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Kathy Kelly has more than paid her dues in the movement for peace through non-violence, putting herself in harm’s way and risking her freedom.
She is the latest endorser of the Iraq Moratorium, a growing grassroots initiative which will be observed on Friday, May 16, as it is on the third Friday of each month. (She explains her endorsement below.)
The co-coordinator of Chicago-based Voices for Creative Nonviolence, Kelly helped initiate Voices in the Wilderness, a campaign to end UN/US sanctions against Iraq in 1996. For bringing “medicine and toys” to Iraq in open violation of the UN/US sanctions, she and other campaign members were fined $20,000, which they’ve refused to pay.
Voices in the Wilderness organized 70 delegations to visit Iraq in the period between 1996 and the beginning of the “Operation Shock and Awe” warfare (March 2003). Kelly has been to Iraq 24 times since January 1996. In October 2002, she joined Iraq Peace Team members in Baghdad where she and the team maintained a presence throughout the bombardment and invasion. Kelly left Iraq on April 19, 2003 and has returned three times, most recently in May of 2006 when she traveled to northern Iraq.
Along with three other Voices activists, Kathy was in Beirut, Lebanon during the final days of the Israel-Hezbollah war in the summer of 2006. (Photo at right.) They subsequently reported from southern Lebanon following a ceasefire.
In the spring of 2004, she served three months at Pekin federal prison for crossing the line as part of an ongoing effort to close an army military combat training school at Fort Benning, GA. In 1988 she was sentenced to one year in prison for planting corn on nuclear missile silo sites. Kelly served nine months of the sentence in Lexington KY maximum security prison.
She is currently organizing Witness Against War 2008,a nonviolent walk for peace from Chicago to the site of the Republican National Convention in St. Paul.
Kathy Kelly: Why I endorse the Iraq Moratorium
Kathy Kelly: Why I endorse the Iraq Moratorium
In 1991, the United States deliberately targeted, bombed and destroyed Iraq’s infrastructure-in particular its water treatment plants, its electrical plants, and its electrical power grid. This damage was exacerbated over the next 13 years as the U.S. and UK insisted that the UN maintain brutally punitive economic sanctions that prevented Iraq from substantively rebuilding and caused further decay and debilitation in every sector of Iraq’s infrastructure. The sanctions also caused widespread disease, starvation and impoverishment – directly contributing toward the deaths of over one half million children under age five.
Today, available statistics about the consequences of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq speak of misery and chaos nearly unimaginable to most U.S. people. One out of six Iraqis has been displaced from their homes. A March 2007 report from Save the Children, a US based NGO, stated that 122,000 Iraqi children didn’t reach their fifth birthdays in the year 2005 alone. UNAMI, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq, in its most recently issued report on humanitarian conditions in Iraq, stated that 54% of Iraqis live on less than $1 per day, including 15% who are forced to live on less than 50 cents per day. 70% of Iraq’s people lack access to potable water. 43 % of Iraqi children under age five suffer a form of malnourishment, with 23% suffering from chronic malnourishment and 8% suffering acute malnourishment. 40% of Iraq’s population are children under 15 years of age. Should these children be deprived of food and clean water so that their country is instead forced to pay U.S. forces to drop bombs on them, shoot at them, and exacerbate any or all of the three civil wars which analyst Juan Cole says are now well underway in Iraq?
The risks we may take now, to stop the war, — and for many of us we’ll be risking convenience and an interruption of comfortable routines, – are far less than the risk next generations will pay if we are negligent. U.S. wealth and productivity spent on war diverts resorces acutely needed to resolve problems our planet faces because of our reckless consumption, waste and pollution. I hope the Moratorium helps all of us slow down, think about where we’re going, and find, together, ways to put an end to war.
In the past year, U.S. aerial bombardments of Iraqi neighborhoods increased five fold while the number of Iraqis incarcerated in U.S. prisons in Iraq has doubled. (Some 24,000 Iraqis are now imprisoned by U.S. forces, approximately 650 of whom are juveniles). If a foreign country were bombing U.S. cities and imprisoning U.S. civilians, would we ever agree to pay the invaders’ military expenses? Would we agree that the aggressor nation had no fiscal responsibilities to pay for reparations?
Perhaps news of U.S. lawmakers’ weariness over Iraq’s “free ride” will prompt some Iraqis currently aligned with U.S. forces to stop aiming their weapons against other Iraqis and to instead find common cause, using all means of nonviolent resistance, to defy the U.S. occupation.
But what of our own culpability? What about our options for nonviolent resistance?
We do have options. We each can, at the very least, pressure our elected representative, through legal or extralegal lobbying, to vote against President Bush’s $102-billion supplemental funding request which the U.S. House of Representatives will likely vote on soon, with the Senate following suit shortly thereafter.
Another option was pursued, this year, by the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Campaign’s “War Tax Boycott.” This project helped people eliminate at least a portion of war making from their personal budget. They did so by collectively redirecting $100 of their federal income tax to assist Iraqis who’ve been forced to flee their country as well as victims of Hurricane Katrina whose needs remain unmet. (See www.nwtrcc.org).
Yes, it’s outrageous to think that U.S. lawmakers could propose that Iraq’s people should be asked to pay for any aspect of U.S. occupation. But it’s also an outrage for U.S. people to foot the bill for the continued military occupation. We owe the Iraqi people reparations for the damage our country has caused over these past 18 years of economic and military warfare – not an ever-lasting occupation. If you’re among those who are wearied and exasperated by the wrongfulness of this ongoing war, allow yourself some relief: Don’t collaborate.
Friday is Iraq Moratorium #9. Do something.