Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

A Better World


When I was in high school, I participated in a public speaking contest and was asked to present a humorous reading. I chose a passage from the book,–The Joyous Season_ in which a young boy describes how his father dreads the Christmas season with the attendant demands to shop and socialize. I still remember the opening line: “Daddy always said that the best place to spend Christmas is in a Moslem country.”

Now, having spent several Christmases in Iraq, I’m amazed at how easily one can step into the drama of a light shining in the darkness which the darkness shall not overcome. Several days ago, next door to our home in Baghdad’s Karrada neighborhood, baby Noor was born. Her dark, damp, chilly home resembles a stable. Baby Noor’s grandmother begged us for a blanket in which to wrap the newborn. Her aunt, ten year old Eman, has no socks and no coat. She smiles as she shivers. Yet Abu Noor and Umm Noor, the proud young parents, are beaming with gratitude and pride as they hold up their newborn. Leaving their home, I realize that they are slightly better off than the family across the street. At least they have a roof overhead.

Our neighbors on the other side of the street are living in a junkyard, sheltered by flimsy construction. Looking out of our second floor window, Cynthia and I wept with chagrin during this morning’s downpour as we watched two young women navigate their way through garbage and mud puddles to collect clothing that had been hung outside. We call our home “the fridge” because with only 2-3 hours of electricity during most of the past four days our electric heaters don’t work. It’s a sheer act of will to wriggle out of a sleeping bag, cast aside blankets, and face a chilly bathroom and kitchen. Imagine the hardship for those living in tents and shanties.

Whether comfortable or forlorn, military or civilian, everyone in Baghdad is afflicted by the ongoing war. A Kenyan woman, Sylvia, has been emailing me encouraging messages for the past several months. Today she expressed distress over news of mayhem and bombing in Baghdad at Christmastime. “Even in World Wars, Christmas was a time when armies called for a ceasefire,” wrote Sylvia. “I wonder if that only applied when both sides were Christian?” The sad irony here is that people in every neighborhood of Baghdad and other Iraqi cities braced themselves for the onset of Christmas and New Year holidays, expecting violence to rise.

As I write, mortar blasts and bombings have been going on for the past hour and now a wailing siren issues a warning for the Coalition Provisional Authority personnel. I can’t imagine where they or anyone else could go for shelter. As our friend Umm Heyder said, in Chicago, when we asked her thoughts about the capture of Saddam Hussein, “the whole city is captured.”

Koranic and New Testament stories celebrate the journey three kings made, bearing gifts for the newborn Prince of Peace. Better for the rulers of today’s world and every merchant of death who serves them to stay away from the children.

Yes, the Christmas traditions, ranging from the shepherd’s generosity to Herod’s persecution, come alive here in Baghdad. The stories, if embraced, could teach us a better way. Peter Maurin, who helped found the Catholic Worker movement, wrote in one of his delightful “easy essays” that “the world would be better off if people would stop trying to become better off.”

I am sure that many people worldwide share my friend Sylvia’s deep regret. I hope they are thinking of ways to stop paying for war. Most governments today do not want our bodies on the front lines of combat. They want our assent and our money. I hope millions are marking their calendars for March 20, 2004 and helping to plan demonstrations against the inconclusive war that began on March 20, 2003. And I hope all will feel the warmth and goodness of that light which shines bravely in Umm Noor’s shining eyes, as she stands barefoot on a cold, cement floor, joyfully cradling her newborn babe.

KATHY KELLY is a co-coordinator of Voices in the Wilderness. She is traveling to Iraq with a Voices team which will be in Baghdad for the next two weeks. She can be reached at:


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:  This article was first published on Telesur English.

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future
Pepe Escobar
The Aleppo / Mosul Riddle
David Rosen
The War on Drugs is a Racket
Sami Siegelbaum
Once More, the Value of the Humanities
Mark Hand
Of Pipelines and Protest Pens: When the Press Loses Its Shield
Michael Hudson
The Return of the Repressed Critique of Rentiers: Veblen in the 21st century Rentier Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Drumbeats of Anti-Russia Confrontation From Washington to London
Howard Lisnoff
Still Licking Our Wounds and Hoping for Change
Brian Gruber
Iraq: There Is No State
Peter Lee
Trump: We Wish the Problem Was Fascism
Steve Early
In Bay Area Refinery Town: Berniecrats & Clintonites Clash Over Rent Control
Peter Linebaugh
Ron Suny and the Marxist Commune: a Note
Andre Vltchek
Sudan, Africa and the Mosaic of Horrors
Keith Binkly
The Russians Have Been Hacking Us For Years, Why Is It a Crisis Now?
Jonathan Cook
Adam Curtis: Another Manager of Perceptions
Ted Dace
The Fall
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
Susana Hurlich
Hurricane Matthew: an Overview of the Damages in Cuba
Dave Lindorff
Screwing With and Screwing the Elderly and Disabled
Chandra Muzaffar
Cuba: Rejecting Sanctions, Sending a Message
Dennis Kucinich
War or Peace?
Kristine Mattis
All Solutions are Inadequate: Why It Doesn’t Matter If Politicians Mention Climate Change
Jack Rasmus
Behind The 3rd US Presidential Debate—What’s Coming in 2017
Ron Jacobs
A Theory of Despair?
Gilbert Mercier
Globalist Clinton: Clear and Present Danger to World Peace
James A Haught
Many Struggles Won Religious Freedom
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Dear Fellow Gen Xers: Let’s Step Aside for the Millennials
Winslow Myers
Christopher Brauchli
Wonder Woman at the UN
James McEnteer
Art of the Feel
Lee Ballinger
Tupac: Holler If You Hear Him
Charles R. Larson
Review: Sjón’s “Moonstone: the Boy Who Never Was”
October 20, 2016
Eric Draitser
Syria and the Left: Time to Break the Silence
Jeffrey St. Clair
Extreme Unction: Illusions of Democracy in Vegas
Binoy Kampmark
Digital Information Warfare: WikiLeaks, Assange and the US Presidential Elections
Jonathan Cook
Israel’s Bogus History Lesson
Bruce Mastron
Killing the Messenger, Again
Anthony DiMaggio
Lesser Evil Voting and Prospects for a Progressive Third Party
Ramzy Baroud
The Many ‘Truths’ on Syria: How Our Rivalry Has Destroyed a Country
David Rosen
Was Bill Clinton the Most Sexist President?
Laura Carlsen
Plan Colombia, Permanent War and the No Vote
Aidan O'Brien
Mao: Monster or Model?
David Swanson
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Less Than Two Weeks