Thanks again, to Gerri Haines, Physicians for Social Responsibility, felicity a.
January 15, 2002
An Open Letter to Richard Perle
chairman, Defense Advisory Board
>From Kathy Kelly
Voices in the Wilderness
Dear Mr. Perle,
I am writing to you from a faraway land, Iraq, and yet I sense we are
not remote from one another. Perhaps you are thinking every day of the
cities I've visited this last month: Baghdad, Basra, and Mosul. Be
assured that I am thinking, every day, about the recommendations that
you and your colleagues make as you urge President Bush to show
strength, courage, and vitality by intensifying U.S. warfare in Iraq.
I recently watched children dance and sing and play at the Baghdad
school for Music and Ballet. One little girl played the piano, another
the violin. Young Ibrahim sang an Arabic translation of a song you may
know, based on a melody composed by Jean Sibelius. The lyrics were
written in the 1930s during the brief outbreak of peace between world
war. "This Is My Song" expresses hopes for peace among people who hold
in common a deep, true love of their homeland. Another little boy showed
me a drawing he made of 9-11, twin pillars of fire and smoke. He said he
felt bad about the attacks, but added that he doesn't think Americans
understand what happens to other people when they're hit by American
After Christmas, you wrote a rosy scenario for the New York Times
entitled "The U.S. Must Strike at Saddam Hussein," (12/28). In it, the
U.S. attacks Iraq with extraordinary precision. In the cross hairs of a
gunsight appears the only Iraqi who seems to matter to American
policymakers, Saddam Hussein. After U.S. forces for good eliminate the
evil leader, Iraqis take to the streets, dancing, and we all rejoice the
outbreak of peace.
However, the fantasy reveals more about America than it does about Iraq.
It's easy to imagine the crowds that would tear down pictures of Hussein
or topple statues of him. Reporters in Kabul found some Afghans dancing
when the Taliban fell, and shaving their beards or removing their
burkas. But what about the Afghans who huddle now in fear of Northern
Alliance warlords, or who quietly starve due to the physical and social
chaos war has brought? Survivors who've seen their villages obliterated
by U.S. bombs aren't joyous. Beyond the fanfare of the media, refugee
families are even now dying in the snow.
Mr. Perle, you work with complex issues and must know the pitfalls of
over-simplifying the realities of other peoples. Your plea for war
ignores the future horrors the horror of war may bring. If Iraq
collapses in civil war, where would the bloodletting stop?
Increased belligerence does not address a solution to the complex and
lethal problems that have already arisen because of current U.S. policy.
Whatever the future, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children will never
celebrate it. They are already dead. Economic warfare, waged through
sanctions, claimed the lives of these innocents.
Will their parents blithely overcome the sorrow they felt when they
couldn't obtain the medicines they needed? Will the liberation you
envision erase the pain they felt when they gave their children poisoned
water and watched them succumb to sicknesses? Will the doctors who
struggled vainly to heal them jump for joy if Iraq is again attacked?
Teachers, writers, engineers and civil servants who've lost their
savings, sold their belongings, and eked out a living on paltry wages
aren't likely to rejoice if the U.S. again bombs the debilitated
infrastructure they've tried mightily to restore.
Across Iraq, people ask us why Americans want to punish them even more.
For 11 years they've been told sanctions were a "peaceful" alternative
to war, and now they're told war is the solution to the suffering of
sanctions. In a twisted way the message is at least consistent: to
please remember that they're better off dead.
Remarkably, children here seem very ready to believe that Americans can
be kind and just. Like children everywhere they are full of curiosity
and show easy affection. In their laughter and hopes rest my hopes for a
Please, Mr. Perle, when you preach that no war against terrorism will be
successful without Saddam Hussein's removal, try also to remember other
terrors inflicted on these people over the last 11 years of our
I feel sure that you care deeply about America's national security.
Placing our trust in developing, stockpiling and using overpowering and
costly weapons has not enhanced that security. We must open our hearts
to the cries of people across the world who feel we treat them as dust
beneath our feet.
At its core, war is impoverishment. War's genesis and ultimate end is in
the poverty of our hearts. If we can realize that the world's liberation
begins within those troubled hearts, then we may yet find peace, and a
renewal of the courage and vitality you so passionately desire.
Kathy Kelly is director of Voices in the Wilderness, the first U.S.
grassroots organization to bring activists into Iraq to witness the
effect of sanctions, to violate the sanctions by bringing medicine and
toys into Iraq, and to educate the U.S. public upon their return.