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reports from Baghdad

Various reports from the "Voices in the Wilderness" (US anti-sanctions
campaign) delegation in Iraq (more recent ones towards the end):


Report from Voices in the Wilderness
>From Baghdad, Iraq
February 12, 1998

By Kathy Kelly

Today is the day when many thousands of people across Baghdad are
conscious that it is the seventh year since two astonishingly smart bombs
penetrated the ventilation system of the Amiriyah shelter.  All of the
people huddled inside, at least 500 civilians, who had sought a safe night
of shelter, were melted.

We just came from that site. To hear from survivors, or people who lost
loved ones--and to hear the people speak about how much love and longing
they have for all o f those people who were lost--is of course very
moving. Someone in our group asked, "Do you think that this could ever
happen again?" And every person said, "Yes, we can believe anything now
because thousands of our children are dying." Every day they are losing
their children to the sanctions. So we are very conscious that even with
all of that mourning and bereavement, the people we are speaking to are
very, very frightened about what could happen in the very near future.
There was  four year old girl that we spoke to today, and she said: "Will
I die? Will my sister die?" People who have dealt with warfare so long
wonder when it will ever end. And some say that "We try to have a good
meal because it may be our last."

In terms of the preparations being made for war, people in general feel
pretty defenseless here. Some have left Baghdad for places they think they
might be safer. But we hear a nervous laughter and some people ask: "Is
your country going to bomb us again?" This time it is particularly
psychologically wearing on the people, because they don't know what to
expect but they have the memories of when they were bombarded and pounded
so badly seven years ago.

Although this is our first day in the Baghdad, we have heard from people
that anger isn't being directed at Saddam Hussein. In fact, several people
have said that they would do the same thing if they were him. The Iraqi
people feel quite vulnerable now to the US intent to possibly bombard
them. They also know that they are vulnerable to invasions from
neighboring states. There is a feeling that the sovereignty of Iraq needs
to be maintained.

The eight of us here, two from the UK and six from US, are delivering
$110,000 worth of medicine. It's really just a drop in the bucket compared
to the needs of the people. We know that the greatest evidence of a weapon
of mass destruction can be seen in the pediatric wards  of every hospital
where children are suffering terrible consequences of the sanctions.

For information about Voices in the Wilderness, contact Brad Simpson,
(773) 784-8065.


Press Statement from Al Mansour Hospital
Baghdad, February 15, 1998
Voices in the Wilderness

As the United States and Britain threaten military strikes against the
people of Iraq, we, a joint United States - United Kingdom delegation from
the Voices in the Wilderness campaign, plead with people of good will
everywhere to prevent further bombardment of the Iraqi people. We feel
deepest remorse for the suffering already endured by Iraqi children and

We recognize that the will of the international community is for a
negotiated solution to the inspection crisis, not for war.  Leaders of our
countries, the US and the UK, are pitting themselves against the
international consensus, by threatening to bombard Iraq once again.  They
know and we know that such warfare would bring death and destruction to
Iraqi civilians.  While proclaiming that no Middle East country will be
allowed the capacity to develop weapons of mass destruction, the US and
the UK have poised their vast arsenal of such weapons against a country
already suffering the consequences of brutal economic sanctions and
previous bombings.

The threatened military strikes are immoral, illegal and
counterproductive. They are immoral because the burden of punishment
would fall on the civilians of Iraq. Military strikes would be illegal
since none of the UN Security Council resolutions authorizes the use of
force to enforce the weapons inspection regime.   And such strikes would
be counterproductive. Military strikes would very likely lead to the
expulsion of UN inspectors and the end of inspection regime.  They would
therefore not uphold but destroy the inspection system.

In our ten previous visits to Iraq, members from this campaign have
witnessed the murderous consequences of the real weapon of mass
destruction  in Iraq today, the economic sanctions which have already
killed hundreds of thousands of children and have left 1/3 of Iraq's
children under the age of five, chronically malnourished.  We've seen the
increasing deterioration of Ira'#s civilian infrastructure, most notably
the health care system, which is on the verge of collapse. It's difficult
to imagine the nightmare of suffering which military strikes would inflict
on Iraqi people. The threat of bombing already terrifies Iraqi children.

Voices in the Wilderness continues to oppose all weapons of mass
destruction, especially the economic sanctions against the people of Iraq.
We condemn any use of force against Iraq, call for an immediate lifting of
the sanctions, and look for courage and wisdom to prevail in efforts to
negotiate a peaceful resolution to the crisis.

Voices in the Wildernss
A Campaign to End the US/UN Economic Sanctions Against the People of Iraq
1460 West Carmen Ave.
Chicago, IL 60640
ph:773-784-8065; f: 773-784-8837


Reaction to President Clinton Speech
from Voices in the Wilderness
Baghdad, Iraq
February 18, 1998

By Kathy Kelly

There was serious misinformation in President Clinton#s speech. President
Clinton says that he plans to seriously diminish the threat of Iraq's
weapons of mass destruction. It's been patently made clear that
international nuclear inspection teams cast their bags months ago. Iraq
simply does not have nuclear weapons according to all of the inspectors.

What needs to be made clear to people in the US to be really informed, is
that the clearest evidence of a weapon of mass destruction is to be found
in the pediatric wards of every hospital in the country. That's where you
see the evidence that the sanctions themselves have been a weapons of mass
destruction. They have destroyed the medical infrastructure of Iraq.
They've robbed over half a million children of their lives. Every time we
go into hospitals, we see doctors who say that because they don't have
sufficient quantities of antibiotics, people are building up a resistance
to those medicines that do exist. This is a terrible form of punishment
being inflicted on the Iraqi people.

President Clinton said further that he wants to reduce the threat Iraq
poses to its neighbors. This is absurd. Iraq's people today are
defenseless and entirely vulnerable. Neighboring states use US-supplied
weapons (Iran using weapons supplied during the Iran - Iraq war, Turkey
using fresh, brand new weapons) to either poise themselves to invade
Iraq--or, in the case of Turkey they did invade and occupy a stretch of
northern Iraq three times the size of Kuwait last spring. Every other
state in the region has been building up its armaments. It seems to us
that this is misinformation on the part of the president.

President Clinton then said that he doesn't want people who follow in
Saddam Hussein's footsteps to be emboldened tomorrow. Well I think of the
children. There is no tomorrow for hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children
who die because of the sanctions, or so many of those who survive. We have
seen them in the hospitals: their brains are deficient; they're not
getting the kind of blood plasma and nutrients they need. If they
survive--we have seen little ones who can't crawl--they won't be able to
think properly. They won't be able to run and play as children do.

There is a lot of hope in Kofi Annan's visit on Friday. Many people are
thinking that he wouldn't have been sent in the first place if he wasn't
going to come with a deal that would be acceptable to both sides. But
there is still an intense bewilderment among the population. People say
"Why? why? why?--why do your people want to do this to us? Why do they
want the children to suffer more?"

People think back to what happened seven years ago. Now that there aren#t
the spare parts in the country to fix installations that may be bombed,
things will be much more difficult. People are very fearful.


Report from Voices in the Wilderness
Baghdad, Iraq
February 18, 1998

By Kathy Kelly

Many people here derived real encouragement from the town hall meeting in
Columbus, Ohio, which I watched on Dubai TV broadcast in Arabic here in
Iraq. Some people here have smiled and said: "One, two, three, four..."
imitative of the chanting that had gone on. And some people said to me
today that there is no support for military strikes, not internationally,
not in the Middle East (at least most of the Middle East), and not in the
Untied States, where serious questions were posed. There was some
encouragement. People are still optimistic that the strikes won't happen.

Today I spent most of the day in a hospital and a mother said to me: "We
need milk. We need medicine. Tell your country we don't need bombs."
People here don't feel very reassured that the sanctions will go away any
time soon; certainly the sanctions are an economic warfare that have
caused so much suffering and pain.

People will feel a sigh of relief here if they don't get bombarded, but
once the journalists and media attention clears away, people will still be
faced by this relentlessly deteriorating situation.

By Art Laffin

I just returned from Basra, where I visited a center for diplaced persons.
There 40,000 people live without adequate food or clothing; children run
barefoot. Many of them suffer from terrible diseases. People throw their
human waste next to their house. Its beyond hell.

The children are the targets both for the sanctions and the bombing. We
can't let this happen. We appeal to people in the strongest terms to not
let this bombing happen. We have been received so warmly and graciously by
the people. There has not been one angry threat against us. The people are
so grateful that we are here.


Report from Voices in the Wilderness
Baghdad, Iraq
February 20, 1998

By Rick McDowell

Kofi Annan is due to arrive in Baghdad in one hour. The city is tense yet
very hopeful that some diplomatic solution can be reached.

The scene here is somewhat surreal. Last night we saw three wedding
parties enter our hotel. At the same time there was an American folk
signer singing American songs. On the way to the Businessman's Center we
saw kids playing soccer in the street. We also talked to a young man who
was just given a rifle and 24 bullets while the US prepares Stealth
fighters and B-1s. From my vantage point, if the United States proceeds
with air strikes, the stage is set for a massacre.

In spite of the experience with Perez de Cuellar before the Gulf War in
1991, people here hope that things will be different this time. The fact
is that Kofi Annan is coming to Bagthad gives people hope that past
mistakes will not be repeated. We hear repeatedly from UN officials and
other folks that Iraq is willing to negotiate--seriously negotiate--for a
diplomatic solution to this political crisis. No one in Iraq wants to see
more bombing, no one wants to see more war.

If the people are angry at Saddam Hussein we have not heard it. The people
are targeting their anger against the US government--not the people of the
United States. The Iraqi people consider the American people their

Right now we are setting up a peace camp right across the street from UN
headquarters where we will be in support of Kofi Annan and a diplomatic
solution. We will be there until some agreement is reached.

Voices in the Wildernss
A Campaign to End the US/UN Economic Sanctions Against the People of Iraq
1460 West Carmen Ave.
Chicago, IL 60640
ph:773-784-8065; f: 773-784-8837

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