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.

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


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