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From Ground Zero to Baghdad - interview with prospective Voices in the Wilderness delegate

Dear all

An edited version of this interview is carried in the latest Voices UK 
newsletter, available from

Voices in the Wilderness UK organises sanctions-breaking delegations 
to Iraq. Our website is


Milan Rai
Joint Coordinator Voices in the Wilderness UK (for November)

Interview with Matt Barr, Sun. 4 Nov.

Matt is representing voices in the wilderness uk on the voices us-
organised ĎWalk for Healing and Peaceí from Washington DC to New 
York at the end of this month (see page 3 for more details). He will 
then be taking part in the joint US-UK delegation to Iraq in Dec. 2001.

Matt: Iíve just turned 21 [two nights earlier!]. Currently Iím a student, 
doing a sound recording course. Interests are music-based, obviously, 
though politics and activism is my first love behind music.

voices: What drew you to take part in a sanctions-breaking 
Matt: Initially, it was because I was so horrified by what was happening 
in Iraq, and in my name as a member of the British public.
        I felt almost powerless in what I could do as a persuasive 
measure in government, and so I felt this was a very positive way to 
show the Iraqi people that though this was handed out by the British 
government, it wasnít necessarily supported by the British public.
        But also because I felt that by going to Iraq and witnessing 
whatís happening, I kind of felt that it might in some way add an 
element of credibility, that there were eyewitness accounts, and 
people had seen it for themselves, and it wasnít all based on statistics, 
and reports from the UN.
        I felt it was important to have personal accounts of individuals in 
Iraq, individual families, individual children, who have stories of their 
own. Because that way you could humanise what was going on, rather 
than it being Ďcollated dataí.
        Iím a great believer in accepting responsibility for oneís actions, 
and I feel that our government are strongly denying any responsibility, 
so just wanted to act, I guess, in whatever small form an individual 

voices: After September 11, the sanctions-breaking delegation was 
postponed indefinitely, and a new kind of delegation was proposed, 
which is now going to take place in December. How did you feel 
about that sequence of events?

Matt: My initial reaction was disappointment, because my prime focus 
was a sanctions-breaking delegation.
        But, increasingly, as the reaction to September 11 in Britain and 
the US has occurred, it has become more and more important to 
focus on peace-related means of action.
        I guess, initially, my reaction was: do I still want to go? Do I want 
to put myself in that position? Am I willing to put myself in that 
        And it took me a long time from being absolutely determined to 
go on a sanctions-breaking delegation to all of a sudden the context of 
the delegation changing.
        I was unsure whether or not I was willing to put myself in that 
        I was still adamant that I wanted to go, and that I believed in the 
delegation, thought it was vitally important that it go ahead.
        But whether or not I could really put myself in that position, I 
had to sit down and really question and work out whether it was 
suitable for me at that point in time to go ahead with it.
        It took me a couple of weeks to get my head around the 
potential connotations of military action while I was there.
        I came to the conclusion that I felt so strongly about what was 
going on in Iraq, and what has been going on in Iraq, that that almost 
became a secondary issue.
        Because it was out of my control. I donít have control over 
what may or may not happen while Iím there. I have control over 
whether I choose to go. And the reasons for wanting to go, the 
reasons I feel I need to go, didnít change, despite the fears and the 
doubts about the possibilities of  actions that might happen while I 
was there
        It was, it still is, a very frightening prospect. 
        But when I think about the fact that this delegation will last ten 
days that weíre physically in Iraq, itís nothing compared to what it 
must be like to live under these conditions, and to have to exist, 
survive, with such knowledge that these things might happen. Itís 
nothing compared to having to actually get on with life and deal with 
it, which the Iraqi people do, and they donít have a choice in it.
        I kind of felt that it was a risk that I was willing to take, and 
accept the consequences of it, because Iím appalled - and outraged - 
by what is going on in Iraq. 
        If any military action were to happen, whether Iím there or not, 
I would be strongly opposed to it. Like the sanctions policy, it would 
affect the civilian population more so than anybody else, and that 
resonates with me very strongly: there is an innocent population in 
Iraq that have all but been forgotten about.

voices: There is a real risk of death,  and injury, perhaps even 
incarceration, on this delegation. How do you feel about that?

Matt: I feel terrified really. And petrified by the possibility of death. Itís 
a very very daunting and ral prospect. 
        When I sat down and thought about it, it was one of the worst 
experiences Iíve gone through, thinking of leaving my family and my 
loved ones behind, and how they would cope, what it would be like 
for them.
        It was gruelling, and a very painful experience. It was actually 
horrendous. It was a very hard thing for me to get through.
        The thing that did get me through, and to a certain extent 
surprised me, was the fact that even after Iíd acknowledged the 
possibility  of such things happening, my desire to actually go hadnít 
decreased or been diluted whatsoever. 
        There was no wavering in my desire to go. 
        I still am very fearful about going, and will be throughout the 
delegation, I am sure. But my willingness and determination to do this 
burns so much brighter than my fears that I feel as though I have to 
follow my heart and stand up for what I believe in.
        Though my fears are very real, I donít want them inhibiting 
doing what I believe in.
        I have absolutely no desire to die in Iraq. Itís the last thing I 
want to happen, be it a US or UK delegate, or an Iraqi person. Itís the 
last thing I want to happen, and Iím sure itís the last thing my family 
want to happen.

voices: How do you feel about joining the Walk for Healing and Peace 
in the US?

Matt: When I was asked to do it, I was overjoyed. To be able to take 
part in something as significant as that, for me personally, the 
emotions and the energy that Iíll get out of it. Itís such a needed thing 
to be done, and to be part of that, will be a wonderful thing, to stand 
up and be counted in a peaceful movement, trying to find peaceful 
        It will be really overwhelming, and Iím honoured actually to be 
able to actually take part in this, and itís something that will never 
leave me.
        Even though I havenít done it yet, I feel proud of itís happening, 
regardless of my participation or not. And to be part of it is a very 
special thing.

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