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Embedded Humanitarian in KC
by Mike Murphy
Email: murfeeee (at) yahoo.com (verified)
Current rating: 0
01 Aug 2003
Voices in the Wilderness founder, Catholic Worker veteran, and three time Nobel Peace Prize nominee, Kathy Kelly spoke at All Souls Church on Thurday July 24th.
Having returned from Baghdad on April 19th, this embedded humanitarian was present in Iraq during the infamous "Shock & Awe" campaign waged against Iraq by the US government.
Kathy Kelly spoke before a full house at All Souls Universalist Unitarian Church on July 24th. Chairs had to be set up in the lobby o accomodate the overflow. Kris Cheatum, a church member estimated attendance at 300.
Ms. Kelly spoke of "pre-war stress syndrome" that pervaded Baghdad prior to the US attack. She spoke of her group's decison to hold a child's birthday party in a park on the river, because, there was no safe place, even indoors.
After the first two days of shock and awe came and went without much fanfare, Kathy was somewhat relieved, but on Day 3, dubbed Alpha Day by the Pentagon, a campaign of bombing ensued that one California colleague described as tantamount to eleven San Francisco earthquakes.
Voices in the Wilderness was founded in 1996 by Kathy Kelly to help alleivate the suffering caused by oppressive sanctions. She has visited Iraq 21 times in that capacity and has witnessed much suffering. The Bush administration, just this week served Ms. Kelly with papers for violation of sanctions. Her and her organization are faced with heavy fines. Specifically what, Ms. Kelly did, was A) Go to Iraq, and B) Bring toys and medicine. On Democracy Now this morning, Ms. Kelly told Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, that she'd "be surprised if the Bush adminstration, during this pre-election period, would go after someone for the crime of supplying children with toys and medicine."
As tension mounted in Baghdad, Voices in the Wilderness were invited to stay at a hotel by its Muslim proprietor. Also present were the man's extended family, and his Christian neighbors and thier extended family. Kathy spoke of the power of the moment that juxtaposed a Christian women making the sign of the cross, while a Muslim man rolled out his prayer rug, during times of particularly heightened tension.
She also spoke of one particlularly omenous day when the street their hotel was on, was being approached by hordes of looters, and the U.S. Marines were not far behind. Her Moslem host told her, "W're brothers and sisters, but maybe you should go up one floor. From their newly escalated position, they soon heard other American voices, the Marines had arrived. "Who's up there?", "Where are you from?", asked the Marines. "Chicago", "Philadelphia", "Boston", were the replies. "Are you a Red Sox fan?", one Marine responded.
Kathy and her friends were soon bring down bottled water and dates to share with their fellow Americans. The Marines were interested in Kathy's side of the story, and according to Ms. Kelly were the only ones who asked them their side. The American press were not interested. One Marine told them of some confusion as to whether some folks on the street were military or civilians. He opened fire, and the young southerner drawled, "I just hope what I did doesn't reach here", pointing to his head. One platoon leader told her, "Don't blame these kids for what may have happened here. In the heat of the battle, some decisions were made, and I'm the one who's going to have to lose sleep over it."
Kathy also spoke of her reaction to comments made by Paul Wolfewitz made regarding Saddam Hussein. He said that "This man, Hussein, is so terrible, that he watched children tortured in front of their parents." This did not sit well with Kathy, who said that she, too had watched children tortured in front of their own parents.
At the end of her speech, Ms. Kelly took many questions from the audience. One man asked for her take on the oft-rerun toppling of the Saddam statue. After, confessing that she had never noticed the statue before, she siad that this occurred on the same day as the afore-mentioned incident when the neighborhood (this statue was around the block from the hotel she stayed at) was encroached by looters and marines, and that people were too afraid to be on the streets. A follow-up questioner commented that all of the signs at this apparent photo op were in English, and that he had seen it on both ABC and BBC. ABC showed a closer, tighter shot of the toppling, but BBC showed a wider shot, revealing that much of the horse power was provided by US military equipment.
To find out more about Voices in the Wilderness check out www.vitw.org
Prior to Kathy's speech I had interviewed her. As time permits, I will post my questions and her responses, as well as the Q & A session she did. Finally, complete audio will be available soon of my interview, the speech and the Q & A. I will post the URL for people to listen to those when the time is ready.
(No verified email address)
Current rating: 0
02 Aug 2003
for posting this compilation. Have been out of town, so missed both this and the big Lawrence event. Eager to hear your exclusive KC, independent interview of Kathy Kelly.
(moved this to local newswire)
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