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On the Road to Iraq

CounterPunchers Bill and Kathy Christison of Santa Fe are traveling to Iraq with a 10-member “Iraq Peace Team” under the sponsorship of Voices in the Wilderness, a humanitarian organization formed in the mid-1990s to oppose the sanctions imposed on Iraq after the first Gulf war. The principal mission of Voices and of the peace team is to be witness to the deprivation the Iraqi people have been enduring under sanctions for many years and now under the threat of war. The Christisons will be in Iraq for a month. Visitors of this site will be familiar with Bill and Kathy, both former CIA analysts, Bill a very senior one, and Kathy offering particular expertise on the Middle East and the Palestinian struggle. They have furnished CounterPunch with many brilliant dissections of US policy over the past year. AC/JSC

Amman, Jordan, March 8. We arrived in Amman last night and, after the other members of the delegation gather, we’ll head for our final destination on Monday. The flight to Amman was long and unexciting, but airport security was an adventure along the way. We were singled out for intensive hand searches of our luggage repeatedly, and the power bars in our bags, a bit of sustenance for the uncertain days ahead, have been thoroughly irradiated.

Traveling to Amman in a dark period like this, and with an open return on our tickets, is obvious cause for suspicion to airport security people. Good thing Baghdad isn’t listed on any itinerary.

Our delegation consists of seven Americans, including us, and three Canadians. We personally have two principal reasons for going to Iraq right now. We feel that we should take whatever small actions we can to demonstrate our support for the innocent people of Iraq, who have suffered so much for so long. We are not acting as human shields, and we do not support the Iraqi government or condone its maltreatment of its people. We simply oppose the policies our own government has pursued in Iraq for the last dozen years, and we hope to bring testimony back to the U.S. about the suffering Iraq’s people are experiencing.

We also want to demonstrate in the strongest possible way our opposition to the United States’ plans to launch a pre-emptive war against Iraq. We want, in any way we can, to prevent this expanded, U.S.-led war from happening, and we hope that bringing more information back to the U.S. about the conditions under which innocent Iraqis live will help raise opposition to war.

We view this war as a catastrophe. By concentrating on war with Iraq as a step toward “transforming” the entire Middle East, and by alleging that such a use of military force is the best way to spread democracy throughout the area, the Bush administration will more likely provoke more terrorism, more hatred of the United States, and more wars that could easily slip beyond anyone’s control into a Judeo-Christian world war against Islam.

Global domination by any single nation, including the United States, is not compatible with democracy. Spreading democracy through military action, and killing people to do so, is a travesty of human values, in all ways unjust and immoral

The Bush administration should be concentrating its undivided attention in the region on resolving the disastrous, and worsening, Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is a principal cause of unrest in the Middle East. The United States could easily influence this festering wound by peaceful means, but its concentration on Iraq not only ignores the central problem in the area but markedly worsens it.

It’s terrifying to be heading into Iraq right now, but this is something we feel we have to do. We don’t know what we’ll be facing. But life is always uncertain–never more so than now, never more than for the Iraqi people, who have faced death and deprivation for a lot of years.

Bill Christison joined the CIA in 1950, and served on the analysis side of the Agency for 28 years. From the early 1970s he served as National Intelligence Officer (principal adviser to the Director of Central Intelligence on certain areas) for, at various times, Southeast Asia, South Asia and Africa. Before he retired in 1979 he was Director of the CIA’s Office of Regional and Political Analysis, a 250-person unit.

Kathleen Christison also worked in the CIA, retiring in 1979. Since then she has been mainly preoccupied by the issue of Palestine. She is the author of Perceptions of Palestine and The Wound of Dispossession.

The Christison’s can be reached at: christison@counterpunch.org

 

Bill Christison was a senior official of the CIA. Kathleen Christison is the author of Perceptions of Palestine and The Wound of Dispossession.

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