Tools Necessary to Rebuild

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Posted by Sadie from D006173.N1.Vanderbilt.Edu ( on Wednesday, August 27, 2003 at 5:23PM :

Tools Necessary to Rebuild
John Farrell, Voices in the Wilderness, via
26 August 2003

I traveled with Voices in the Wilderness members Kathy Kelly, Cathy Breen and Ed Kinane to Iraq this past Sunday to visit the Voices in the Wilderness team in Baghdad and to listen to old friends and new acquaintances in Iraq express their opinions and concerns about the current US/UK occupation of Iraq. There are many concerns. One of our goals is to convey the concerns of some of these Iraqi people to the international community both in Iraq and abroad, so that the world may advocate more clearly for justice and peace in Iraq and the US/UK presence may be held accountable for its failures and abuses of power.

The raw pain that people are experiencing in this place is significant, and I have noticed it in even the very brief encounters that I have had with Iraqi people.

Very early Sunday morning, as we burned up the kilometers of the eastern Jordanian desert in our big Suburban taxi, a strikingly red crescent moon ascended over the eastern sky slowly dripping its blood onto the emerging sunrise of the Iraqi horizon. We cleared Iraqi customs just in time to watch the ominous flaming disk lift off for its daily assault of the countryside.

As this beast of a star rose to power in the sky, the moon's sliver rose, and faded into the morning sky. It got hot, fast. Likewise, our morning calm quickly slipped away as the dangers of the trip ahead of us began to preoccupy a bigger place in our minds. Perhaps sensing this tension in our vehicle, our trusted driver Sattar used yet another of his poignant stories to calm our fears and give us a reminder of the importance of our commitments to nonviolence in the days ahead.

Sattar recalled a recent job that he had of transporting a group of employees of the British security company. This group of men told Sattar that they were meeting up with someone in the Iraqi desert for an important rendezvous. At this rendezvous they met a group of men in a car who began pulling out Kalashnikovs from the trunk of the car and distributing them to the men in Sattar's vehicle. Sattar immediately objected to this, telling them that he would not allow any weapons to be carried in his vehicle. When they claimed that they needed to protect themselves from the thieves in Ambush alley who lined the road between Ramadi and Fallujah Sattar objected, pointing out that not only was it crazy to think that carrying weapons and trying to kill anyone who approached the vehicle would be a protection to them, but also that it was very easy to escape the dangers of the so-called "Ambush alley" by simply leaving the main highway and following an alternate route through Ramadi and Fallujah. When the group tried to convince Sattar that they would carry the weapons but not use them, Sattar said frankly, "Then you don't need to carry them at all, if you are not going to use them."

Having won the moral struggle to keep his vehicle safe of weapons, Sattar proceeded to lead the group safely to Baghdad, impressing everyone in the group on the calm nature of the trip. Sattar remarked to them, quite plainly, "If you want to find trouble, flashing guns all over the place, then you will find trouble. If you don’t want to find trouble, then you won't." When the group was ready to leave Iraq, Sattar was guiding them again when the car that was carrying all the weapons got a flat tire. As it turns out, the trunk that was full of Kalashnikovs didn't have the necessary tools to change a flat. Sattar produced the tools from his weapon-free vehicle and changed the tire for them.

After Sattar finished his story, I remarked that this image of a car full of guns without tools was a painfully apt metaphor for the US/UK occupation of Iraq. In Iraq today there is an occupying force that has come with all the weapons that destroy, injure and kill but none of the tools necessary to rebuild, heal and provide justice for the victims of the thirteen years of sanctions and bombing, a brutal regime, and the recent invasion and current occupation. On this first day of our trip we’ve only had a brief experience of the raw chaos, violence and frustration inherent in this occupation. We've heard, however, from a number of Iraqi people, that whether or not the occupying forces deserve a chance to provide for the security and humanitarian needs of Iraq, their time is running out and it is becoming apparent that they are not equipped to do the job.

The lack of reliable electricity alone has people tired, sweaty and frustrated. Many of them have relatives who are sick from the spread of disease, injured by bombing or gun violence, or grieving the loss of loved ones. Frequent gunshots and the occasional explosion pierce the stifling 120 degree air, as bombed-out buildings stand by silently and the majority of people stay safely inside their homes, too afraid of being the victim of a violent looting or the quick trigger of a nervous US soldier, to walk on their own streets in the evenings or nights. People just don't go out at night like they used to. The US military has parked in Iraq and unloaded loads of weaponry, killing thousands of civilians, more each day, creating more than 4 million newly unemployed people, and drawing this country to disaster.

True, you hear different stories from people. Some like the US for doing what they did and some don't. Everyone seems to agree that Saddam was terrible and they are happy and perhaps better off to be rid of him. But no one stops there. Most everyone I've spoken to has major complaints about the occupying forces' seeming lack of concern for their well being. The idea is widespread that the US is keeping them in chaos intentionally, so that they will not notice that their country's resources are being stolen from beneath their eyes. Everyone wonders how a country that has the technology to destroy everything so completely doesn't seem to have the ability or the will to build anything positive for them now, or to express any sort of regret for the loss of lives and human rights that have come from this military attack.

-- Sadie
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