FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Crossing Borders, Christmas in Iraq

by KATHY KELLY

Nathan Musselman and I boarded the public bus that travels from Baghdad to Amman on Christmas Eve after an absurdly hurried packing job. Nathan had discovered, much to our dismay, that he unwittingly let his visa expire. “Sorry,” said the Iraqi immigration official. “There is no chance. You must leave.” Nathan’s only option for remaining in Iraq during a time when our team greatly needs his experience is to petition, from Amman, for a new visa. As for me, Chicago friends insist that I’m needed at home for a few weeks if we’re to form new “waves” of Iraq Peace Team participants. I’d just learned that the only flight from Amman to Chicago with an available seat departs on December 26.

Last night Nathan and I had given way, emotionally, to hapless uncertainty and near despair. We stood for hours, shivering helplessly during a seven hour ordeal of “border-crossing.” It was a bone-chilling, damp, cold night. We cursed our stupidity in not dressing warmly enough to weather the long hours outdoors and in unheated “reception” rooms while waiting for officials at the Iraqi and then the Jordanian border to search luggage and check papers for each of the bus passengers.

I began shaking visibly, at which point Rabab, a kindly English teacher from Qut, came up and draped a warm blanket over my shoulders. Then an elderly fellow stripped off his long gold colored abaya and insisted that I wear it. Enfolded in their kindness I could only smile gratefully and wish that my limping Arabic could tell them how ironic it is that a US Christian has small chance to identify with the Christmas narrative of Jesus, Mary and Joseph finding no room at the inns when surrounded by unfailing Arab hospitality. Nor could I voice my sorrow over knowing that, bleak as the scene was, and really it couldn’t have been more stark, the Iraqi passengers crossing out of Iraq are no doubt envied by millions of Iraqis. As a fearful cold spell of impending war, upheaval and chaos locks in place, Iraqis dream of bundling their families into buses and taxis to reach safer terrain in any land other than Iraq.

Like many thousands of people worldwide who despise the sinister buildup of a killing machine that hides behind the transparently fanciful excuse of delivering and liberating Iraqis from the undeniable miseries they’ve suffered under the current regime, Nathan and I would give anything to be effective, compelling antiwar voices. Time is running out as the window of opportunity to avoid war seems weighted to slam shut. US people still don’t comprehend the complexities Iraqis have faced. If the antiwar movement could instill deeper understanding, perhaps ordinary US people might yet feel motivated to have compassion for ordinary Iraqis. Those who’ve succumbed to a belief that the war is wrong but unstoppable might yet be awakened into risk-taking resistance. Yet I fear there will be no room in the inn of US hearts for Iraqis bracing themselves for war. I can’t imagine more innocent and more defenseless people. When I return to Iraq in several weeks, as I hope to do, the psychological burden of agonizing expectation may well have intensified beyond what seem to be already unbearable limits.

Just now, it’s a gift to remember Rabab’s kindness, to feel the heavy blanket of warmth that she wrapped around me, and to stand aligned with the forgiveness that brings to life the Christmas message.

My return to the US is a gamble. Customs officials could confiscate my US passport upon arrival, making it difficult for me to return to Iraq. Normally that threat isn’t so worrisome as I have an Irish passport as well. But my Irish passport was water damaged last spring when I hastily stuffed a leaky water bottle in my pack while running down a mountain side in Palestine, hoping to evade Israeli surveillance planes and snipers. And I’ve learned that the New York authorities have bumped me up to fugitive status because I missed court dates for nonviolently vigiling on the steps to the US Mission to the UN during a 40 day fast in the summer of 2001. We had offered lentils, rice and untreated water to officials at the US Mission, once a week, occasioning five arrests on misdemeanor trespass charges for calmly remaining on the steps, even after we were asked to leave. A kindly lawyer thinks that if I’m detained he might be able to convince a judge that I didn’t act in contempt of court by missing the court dates. But if asked, I’ll probably tell a judge that I don’t believe any of my actions have been criminal and that I’ve had no time to appear in US courts because I’ve been too busy trying to appear before the court of US public opinion to plead for an end to criminal US warmaking against innocent and defenseless people in Iraq. I don’t expect a judge to let me off the hook, but I hope the dear and earnest lawyer will forgive me!

Good friends have urged me to look for hooks, when I write, with which ordinary people in the US can identify. Tonight my narrative might best be understood by deportees, homeless people, and detainees. But perhaps those who lit candles tonight and remembered the Christ child born in a manger, surrounded by cave dwellers, soon to be a fugitive, will hearken to a narrative begging for the light to shine in the darkness… and the darkness shall not overcome it.

KATHY KELLY is director of Voices in the Wilderness.

 

KATHY KELLY co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence and has worked closely with the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers. She is the author of Other Lands Have Dreams published by CounterPunch / AK Press. She can be reached at: Kathy@vcnv.org  This article was first published on Telesur English.

More articles by:
July 28, 2016
Paul Street
Politician Speak at the DNC
Russell Mokhiber
Dems Dropping the N Word: When in Trouble, Blame Ralph
Jeffrey St. Clair
Night of the Hollow Men: Notes From the Democratic Convention
Renee Parsons
Blame It on the Russians
Herbert Dyer, Jr.
Is it the Cops or the Cameras? Putting Police Brutality in Historical Context
Howard Lisnoff
The Elephant in the Living Room
Pepe Escobar
The Real Secret of the South China Sea
Ramzy Baroud
Farewell to Yarmouk: A Palestinian Refugee’s Journey from Izmir to Greece
John Laforge
Wild Turkey with H-Bombs: Failed Coup Raise Calls for Denuclearization
Dave Lindorff
Moving Beyond the Sanders Campaign
Jill Richardson
There’s No Such Thing as a “Free Market”
Patrick Cockburn
Erdogan Moves Against the Gulen Movement in Turkey
Winslow Myers
Beyond Drift
Edward Martin - Mateo Pimentel
Who Are The Real Pariahs This Election?
Jan Oberg
The Clintons Celebrated, But Likely a Disaster for the Rest of the World
Johnny Gaunt
Brexit: the British Working Class has Just Yawned Awake
Mark Weisbrot
Attacking Trump for the Few Sensible Things He Says is Both Bad Politics and Bad Strategy
Thomas Knapp
Election 2016: Think Three’s a Crowd? Try 2,000
Corrine Fletcher
White Silence is Violence: How to be a White Accomplice
July 27, 2016
Richard Moser
The Party’s Over
M. G. Piety
Smoke and Mirrors in Philadelphia
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Humiliation Games: Notes on the Democratic Convention
Arun Gupta
Bernie Sanders’ Political Revolution Splinters Apart
John Eskow
The Loneliness of the American Leftist
Guillermo R. Gil
A Metaphoric Short Circuit: On Michelle Obama’s Speech at the DNC
Norman Pollack
Sanders, Our Tony Blair: A Defamation of Socialism
Claire Rater, Carol Spiegel and Jim Goodman
Consumers Can Stop the Overuse of Antibiotics on Factory Farms
Guy D. Nave
Make America Great Again?
Sam Husseini
Why Sarah Silverman is a Comedienne
Dave Lindorff
No Crooked Sociopaths in the White House
Dan Bacher
The Hired Gun: Jerry Brown Snags Bruce Babbitt as New Point Man For Delta Tunnels
Peter Lee
Trumputin! And the DNC Leak(s)
David Macaray
Interns Are Exploited and Discriminated Against
Ann Garrison
Rwanda, the Clinton Dynasty, and the Case of Dr. Léopold Munyakazi
Brett Warnke
Storm Clouds Over Philly
Chris Zinda
Snakes of Deseret
July 26, 2016
Andrew Levine
Pillory Hillary Now
Kshama Sawant
A Call to Action: Walk Out from the Democratic National Convention!
Russell Mokhiber
The Rabble Rise Together Against Bernie, Barney, Elizabeth and Hillary
Jeffrey St. Clair
Don’t Cry For Me, DNC: Notes From the Democratic Convention
Angie Beeman
Why Doesn’t Middle America Trust Hillary? She Thinks She’s Better Than Us and We Know It
Paul Street
An Update on the Hate…
Fran Shor
Beyond Trump vs Clinton
Ellen Brown
Japan’s “Helicopter Money” Play: Road to Hyperinflation or Cure for Debt Deflation?
Richard W. Behan
The Banana Republic of America: Democracy Be Damned
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail