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Caerffili County Councillor's eyewitness account


Dear friends,

the following comes from Ray Davies, a 69 year old Labour County Councillor for Caerffili who returned from Iraq this week with Dave Rolstone (who had also been to Iraq in August). They had broken sanctions with Voices in the Wilderness.  Ray will be sure to have brought the message about sanctions back to South Wales fortunately - the filthy secret will not be safe with him or with Dave. 

Ray is also a member of the Cor Cochion Caerdydd (a Cardiff  choir).

I apologise for the roughness of this piece - It has been scanned in and is still a little untidy !

The report is followed by the Press release from CND Cymru and Voices in the Wilderness written sent out on the day they left.

There is a Public Meeting "The Sanctions Crisis in Iraq" chaired by Rhodri Morgan MP/Assembly Member, to be held in The Temple of Peace, Cathays Park, Cardiff on Wednesday 17th November 7.30pm. Speakers to include Felicity Arbuthnot and others from The Centre for Economic & Social Rights and Voices in the Wilderness.

hwyl a heddwch !



Sanctions busting trip to Iraq by Cllr. Ray Davies on a delegation organised by Voices, in the Wilderness- a national campaign to end the sanctions against the Iraqi people

For months, I had been concerned about the statistics coming out of the World Health Organisations about the large increase in birth deformities, cancers and child mortality in Iraq since the Gulf War. I therefore decided to go on a humanitarian visit and take in badly needed medicines, equipment and medical journals to Iraq. I was accompanied on the visit by Mr David Rolstone on Narberth, a fellow member of Voices in the Wilderness; and my trip was one quarter sponsored by CND Cymru .The day before we flew to Iraq via Jordan we delivered a letter to Tony Blair telling him of our intention to break sanctions by taking these supplies.

We arrived in Amman, Jordan. on October 14 and immediately went to the Iraqi embassy to apply for visas. This meant a 2 day wait -plus lots of pleading and argument- whilst our application was processed. We finally left Amman for Iraq by bus on Friday - The trip of some 600 miles was mainly across the hot. and desert, where the monotony was only broken by the different colours of sand and rock, and Bedouin shepherds tending their flocks.

At the border there were endless security checks, health checks, tests for AIDS and many other administrative delays. We finally arrived in Baghdad on Saturday morning, shattered and dehydrated. With no time to waste we visited a large building with an Italian aid worker. This large near-empty warehouse with a pitiful pile of books and an even more pitiful heap of outdated medicines told its own poignant story of the inhuman suffering of the Iraqi people. We and the small pile of books were piled onto a broken down open truck -and taken to visit 3 schools in a deprived district of Baghdad. We received VIP treatment. The children dressed in their Sunday best, 3 children to a desk made for I, with other children sitting on the floor. They sang us a song of welcome. We distributed the books and pencils, The word got round that 1 was from Wales and I was asked to sing. I was emotionally upset and the only thing I could manage was Dylan Thomas' song, Eli Jenkins' Prayer. It was sung in complete silence with everyone holding hands. With not a dry eve in sight we said our goodbyes to the most thunderous applause.

The next day we visited the Iraqi Red Crescent and were met by it's President, Dr. Alwash. He thanked us for the small amount of medical supplies but said that it may give the world the impression that Iraq now had plenty of drugs. I told him, no - that our small amount of medical supplies were symbolic and that by breaking the sanctions we were risking 5 years in prison. We also told him of our visit to 10 Downing St informing the Prime Minister of our intention. Our visit was interrupted by a visiting American doctor who said he had an emergency case of a 2 day old baby born without a roof pallet on its mouth and who was in danger of dying from want of feeding. A special item of medical equipment was urgently required. There was nothing at the Red Crescent. We opened our boxes of supplies and there at the top of the pile was a piece of plastic tube with fittings. This one small item of medical equipment costing just 95 pence saved the life of this Iraqi child.

With Iraqi Red Crescent travel permits in our pocket we travelled south to Basra and into the No Fly Zone- US planes flew over the area every day. They were always followed by Iraqi antiaircraft fire. We visited the Archbishop of Basra . His daily task was to give spiritual Sustenance to his flock and distribute food and medicine, to the poor of all religions. We called on the main sewerage and water treatment plant- It was working at half capacity due to a shortage. of spare. parts. Poor sewerage and water is helping to kill 5000 Iraqi children a month. There have also been outbreaks of cholera. We then visited a local hospital to see the problems at first hand, The hospital manager told us that in his region there have been many children born with severe deformities due to the use of depleted uranium in the so-called smart bombs dropped during the Gulf War: children with no brain. no eyes. two heads. Malnutrition and child mortality were increasing all the time. There was only one. ambulance instead of the 5 needed to bring pregnant mothers to hospital from a wide region- Poor peasant families scratching a living from their polluted earth cannot afford taxis. They try to cope without treatment - or die. I braced myself for the ward visit, but nothing prepared me for some of the sights confronting me, One 2 week old baby with nn nose, half a mouth, and large eyes, others so severely malnourished that they could fit comfortably into the palm of my hand. Young brothers with their first baby. crying and desperately trying to keep disease laden flies off of their dying children

We move along the ward, hoping not to have to face any more angry mothers asking us 'why?'. But we are compelled to see the multitude of children suffering and dying from a hundred different diseases. We must bear witness to this human disaster, A woman rushes over to me. Her thin bony fingers hold me in a vice like grip. 'Why are you killing my baby?" she screamed in anger and despair. What could I do'? I took out a photograph of my two young boys. Tad and Carwyn, I  thrust it towards her. "If someone did to my babies what my government is doing to yours 1 would want to kill them" I said. She looked at the photos and her eyes softened, She held my hand and I don't know who cried the most.

We made a quick visit to the displaced persons centre where hordes of mostly barefoot kids descended onto our small bus. We gave out footballs and pencils; but then we ran out of goodies. What to do? "Sing them a song, Ray". I gave them a croaking "Calon Lan" and it brought the house down. The kids were so overjoyed at the pathetic handout and when I asked why our interpreter said, for the tint time in their lives, someone has recognised them as children- as human beings.

I had been ill with a tummy upset but now it had got much worse. I got up three times in the night with diarrhoea; my body sometimes shook with a strange fever and my mouth was dry. As I lay sleepless in bed, I worried whether I may have to go into hospital, then I thought. "What hospital?" Every one in the Basra region is full of children dying from the effects of contaminated water. I have no health insurance- what company would insure someone going into the No Fly Zone of Iraq?" Later an American sanctions breaker gave me a tablet, which eased the problem, and we continued.

It took six hours to reach Baghdad, out of the oppressive beat and humidity. Next day we visited the world Health Organisation. We showed their top officer correspondence from 10 Downing Street which blamed the plight of the Iraqis on the Iraqi government for withholding food and medicine. He flatly refuted the letter and said that the work of the WHO is to monitor all food and drugs coming into Iraq- and all food had been distributed amongst the population to the accepted high standards of the WHO. He also stated that problems affecting the Iraqi population were directly attributable to the Gulf War and to sanctions.

We finally said goodbye to the Iraqi people: the shoeshine boys whose families can't afford for them to go to school; the cheeky young street beggars who dart between moving cars, risking their lives for peanuts-, the taxi drivers whose broken down vehicles make an extra contribution to the polluted atmosphere - all of these people should hate us, but they show us warmth and friendship.

A 20-hour bus ride with a 5 hour hold up at the Iraqi /Jordanian border brought us back to Amman City. As we finally crossed the border 1 looked back at the red and desert and the Bedouin shepherds. I held the hand of an Iraqi youth who had left his family to look for work in Jordan, and said, "One day when the olive tree of peace bursts forth in your lovely country, one day when the evil sanctions are gone forever, we will go back to a country of peace and prosperity in that beautiful land called Iraq.

Would I do it again? - Yes! It must be right to bear witness to man's inhumanity to man - or rather inhumanity to children

For more information contact:

Cllr .Ray Davies (01222)) 889514

or Dave Rolstone (01994) 419678,


voices in the wilderness

phone: 0181 - 444 1605 pager 01523 746 462

cnd cymru

(01550) 750 260

Sunday 10th October

Welsh sanctions-breakers risk prison by

taking ‘Mark Thomas’ teddy bear to Iraq

Two members of CND Cymru and the group Voices in the Wilderness fly out from Heathrow on Tuesday (12th October) on the first leg of a sanctions - breaking trip to Iraq. They will be carrying the giant teddy bear "Geoff" recently featured on the S4C 'The Mark Thomas Product' programme. They are taking medical supplies, and plan to donate blood to an Iraqi children’s hospital during their trip.

Ray Davies (69), a Labour Councillor for Caerffili and Dave Rolstone (52), a boat-builder from Narberth have not applied for export licences and risk a 5 year prison sentence if prosecuted.

Councillor Davies said today:

"Sanctions are war in slow-motion but with this difference: enemy armies are the least affected. Dictators and oligarchs wall themselves off from the worst effects of deprivation while the most vulnerable suffer directly. Such actions in the name of the high idea that this nation does not target the unarmed and the weak will ring hollow as long as our child-killing strategy of sanctions remains in place. "

Mr Rolestone, who broke the sanctions earlier this year, challenged the British Government to arrest him and defend its actions before a jury.

"Iraqi children are dying because of sanctions and that is our responsibility", he said. "We will not co-operate with this murderous policy".

Each month in Iraq, according to the UN's own figures, more than 4,000 children die because of UN sanctions. Protests from peace groups like Voices in the Wilderness have been ignored Denis Halliday, a UN humanitarian co-ordinator in Iraq, resigned in protest, declaring, ''No one wants to acknowledge the amount of non-military damage, the destruction of cold food and medicine storage, the power supply.... I didn't realise our level of complicity in the suffering.''

Previous Voices of the Wilderness delegates from Britain have been arrested and threatened with prosecution, whilst the group's sister organisation, Voices in the Wilderness US has received notification of a $163,000 administrative penalty. ENDS


  • Dave and Ray’s flight (Royal Jordanian RJ114) leaves Heathrow at 10.25am on Tuesday 12th October
  • Dave, Ray and "Geoff" will be handing in a letter at Downing Street at 1pm on Monday (11th October) and will be available for interview throughout the day.
  • Welsh interviews are available from Rod Stallard CND Cymru (01550) 750 260)
  • Dave Rolestone (01994) 419 678, and Ray Davies (01222) 889 514 are available at home today (Sunday) for comment.
Jill Stallard
Nantgaredig, Cynghordy, Llanymddyfri,  SA20 0LR
Ffon/Ffacs (01550) 750 260
Heddwch yw cylchgrawn yr Ymgyrch Ddiarfogi Niwclear yng Nghymru (CND Cymru)
Heddwch is the magazine of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in Wales(CND Cymru)
(Heddwch is welsh for peace)
Jill Stallard
Nantgaredig, Cynghordy, Llanymddyfri,  SA20 0LR
Ffon/Ffacs (01550) 750 260
Heddwch yw cylchgrawn yr Ymgyrch Ddiarfogi Niwclear yng Nghymru (CND Cymru)
Heddwch is the magazine of the Campaign for Nuclear Disamament in Wales(CND Cymru)
(Heddwch is welsh for peace)

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