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

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
August 03, 2015
Joseph Mangano – Janette D. Sherman
The Atomic Era Turns 70, as Nuclear Hazards Endure
Nelson Valdes
An Internet Legend: the Pope, Fidel and the Black President
Robert Hunziker
The Perfectly Nasty Ocean Storm
Jack Dresser
The Case of Alison Weir: Two Palestinian Solidarity Organizations Borrow from Joe McCarthy’s Playbook
Ahmad Moussa
Incinerating Palestinian Children
Greg Felton
Greece Succumbs to Imperialist Banksterism
Binoy Kampmark
Stalling the Trans-Pacific Partnership: the Failure of the Hawai’i Talks
Ted Rall
My Letter to Nick Goldberg of the LA Times
Mark Weisbrot
New Greek Bailout Increases the Possibility of Grexit
Jose Martinez
Black/Hispanic/Women: a Leadership Crisis
Victor Grossman
German Know-Nothings Today
Patrick Walker
We’re Not Sandernistas: Reinventing the Wheels of Bernie’s Bandwagon
Norman Pollack
Moral Consequences of War: America’s Hegemonic Thirst
Ralph Nader
Republicans Support Massive Tax Evasion by Starving IRS Budget
Alexander Reid Ross
Colonial Pride and the Killing of Cecil the Lion
Suhayb Ahmed
What’s Happening in Britain: Jeremy Corbyn and the Future of the Labour Party
Weekend Edition
July 31-33, 2015
Jeffrey St. Clair
Bernie and the Sandernistas: Into the Void
John Pilger
Julian Assange: the Untold Story of an Epic Struggle for Justice
Roberto J. González – David Price
Remaking the Human Terrain: The US Military’s Continuing Quest to Commandeer Culture
Lawrence Ware
Bernie Sanders’ Race Problem
Andrew Levine
The Logic of Illlogic: Narrow Self-Interest Keeps Israel’s “Existential Threats” Alive
ANDRE VLTCHEK
Kos, Bodrum, Desperate Refugees and a Dying Child
Paul Street
“That’s Politics”: the Sandernistas on the Master’s Schedule
Ted Rall
How the LAPD Conspired to Get Me Fired from the LA Times
Mike Whitney
Power-Mad Erdogan Launches War in Attempt to Become Turkey’s Supreme Leader
Ellen Brown
The Greek Coup: Liquidity as a Weapon of Coercion
Stephen Lendman
Russia Challenges America’s Orwellian NED
Will Parrish
The Politics of California’s Water System
John Wight
The Murder of Ali Saad Dawabsha, a Palestinian Infant Burned Alive by Israeli Terrorists
Jeffrey Blankfort
Leading Bibi’s Army in the War for Washington
Mary Lou Singleton
Gender, Patriarchy, and All That Jazz
Robert Fantina
Israeli Missteps Take a Toll
Pete Dolack
Speculators Circling Puerto Rico Latest Mode of Colonialism
Ron Jacobs
Spying on Black Writers: the FB Eye Blues
Paul Buhle
The Leftwing Seventies?
Binoy Kampmark
The TPP Trade Deal: of Sovereignty and Secrecy
David Swanson
Vietnam, Fifty Years After Defeating the US
Robert Hunziker
Human-Made Evolution
Shamus Cooke
Why Obama’s “Safe Zone” in Syria Will Inflame the War Zone
David Rosen
Hillary Clinton: Learn From Your Sisters
Sam Husseini
How #AllLivesMatter and #BlackLivesMatter Can Devalue Life
Shepherd Bliss
Why I Support Bernie Sanders for President
Louis Proyect
Manufacturing Denial
Howard Lisnoff
The Wrong Argument
Tracey Harris
Living Tiny: a Richer and More Sustainable Future