#19: No Easter
Dear Friends, Family, and All Good People,
I am home. I have been basking in the quiet of Joyfield Farm and enjoying being with Arlene again. As I left home last November, I was not certain that I would be returning since the security situation was abysmal. It is a gift to have life extended.
Peggy, Anne, and I left Baghdad early the day before Easter on the overland route to Jordan. When we arrived in Amman on Sunday, Easter was still weeks away because Jordan is on the Orthodox calendar. I flew out early Monday morning and arrived in Chicago the day after Easter. I missed Easter. Since our CPT work is so dependent on the drama of Easter - the victory of life over death and of trust over fear, I am still not clear what the implications are of my lost Easter.
I am trying to understand what people in the United States need to hear about Iraq and also where the US public stands on the issues relating to the US presence in Iraq. Is the US public trying to pretend the occupation and the war are not continuing?
My most sobering memory of Iraq was just a news story. The February 2, 2005 issue of Preventive Psychiatry carried a story about the resignation of the Veterans Affairs Secretary. He had stepped down because of the administration cover up of the depleted uranium (DU) scandal. The article reported that of the 580,400 soldiers who had fought in the first Gulf War, 325,000 were on permanent disability in the year 2000. That compares with 5% in the two World Wars of the last century and 10% in Vietnam.
Yes, more veterans live with debilitating injuries now, injuries that would have killed them in previous wars, and perhaps the definition of permanent disability has changed over the years. Nevertheless, the author reports that the US administration has been consistently covering up the facts that large numbers of Gulf War veterans have been impacted by the depleted uranium weaponry that US forces used against Iraq in 1991.
During that war, US soldiers were exposed for only two months. The impact was catastrophic, originally called "the Gulf War Syndrome," with no proof of what caused the symptoms. Apparently we have known since 2000 that our use of DU weapons caused those problems, but have chosen to hide the facts. The present war has US soldiers on the ground for months and years in Iraq where we used the same weapons all over again. It takes a 3 to 5 year period before depleted uranium begins to have its spike on the medical statistics. What have we done to ourselves? What effect will this have on the Iraqi population? What have we done to the world?
The most memorable event of my time in Iraq was our work with the Muslim Peacemaker Team in Kerbala. They have already done far more dramatic nonviolent direct action than anything we have done in CPT around the world. They have dreams of taking their training across Iraq, of sending Muslim Peacemaker teams to Darfur and to the United States. Their efforts to break down the barriers being built between religious and social groups in Iraq may be essential to the future of the country. Their ability to overcome the trauma of twenty years of war and tragedy gives me hope that the trauma we are grappling with in CPT can also serve as the impetus for important nonviolent witness in other places on conflict. MPT has the potential to be one of the transforming agents for Iraq - a catalyst to change the absolute shambles of Iraq to a miraculous salaam across the Arab world.
As I left Iraq, we had talked as a team about the long term goals for our team. One of the items on the list was the plan to place a CPT Iraq team on the ground in the US. We want to focus on escalating the level of nonviolence with the goal of ending the war in Iraq. This activist group in the states can develop a strategy to unite the resistance in the military and the varied nonviolent groups already working at these issues here at home. The legislators who approved the war are now responsible to end it. US citizens must stop the movement of war matériel from US factories to Iraq. What shape will this nonviolent direct action take? Will there be people willing to face the overwhelming power of empire with the vulnerable love of creative nonviolence? Will my Easter finally arrive?
Praying and planning so,