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 Lives, Other Dreams published by CounterPunch / AK Press. She can be reached at: Kathy@vcnv.org  This article was first published on Telesur English.

February 09, 2016
Andrew Levine
Hillary Says the Darndest Things
Paul Street
Kill King Capital
Ben Burgis
Lesser Evil Voting and Hillary Clinton’s War on the Poor
Paul Craig Roberts
Are the Payroll Jobs Reports Merely Propaganda Statements?
Fran Quigley
How Corporations Killed Medicine
Ted Rall
How Bernie Can Pay for His Agenda: Slash the Military
Neve Gordon
Israeli Labor Party Adopts the Apartheid Mantra
Kristin Kolb
The “Great” Bear Rainforest Agreement? A Love Affair, Deferred
Joseph Natoli
Politics and Techno-Consciousness
Hrishikesh Joshi
Selective Attention to Diversity: the Case of Cruz and Rubio
Stavros Mavroudeas
Why Syriza is Sinking in Greece
David Macaray
Attention Peyton Manning: Leave Football and Concentrate on Pizza
Arvin Paranjpe
Opening Your Heart
Kathleen Wallace
Boys, Hell, and the Politics of Vagina Voting
Brian Foley
Interview With a Bernie Broad: We Need to Start Focusing on Positions and Stop Relying on Sexism
February 08, 2016
Paul Craig Roberts – Michael Hudson
Privatization: the Atlanticist Tactic to Attack Russia
Mumia Abu-Jamal
Water War Against the Poor: Flint and the Crimes of Capital
John V. Walsh
Did Hillary’s Machine Rig Iowa? The Highly Improbable Iowa Coin Tosses
Vincent Emanuele
The Curse and Failure of Identity Politics
Eliza A. Webb
Hillary Clinton’s Populist Charade
Uri Avnery
Optimism of the Will
Roy Eidelson Trudy Bond, Stephen Soldz, Steven Reisner, Jean Maria Arrigo, Brad Olson, and Bryant Welch
Preserve Do-No-Harm for Military Psychologists: Coalition Responds to Department of Defense Letter to the APA
Patrick Cockburn
Oil Prices and ISIS Ruin Kurdish Dreams of Riches
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange, the UN and Meanings of Arbitrary Detention
Shamus Cooke
The Labor Movement’s Pearl Harbor Moment
W. T. Whitney
Cuba, War and Ana Belen Montes
Jim Goodman
Congress Must Kill the Trans Pacific Partnership
Peter White
Meeting John Ross
Colin Todhunter
Organic Agriculture, Capitalism and the Parallel World of the Pro-GMO Evangelist
Ralph Nader
They’re Just Not Answering!
Cesar Chelala
Beware of the Harm on Eyes Digital Devices Can Cause
Weekend Edition
February 5-7, 2016
Jeffrey St. Clair
When Chivalry Fails: St. Bernard and the Machine
Leonard Peltier
My 40 Years in Prison
John Pilger
Freeing Julian Assange: the Final Chapter
Garry Leech
Terrifying Ted and His Ultra-Conservative Vision for America
Andrew Levine
Smash Clintonism: Why Democrats, Not Republicans, are the Problem
William Blum
Is Bernie Sanders a “Socialist”?
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
We Can’t Afford These Billionaires
Enrique C. Ochoa
Super Bowl 50: American Inequality on Display
Jonathan Cook
The Liberal Hounding of Julian Assange: From Alex Gibney to The Guardian
George Wuerthner
How the Bundy Gang Won
Mike Whitney
Peace Talks “Paused” After Putin’s Triumph in Aleppo 
Ted Rall
Hillary Clinton: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Gary Leupp
Is a “Socialist” Really Unelectable? The Potential Significance of the Sanders Campaign
Vijay Prashad
The Fault Line of Race in America
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail