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Relative Calm in Baghdad after First Wave of Missiles

by KATHY KELLY

BAGHDAD, IRAQ.

People in our team here are heartened by news of actions in the United States to continue antiwar momentum. The bombings last night were intense for about thirty minutes beginning at 9:10 last night. But, compared to what people were bracing themselves for, which was the ‘Shock & Awe’ saturation bombing, these attacks have seemed limited. We’re getting rumors and some hard news, mostly from journalists who tell us what seems to be going on.

Today I had a chance to go and visit families in three different neighborhoods and the neighborhoods were fairly calm. There is still not much in the way of a military presence on the streets other than sand bags that are piled up at various intersections.

I visited the family of a friend who left for Amman a few weeks ago, and that is always a wonderful place to be. Her family–all women–are full of energy, there is no man in the house. They were very welcoming towards us and didn’t want us to go. The grandmother just held on to me, clung to me, begged me ‘Please, please stay and spend the night here with us.’ But I would be no protection. They are quite close to what I think is a military storage depot. They begged us to come back and eat with them. With their slim rations I think that is very telling.

And then there is Kareema’s family. They have just now come to visit us at the hotel. This is the family I am the most worried about. They are in a pretty precarious spot, and their neighbors seem to know it. Many of them have left now. I will get a chance to talk more with them this afternoon when they come here to stay with us. But we haven’t received permission from the hotel owners for them to stay here.”

It is almost impossible for me to imagine that bombings to the extent of what I heard here last night and the previous morning–if they happened in Chicago–would result in people carrying on with ordinary days. Part of it is people having been inured to warfare and its also a sign of a really particular kind of courage and dignity within the population here. Its really very, very amazing to me.

If Chicago was under attack–and people known to be from the attacking country were in Chicago–it’s hard for me to imagine that they’d be sitting in a pleasant hotel tea room together. So when I think of Baghdad and Chicago in that light, I love Chicago, I miss it–I think it’s a city that’s full of a terrific diversity of people–but I often think: What would be happening in Chicago if what’s happening here were happening there?

I really think it is not overstating the case, because we are hearing this kind of news from all over the world, that we are approaching what would be near critical mass for stopping war-makers. I hope with all my heart that the Bush administration doesn’t go ahead with this shock and awe. I think that if they don’t do it there probably will be more of a tapering off. If they do it, I think that the momentum is going to be very steady and every long day everybody puts in, it can be worth it now for a long, long time.

KATHY KELLY is co-coordinator of Voices in the Wilderness and the Iraq Peace Team, a group of international peaceworkers pledging to remain in Iraq through a US bombing and invasion, in order to be a voice for the Iraqi people in the West. The Iraq Peace Team can be reached at info@vitw.org

 

 

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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 

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