?  Or could it be that they contain such a large percentage of the world’s known oil reserve?  It really can’t be that they might have weapons of mass destruction (WMD) like us and several more powerful nations in their region, some of whom, unlike Iraq, could also be a nuclear threat.  Do we have more weapons to test like we did on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, or in the Gulf War on the Ameriyah shelter?  Even if it is probably not any of these, who appointed us judge and jury, who gave us the right to decide if the people of Iraq live or die?

            Since 9/11, we have been told that the elimination of terrorism is our number one priority and we will get Osama bin Laden.  Afghanistan is a mess and polluted with depleted uranium from our bombs, we are still searching out the Taliban and the Administration finds itself in need of a victory . . . any victory . . . anywhere.  With all our military and economic resources, we may defeat Saddam Hussein, but will we or the world be any more secure?  Maybe, just maybe the hundreds of trained and ready terrorist throughout the world, with the WMD smuggled out of Iraq when war begins, will avenge their Arab brothers in ways against which we have very little if any defenses.  Just maybe.  Should we take that risk, or look for ways to peace?  As Fr. Yousif asked in our meeting, “Give us time to establish our democracy.”

            If we are a nation under God, a nation that believes in liberty and justice for all, how can we ignore the teachings and example of Jesus Christ?  Did he not tell the men ready to stone a prostitute to death, “Let him among you who is without fault throw the first stone”?  Are we without fault?  And, didn’t his father tell us through Moses, “Thou shalt not kill”?

            Former President Jimmy Carter, commenting as he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize said, “War may sometimes be a necessary evil.  But no matter how necessary, it is always an evil, never a good.  We will not learn to live together in peace by killing each other’s children.”  War against Iraq has been opposed by Pope John Paul II, the United States Council of Catholic Bishops, the United States and United Kingdom Council of Churches, the Middle East and European Council of Churches, most people of our world and a few governments.

            To whom should we listen?

 

 


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