March 25 update VitW

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Posted by Sadie from D006025.N1.Vanderbilt.Edu ( on Wednesday, March 26, 2003 at 1:48PM :

Dear Friends,

I doubt many people in Iraq heard the ominous comic book assertion this
morning from U.S. Central Command that there were "Dark days ahead for
the dark side" in Iraq. A quick glance at the news this evening suggests that
the "dark days" are here...for all sides.

In the Summer of 2000, members of Voices in the Wilderness lived for two
months with poor families in the Jumhuriyah neighborhood of Basra.
Reflecting on her first night in Basra, Lauren Cannon wrote:

"Summer in Basra - nightmare fears leaping into the everyday lives of
innocents who've already endured close to two decades of military and
economic warfare. Summer in Basra - a world of imprisoned beauty where
we feel no threat. Who does Iraq threaten? Lets be honest. Iraq threatens the
US ability to control Iraq's precious and irreplaceable resources."

Kathy Kelly added:

"As thousands of children are sacrificed because of this perceived threat tot
US security, the US earns a fearsome reputation as the rogue superpower.
We feel sure that families here in Jumhuriyah will teach us a new kind of
security based on sharing, simplicity and care for others' needs."

Tonight the good people of Basra are without electricity and many are
without water as tank barrels stare in at them from the outside edges of the
city. There are reports of "incidents" inside the city that some are saying is
an uprising. Who knows what the future holds.

Meanwhile CNN is saying there will be some 1,400 air missions over Iraq in
the next 24 hours. Little gets in the way of "Shock & Awe." Bettejo
Passalaqua wrote from Baghdad this morning:

"Today there is a tremendous sandstorm. I would have thought that this
would have stopped the bombing, as it seems it would be difficult to guide
the missiles and planes with any precision, but apparently it is not a problem
for guidance, or the military just isn't too concerned if mistakes are made."

Also out of Baghdad this morning, we have a brief reflection from Shane
Claiborne called "Dark days and Shiny Shoes":

"I have grown especially close to one of the 'shoeshine boys', a homeless
boy (about 10 years old), named Mussef. The first day I met him, he was
begging me for money to eat. When I stubbornly said 'no' to his relentless
attempts on my wallet, he turned away and muttered,
'Son-of-bitch-mother-fucker.' I whipped my head around in shock, as he took
off running. Not the best first impression. Day after day, we have grown on
each other. We go for walks, turn somersaults, and yell at the airplanes
'SALAAM!' (PEACE!!!). Now everyday when I walk outside he runs at full
speed, jumps into my arms, and kisses me on the cheek. And I have the
shiniest shoes in Baghdad.

"One day Mussef joined our group on a walk into the center of town, carrying
pictures of Iraqi children and families suffering from the war and sanctions.
Press and journalists took pictures and talked to us as we stood in one of
Baghdad's busiest intersections, and Mussef begin to internalize what was
happening. His shining face became bleak. Nothing I could do made him
smile. As the group went home, and the cameras left, we continued to sit. He
motioned with his hand the falling of bombs, and made the sound
explosions, as tears welled up in his eyes.

"Suddenly, he turned, and latched onto my neck. He began to weep; his
body shook as he gasped for each breath of air. I began to cry. Somehow I
was glad all the cameras were gone. We wept as friends, as brothers, not
as a peacemaker and victim. Afterwards I took him to eat, banquet style
(tipping everyone extravagantly so my guest would be welcome). Every five
minutes he would ask me, 'Are you okay?' I would nod, and ask, 'Are you
okay?' And he would nod. To be honest I think we were both scared out of
our minds but we each wanted to assure that the other did not start weeping

In these dark days, we are anxious for a new beginning in Iraq. It was new
beginnings that Andrew Mandell - who traveled to Iraq with VitW two years
ago - had in mind recently when he penned an open letter to a friend in
Baghdad. "It is time for a modest sunrise" for the people of Iraq. That
sunrise, he writes, "will slip around to my children's dawn as well. There is no
seam to divide the dawns of this confused species. The only way to
promise my daughter a morning will be to promise yours one as well."

Until tomorrow,

Jeff Guntzel, for Voices in the Wilderness and Iraq Peace Team

-- Sadie
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