Invitation from Voices in the Wilderness

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Posted by Sadie from ? ( on Thursday, May 29, 2003 at 10:45AM :


An Invitation from Voices in the Wilderness Chicago
Summer 2003

Spotlight Iraq
A Season of Truth-telling, Community-building, and Nonviolent Resistance

Who we are

Since its founding in 1996, Voices in the Wilderness has campaigned to end economic and military warfare against the Iraqi people. We have done this mostly by organizing delegations to Iraq in deliberate violation of U.N. economic sanctions and U.S. law, to publicly deliver medical supplies to children and families in need. Our primary focus has always been ordinary Iraqi civilians and the most vulnerable of Iraqi society, especially children. We have witnessed this ongoing warfare through the everyday lives of families we have come to know as friends over the course of seventy visits to Iraq.

We are volunteers—teachers, veterans, social workers, artists, health care professionals, trades people and people of faith—who, in the tradition of Mohandas Gandhi, practice and advocate nonviolence as a means for social change. As nonviolent war resisters, we oppose the development, storage and use by any country of weapons of mass destruction, be they nuclear, chemical, biological, or economic. Many of us refuse to pay taxes for war.

Voices in the Wilderness functions as a network for nonviolent education and action: developing and practicing ways of nonviolent resistance.

Where our actions have led us

Prior to the spring 2003 invasion of Iraq, we joined others to build an international antiwar movement that came closer than ever before to achieving the critical mass needed to stop a war before it started. Tens of millions of people throughout the world, including millions in the United States, publicly opposed this war. Though this movement did not prevent the invasion, these efforts have generated a community of grassroots education and resistance not seen in decades. Through Spotlight Iraq, a season of truth-telling, community building, and nonviolent resistance, we hope to build upon the local, national and worldwide momentum generated before the war.

Why we must keep the spotlight on Iraq

Some of us were present with Iraqi civilians to witness the cruelty and depravity of “shock and awe.” Throughout the war, embedded journalists’ reports were touted as fact while independent eyewitness accounts were often omitted or underplayed by mainstream U.S. media. We expect further evasions and distortions as Washington pursues its economic and military interests through the occupation of Iraq.

Why we propose a season of truth-telling, community-building, and nonviolent resistance

We must reaffirm that the millions of people who marched, leafleted, protested, lobbied, refused to pay war taxes and committed acts of civil resistance were right: this invasion should not have happened, and the U.S. occupation is unjust and inhumane. We must not let the story of war, sanctions, and invasion be rewritten by the architects of the “New American Century.” We must illuminate the experiences of Iraqi people under occupation after enduring two brutal wars and thirteen years of economic sanctions. If we want to end war, we must engage in human contact and truth-telling to counter the sensationalism of war propaganda.

As we Spotlight Iraq during the summer of 2003, let us work towards:

* compliance by the U.S. with the Geneva Conventions requiring that they, as the occupying force, meet the immediate humanitarian needs of Iraqis. We assert that the U.S. should then step aside to allow humanitarian relief to be done by the UN and qualified NGOs working with Iraqis.

* replacement of US/UK occupation forces by an independent, international peacekeeping presence, working in cooperation with the Iraqi people and independent NGOs to stabilize the country and quickly establish a legitimate Iraqi government, subject to the needs and interests of Iraqis, not to the political and economic interests of the U.S.

* cancellation of debt and compensation demands from the 1991 Gulf War. The Iraqi civilian population should not be forced to pay for the debts accrued by the Ba’ath regime.

* recognition that Iraq’s natural, cultural, and economic resources belong to Iraqis, not to any U.S. administration or corporation. The lifting of economic sanctions does not in and of itself guarantee self-determination for Iraqis; U.S. corporations see a gold mine in Iraq, and the recent resolution pushed through the UN Security Council not only lifts sanctions but guarantees US/UK occupation for at least a year, giving these administrations and their corporate entities free access to Iraq’s potential wealth. We demand that the appropriation of Iraqi assets be concentrated within Iraq and supervised by a transparent, non-governmentally-aligned body until the people of Iraq can select a new government of their own.

* renewal of UN efforts to certify that Iraq does not possess weapons of mass destruction; we emphasize that such standards must be applied to all nations. Never again should weapons inspections be linked to economic penalties imposed on a civilian population, as was done in Iraq.

* payment of reparations from the U.S. and UK to families of Iraqi civilians killed over the last 13 years of military actions and economic sanctions.

* clean-up of all cluster bombs, mines and depleted uranium used in Iraq and an end to the development, production, distribution or use of these weapons by any country. We hold US/UK weapons companies accountable to Iraqis and demand compensation for damages done.

Voices in the Wilderness Chicago projects:

It has been said that world public opinion, “the other superpower,” is the only force capable of challenging the impunity of U.S. militarism. A tremendous grassroots opposition movement blossomed over this past year through the efforts of countless community organizations and peace groups; eventually, the mainstream media had no choice but to recognize the overwhelming public opposition. The events of the past year show that human contact is the only proven method of eclipsing the spin of mass propaganda; we must continue to speak the truth from the bottom up through personal outreach, community building, and organizing. Here are a few projects that we will be coordinating to spotlight Iraq during the summer of 2003.

* Wheels of Justice Tour. In collaboration with our friends from Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA), we will co-coordinate a national bus tour to further education, organizing and action around war and occupation in Iraq and Palestine. On this tour we will offer academic and eyewitness perspective to the conflicts in Iraq and Palestine as we cultivate and promote nonviolent resistance in the U.S. to war and occupation. Email for more info.

* Creative Resistance Summer Camp. We are hosting a creative resistance summer camp in New York City to communicate the issues that are outlined in VitW's Spotlight Iraq using traditional and emerging forms of activism. For a period of 30 days, artists, media activists, and grassroots organizers will take part in creative forms of direct action using NYC as their canvas. We will use methods of nonviolence and alternative forms of communication as a means to counter the massive U.S. government propaganda campaigns. Email for more info.

* An ongoing presence in Iraq. We continue to witness firsthand the aftermath of this latest war and the present reality of occupation. We will continue to gather the stories and experiences of Iraqis living under this military and economic occupation.

* Nonviolent Direct Action and Civil Resistance. Recognizing that the United States provides 46% of the world’s weapons and 90% of the weapons used in conflict, we pledge our nonviolent resistance to Boeing Corporation’s weapon production and war profiteering in Chicago. As has been done all over the U.S. at the headquarters and factories of Lockheed-Martin, Raytheon
and other institutions of war-making, we confront the institution of militarism in our back yard.

* Internship and training. We will host volunteers in Chicago to research, share, and produce training and outreach materials to further grassroots organizing and community-building. Our seven years experience in organizing and action may serve useful to those working within their own communities.

* Nonviolent education and counter recruiting. We cannot practice nonviolence and effect social change without speaking to domestic social conditions; we recognize that militarism exploits the particular circumstances of communities marginalized by racism and poverty in the U.S. The No Child Left Behind Act threatens to cut federal money from schools that do not offer their rosters to military recruiters. In the hope of providing a desperately-needed service to youth yearning to be better-informed, we aim to counter-recruit through providing nonviolent education and alternatives to military service.

* War Tax Resistance. “Let them march all they want, as long as they continue to pay their taxes.” –Alexander Haig, US Secretary of State, June 12, 1982. Voices in the Wilderness is not aligned with any governmental agency and does not file taxes; as individuals, many of us are war tax resisters. We refuse to pay the fines imposed by the US Treasury Department for traveling to Iraq and distributing medicine to those in need. To find out more about war tax resistance, contact, the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee, (800) 269-7464; email: or the War Resisters League (800) 975-9688; email

* Humanitarian Aid and Restorative Justice. At the minimum, we consider all “aid” from the U.S. and UK as reparations for years of war and economic sanctions. However, humanitarian assistance must also pursue accountability, restorative justice, and truth-telling. While supporting organizations such as Bridges to Baghdad,
CARE and LIFE for Relief and Development, who facilitate humanitarian aid to Iraq, we also challenge the systems of oppression that brought about these deplorable conditions. The U.S. administration and its corporate allies must be held accountable for the dangers facing Iraqis from unexploded munitions, sickness caused by contaminated water, environmental destruction, and the fallout of depleted uranium weapons.

Spotlight Iraq tactics: Here are some other good ways to reach out to your neighbors:

* Cultivating relationships, initiating dialogue, and building supportive communities so that our peacemaking can grow.

* Practicing and refining persuasive arguments and nonviolent communication.

* Canvassing door-to-door and doing neighborhood leafleting.

* Urging local referenda and resolutions regarding war, civil liberties and weapons proliferation.

* Challenging elected representatives publicly.

* Doing poster campaigns, guerilla art, and creative resistance.

* Confronting the very institutions of war and terror in our cities, states, towns and nation.

* Organizing vigils, civil resistance, phone-ins, petitions, letter-writing campaigns, public meetings, rallies, demonstrations, lobbying.

* Pressing for divestment from war profiteers by universities and schools. Please help us Spotlight Iraq with this plan of action for the coming months.


-- Sadie
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