Engagement with War


Amman, Jordan.

Earlier this week, I received a joyful phone call from Baghdad. Members of a family I’ve known since 1996 announced that one of their younger daughters was engaged. Broken Arabic and broken English crossed the lines: "We love you! We miss you!" My colleague here in Amman, who also knows this family well, shook her head smiling when I gave her the happy news. "What an amazing family," she said. "Imagine all that they’ve survived." A few hours later, the family sent us a text message: "now bombs destroy all the glasses in our home–no one hurt."

No one was home when the explosion shattered every window and damaged ceilings and walls. This was exceptionally fortunate given that they are a family of nine living in a very small dwelling. The family has moved into an even smaller home where one daughter lives with her husband and newborn baby. It happens that their aunt and her three children are also with them. The aunt had traveled from Amman to secure needed documents in Baghdad. Seventeen people are crowded into an apartment the size of a small one car garage.

This family suddenly joined the ranks of over a million people in Iraq who are homeless, displaced. I watched television coverage of the gruesome carnage at the intersection of the street where they had lived. The blood-spattered streets, charred vehicles, and desperate bereavement are part of everyday footage filmed in cities throughout the region, whether in Iraq, Lebanon, the West Bank, or Israel. The humanitarian crisis that mounts as a consequence of the catastrophic explosions and attacks is more difficult to portray.

"We need everything," said the visiting aunt when I asked what they needed. A displaced family needs food, water, clothing, blankets, fuel and housing.

Every family in Baghdad struggles with fuel and energy crises. In Baghdad, there is one hour of electricity every 12 hours. Only the more well-to-do families can afford a generator for back-up electricity. The price of fuel for transportation has risen so high that any travel has become extremely expensive. Families with no income in a society that has 50% -75% unemployment find themselves scrounging for basic necessities and not at all prepared to offer hospitality to newly displaced families.

Families that receive the dreaded knock on the door giving them 24 hours notice, – leave or you will be killed–often travel to other regions of Iraq where they no longer have access to the rations distributed in their former neighborhoods. Many families are hungry and cold. Disease sets in and they have no access to health care. Children aren’t easily accepted in overcrowded schools when families move into a new area. Sewage and sanitation systems are stressed by unexpected rises in neighborhood populations. A family might be welcomed by relatives who couldn’t bear to turn them away, but how are the host families and communities to manage continued hospitality with very little international relief or support available?

Consider, for instance, that over a third (38%) of Iraq’s people depend on the ration system for the meager allotments of lentils, rice, flour, salt and tea. If a family is displaced by an attack on their home, distance or personal safety often prohibits returning to their former home to pick up these supplies. Too often the agent who delivers the supplies can’t even approach the warehouse to collect them, because it is located in a "hot" area now controlled by a sect or militia to which he does not belong and which may kill him. In those cases, whole neighborhoods, already struggling and suffering, must go without a month’s supply of food.

There should be massive convoys traveling into Iraq on a regular basis to meet the rising humanitarian needs. There should be, but there aren’t. Families that can manage to reach the Jordanian or Syrian borders flee with the hope of being allowed to cross into the two countries that have allowed Iraqis to enter. But now, Jordan’s official policy is that they’ll only allow Iraqis with permanent residence in Jordan to enter, and the Syrians are also clamping down.

We who are vastly more comfortable and secure stand by, seemingly mesmerized by the awful consequences of a "war of choice" begun by the United States. We must liberate ourselves from the absurd presumption that the U.S. military has the power or the right to impose solutions in parts of the world where they are not welcome. We should insist that decision makers in the U.S. come to grips with the consequences of the past four years of military invasion and occupation and demand that U.S. wealth be directed toward humanitarian concerns, unhinged from U.S. military control. We should welcome and support diplomatic means to resolve crises.

Now another engagement looms. The Bush administration may try to wed U.S. people to yet another war, this time against Iran. If so, that would be joyful news for the controlling interests of large corporations that benefit from U.S. warfare and U.S. dominance over oil resources in this part of the world. We who claim the right to free speech, far beyond the imprisoning borders of Iraq, should join our strengths and wills to visit every congressional and senate office over the coming weeks, exercising nonviolent civil disobedience to cut funding for the wasteful, cruel, illegal and immoral U.S. addiction to war. (See www.vcnv.org to learn more about joining such a campaign.)

KATHY KELLY is co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence and author of Other Lands Have Dreams. She can be reached at: kathy@vcnv.org


November 30, 2015
Henry Giroux
Trump’s Embrace of Totalitarianism is America’s Dirty Little Secret
Omur Sahin Keyif
An Assassination in Turkey: the Killing of Tahir Elci
Robert Fisk
70,000 Kalashnikovs: Cameron’s “Moderate” Rebels
Jamie Davidson
Distortion, Revisionism & the Liberal Media
Norman Pollack
Israel and ISIS: Needed, a Thorough Accounting
Robert Hunziker
The Looming Transnational Battlefield
Ahmed Gaya
Breaking the Climate Mold: Fighting for the Planet and Justice
Matt Peppe
Alan Gross’s Improbable Tales on 60 Minutes
Colin Todhunter
India – Procession of the Dead: Shopping Malls and Shit
Roger Annis
Canada’s New Climate-Denying National Government
Binoy Kampmark
Straining the Republic: France’s State of Emergency
Jack Rasmus
Japan’s 5th Recession in 7 Years
Charles R. Larson
Twofers for Carly Fiorina
John Dear
An Eye for an Eye Makes the Whole World Blind
Weekend Edition
November 27-29, 2015
Andrew Levine
The Real Trouble With Bernie
Gary Leupp
Ben Carson, Joseph in Egypt, and the Attack on Rational Thought
John Whitbeck
Who’s Afraid of ISIS?
Michael Brenner
Europe’s Crisis: Terror, Refugees and Impotence
Ramzy Baroud
Forget ISIS: Humanity is at Stake
Pepe Escobar
Will Chess, Not Battleship, Be the Game of the Future in Eurasia?
Vijay Prashad
Showdown on the Syrian Border
Dave Lindorff
Gen. John Campbell, Commander in Afghanistan and Serial Liar
Colin Todhunter
Class, War and David Cameron
Jean Bricmont
The Ideology of Humanitarian Imperialism
Dan Glazebrook
Deadliest Terror in the World: the West’s Latest Gift to Africa
Mark Hand
Escape From New York: the Emancipation of Activist Cecily McMillan
Karl Grossman
Our Solar Bonanza!
Mats Svensson
Madness in Hebron: Hashem Had No Enemies, Yet Hashem Was Hated
Walter Brasch
Terrorism on American Soil
Louisa Willcox
Grizzly Bears, Dreaming and the Frontier of Wonder
Michael Welton
Yahweh is Not Exactly Politically Correct
Joseph Natoli
A Politics of Stupid and How to Leave It Behind
John Cox
You Should Fear Racism and Xenophobia, Not Syrian Refugees or Muslims
Barrie Gilbert
Sacrificing the Grizzlies of Katmai Park: the Plan to Turn Brooks Camp Into a Theme
Rev. William Alberts
The Church of “Something Else” in “an Ecclesiastical Desert”
Andrew Gavin Marshall
Bank Crimes Pay
Elliot Murphy
Cameron’s Syrian Strategy
Thomas S. Harrington
Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe and the Death of Ezra Schwartz
Gareth Porter
How Terror in Paris Calls for Revising US Syria Policy
Michael Perino
The Arc of Instability
Yves Engler
Justin Trudeau and Canada’s Mining Industry
Tom H. Hastings
ISIS and Changing the Game
Lars Jørgensen
Vive la Résistance
John Halle
A Yale Education as a Tool of Power and Privilege
Norman Pollack
Syrian “Civil War”?: No, A Proxy War of Global Confrontation