Category Archives: Iraq

GUANTANAMO: Fast for Justice going on now

laffinby Art Laffin, Dorothy Day Catholic Worker, DC

I want to share with you this reflection from Day 1 of the “Fast for Justice” to close Guantanamo which I am participating in.
 
Nine years ago I went to Guantanamo with 24 other peacemakers to try and visit the men being held at that time and to call for an end to torture and indefinite detention and for the closing of the prison camp. We were not permitted to visit the prisoners and held a four day fast and vigil near the prison camp. The Witness Against Torture community was formed out of this experience and has, for the last nine years, initiated a campaign to continue working on behalf of the men who continue to languish at Guantanamo. Since 2005 nine men have died in U.S. custody at Guantanamo and there has never been an independent investigation into their deaths. Also many of the remaining 155 detainees have been on a hunger strike since last February and have endured tortuous forced-feeding.

hunger_strikeI am compelled by the biblical admonition to “proclaim liberty to captives” as I continue to advocate for these men who have been so brutually mistreated. This “Fast for Justice” is but another plea for justice on behalf of these men.

If you would like to receive daily updates about the fast please write witnesstorture@gmail.com
 
May God bless each of you who receive this. I am so grateful for all you are doing to help create the Beloved Community.

For more information on the fast and the week of action, click here.

ADVENT 2013: Reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, Dec. 22

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By Jim Douglass

Isaiah 7:10-14 | Romans 1:1-7 | Matthew 1:18-24

John’s question — Are you the One? — remains with me when I visit Ameriyeh shelter in Baghdad.

Four young men lead us into the darkness of the Ameriyeh shelter. The candle held by the leader was our only light until we approached the center. There the huge gash in the ceiling revealed how the two bombs had entered at the target’s bull’s-eye, a ventilation duct. Light streamed into the darkness through the opening, illuminating beneath us a a bomb-sealed door to the second level of the shelter.

The incineration of 1700 people in the Ameriyeh shelter at 4:30am on February 13, 1991, had been done with an economy of war technology. Only two bombs to seal all the doors: the first blasting open the roof; the second serving to destroy the electrical system controlling the shelter’s outer exit doors. Then the 2200-degree (Celsius) heat from the bombs quickly burned up the women, children, and older men of the 400 families allowed into the shelter. Only 30 victims survived, by escaping through an emergency exit in the rear. They bear terrible scars, physical and psychic.

In the center I looked up at the daylight, entering at the same angle that the U.S. bomb did. The light broke through crumbling shreds of concrete, with girders hanging like the petals of a flower.

And beneath our feet must have been the bone remnants of the people who were trapped inside.

We are silent. These realities, and our complicity in them, enter into our consciousness as the bombs did the shelter.

Afterwards, outside in the sun, a man walks up to me. He is Mohammed, 23 years old. Two of his uncles and two of their children died there.

Mohammed says something I had not heard, but hope is true: “The pilot cried.”

He adds, “No honor. Just babies, children and parents.”

One of the young women with us is sitting on a block of concrete, feeling the horror and the responsibility of what we have seen. A neighborhood girl dressed in red pants and shirt, with blue sandals on, comes to the woman. She puts her arms around her, comforting her.

The girl’s name is Nadia. She is nine-years-old, a fifth grader from the neighborhood. Like everyone in Ameriyeh, she has lost friends and relatives, but her immediate family is alive. Her little sister is nearby; her father and mother are across the street, giving us friendly waves.

From what inexhaustible well do these people draw their forgiveness and compassion? My friend is sobbing as Nadia talks to her softly.

water

A boy is crossing the street toward us, bringing a pitcher of water. His brother is with him, carrying a tray with cups on it. The pour cup after cup of cold water for us, to slake our thirst in the Baghdad heat. I remember being warned repeatedly before the trip not to drink the water, contaminated from the U.S. destruction of Iraq’s water system. Cholera is a distinct possibility.

These people who have suffered so much from our bombs keep repeating that it was not our fault. They say they understand that. We must not blame ourselves.

We drink their water as communion.

For us the One who is to come is here. Emmanuel, God with us, is here in the forgiveness of these people.

REFLECTION: Have you ever had an Emmanuel experience, a time when God was present to you in a special way? Recall it and be present to that coming of God for a few minutes.

This reflection is from The Nonviolent God is with Us: Reflections for Advent 1992 by Jim and Shelley Douglass. Jim Douglass is a Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace and the author of JFK and the Unspeakable.

For more Advent resources, click here.

ADVENT 2013: Reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, December 22

advent2013banner

By Jim Douglass

Isaiah 7:10-14 | Romans 1:1-7 | Matthew 1:18-24

John’s question — Are you the One? — remains with me when I visit Ameriyeh shelter in Baghdad.

Four young men lead us into the darkness of the Ameriyeh shelter. The candle held by the leader was our only light until we approached the center. There the huge gash in the ceiling revealed how the two bombs had entered at the target’s bull’s-eye, a ventilation duct. Light streamed into the darkness through the opening, illuminating beneath us a a bomb-sealed door to the second level of the shelter.

The incineration of 1700 people in the Ameriyeh shelter at 4:30am on February 13, 1991, had been done with an economy of war technology. Only two bombs to seal all the doors: the first blasting open the roof; the second serving to destroy the electrical system controlling the shelter’s outer exit doors. Then the 2200-degree (Celsius) heat from the bombs quickly burned up the women, children, and older men of the 400 families allowed into the shelter. Only 30 victims survived, by escaping through an emergency exit in the rear. They bear terrible scars, physical and psychic.

In the center I looked up at the daylight, entering at the same angle that the U.S. bomb did. The light broke through crumbling shreds of concrete, with girders hanging like the petals of a flower.

And beneath our feet must have been the bone remnants of the people who were trapped inside.

We are silent. These realities, and our complicity in them, enter into our consciousness as the bombs did the shelter.

Afterwards, outside in the sun, a man walks up to me. He is Mohammed, 23 years old. Two of his uncles and two of their children died there.

Mohammed says something I had not heard, but hope is true: “The pilot cried.”

He adds, “No honor. Just babies, children and parents.”

One of the young women with us is sitting on a block of concrete, feeling the horror and the responsibility of what we have seen. A neighborhood girl dressed in red pants and shirt, with blue sandals on, comes to the woman. She puts her arms around her, comforting her.

The girl’s name is Nadia. She is nine-years-old, a fifth grader from the neighborhood. Like everyone in Ameriyeh, she has lost friends and relatives, but her immediate family is alive. Her little sister is nearby; her father and mother are across the street, giving us friendly waves.

From what inexhaustible well do these people draw their forgiveness and compassion? My friend is sobbing as Nadia talks to her softly.

water

A boy is crossing the street toward us, bringing a pitcher of water. His brother is with him, carrying a tray with cups on it. The pour cup after cup of cold water for us, to slake our thirst in the Baghdad heat. I remember being warned repeatedly before the trip not to drink the water, contaminated from the U.S. destruction of Iraq’s water system. Cholera is a distinct possibility.

These people who have suffered so much from our bombs keep repeating that it was not our fault. They say they understand that. We must not blame ourselves.

We drink their water as communion.

For us the One who is to come is here. Emmanuel, God with us, is here in the forgiveness of these people.

REFLECTION: Have you ever had an Emmanuel experience, a time when God was present to you in a special way? Recall it and be present to that coming of God for a few minutes.

This reflection is from The Nonviolent God is with Us: Reflections for Advent 1992 by Jim and Shelley Douglass. Jim Douglass is a Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace and the author of JFK and the Unspeakable.

For more Advent resources, click here.

TAKE ACTION: Sign the letter of support for the Right to Heal Initiative

from Iraq Veterans Against the War

[Pax Christi USA Executive Director Sr. Patty Chappell, SNDdeN, has signed onto this letter of support. We encourage other Pax Christi USA members to do the same.]

Iraqis and U.S. military veterans are coming together to hold the U.S. government accountable for the lasting effects of war and to demand the right to heal.

Iraq Veterans Against the War, the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq, the Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq, represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights, are working together to highlight the lack of accountability for the serious, widespread, and ongoing human rights violations of Iraqis, Afghans, and U.S. military veterans, from more than ten years of U.S. war with the Right to Heal Initiative.

We are requesting a hearing in front of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, a body of the Organization of American States. If the hearing is agreed to, this inter-American body will call forth U.S. government officials to respond to our case. Such a hearing will raise the profile of these issues, lend our movement legitimacy in pushing for recognition of our human rights, and be an important step in holding the U.S. government accountable for violating them.

Your signature will help demonstrate the widespread support for such a hearing.

Will you sign on to a letter of support for this hearing?

Check out the Right to Heal Initiative’s work here.

Read the letter here and add your name.

GUANTANAMO: Sign the petition to close Gitmo

from Morris Davis, former Chief Prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay

gitmo

I served 25 years in the US Air Force, I was the Chief Prosecutor for the Terrorism Trials at Guantanamo Bay for more than two years, and now I need your help.

I personally charged Osama Bin Laden’s driver Salim Hamdan, Australian anathema David Hicks, and Canadian teen Omar Khadr.  All three were convicted … and then they were released from Guantanamo.  More than 160 men who have never been charged with any offense, much less convicted of a war crime, remain at Guantanamo with no end in sight.  There is something fundamentally wrong with a system where not being charged with a war crime keeps you locked away indefinitely and a war crime conviction is your ticket home.

As of April 29, 2013 – 100 of the 166 men who remain in Guantanamo are engaged in a hunger strike in protest of their indefinite detention.  Twenty-one of them are being force-fed and five are hospitalized.  Some of the men have been in prison for more than eleven years without charge or trial.  The United States has cleared a majority of the detainees for transfer out of Guantanamo, yet they remain in custody year after year because of their citizenship and ongoing political gamesmanship in the U.S.

That is why I am calling on Secretary of Defense Charles Hagel to use his authority to effect cleared transfers from Guantanamo and on President Obama to appoint an individual within the Administration to lead the effort to close Guantanamo. Obama announced on April 30 that he plans to do his part to close Guantanamo, but he has made this promise before.  Now is the time to hold him to his promise and urge him to take the steps necessary to dismantle Guantanamo Bay Prison.

If any other country were treating prisoners the way we are treating those in Guantanamo we would roundly and rightly criticize that country.  We can never retake the legal and moral high ground when we claim the right to do unto others that which we would vehemently condemn if done to one of us.

It is probably no surprise that human rights and activist groups like the Center For Constitutional Rights, Witness Against Torture and Amnesty International have been outspoken critics of Guantanamo.  It may surprise you that a former military prosecutor and many other retired senior military officers and members of the intelligence community agree with them.

The Patriotic thing, the American thing, the Human thing to do here is to Close Guantanamo.  

Please join us in the fight by signing this petition.

TAKE ACTION: Trial set for Kimberly Rivera, conscientious objector and Iraq war resister

Kimberly Rivera

NOTE: This is an update to an action alert we posted in October 2012.

Please remember in your prayers our friend Kimberly Rivera, conscientious objector and war resister. Following her Canadian Deportation Order, Kimberly fled from Canada on September 20, 2012 and surrendered promptly to U.S. immigration authorities at the border in New York State where she was arrested the same day.

Now, after 5 months in detention at Fort Carson Colorado, Kim has posted the following news on her facebook page about an hour ago tonight:

“Well my friends my date in Court is finally pronounced for the 29th of April.”

You can send Kim notes of encouragement and support at:

Mrs. Kimberly Rivera
c/o All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church
730 North Tejon Street
Colorado Springs, CO 80903 USA

FROM OUR PREVIOUS ACTION ALERT: Kimberly Rivera, a conscientious objector and Iraq War resister, is currently on base at Fort Carson, Colorado, awaiting information on her case and further orders from her commanding officers. Pax Christi USA has received a request to inform our members how we can support Kim over the next weeks and months.

Last month, Kim complied with the Canadian government’s deportation order and spent time in the Lewis County Jail in Lowville, N.Y. She was arrested after voluntarily crossing into the U.S. and detained at Ft. Drum, N.Y. She had been in Canada since 2007 with her family.

“Kim Rivera’s refusal to participate in an illegal war and her courageous decision to come to Canada was not only an act of peace, it was her duty,” Ken Marciniec, a spokesman for the War Resisters Support Campaign (WRSP), said in a statement. “On the same day that Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney was promoting the International Day of Peace in Montreal, a conscientious objector was being transferred to a U.S. jail for speaking out against the Iraq War while in Canada because our government deserted international law.”

Click on the links below to read more about Kim’s case:

REFLECTION: Remember the children

Bill Quigley, PCUSA Teacher of Peaceby Bill Quigley, Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace

Remember the 20 children who died in Newtown, Connecticut.

Remember the 35 children who died in Gaza this month from Israeli bombardments.

Remember the 168 children who have been killed by U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan since 2006.

Remember the 231 children killed in Afghanistan in the first 6 months of this year.

Remember the 400 other children in the U.S. under the age of 15 who die from gunshot wounds each year.

Remember the 921 children killed by U.S. air strikes against insurgents in Iraq.

Remember the 1,770 U.S. children who die each year from child abuse and maltreatment.

Remember the 16,000 children who die each day around the world from hunger.

These tragedies must end.

Bill Quigley is a human rights lawyer who teaches law at Loyola University New Orleans and works with the Center for Constitutional Rights.  He is a Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace. A version of this article with sources is available.  You can contact Bill at quigley77@gmail.com.