Angry, Very Angry

by Kathy Kelly

Iraq Peace Team in Baghdad

Dissident Voice

March 25, 2003


BAGHDAD - I'm surrounded by some of the most kindly and gentle people in the world, coming from many walks of life. Members of our Iraq Peace Team have 'checked in' on most days of our five month stay here, some having been here for the full five months, and continually give expression to sentiments that are sacred in their affirmation of simplicity, sharing, and commitment to nonviolence. But in the last several days, feelings of intense anger surface. "I'm angry," confided Sang Jin Han, of South Korea, a peace activist who has led South Korea's campaign to ban land mines and who works closely with the Asian Peace Alliance. "I think this war will kill thousands of people."


Likewise, Zefira Hourfani, an Algerian woman, says she is very angry, so much so that she no longer considers herelf a Canadian. "Now I am an Arab," she says, "and I am angry at the western countries." Lisa Ndjeru, a Rwandan woman, also a Canadian citizen, took particular umbrage over President Bush's request that Americans help the US troops by assisting them with home repair and child care. "What lunacy!" said Lisa. "Young Americans whose children need care and whose homes are falling apart should loan themselves to destroy homes and maim children in this country in order to finally get some help?"


We try not to take our anger out on journalists who contact us. Neville Watson is normally gracious and entirely rational when he speaks to media. But he confessed that a few days ago, he "let him have it with both barrels" when an Australian "shock-jock" referred to civilian casualties as the expected collateral damage that comes with war. "How dare you refer to our friends as 'collateral damage?" asked Neville. "And who is Mr. Bush kidding when he expects us to believe that the US wants to secure Iraq's oil fields for the benefit of Iraqi people?" Neville goes on to recite the sad and sordid history of economic siege and warfare that has cost the lives, already, of hundreds of thousands of children under age five.


Yes, we are angry, very angry, and yet we feel deep responsibility to further the nonviolent antiwar efforts that burgeon in cities and towns throughout the world. We can direct our anger toward clear confrontation, controlling it so that we won't explode in reactionary rage, but rather draw the sympathies of people toward the plight of innocent people here who never wanted to attack the U.S., who wonder, even as the bombs terrify them, why they can't live as brothers and sisters with people in America.


The Bush administration says the war has been successful because so far there have been only 500 casualties. From our March, 24 2003 report on visits to the Yermouk and Al Kindy hospital trauma centers, where hundreds of wounded and maimed patients have been treated over the past five days, here are some of the success stories:


Roesio Salem, age 10 is from Hai Risal. She went to the entrance of her home and told shouted to her father, "Bomb coming!" at which point she was hit on the first day of the attack. She is 10 years old and has sustained severe chest injuries. We simply couldn't take our eyes off of her as she gently smiled at us from her hospital bed.


Fatima 10 years old, from Radwaniya. She suffered multiple fractures when she and her family ran from their home, in an urban area, on Friday evening, March 21. A wall fell down and she suffered a fractured tibia. The family had no means of transport and had to wait until the next morning to get her to a hospital. Her father, Abu Mustafa, who works as a farm laborer, said, "We are like brothers and sisters to people in the United States. We don't attack American people. Please give this message to American people. This is an invasion, it has nothing to do with democracy."


Ahmed Sabah, age 18, from the Al Zafrania district, was inside his home at 9:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 20. He suffered multiple wounds and a fractured arm and leg from shell injuries. They have used an external fixator to set his compound fractures.


His father asked us to show people in all countries that love peace that his son is a victim and not a criminal.


Hamed Kathem, age 20 sustained injury to his leg from shelling and arterial injury as well. He was in the courtyard of his home in El Biladiya on March 20. "We haven't gone to the US to hit them. They came here. Last night children were admitted to this hospital," said Hamed. And then he simply asked, "Why?" "God save all the people," said his father, quietly, "And God save all countries from this destruction."


Khadem Wadi, age 63, of Saddam City, was shopping for his family on March 23 at 5:00 p.m. when shrapnel punctured his intestine and wounded his leg. Two shells were removed from his abdomen.


Hosam Khaf, a 13 year old boy from Baghdad Jeddidah, was injured on Friday, March 21st at 9:00 p.m. He sustained a shell injury to his abdomen and now has a cholotomy bag. He is in great pain today. He lives in a multiple story building. As huge bombs exploded nearby, his family fled their flat. When he went into the street he was hit by shelling. His father, Abu Hosam, says that there are a military hospital and a military training facility 45 km away. "Most of the casualties are children, elderly people and civilians," said Abu Hosam. What do they have to do with fighting and war?"


We felt some relief in being able to tell patients and their families that people in countries around the world are turning out for massive demonstrations against the war.


Each of these victims whose bedsides we visited today will lie still, hopefully recovering, with many hours to reflect on what has happened to them. Peace activists who continue to fill jails in the US will likewise spend hours of confinement, pained by the cruel stupidity of warfare. Most of us are angry, very angry, - few of us can manage the genuine sweetness of little Ruba Salem whose gaze radiated easy affection in spite of her trauma,-- and yet I believe that we can channel our anger, our disappointment, our frustration and our rage into the kind of energy that will champion nonviolent resistance to the works of war, and an ever deepening desire for the works of mercy.


Kathy Kelly is co-coordinator of Voices in the Wilderness (www.vitw.org) and the Iraq Peace Team (www.iraqpeaceteam.org), 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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