FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Bearing Witness Against Teachers of Torture and Assassination

Statement before Judge G. Mallon Faircloth, who sentenced me to 3 months in federal prison after I pled not guilty but stipulated to the facts of a charge for a November 22, 2003 entry onto Fort Benning, an open US military base in Columbus, GA.

Columbus, GA January 26, 2004

I’m fortunate to have been influenced by the life and witness of some extraordinary individuals, many of whom have appeared before you in court, several of whom are now co-defendants.

Their witness in this court has been valuable, constituting a rich and sad drama.

It’s important to continue bringing before this court testimony from or about those who can’t appear, people whom we’ve met when visiting places directly affected by US expenditures on military training and military solutions. Quite often these solutions are based on threat and force, rather than considerations of mercy and compassion.

A report in the London Observer yesterday quotes US Armed forces medical personnel warning that 20 percent of the veterans returning from Iraq will suffer post traumatic stress disorders -already 22 soldiers have committed suicide.

Families of these soldiers, whose arms will ache emptily for loved ones that will never return, can, I believe, find understanding in the families of others far away from the US who similarly feel bereaved.

In 1985, very aware of Joe Mulligan’s and Bernie Survil’s work, I traveled to San Juan de Limay, in the north of Nicaragua. Children there were radiant and friendly, many of them too young to understand that during the previous week US funded contras had kidnapped and murdered 25 people in their village. Later that summer, I fasted with Nicaraguan’s Foreign Minister, himself a Maryknoll priest, and listened to stories pour forth as many hundreds of Nicaraguan peasant pilgrims vigiled and fasted in the Mon senor Lezcano church to show solidarity with the priest-minister’s desire to nonviolently resist contra terrorism. Rev. Miguel D’Escoto urged us to find nonviolent actions commensurate to the crimes being committed. This experience gave me reason to believe that the US could have used negotiation and diplomacy to resolve disputes with Nicaragua.

The Christian Peacemaker Teams maintained a steady presence in Jeremie, in the southern finger of Haiti, throughout the time when the US had determined it was too dangerous for US soldiers to be there. In 1995, I was there for the three months just before the US troops returned. Throughout this stretch of history, the US spent more money on troop movements, equipping troops, training troops, –than it spent on meeting human needs. The Commandant of the region, Colonel Rigobert Jean, commented publicly that he was “ashamed and embarrassed that it was left to the ‘blans’ (Creole for foreigners) on the hill to preserve peace and security in the region.” He was referring to our five person team. Again, I had reason to believe that unarmed peacemakers could be relied on to create greater security in areas of conflict.

Indelibly marked in my memory from that summer are the Creole words that children could no longer suppress as evenings drew to a close and they longed for adequate meals. “M’gen grangou,” I’m hungry.

More recently, in Iraq, during the US bombing in March and April of 2003, I saw how children suffer when nations decide to put their resources into weapons and warfare rather than meeting human needs. All of us learned to adopt a poker face, hoping not to frighten the children, whenever there were ear-splitting blasts and gut wrenching thuds. During every day and night of the bombing, I would hold little Miladhah and Zainab in my arms. That’s how I learned of their fear: they were grinding their teeth, morning, noon and night. But they were far more fortunate than the children who were survivors of direct hits, children whose brothers and sisters and parents were maimed and killed.

Judge Faircloth, we have experienced and seen the deadly effect of US military policy on mothers and children, on families. We have held the children and tried to comfort them under bombs.

It is because of these experiences that we feel so strongly. And this is why I’m willing to go into the US prison system and experience again, as we have before, the suffering of all of these women who are being separated from their families in the American prisons. It’s important to hear the voices of women trying to comfort their own children over the telephone, children they won’t see be able to hug and cuddle, –I remember my friend Gloria, in the prison telephone room: “Momma’s gonna tickle your feets, oh baby, momma’s gonna tickle your feet, you momma’s baby.” Gloria and many thousands of other mothers locked up in a world of imprisoned beauty would never tickle their baby’s feet, because they’d been sentenced to mandatory five year minimums.

Sometimes I think we face a wilderness of compassion in this country. But when I think of the many voices that have tried, in this court, to clamor for the works of mercy rather than the works of war, I feel at home, I feel grateful, and I feel a deep urge to be silent and listen to the cries of those most afflicted, -their cries are often hard to hear-but when we hear them, we’re called, all of us, to be like voices in the wilderness, raising their laments and finding ourselves motivated to build a better world.

KATHY KELLY is a co-coordinator of the Voices in the Wilderness campaign. She can be reached at kathy@vitw.org

 

More articles by:

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 

March 20, 2019
T.J. Coles
Countdown to “Full Spectrum Dominance”
W. T. Whitney
Re-Targeting Cuba: Why Title III of U.S. Helms-Burton Act will be a Horror Show
Kenneth Surin
Ukania’s Great Privatization Heist
Howard Lisnoff
“Say It Ain’t So, Joe:” the Latest Neoliberal from the War and Wall Street Party
Walter Clemens
Jailed Birds of a Feather May Sing Together
George Ochenski
Failing Students on Climate Change
Cesar Chelala
The Sweet Smell of Madeleine
Binoy Kampmark
Global Kids Strike
Nicky Reid
Where Have All the Flowers Gone?: Requiem for a Fictional Party
Elliot Sperber
Empedocles and You and Me 
March 19, 2019
Paul Street
Socialism Curiously Trumps Fascism in U.S. Political Threat Reporting
Jonah Raskin
Guy Standing on Anxiety, Anger and Alienation: an Interview About “The Precariat”
Patrick Cockburn
The Brutal Legacy of Bloody Sunday is a Powerful Warning to Those Hoping to Save Brexit
Robert Fisk
Turning Algeria Into a Necrocracy
John Steppling
Day of Wrath
Robin Philpot
Truth, Freedom and Peace Will Prevail in Rwanda
Victor Grossman
Women Marchers and Absentees
Binoy Kampmark
The Dangers of Values: Brenton Tarrant, Fraser Anning and the Christchurch Shootings
Jeff Sher
Let Big Pharma Build the Wall
Jimmy Centeno
Venezuela Beneath the Skin of Imperialism
Jeffrey Sommers – Christopher Fons
Scott Walker’s Failure, Progressive Wisconsin’s Win: Milwaukee’s 2020 Democratic Party Convention
Steve Early
Time for Change at NewsGuild?
March 18, 2019
Scott Poynting
Terrorism Has No Religion
Ipek S. Burnett
Black Lives on Trial
John Feffer
The World’s Most Dangerous Divide
Paul Cochrane
On the Ground in Venezuela vs. the Media Spectacle
Dean Baker
The Fed and the 3.8 Percent Unemployment Rate
Thomas Knapp
Social Media Companies “Struggle” to Help Censors Keep us in the Dark
Binoy Kampmark
Death in New Zealand: The Christchurch Shootings
Mark Weisbrot
The Reality Behind Trump’s Venezuela Regime Change Coalition
Weekend Edition
March 15, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
Is Ilhan Omar Wrong…About Anything?
Kenn Orphan
Grieving in the Anthropocene
Jeffrey Kaye
On the Death of Guantanamo Detainee 10028
Stan Cox – Paul Cox
In Salinas, Puerto Rico, Vulnerable Americans Are Still Trapped in the Ruins Left by Hurricane Maria
Ben Debney
Christchurch, the White Victim Complex and Savage Capitalism
Eric Draitser
Did Dallas Police and Local Media Collude to Cover Up Terrorist Threats against Journalist Barrett Brown?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Straighten Up and Fly Right
Jack Rasmus
Trump’s $34 Trillion Deficit and Debt Bomb
David Rosen
America’s Puppet: Meet Juan Guaidó
Jason Hirthler
Annexing the Stars: Walcott, Rhodes, and Venezuela
Samantha M. - Angelica Perkins
Our Green New Deal
Mel Gurtov
Trump’s Nightmare Budget
Steven Colatrella
The 18th Brumaire of Just About Everybody: the Rise of Authoritarian Strongmen and How to Prevent and Reverse It
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Riding the Wild Bull of Nuclear Power
Michael K. Smith
Thirty Years Gone: Remembering “Cactus Ed”
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail