Cliff Kindy Iraq Blog

Current entries are related to Cliff Kindy's fourth Iraq trip, beginning in October 2007. The blog archives contains letters from Cliff's third Iraq trip in 2004-5.

Monday, March 28, 2005

#18: Out of Control

(Sent by Cliff on Thursday, March 24. Sorry I am late getting this out. Andy Rich)

Dear Friends, Family, and All Good People,

In the last month the media have carried the prominent story of the shooting
of the Italian kidnap victim and her security guard. Almost exactly the
same time, a Bulgarian soldier died as US forces opened fire from a
checkpoint on approaching Bulgarian military vehicles. These stories are in
the news, but the regular incidents of Iraqis in similar situations are
usually untold.

Monday, an Iraqi friend visited to make arrangements for our departure for
Jordan. Almost apologetically, he asked if I would like to visit his cousin
who had been shot by a passing US convoy. I agreed to join him.

Lafta Rahim, 39 years old, with four children, was at home in his bed.
Immediately his smile drew me as we met. Then I noticed contraptions on his
body. His upper left arm had an 8-inch rod parallel to the bone and
attached with six pins and two clamps. His lower right leg had a similar
rod, this time with five pins and five clamps.

Lafta told his story. January 7, 2005, about 6:00PM, he and a companion
were on their way to visit a friend. As they passed some university
buildings, shots rang out. He kept moving to get away from the scene. But
a fusillade of weapons fire stopped his car. It had 52 bullet holes in it.
There were 8 in his body and 5 in his companion's body.

The weapons fire came from a US patrol of Humvees just pulling out of the
university buildings that had become a US base. Apparently, shots had been
fired at the buildings from across the road and the convoy was responding,
but aimed all its fire at the innocent passing vehicles.

Lafta's car was not alone on the street. His car was last in a line of four
cars and the shots from the convoy all hit his car from behind. Five people
in the other cars died and fifteen were injured.

At this point I asked if the soldiers stopped to assist when they saw what
had happened. My friend interrupted, "I was returning from Jordan about a
week ago. Near the 160-kilometer marker, a driver had parked his GMC along
the road to go to the bathroom at the gas station. He returned to see that
the whole side of the empty car had been sprayed with bullets from a passing
US convoy. The soldiers kept moving."

Lafta replied to my question too. "The soldiers did not stop, but two young
people took me to the hospital." He continued, "The bad things Saddam
Hussein was doing, now the US is doing, but now they give us no help."

He and four brothers manufacture metal frames for windows and doors. He has
good family support and has had a good job. Now he will be unable to work
because he is unable to move the fingers in his left hand. His right arm
had earlier been injured in the Iran/Iraq War.

Lafta has a nicely trimmed beard and moustache and a friendly shine in his
eyes. His brother had asked a US army officer, "Why did you shoot
civilians?" The officer responded, "We have in our army too many people
acting irrationally."

Whether from fear, anger, training, or lack of it, these stories of
uncontrolled US shooting at checkpoints or from convoys represent dozens or
hundreds we have taken testimony from or read about in NGO security reports
and Iraqi news.

As we parted, Lafta told me, "I respect and appreciate you. You changed my
view of the United States."

Working for an end to this war of madness,

Cliff Kindy

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

#17: Celebrating March 20

Dear Friends, Family, and All Good People,

March 20 is the date the United States invaded Iraq on the pretenses that Iraq had been involved in the attack on the World Trade Center, had weapons of mass destruction, and was connected with the Al Qaeda terrorist network. All of those accusations were later proven unfounded, but, by then, the war had destroyed the government and the civilian infrastructure of Iraq. There was no way to bring back lives, or even to rebuild the country when most of the investment was for U.S. security.

It was two years ago that the "Shock and Awe" bombing devastated Baghdad. The dead civilians did not count, and were not counted by the United States. Dead U.S. soldiers piled up and the U.S. and Iraqi injured became hidden casualties of war.

Today, noble words flood the airwaves. "Occupying troops should be removed from Lebanon before the elections in May so that the elections can be fair." Do we forget the 160,000 U.S. troops occupying Iraq when the Iraqis voted January 30? Do we ignore the 38-year occupation of Palestine by Israel when their election took place in early January?

"Syria and Iran should stop interfering in the internal politics of Iraq." That is correct. Should we overlook the way the United States has manipulated the political and economic arena of Iraq for U.S. interests?

President Bush has demanded that President Assad of Syria set a timetable for withdrawal of troops back to Syria. Excellent! But when the Iraq Muslim Scholars' Board and Ayatollah Sistani asked the U.S. for a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, the U.S. ignored the request. Why do we use this double standard?

Here is a suggestion. President Bush should not be the one to respond to the request for a timetable of withdrawal of U.S. forces. He can't see the hypocrisy of his demands. He hasn't been on the ground in Iraq to understand the implications of his decisions. CPT has been here in Iraq for well over two years. Please hear this proposal.

Let March 20 this year be a celebration of the beginning of the end of the war and occupation. This is the day the U.S. public should proclaim the end of the war.

March 20, the U.S. soldiers may return home. They can stop obeying orders to kill and detain Iraqis. They can lay down the guns and weapons of war and return home to families. Their lives and spirits don't have to be destroyed by the orders to kill.

This will also allow the resistance to lay down their weapons and return to their homes. The fighting between the U.S. and these groups has made life in Iraq unbearable. If these groups stop fighting and all foreign fighters in Iraq return home, life for Iraqis can improve!

This celebration also requires work to be done in the United States. Citizens should place ribbons around the weapons factories to close them down. They only encourage more fighting. The arms merchants of the world must be shut down. Each patriot is responsible to develop work that produces life instead of death.

Each person must encourage soldiers to refuse to obey orders to kill. Cities can celebrate the communities of support for military resisters. Each taxpayer should send a joy-filled greeting card to the IRS as they stop paying half their income tax for war.

On March 20 communities should transform homes and schools into places where children and adults learn to build friendship and understanding across lines of difference. People can invite strangers into their home. They can learn to know foreigners. They can interact across religious and cultural lines.

Volunteer peace teams can nonviolently respond to crisis when invited by local people. That response might be in Darfur or Sri Lanka/Tamil Elam. Tools of war don't repair problems in setting of violence or natural disaster.

March 20 will no longer be a time to remember war, but a time of new beginnings. This year the United States can turn March 20 on its head! The U.S. can start peace in Iraq. It can end the war and bring the troops home now. It can start to put families back together. It can heal the trauma of war and rebuild the cities that have been destroyed by sanctions and war. This year everyone can celebrate March 20 with actions for peace.

Peace to you!

Cliff Kindy

Thursday, March 10, 2005

#16: Something Positive

Dear Friends. Family, and All Good People,

Lores wrote me asking, "When will you write something positive?" Wow! I have really loaded you down with some pretty depressing stuff these last months. Iraq has been moving through some very devastating times, so my writing is an accurate reflection of the situation, but I want to share some positive hope with this letter.

Since early December, we have been fasting and praying every Tuesday for Iraq. We invited you to join us each week and carry out an action on behalf of Iraq each time. That continues until Easter.

  • is the site where you will find the reflections that stimulate each week. That spiritual thread has been a stream of hope undergirding our work.

    We have been privileged to work with an amazing group of creative, talented human rights workers, women's groups, religious leaders, and concerned folks from every walk of life. That initially was what kept us coming back to Iraq. Now it is the breath of hope that offers a future with promise for Iraq. These are the people who will build the new Iraq. Muslim Peacemaker Teams, the human rights group in Kerbala with which we have worked so consistently, is a bright star in the Iraqi sky.

    Each day members of the CPT Iraq team take turns leading our time of worship. We represent a wealth of Christian experience, from a wide range of backgrounds. That daily period anchors us in God's reality and ties us to God's direction. Bombs rock our building during our prayer time, but it becomes clear that God is bigger than empire, disaster, or insurgency. Nation-states issue siren calls to disobedience, but worship stays our hand.

    Today Peggy led our worship with a focus on beauty. Anne shared the wonder of the wheeling pigeons over our apartment, with two breaking off from the flock and charting their own course. Sheila shared the symbol that reminds her of a beautiful mentor in her life. Peggy caught the pieces of nature that brighten her heart daily. I shared beauty that comes in contrast to what is around it and comes with power to sustain that which is justice and peace.

    Yesterday there were NO long lines of cars waiting to fuel up at the gas stations. This is a first since I arrived last November! Last night there were several periods of electricity throughout the night. There are more electrical towers burning each day and the water level in the Tigris River is rising with the welcome rains.

    I will be returning to the US in a couple weeks. If you are interested in scheduling me to share about Iraq or join your group in actions on behalf of Iraq, please be in contact with me at or call (219)982-2971 after April 10.

    With a spot of hope,

    Cliff Kindy

    Sunday, March 06, 2005

    #15: Hypocrisy and Double Standards

    Dear Family, Friends, and All Good People,

    There are some good standards being discussed for this region of the world. Hans Blix has called for a nuclear free Middle East. The Arab League had earlier suggested it and the United States, in the lead up to the recent war, called for Iraq to stop its nuclear weapons development and, now, for Iran to make a similar commitment. Blix and the Arab League have been clear that such a standard would include Israel as well. Of course, if that is an important standard for our world, it would be appropriate for the United States to abide by the same standards.

    Many countries are now putting pressure on Syria to withdraw its occupation troops from Lebanon, appropriately so. It is right for countries not to be occupied by other countries! If that standard is good, it should also apply to Israel in its occupation of Palestine. It has been ongoing since 1967 and has had many United Nations Security Council resolutions that call for an end to that occupation. Then, if we are noticing occupied countries, we quickly note that the United States has 150,000 troops occupying the sovereign country of Iraq. Countries should not occupy other countries!

    The past ten days I have been with part of a CPT delegation in the city of Kerbala. We visited with US State Department official Tom Cooney, three military medical doctors, and four soldiers from Lima Camp, a US base outside Kerbala. On the way out of the base, I fell in with a man from South Chicago in civvies. He had been in both Gulf wars and said he hoped to be in Syria and Iran by 2006. He had refused to shake my hand when we first met, but finally did as we parted. I had been talking about another way to resolve conflict than war and he was unable to even fathom the idea that we could walk outside the base unarmed. As I left, he said, "Keep your head." We also visited the Japanese military base in Samawah, but they were mum, apparently fearing that any news would increase the resistance of the Japanese public to their military presence in Iraq. At the Women's center in Samawah, Ms Bodoor, the director said, "The Japanese came just for America. They are not serious about rebuilding the city."

    We entered Kerbala just three days after the Shi'a Muslim celebration of Ashura. Security was tight and the city was crowded with pilgrims from around the world. Imam Husayn is for the Shi'a much what Jesus is for Christians and this is the time and the central location for that recognition. We visited the shrines of Imam Husayn and Imam Abbas and met with the media chief for the Husayn Shrine.

    A few of you may have seen the article I wrote about the visit with the shepherd from outside Kerbala. He is still trying to get recognition that he was treated wrongly. Sixteen of his extended family, including his father and mother, died when the US attacked his farm during the war not two years ago. He is Shi'a, the same group that were victims of Saddam Hussein in the 1991 uprising. In fact, near his farm there are six mass graves that he showed to Human Right Watch, International when they came to document his tragedy. He has gotten no help from the US, Iraq interim government, or anyone else. He told us, "Jesus gave his life for peace. My family is given for peace. Let the Christians of the world hear my story. I need nothing [in compensation]; I just want people to understand how it affects my heart."

    Our delegates got to meet members of the Muslim Peacemaker Team (MPT) that we had trained in January. We even heard new stories of their nonviolence activity! In December 2003 their human rights office responded after three big explosions shook Kerbala. At the university they calmed the population that thought the Polish and Bulgarian troops had caused the explosion and then intervened when the Bulgarians wanted to open fire on the crowds. Assad told of lots of checkpoint and convoy attacks on Iraqis by the US. Any suspicious movement at a checkpoint is met with deadly force and convoys often deliberately crash into Iraqi vehicles, according to Assad. We have documented countless incidents that supplement his stories.

    Human rights workers from Hilla who joined the MPT meeting shared about an incident two weeks earlier when a US Hummer crashed into a pickup and a small bus for no cause, killing one and injuring seven. Less than two days later a car bomb exploded in Hilla, killing 125 and injuring 150. Al Qaeda took responsibility.

    The next day we had an invitation to the Diwan of Sheik Ali Kamona. He was the first mayor of Kerbala after the US invasion and this Diwan is a religious, government, and reconciliation meeting place. He was with our MPT folks in uncovering the first mass graves of Saddam Hussein's regime and facilitated the peace agreement between Sistani and Sadr's people when they were fighting in Kerbala in 2003. The talk was focusing on the 1991 mass graves and then melded into the story of an attack by the US on the tents of four Bedouin families who were meeting to decide how to escape the US invasion two years ago. 29 died as US helicopters and fighter jets struck with four kinds of bombs. One survived to tell the story. A HR worker took US military officials out to the site. They ignored it and paid no compensation.

    That evening three of us found the site of the December bombing that happened just before we arrived in Kerbala last year. It was near a hotel and targeted one of Ayatollah Sistani's aides. He was not killed, but ten others were killed and many were injured. We visited the hospital just two days after it happened.

    As a group we visited some of the mass graves sites around Kerbala that happened during the resistance to Saddam Hussein during 1991. They were places where people were executed and buried, one at the hospital, two outside the city at checkpoints as people were fleeing, another in what is now a parking lot. It would be good to have markers that memorialize the tragedies.

    We did re-visit the Iraq Electoral Commission that granted us observer status in Kerbala for the election. They wanted a report about our activities that I have sent off.

    A highlight of the week was a meeting with two representatives of Sayyid Muqtada al-Sadr, who is seen by some as a firebrand cleric who encourages the resistance to the U.S. One of the young men was a veterinary and the other was just elected to the new city council. They shared the overtures they are making with various political and religious factions in Iraq and the efforts they are implementing to rebuild the country. Sadr had encouraged followers (82 did) to give blood for those wounded in the tragic bombing in Hilla instead of following the more bloody Ashura displays of
    beating the head with the broad side of a blade and beating one's back with chains until blood is drawn. This last is a common way to express sorrow at the way Imam Husayn was abandoned to his death by Muslim followers. Ashura is the event that commemorates that historical incident. Sadr's group is working in amazing nonviolent ways to bring change and an end to the US occupation. We are intrigued.

    A trip to a fruit farm where the apricots, almonds, cherries, and bananas were in bloom was special for me. They fed us the guest dates from the only palm of that variety on the farm.

    Hoping that the US will make the changes toward nonviolence that I see Sadr's
    group making,

    Cliff Kindy