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, December 27, 2004

#8: Spiritual Christmas Action

Received Dec. 27.

Dear Friends, Family, and All Good People,

It is a rainy Christmas Day in Baghdad. Rain is a special gift in this arid land, so I will rejoice with the Iraqis for this Christmas present from God. Our team arrived back in Baghdad from Kerbala just before noon today. We had been there since Tuesday.

There have been some very heavy weeks since I last wrote. Two explosions in Kerbala and another in Najaf killed over 60 people. An attack at a US military base in Mosul killed over twenty soldiers. Attacks in Baghdad continued the assault against election workers and those working with the US occupation.

This week, near Kerbala, at a refugee camp we talked with a young man who had been back to visit Fallujah in the last four days. His report was that the resistance still held the city. A woman said the bombs fell like rain. I was skeptical.

Then I saw the NCCI (NGO coordinating committee for Iraq) report yesterday. "2000 people will be returning to Falluja on Dec 22." Then in the next paragraph: "A high ranking ING (Iraq Nat'l Guard), Ismail Fayyad, told the Mafkarat al-Islam correspondent: 'We made a big mistake when we told them [Falluja refugees] that they could return to Falluja. I think now that the battle has begun all over again in Falluja or that history has taken us back to the first day of the battle once again. They [the resistance] are like water, as soon as you grab hold of them, they slip from your hands'"

Is this accurate? We hear reports of heavy bombing raids over Falluja in the press and hear the bombers in the skies over Baghdad. Early reports in November said only mopping up operations were left, but still, in late December, there are reports of house-to-house raids and searches, and reports of soldiers killed, and ING not being able to carry security roles. This is well over a month after the assault started with massive technical and personnel superiority and it drags on. Something is wrong with the picture.

With the capture of Saddam Hussein, the turnover of power, the assault on Fallujah, and now, the upcoming election, the US administration promised that the situation would change. Yes, it was so. At each point the situation for Iraqis and the US occupation has changed - the situation has deteriorated.

This week made it clearer. For these last five days in Kerbala, there were no fighter jets and helicopters in the air, the daily mortars and suicide explosions ended, gunshots did not echo through the air, and I only saw two US convoys on Kerbala streets. It doesn't have to be madness and violence.

The question that I face daily is: How do the people of Iraq take the initiative away from the two sides that keep increasing the violence? How can the violence of both the US occupation and the forces of resistance be de-railed?

CPT went to Kerbala to explore ways to nurture a Muslim Peacemaker Team. A human rights office there has worked with us regularly, and we with them - praying at the mass graves, vigiling against the US detention and mistreatment of thousands of innocent Iraqis, and joining the human rights folks in the mass nonviolent march, called by Ayatollah Sistani, that stopped the violence of the US military and Sader's militia against the city of Najaf.

This visit we talked about CPT at a university. Students are intrigued and wanted to learn more. A local community action club heard about our university visit and came to explore options. We also visited the Fallujan (Sunni population) refugee camp an hour from Kerbala. A poor Shi'a village, Ein Tamer, offered hospitality to the refugees. Our human rights contacts were among the ones who bridged the religious walls.

How can a Muslim Peacemaker Team expand the nonviolence work that is already happening? Which parties will be active in peacemaking efforts? How will it become more intentional and organized? Is training necessary? If so, what will it look like? What actions will build confidence for MPT? How can CPT learn from this process? Can CPT experience in conflict zones help MPT? Can we work together across religious boundaries in such a way that our interchange can be a model for other places in our world? How does our spiritual undergirding carry us in this path?

Toward this spiritual Christmas action,

Cliff Kindy

Saturday, December 18, 2004

#7: Iraqi High

Received Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2004

Iraqi High

Dear Friends, Family, and All Good People,

I am riding an emotional high today! We met our friend Hussain from Kerbala this past weekend. His travel went well both directions and we spent quality time discussing how to nurture the development of a Muslim Peacemaker Team. We will go as a small exploratory team to Kerbala next week to meet with various religious, professional, and educational groups who have expressed interest in this idea. Those days of experience will serve as the basis for making a decision whether to have a longer-term presence there for this work.

Today, one year ago, Saddam Hussein was apprehended. That was the focus of US efforts, but now thousands more Iraqis have been rounded up as enemies. It appears he was not the only objective. The living situation for most Iraqis is much worse than a year ago and I see no end to continuing detentions and continuing resistance.

Two years ago, about this time, the US, through the UN, had demanded a full accounting of all weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Any omission would be grounds for war. Iraq sent 11,800 pages documenting the removal and demolition of their weapons. We now know that the UN and US inspectors believed that all WMD in Iraq were gone by 1994. The US released 3,800 of the pages to the UN, but detoured the rest into some US black hole. Do you know what those 8,000 pages said? Why did the US keep them from the UN? There are some hints of answers to those questions in Oil, Power, and Empire, by Larry Everest, page 116.

Since I am asking questions, it seems that oil was one of the factors leading to the decision by the US to have a war. How much petroleum does the US use for the military bases that the US has in 120 countries around the world? Or, just here in Iraq, how much petroleum is required to fuel the jets, planes, humvees, helicopters, and other military transport vehicles that are constantly in the air and on the roads? Here are some research projects for you students out there.

This morning in worship Maxine led us further in the study of Daniel. Today we read chapter three about the huge statue that King Nebuchadnezzar built on the plain of Dura. Since I was here before the fall of the previous regime and now during the US occupation, it is clear, as Doug pointed out this morning, that statues are still being built and lots of people are still worshiping what is not God.

A conscientious objector under Saddam Hussein visited this week. He was very depressed. A friend of his had loaned him money, but now wants it all back, immediately. His friend's calling him names led to a fight in which he injured his friend, who was hospitalized. His friend may be afraid of him; he doesn't want him around. In fact, he has asked for his imprisonment. The CO spent very difficult time in jail, often tortured and deprived. He is to be jailed December 25 because he doesn't have the money. He asks, "Where is justice, law? When I am sleeping in the streets, where is justice? When they cut my ear for refusing to fight in war, where was justice? I don't have a job, a salary, or a house. Where is the law?" He ended with an Iraqi parable: Time is like a sword; if you don't cut it, it
will cut you.

After I wrote the above, the CO friend visited again. Someone paid his debt! He is ecstatic! Suddenly the world has a happy ending.

Yesterday and today as we were in worship, explosions rocked the city at the same time. Yesterday, there were 13 dead and 15 injured, victims of a suicide bomb attack at a checkpoint into the green Zone. I haven't heard about today, but it appears to be the identical location.

Last Thursday, Sheila and I returned from a meeting with a human rights office to see a humvee parked at the end of our street. Before I could check it out, five soldiers were at our door, demanding to be let in and shouting about a camera. Tom came down from the roof just then and I began to understand that he had snapped a photo of the soldiers playing with the children on the street. Tom has been in the Marines, so was anxious to show a gentle side of military life as a contrast to the focus on killing. Jeff, the charge officer of this First Airborne unit, forced Tom to delete the picture, but CPT will vouch for them playing with the children on our

So, nurture the gentle that is in you and others. Dump that which is not. Jesus was clear - goodness is always more powerful than badness. Ride that Iraqi high!

Cliff Kindy

Monday, December 06, 2004

#6: Violence is Passe

(Received from Cliff Kindy, Christian Peacemaker Team member in Iraq, on Monday, Dec. 6, 2004. The letter ends abruptly without a signature; I don't know why. )

Dear Friends, Family, and All Good People,

This has been a week with varied activities. Though I have been spending much more time at the apartment than I usually do, I have not been bored. I have been doing lots of reading - a confession.

Our meeting with the Communist Party was interesting. They had been banned by the right-wing nationalist Ba'ath regime; so many had spent years in exile, if they survived the purge. The CIA had passed on to the security apparatus a list of names that fueled the killing of many party members. Shakir al-Dujaily was clear that the political process is always a better way to bring change than the ways of violence being used by many actors here in Iraq. He is an optimist, feeling that the political process and election that the US occupation started will be quickly out of their hands and Iraq will soon be genuinely autonomous and the occupation forces will be asked to leave.

Kidnappings were a theme this week. The husband of family friends of our landlord was kidnapped and released only after the family paid a $20,000 ransom. They left for Jordan. A news article carried the details of seven kidnappings daily here in the capitol. Then, coming home from church tonight, Maxine and Sheila heard of a neighbor man who had been kidnapped up north in Kirkuk, while working.

The London Times did an article on CPT this week. The reporter, Stephen, focused on our being one of the few, or last, NGO's in Baghdad. He had experienced a kidnapping in the spring, taken first by robbers and then transferred to a political group that supported the previous regime. The kidnappers released him and a colleague after 10 hours.

Thursday was a day full of explosions. At 10:20 there were four mortar strikes in the Green Zone. At 10:45 there were four explosions close to us, about a block away. One was a Kashuka rocket that hit a car and injured two people. We had planned a meeting with a local Muslim cleric to talk about justice and peace in the Koran, but he was unable to come. Sheila and I visited an art gallery where a friend had displayed her paintings. We had a movie night and watched The Cradle Will Rock, about the National Theater Program, a public works effort during the Depression. Tom's daughter, Kassie, recommended it.

The next day there were two major attacks, one on police station on Airport Road when 10 police died and another at a Shi'a mosque in North Baghdad where 30 died. Two days earlier Maxine and Tom had visited the largest Shi'a shrine in Baghdad, where a cleric friend is responsible. US convoys regularly travel the road to the airport because of the bases and prison camps at the airport. Yet, the 100 insurgents mortared the station, released the prisoners, looted the arsenal, and then killed the ten police. There are not very many locations that the resistance cannot take over as they wish.

An Australian friend visited to share about the transformed situation of the street boys she and others had been working with last year. They are in school, work, and sports. Hugs, cuddles, and love did miracles. There are three major fun parks here in Baghdad, but they are now US military bases. A local Iraqi group wants her to raise money to build another place where children can play.

Saturday, a huge car bomb hit the police station across the road from the Green Zone, killing seven people. Our rooftop is the place from which we usually can monitor nearby explosions and attacks. US jets and helicopters are daily features in the Baghdad sky, reminding me that I only saw three flights of Iraqi jets in the skies during the five months I was here before "Shock and Awe" hit Baghdad.

Hussein was to be with us this weekend so we could make plans for an exploratory visit to Kerbala to test the viability of a Muslim/Iraqi Peacemaker Team. He didn't come. Phones are down to Kerbala, so we don't know what happened. NGO security says that the roads between us are not safe because of the US military house-to-house sweep in the region south of Baghdad controlled by Wahabi militants. It has parallels to the assault on Fallujah, but I doubt you have heard much about it.

That meeting in Kerbala to encourage the developing movement of nonviolence feels very important to us as we work with Iraqis to take the initiative away from the actors of violence. It is clear that violence will not bring democracy or justice. It is a tool that does not work, a tool that destroys people and societies. Nonviolence must replace violence as the way for people to relate with each other in settings of conflict.