Posted by Sadie from D006060.N1.Vanderbilt.Edu (188.8.131.52) on Tuesday, August 19, 2003 at 10:07AM :
Letter to Attorney General Ashcroft
Petition, Voices in the Wilderness, via electroniciraq.net
14 August 2003
To: Attorney General John Ashcroft
Attorney General John Ashcroft
950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20530
Fax: (202) 307-6777
Re: US v Voices in the Wilderness (VitW), court summons dated 6-23-03
Dear Attorney General Ashcroft:
The US Justice Department has sued Voices in the Wilderness in federal court to try to collect a fine from them of $20,000 for bringing medicines to the people of Iraq. Over the past seven years VitW has organized more than 65 delegations to Iraq made up of teachers, veterans, social workers, artists, health care professionals, trades people and people of faith. Many of these delegates carried symbolic amounts of medicine as an act of civil disobedience against the injustice of the economic sanctions; they then returned to the United States to tell about the brutalizing effects of the sanctions, magnified by the US bombing of the Iraqi civilian infrastructure during the Gulf War.
The Justice Department is choosing to launch an attack on Voices in the Wilderness at a time when Iraqi people and US soldiers are being killed daily and the US occupying forces have failed to provide for the security and basic humanitarian needs of Iraqi people. As a friend of VitW I call upon the Justice Department to refuse to prosecute VitW and commit to donating whatever money that would have been spent on the prosecution of this case towards the humanitarian efforts of NGOs working in Iraq, the clean-up of the hundreds of tons of depleted uranium now polluting Iraq from US weaponry and the payment of reparations to the families of Iraqi victims of the US invasion and occupation. Dropping the lawsuit would be the just and reasonable thing to do, for the following reasons:
• VitW delegates performed these acts of mercy with full knowledge that they were against the regulations of the US/UN sanctions because it was clear to them that the sanctions unjustly targeted the most vulnerable Iraqi people, especially children. The sanctions caused the deaths of thousands of people and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children under the age of five, as evidenced by the 1999 UNICEF study, “Iraq Child and Maternal Mortality Survey.” The sanctions themselves would not stand up under international law.
• It is clear that the statutes and executive orders cited in the summons for a court case do not prohibit the provision of humanitarian aid; in fact, they specifically exempt it: “The authority granted to the President by this section does not include the authority to regulate or prohibit, directly or indirectly, . . . donations . . . of articles, such as food, clothing, and medicine, intended to be used to relieve human suffering.” [50 U.S.C. 1702(a)(3)(b)]. The reason VitW members are being sued is because they refused to seek a license from the Office of Foreign Assets Control in order to deliver medicines to dying children. Seeking this license, however, would have meant giving tacit approval of the oppressive sanctions regime. The refusal by VitW members to seek this license can be defended on the grounds of First Amendment freedom of religion rights for the practice of their religious and moral obligations to resist the injustice of the US/UN sanctions regime.
• The primary focus of VitW has always been ordinary Iraqi civilians and the most vulnerable of Iraqi society, especially children. It would be an embarrassing display of hubris for the Justice Department to pursue prosecution against VitW while the US has caused such death and suffering to the Iraqi people by its military invasion and furthermore has not lived up to its requirements as an occupying power under the Geneva conventions to provide security and humanitarian relief to the Iraqi people.
I ask that you, Mr. Ashcroft, and the attorneys of the US Justice Department decline to ask the court for a civil judgment against Voices. I suggest instead that you join with me and numerous other VitW supporters in serving a higher calling than the laws which protect the drums of war and the brutality of sanctions: the laws of love and human rights for the people whose cries are drowned out by the noise of F-16's, Apache helicopters, smart bombs and government bureaucracy. The truth demands nothing less.
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