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, November 29, 2004

Cliff #5: Difficulty Will Make Us Stronger

November 28, 2004

Dear Friends, Family, and All Good People,

It is a bright, sunny day in Iraq. I can see my breath on the rooftop and it is 62 degrees in the office. Three mortars and what looks to be a car bomb have hit the Green Zone already this morning before 9am. The interim Iraqi Government building is a target, judging from rooftop observation.

Shortly after arriving in Iraq, I finished reading Robert Cole's The Moral Life of Children. On page 93 he quotes from George Orwell's The Road to Wigan Pier: '.many of the qualities we admire in human beings can only function in opposition to some kind of disaster, pain, or difficulty.' Cole goes on to argue about the word "only," based on his own observations of children in very tragic circumstances.

Orwell's words resonate with my experiences here in Iraq. Sheila and Tom visited Father Yousif, a Dominican priest, at St Joseph's Church this past Wednesday. He spoke of Gandhi, King, and Mandela as people who had the courage to dream, then concluded with, "Iraq needs such people." Across Iraq, people are creatively rising to the challenges that Iraq faces. The difficulties make us more than we would usually be.

Yes, obstacles can drive us to flatten Fallujah, if it stands in our way, but they also draw from us the bold nonviolent opposition voiced by the peaceful crowd calling for the end of the US occupation - an act in volatile Adhumiya District that impelled the US tanks to withdraw. Last year we CPTers had identified Husain, a teacher, human rights worker from Kerbala, as the next Badshah Khan (Gandhi's colleague from north India) of Islam. Husain has been birthed from the difficulties. What need is there for a Gandhi, King, or Mandela if life is smooth?

This week there is rising resistance to the scheduled January election of an Iraqi National Assembly of 275 members. There had been a boycott call from Sunni parties as the assault on Fallujah developed, but now even major parties are joining the push. A friend who works regularly with US soldiers and contractors wants the election to go as scheduled because "It is a start." Our Thanksgiving dinner degenerated into a disagreement between the Sunni and Shi'a guests over the timing and validity of the election. It was interesting to note that the Iraqis had the deepest thankfulness to express as we shared around the table!

We hear of more kidnapped Iraqis. Friends of close neighbors experienced a kidnapping with a ransom of $20,000. The husband was released with the payment and the family plans to move to Jordan. Another friend has two co-workers who were kidnapped recently. They released themselves (!) unharmed. The 11-year-old son of another friend lives with his grandmother so he is closer to his school and less likely to face kidnapping.

Join us for our Tuesday fast, prayer and action day. Check for the reflection focus and the suggested action. Feel free to invite others to join us weekly until Easter.

We downgraded our security alert yesterday. We won't change our cautionary, low profile presence, but we want to recognize the change in danger that we sense.

This week we have been only 2 - 6 hours daily on the electrical grid. Some communities in Baghdad get only 1-2 hours daily. On a trip to spend the night with friends, Tom and Maxine noted a line of cars to a gas station that was two to three miles long. We have not been able to get gas for the cook stove for the past two weeks. Oh, and this country has the largest petroleum reserves in the world next to Saudi Arabia.

To look at the bright side of the situation, we can only expect that this difficult US occupation will only generate dozens of Mandelas, Iraqi and elsewhere. They will throw off the occupying empire and build a new society on the rubble of destruction. Would that the Church had such impetus and vision!

Praying and working for that Day,

Cliff Kindy

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

What's Happening

Received from Cliff on Monday, Nov. 22.

Dear Friends, Family, and All Good People,

I trust you to keep up with the news, but I suspect that much that happens here in Iraq escapes the notice of the newsmakers in other places. So I want to start by sharing some of the daily events.

Not so daily is the announced release yesterday of our colleague and friend Theresa, a Polish Iraqi who has worked in justice issues! A photo on a Yahoo News item showed her at a press conference in Poland. CPT Iraq held a memorial service and sent out a release this week for Margaret, another kidnappee. Last night two of us were at a church with her family for her memorial mass.

A friend stopped by to give the testimony of the disappearance of his cousin. The cousin and four companion laborers, their driver, and foreman disappeared when delivering a truckload of water to Al Taji military base for Iraqi troops. A check of police stations, morgues, hospitals and a grilling of people along that route turned up nothing. We explained that, if US forces had detained them, they wouldn't be placed on the public detainee list for two weeks. We told them the process to check at their local Information Center and the one inside the Green Zone.

Saturday, I heard an explosion, raced to the rooftop, and saw the smoke from what turned out to be a car bomb that targeted a police cruiser and killed an officer and five civilians.

Following Friday prayers at the Abu Hanifa Shrine in Adumiya District of Baghdad, US forces cordoned off the area and Iraqi National Guard troops raided the most prominent Sunni mosque in the city. Forces killed a religious leader and three others and detained 41 people. We feared for Sheik Moayad, a regular contact of CPT in that district that has been frequently under assault by US forces since the invasion. Moayad had been 7 years in prison under the Sadaam Hussein rule and was anticipating a change of spirit across the land. He is presently okay, but the raid would be like an assault by Muslim storm troopers (if there were such) on St Peter's Square in the Vatican following a holiday mass by the pope. It WILL NOT calm the resistance.

One of the translators of our written materials into Arabic experienced a robbery of her shop about a week ago. A woman with two children entered her shop after dark, got her preoccupied and made off with money, phone, identity cards, and her trust. This week the mother of the translator returned from her pilgrimage to Mecca. Her bus was traveling through an area south of Baghdad controlled by Wahabi, Sunni Muslim militants. Armed persons in vehicles pulled alongside the bus trying to force it off the road. The driver told passengers to duck and he sped on. The cars dropped back and stopped a trailing small car instead. An AP news report this week noted that bounties are out for Shia Muslims, Iraqi security persons, and US citizens, $1000, $2000, and $3000 respectively, per person, dead or alive. A friend visiting last night said, "No, it is $30,000 for Americans. Unemployment at 70% enables the growth of alternative industries like this and encourages the Mafia to move into Iraq, a country without any order, just as happened in the former Soviet Union. The US must begin to pay Iraqis to rebuild the infrastructure destroyed in the war and occupation.

This week has been unique! One day we had 15 hours straight of electricity from the grid! Sure, most of it was at night, but we think it sets a record back to before the US invasion. Okay, the grid electricity went off as I was shaving this morning at 7am, and we don't have much generator electricity because of long lines and high costs, but. J

At the Communist Party office nearby we went to hear about election plans. (Yesterd, news reports intimated that they might be delayed for three months!) Instead the person we talked to told us of an attack against a member of their Politburo. The attackers killed the ranking party member and his two companions. The office suspected former Iraqi security personnel because the body was mutilated as well.

Have I inspired you to prayer yet? We have started a weekly day of prayer and fasting - Tuesdays until Easter. We will gather at 5pm Iraqi time and invite people around the world to join us. Included will be some weekly action suggestions to put feet on our prayers. Check the CPTNet listings or a blog we will have up shortly for weekly details. Prayer changes things and, if our complementary actions convince God that our prayers are serious, God will join us.

In the prayer and action,

Cliff Kindy

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

#3: Gehanna is Burning

(Letter from Cliff Kindy, Christian Peacemaker Team member in Iraq.
Received, Wednesday, Nov. 17. Andy Rich)

Dear Friends, Family, and All Good People,

Smoke rises continually from the acres of garbage that fill the river bend
in the Green Zone, US occupation headquarters, across the Tigris from our
apartment. Apparently, with the security risks of dozens of garbage trucks
entering and departing the Green Zone daily, someone decided to dump it all
along the river, outside the concrete walls. It must be like the constantly
burning "Gehenna" or hell that Jesus mentioned in the Sermon on the Mount
(see Matt. 5:29 and 30). My memory is that Gehenna is an image of the
valley below Jerusalem where the garbage was dumped and burned.

Here in Iraq it represents the waste that accumulates as the US war against
Iraq soon enters month twenty. There are over 1200 dead US soldiers and
maybe 20,000 injured. Iraqi civilian deaths are between twenty and one
hundred thousand. Injured aren't counted. Dead Iraqi soldiers and
resistance fighters - anyone have any numbers? It was all to remove one
man, Sadaam Hussein, from power. The country of Iraq is in shambles and
going down. The price of gasoline in the US has increased about one dollar
per gallon. The reputation of the US around the world - want to measure
that change? The US deficit is incomprehensible. But I hear we are

It isn't that the Iraqis couldn't have removed their president by themselves
had they been given a space without sanctions. Iraqis are talented,
well-educated people. Civilizations have risen from the lands between these
rivers and will again, I'm sure. They need the chance again after we
provide the resources to rebuild what was destroyed in the war and, at
least, pull US troops back to their bases.

This past week has been celebrative. Muslims ended the month-long period of
fasting and spiritual focus, Ramadan, with three special days of Eid. The
seven-acre park across the street is filled with activity. Children romp on
the swings, slides, and climbing bars. Older couples sit with a picnic in
the grass. Young men gather for a rousing soccer game. Wedding parties
pass on the street with bands playing. It is a calm, welcome change from
the spirit that has dominated Baghdad since I arrived almost two weeks ago.

A friend who works with us said, "I want to do what is best for my country."
He represents the majority of Iraqis. He lives presently in one of the most
difficult neighborhoods of Baghdad. One evening this week at 9:20pm
insurgents with automatic weapons and pistols set up a checkpoint on his
street to apprehend Iraqi police and National Guard troops, contractors, and
other internationals. This is within one mile of the Green Zone. It
indicates the inability of the occupation to improve the security situation.
Yet, our friend risks his life as he works with us to end the checkpoints
and occupation.

One team focus for the next months is to encourage a Muslim or Iraqi
Peacemaker Team. There has been interest expressed over the last year from
different Iraqis. There have been dramatic nonviolent actions by Iraqis
that have reduced violence and changed impossible situations. Can CPT be
part of a process to nurture those seeds, learn for our own work, and join
in the creative action that builds new possibilities on the trash heaps of
the past? (See my CPT Net reflection, Violence or Nonviolence in Fallujah?).
Robert Burrowes, The Strategy of Nonviolent Defense, has stimulated my

"Baghdad is the third or fourth largest US city," a friend pointed out to
us. Unfortunately it parallels the urban disasters that sweep across the
United States. There have been added complications here, such as sanctions
for 13 years, a heavy bombing war, two previous wars, and an occupation that
continues. Baghdad has the potential to end up on the garbage heap of
history. But Iraqis who want to do what is best for their country are all
over Iraq. For Jesus, Gehenna was not the end, but a sign from which to
call for a totally different way of living.

Gehenna is burning, but Advent is at hand.

Cliff Kindy

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Making Things Better

Letter #2: sent on Monday, Nov. 8.

Dear Friends, Family, and All Good People,

I traveled through Amman on my way to Iraq. On my way into Amman I picked
up the November 2 issue of the Guardian with a front-page article, "Things
grow better with Coke." John Vidal writes that farmers in India are using
Coke as a pesticide on cotton and chili fields. An Indian government
committee supported findings that Coke (and Pepsi) had unacceptable levels
of pesticides in the water they used for bottling their drinks. Vidal goes
on to write that Coke has worked well to remove rust spots, clean
lavatories, and reportedly was used as a spermicide in China! I know that
the CPT team in Colombia has urged a boycott of Coke because of its targeted
killing of union organizers, but we need to realize the broad ways in which
Coke makes things better!

Here in Iraq we find a similarly interesting feature. All parties think
that the US military can make things better for them. The US military is
presently engaged in a massive assault on the Iraqi city of Fallujah.
Interim Prime Minister Allawi is convinced the US military can eradicate the
terrorists there. The US administration believes they are the best tools
for bringing democracy to the Middle East, starting with Iraq. The US
government has also asked the military to carry a primary role of rebuilding
the Iraqi infrastructure, judging from the many reports of military
personnel painting schools so students can return. In addition, across Iraq
the US military social action components are being used to win the hearts
and minds of local populations. Here in Iraq, the US military is being used
by other actors to "make things better." Unfortunately, that "better"
happens in ways that don't benefit the military personnel themselves, the
country of Iraq, or the United States.

The numbers of addictions, suicides, and deaths of US soldiers continue to
rise as they grapple with the trauma and risk. The country of Iraq is
imploding from the violence that has been planted here. A friend of Sheila'
s reports there were more than 100,000 hits on the Canadian immigration web
page the day after the US election.

The mosquitoes have been bothersome in our apartment, but a net over my bed
does the job! Some autumn rains are falling, a welcome diversion from other
falling objects.

Though readers probably don't get the reports in North American media,
dozens of explosions daily rock the nearby parts of Baghdad as the attack on
Fallujah proceeds. Yesterday, a few blocks down Karrada, an explosion
targeted the minister of finance. A guard was killed. Today about the time
Matthew arrived at the airport, an explosion killed two people near the
entrance. Tonight bombs hit two churches in Doura, just south across the

Today two of us went late in the morning for blood tests as initial steps
for an extended visa. The technician told us that nine foreigners had been
there earlier in the day. We are not the only foreigners in Baghdad!

Remember, if you have problems with beetles on your roses or terrorists in
your yard, there are ready answers. Just be careful with the union
organizers and the soldiers.

Peace to each of you,

Cliff kindy

Monday, November 08, 2004

Cliff arrives in Baghdad

Arlene (Cliff's wife) reports that Cliff had a few days in Amman, discussing with other members of the CPT team what to do next. They flew to Baghdad on Friday, Nov. 5, and are settling in there.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Cliff's First Letter - Tending the Garden

(Cliff wrote this on Sunday, Oct. 31 and left for Iraq on Monday, Nov. 1)
Dear Friends, Family, and All Good People,

I am returning soon to Iraq for another five months with Christian Peacemaker Teams. I plan to write regular letters which Andy Rich will be sending out. If you wish not to receive this series of letters, please send a note to Andy.

One of my major summer tasks is to help Arlene with our organic market garden from which we sell fruits and vegetables for our income. Working with a friend in the garden this summer, I made the comment that, in spite of all the peacemaking work we do in various parts of the world, maybe the most important peacemaking work we do is building up the soil.

Right now we are putting all the old plants from the summer garden onto the compost piles. Those piles are the bank deposits for next summer's soil. We are also dumping truck loads of leaves that the town delivers to the farm and loads of horse manure/sawdust in strategic locations around the gardens. Then we are planting a cover crop of oats and soybeans on each of the cleared rows. Each of these tasks are steps that enrich the soil for the crops of the next year.

Removing the trash from the garden reduces the insect and disease problems and allows the garden residue to become compost. Leaves and manure will be the mulch that holds moisture, discourages weed growth, and slowly decays into rich earth. The cover crop will prevent erosion from the winter winds and rains and add humus and nitrogen for future crops.

Extending out from Joyfield Farm, building up the soil has an impact on justice and peace in conflict zones. Poor soil causes hunger, poor farming practices can pollute air and water supplies, and inequitable land ownership can produce the injustice that leads to war. Good soil feeds people, good farming practices purify air and water, and access to land can nurture justice. Good soil grows peace.

In a similar fashion, each one of us builds up the soil for a culture of peace. Nurturing understanding in family and community is a building block of a peaceful future. Reconciling differences in peaceful ways strengthens a feeling of self worth and allows differences to empower social units. Learning from other cultures recognizes the contributions that language, faith, and practices bring to this world. Crossing through barriers of hatred and fear can open possibilities for relationships that build up rather than tear down. Let's become farmers of peace wherever we find ourselves.

Cliff Kindy