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, January 19, 2005

#11: A Way Out

(This letter was received on Jan. 19, 2005.)

Dear Friends, Family, and All Good People,

This morning, January 19, there were six explosions before 9AM. This is the fifth day that Baghdad has been without public water. Several days ago our landlady asked us to conserve water because the tanks on the roof are our only supply. These events are bad for the people of Iraq and all foreigners in Iraq, but another story probably has more damaging long-term significance for Iraq and the world. Check out Gwynne Dyer, Future Tense.

On January 17, Seymour Hersh posted an article titled "The Coming Wars" for the New Yorker Magazine. Hersh details the consolidation of intelligence analyses and the ensuing covert operations within the office of the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld. Hersh lists Algeria, Yemen, Syria, Malaysia, and Tunisia on the list of targets for those strategic efforts. Hersh makes clear that Iran is already being targeted by covert operations from this office, and that there is no congressional approval or oversight of this new policy.

I realize that half of the US population does not approve of present policy in Iraq and may not give their support to the developments in the above paragraph. I heard today that a BBC worldwide poll indicated that a vast majority of the global population feels the world is a much more dangerous place since the US invasion of Iraq. So. And.?

I have just re-read A Man to Match His Mountains, about Badshah Khan, and A Force More Powerful, about the nonviolent movements that have shaped history in the past century. They depict the creative genius of unarmed people facing Nazi Germany, powerful dictators, overwhelming terror, massive empires, and brutal injustice; and successfully bringing the changes they intended. The stories show that the results depend on careful analysis, strategic planning, undergirding faith, and bold action. Changes came as a few people began to work for the changes they wanted and others joined them.

In our circumstances there is hope only if people begin to act for change. It begins, perhaps, as we realize that we all are complicit with the violence and also the victims. A December 16 New York Times article (thanks, Gene) about post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) indicates that one third of our recent war veterans may be impacted by PTSD, as in Vietnam. The churches and our home communities must become the healing places for this tragedy. The Iraqi population carries the wounds even more visibly. We start that healing by getting our military out of Iraq and other zones where we are nurturing terror.

It will require us to be willing to take risks, major risks. We must stop our complicity at every point we see it. Otherwise leaders will say, "The election is a confirmation of our policy in Iraq." Half our tax monies continue to go for war-related policies. We must stop paying, whatever the consequence, or we affirm the results to Iraqi victims and US soldiers. We can support the growing resistance within the military, a group that feels very alone. Our tools are endless - letters, sermons, leaving jobs that somehow support the ongoing violence, pictures drawn by school students of their friends in other countries, Women in Black standing across the battle lines as the mothers of the dead and injured, poems that unleash our deepest emotions, strikes that stop the production of war or impede the normal operation of war and covert operations, marches that break through the fear of terror, rebuilding our local communities - in the US and Iraq - as places that nurture and support all human beings.

It will necessitate taking back the decisions that affect our lives. The medical decisions must be close to those who are the patients and care must be available to all. Job creation must be local and the decisions about a business cannot be placed in some faraway corporate office that will not care about the consequences for the local people and the local environment. Income can no longer be the focus of our time and energy. We must focus on the future we are building. Our churches, schools, and families must nurture communities that care for everyone. Our lifestyles must not require a military to defend them, so we must make dramatic changes. Where will you start? What support group will hold you accountable?

Our actions must always be nonviolent. For those of us who are Christian, we must model Jesus' forgiveness and love of enemy. Similar religious tradition or an understanding of our common humanity undergirds others. God's Spirit grants grace to our diversity in this unified endeavor. The perpetrators of this global nightmare must also be granted space to change. Everyone is needed to imagine a different future and all our energies will be needed to do the work that lies ahead.

This morning Hussain said he is working for a future that he trusts his daughter and son will see. I suspect we already participate in that future by the Way in which we work toward the future. In my peacemaking work, that has been the reality that has sustained me.

In that Way and toward that goal,

Cliff Kindy

Friday, January 14, 2005

#10: How Will They Treat Us?

Received Jan. 14, 2005.

Dear Friends, Family, and All Good People,

Desmond Tutu writes, "If the victim can forgive only when the culprit confesses, then the victim would be locked into the culprit's whim, locked into victimhood, whatever her own attitude or intention. That would be palpably unjust."

Iraq needs to move beyond the injustice of the US invasion and occupation, but it must be in Iraq's own time. Yes, the US manipulated the causes for the war, all later shown to be false; yes, the occupation has been brutal and further destroyed a society already devastated from twelve years of US sanctions. But Iraq will recover only as the people can move beyond anger and begin the process of rebuilding their lives and society, in their own creativity and with their own resources.

The madness goes on, though. Remember that map of 18 US prisons in Iraq that I mentioned last week? Four of those have sections specifically for interrogation, operated by intelligence units. Almost every US military base here in Iraq also has its own interrogation personnel and a temporary holding facility. The stories surfacing in the media about US treatment of prisoners in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo get worse every day.

Our CPT work involves regular contact at the Iraq Assistance Center (IAC) in the Green Zone. An Iraqi was helping us try to find a young man who had disappeared in US custody. The young man was in business and had a new car. The resistance kidnapped him and stole his car. At a checkpoint, the resistance dropped him, took the car, and escaped to save themselves. Media filmed US forces taking the young man away in a wheelchair. Now he has disappeared and his father has been persistently trying to find him.

The IAC person told us to just keep coming back. Maybe he would show up. We went then to talk to US staff person at the parallel organization for detainees. His "hopeful" comment to us was that he had been with a family that had persisted patiently for over a year, and finally their family member appeared in the system. What kind of bumbling organization is it that allows a human being to disappear under their care? What kind of accountability should Iraqis be able to expect? What do the human rights accords say? How would we want to be treated in a similar situation? Are we setting the standards for future treatment of prisoners as yesterday's Human Rights Watch Report indicates?

A general from the US Army Corps of Engineers reported that electricity production is lower than any point since the 2003 war, and below what was being produced by Saddam Hussein under the stringent sanctions. We have had days of just two to four hours of grid electricity. Some communities have been three days without electricity. Our landlord has a cache of diesel fuel that we are using now to give us electricity at night, because his son and daughter are studying for university exams. He has been unable to buy more and warns that when we run out, that is it.

The military officer, who demanded that Tom delete the photo he took of US soldiers playing with the children, came back to the apartment. He had a unit of soldiers in the next block with some of the neighborhood children. Would I be interested in taking a picture? I couldn't because Sheila and Maxine were gone and I needed to cover the apartment.

Sheila left Tuesday for language study in Amman as Peggy Gish and Allan Slater came to join the team. We try to coordinate and minimize trips to and from the airport because it is one of the most dangerous stretches of highway in Iraq.

I read the Bhagavad Gita, with an excellent introduction by Juan Mascaro, this week. It is an amazing story of the many faces of God. It parallels the Muslim ninety-nine names of God. In Christianity we talk about the different roles or ways we understand God, but I have not usually been so specific. Try to list one hundred words or phrases that describe God for you. Are mercy, justice, and forgiveness in your list? In these times we need to model these attributes of God.

The gentle love of God to you,

Cliff Kindy

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Cliff #9: Nonviolent Power

Received Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2005

Dear Friends, Family, and All Good People,

The good news is that we had 5 electrical generating towers burning a week ago and one day we had 17 hours of electricity from the grid! The bad news is that two days later the oil refinery in Dura got bombed and the fuel capacity for the electricity plants in Baghdad was knocked out and we have had only 3 - 7 hours of grid per day since then. The good news is the warm weather and sunshine that came since Christmas. The bad news is that we have had so many suicide bomb blasts and so much helicopter and fighter jet traffic that the smog blocks the sun. But I am alive, my spirits are good, and spring is just a month or so around the corner!

This week we have received more information about Fallujah and the 200,000 refugees who fled that city of 300,000. We have visited refugees, gotten our own reports from Red Crescent, and talked with Iraqi and foreign journos who have been in the refugee camps. I read a report that said the US invasion of Fallujah was one of the largest armored invasions in history. The resistance was well dug in and able to knock out Abrams tanks with shoulder fired rockets. Many US soldiers and resistance fighters died, but the civilian population bore the brunt of the catastrophe. The resistance still controls large sections of the city. Little infrastructure is left, half of the 90 mosques are totally destroyed, reports I have seen mention
that homes are unlivable, belongings have been trashed and burned. Detainee numbers have nearly doubled, we heard today from a human rights worker west of Baghdad. He says that the prisons and the treatment of detainees by the US is the best training camp for the resistance. Our contacts in the US military and Iraqi government tell of two prisons; this colleague shared an al-Harat report from Britain detailing 19 US prisons across Iraq and 150 contractors working on another huge one near Nasariya. We have not been able to get reliable reports of what is happening with these detainees from recent operations. This HR worker says many are being held long-term in US military bases so they are not listed on the detainee files.

As the difficulties continue in Iraq, three Iraqi families stopped this week to visit and encourage us. One man calls us each day to see how we are and if we need anything. We visited the Sunni mosque in Adhamiya where the sheik welcomed us warmly. He remembered that he had not seen me personally for ten months and offered condolences for the death of a CPTer who had worked with us last year.

Our Kerbala human rights colleague stayed overnight again on the return from Suleimaniya. We are making plans for a training to nurture a Muslim Peacemaker Team. Some of you ask what that entails. Let me offer more specifics.

First, we need to be nurtured by the stories of nonviolence. The group in Kerbala has done five dramatic nonviolent actions, some totally successful, others less so. We must deconstruct those actions to learn the pieces, what works and what doesn't. Second, we must recognize that nonviolent power is much greater than the power of weapons. Recent history shows that the tools of war do not work - see the story of the US assault on Fallujah above. That nonviolent power is available to each of us. Third, what are the spiritual disciplines and routines that undergird this work of nonviolent peacemaking? How do we strengthen our spirituality for the towering tasks we face? Fourth, how do we build the confidence we need as peaceworkers to be able to take the initiative from the actors of violence? What are the constructive social programs that build the future that we want to see? Fifth, how do we learn the logistics of decision making, holding an effective meeting, dividing up roles and tasks, increasing skills with camera, documentation, media, and team dynamics.

Does that help? What counsel and suggestions do you want to add? How will you do this in your own community? Will you be able to take back control of the decisions that impact your life?

May God's power flow through you,

Cliff Kindy