FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Engagement with War

by KATHY KELLY

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

 

 

 

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 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
April 28, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Slandering Populism: a Chilling Media Habit
Andrew Levine
Why I Fear and Loathe Trump Even More Now Than On Election Day
Jeffrey St. Clair
Mountain of Tears: the Vanishing Glaciers of the Pacific Northwest
Philippe Marlière
The Neoliberal or the Fascist? What Should French Progressives Do?
Conn Hallinan
America’s New Nuclear Missile Endangers the World
Peter Linebaugh
Omnia Sunt Communia: May Day 2017
Vijay Prashad
Reckless in the White House
Brian Cloughley
Who Benefits From Prolonged Warfare?
Kathy Kelly
The Shame of Killing Innocent People
Ron Jacobs
Hate Speech as Free Speech: How Does That Work, Exactly?
Andre Vltchek
Middle Eastern Surgeon Speaks About “Ecology of War”
Matt Rubenstein
Which Witch Hunt? Liberal Disanalogies
Sami Awad - Yoav Litvin - Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb
Never Give Up: Nonviolent Civilian Resistance, Healing and Active Hope in the Holyland
Pete Dolack
Tribunal Finds Monsanto an Abuser of Human Rights and Environment
Christopher Ketcham
The Coyote Hunt
Mike Whitney
Putin’s New World Order
Ramzy Baroud
Palestinian, Jewish Voices Must Jointly Challenge Israel’s Past
Ralph Nader
Trump’s 100 Days of Rage and Rapacity
Harvey Wasserman
Marine Le Pen Is a Fascist—Not a ‘Right-Wing Populist,’ Which Is a Contradiction in Terms
William Hawes
World War Whatever
John Stanton
War With North Korea: No Joke
Jim Goodman
NAFTA Needs to be Replaced, Not Renegotiated
Murray Dobbin
What is the Antidote to Trumpism?
Louis Proyect
Left Power in an Age of Capitalist Decay
Medea Benjamin
Women Beware: Saudi Arabia Charged with Shaping Global Standards for Women’s Equality
Rev. William Alberts
Selling Spiritual Care
Peter Lee
Invasion of the Pretty People, Kamala Harris Edition
Cal Winslow
A Special Obscenity: “Guernica” Today
Binoy Kampmark
Turkey’s Kurdish Agenda
Guillermo R. Gil
The Senator Visits Río Piedras
Jeff Mackler
Mumia Abu-Jamal Fights for a New Trial and Freedom 
Cesar Chelala
The Responsibility of Rich Countries in Yemen’s Crisis
Leslie Watson Malachi
Women’s Health is on the Chopping Block, Again
Basav Sen
The Coal Industry is a Job Killer
Judith Bello
Rojava, a Popular Imperial Project
Robert Koehler
A Public Plan for Peace
Sam Pizzigati
The Insider Who Blew the Whistle on Corporate Greed
Nyla Ali Khan
There Has to be a Way Out of the Labyrinth
Michael J. Sainato
Trump Scales Back Antiquities Act, Which Helped to Create National Parks
Stu Harrison
Under Duterte, Filipino Youth Struggle for Real Change
Martin Billheimer
Balm for Goat’s Milk
Stephen Martin
Spooky Cookies and Algorithmic Steps Dystopian
Michael Doliner
Thank You Note
Charles R. Larson
Review: Gregor Hens’ “Nicotine”
David Yearsley
Handel’s Executioner
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail