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.

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


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