FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Between Heaven and Hell

by KATHY KELLY

On Feb. 24th, 20 of us set up a 4-day tent encampment in the Demilitarized Zone between Iraq and Kuwait. “Between heaven and hell, that’s how I felt, the whole day” said our Franciscan priest, Jerry Zawada.

When we arrrived, the sky was darkening, thunder rumbled across the desert. Yet the border area, desolate and dramatic, was oddly still. Neville Watson, an Australian lawyer and Uniting Church minister, recalled the original Gulf Peace Team camp in January, 1991. Then, anticipating war, our encampment on the Iraq side of the Iraq-Saudi border, was filled with futility and despair the first night of the Gulf War. Huddled together beneath the clear skies on a cold moonless night, 72 of us watched and listened as bombers flew overhead once every five minutes. Within three days, Iraq’s electrical grid was destroyed, along with much of its crucial infrastructure. Now, 12 years later, Neville murmured, “What does it take to stop such madness? Is nothing changed?”

Later in the day, Neville and I agreed there are significant differences, mainly because so many people now feel a personal commitment to stop this war.

Yesterday we walked to the border post carrying enlarged vinyl banners bearing pictures of people we’ve met. From a short distance it almost looked as though these friends were walking alongside us. Examining the pictures more carefully, I recognized several children from the nearby village of Abu Faloos, a forlorn little place known to us mainly because a little girl who lives there was struck by a bomb on January 25, 1999. The bomb, aimed at a fertilizer factory, missed its intended target and hit Israa as she left her school. She now has only one arm and bears large scars on her torso and belly. After we leave the border, we can bring the beautiful vinyl pictures of children from Abu Faloos to the village. What an adornment.

A bevy of Basra shoeshine boys had wished us well as we left for the border. Akram, Haider, Zayn, and Ali are grade school kids who’ve befriended us through multiple visits. Archbish op Kassab blessed us and invited Jerry to return and celebrate a Liturgy. Some of us went to visit friends in Jumurriyah, Basra’s poorest neighborhood, during later afternoon hours.

We attached the posters on the border crossing gate. We draped paper cranes made by school children from Eureka, CA over a tall rusted rectangle frame in the roadway and then wrapped a second string of the colorful tiny paper birds over a stretch of ugly coiled barbed wire. We read aloud letters, some of them poignantly funny in their crude level of awareness, from high school students in Western Washington.

Presently our outreach effort reaches a large support network and thousands beyond–messages stream forth in hope of stopping a war. The tiny arrow we represent points to possibilities of unarmed intervention, someday–perhaps in a future when America gains political maturity.

Late last night, air raid sirens droned for several minutes before midnight. I thought of my visit, several weeks ago, with a Basran friend who was confined to bed rest because of a difficult pregnancy. She and her children live on the second floor of a small cramped dwelling. “My children–they hear siren and they seize me. They insist, they want me to come downstairs. And I tell them, ‘No, there is no difference between upstairs and downstairs. There is protection only in Allah and Allah is everywhere.'” And so it goes. The massive capacity for destruction on the other side of this border can erupt across this very road where we now sit, damning many thousands to hellfire in the weeks ahead.

Vulnerable, unarmed, without the slightest desire to bring harm to American people, a haven and heaven of innocence dwells in neighborhoods, throughout villages and cities, on this side–on the cusp of heaven and hell.

KATHY KELLY, director of Voices in the Wilderness, is leading the Iraq Peace team in Baghdad. She can be reached at: kathy@warkaa.net

 

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.

Weekend Edition
April 29, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
What is the Democratic Party Good For? Absolutely Nothing
Roberto J. González – David Price
Anthropologists Marshalling History: the American Anthropological Association’s Vote on the Academic Boycott of Israeli Institutions
Robert Jacobs
Hanford, Not Fukushima, is the Big Radiological Threat to the West Coast
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
US Presidential Election: Beyond Lesser Evilism
Dave Lindorff
The Push to Make Sanders the Green Party’s Candidate
Ian Fairlie
Chernobyl’s Ongoing Toll: 40,000 More Cancer Deaths?
Pete Dolack
Verizon Sticks it to its Workers Because $45 Billion isn’t Enough
Richard Falk
If Obama Visits Hiroshima
Margaret Kimberley
Dishonoring Harriet Tubman
Deepak Tripathi
The United States, Britain and the European Union
Peter Linebaugh
Marymount, Haymarket, Marikana: a Brief Note Towards ‘Completing’ May Day
Eva Golinger
My Country, My Love: a Conversation with Gerardo and Adriana of the Cuban Five
Moshe Adler
May Day: a Trade Agreement to Unite Third World and American Workers
Vijay Prashad
Political Violence in Honduras
Paul Krane
Where Gun Control Ought to Start: Disarming the Police
David Anderson
Al Jazeera America: Goodbye to All That Jazz
Rob Hager
Platform Perversity: More From the Campaign That Can’t Strategize
Pat Williams
FDR in Montana
Dave Marsh
Every Day I Read the Book (the Best Music Books of the Last Year)
David Rosen
Job Satisfaction Under Perpetual Stagnation
John Feffer
Big Oil isn’t Going Down Without a Fight
Murray Dobbin
The Canadian / Saudi Arms Deal: More Than Meets the Eye?
Gary Engler
The Devil Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Is Washington Preparing for War Against Russia?
Manuel E. Yepe
The Big Lies and the Small Lies
Robert Fantina
Vice Presidents, Candidates and History
Mel Gurtov
Sanctions and Defiance in North Korea
Howard Lisnoff
Still the Litmus Test of Worth
Dean Baker
Big Business and the Overtime Rule: Irrational Complaints
Ulrich Heyden
Crimea as a Paradise for High-Class Tourism?
Ramzy Baroud
Did the Arabs Betray Palestine? – A Schism between the Ruling Classes and the Wider Society
Halyna Mokrushyna
The War on Ukrainian Scientists
Joseph Natoli
Who’s the Better Neoliberal?
Ron Jacobs
The Battle at Big Brown: Joe Allen’s The Package King
Wahid Azal
Class Struggle and Westoxication in Pahlavi Iran: a Review of the Iranian Series ‘Shahrzad’
David Crisp
After All These Years, Newspapers Still Needed
Graham Peebles
Hungry and Frightened: Famine in Ethiopia 2016
Robert Koehler
Opening the Closed Political Culture
Missy Comley Beattie
Waves of Nostalgia
Thomas Knapp
The Problem with Donald Trump’s Version of “America First”
Georgina Downs
Hillsborough and Beyond: Establishment Cover Ups, Lies & Corruption
Jeffrey St. Clair
Groove on the Tracks: the Magic Left Hand of Red Garland
Ben Debney
Kush Zombies: QELD’s Hat Tip to Old School Hip Hop
Charles R. Larson
Moby Dick on Steroids?
David Yearsley
Miles Davis: Ace of Baseness
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail