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[casi] Hope this isn't a have to love VITW!

[ Presenting plain-text part of multi-format email ]

R. Richard Newcomb

Director, Office of Foreign Assets Control

Department of the Treasury

Washington, DC 20220

Re: Department of the Treasury letter dated November 4, 2002

Dear Mr. Newcomb:

We are in receipt of your letter dated November 4, 2002, and addressed to
Voices in the Wilderness, c/o Ms. Kathy Kelly. Since Ms. Kelly is currently
in Iraq accompanying the Iraq Peace Team, a group of Americans and other
concerned internationals who have pledged to remain in Iraq for the duration
of any future US attack, we, members of Voices in the Wilderness, are
responding on her behalf. We invite you to contact her directly in Iraq.

As I am sure you know, on August 12, 1999, UNICEF reported that, in the
period since their inception in 1990 through 1998, sanctions have contributed
to the deaths of more than 500,000 innocent Iraqi children. Thousands die
each month of diarrhea and respiratory infections. Further, the devastation
caused to the Iraqi economy is plainly evident: unemployment and poverty are
endemic, malnutrition and child mortality have increased hand-in-hand, water
quality, especially in the southern region so aggressively targeted in 1991,
remains extremely poor, and the nation’s previously excellent health care
system lies in shambles, largely because access to both medicines and medical
technology have been directly hindered by the sanctions our government so
wholeheartedly supports.

Your letter incorrectly suggests that Voices in the Wilderness (Voices) is a
“juridical person organized under the laws of the United States.” We wish to
state emphatically that Voices in the Wilderness is not now, and has never
been, a legally recognized entity of any sort. It owns no property or stock
and has no by-laws or officers. Rather, Voices is simply an unstructured
association of people of good will from the United States and numerous other
countries. We seek nothing more than a just and enduring peace between the
citizens of Iraq and their counterparts from other nations. To this end,
Voices sponsors delegations to Iraq composed of people who desire to witness
for themselves the truth about the devastating effects of twelve years of
UN/US-imposed economic sanctions. Delegates often bring with them toys and
much needed medicines which they distribute to people in Iraq, medicines that
are often fatally delayed from reaching Iraqi medical professionals by US
“national interests.”

Your letter also incorrectly indicates that “VW elected on six separate
occasions, to export goods, to Iraq .” On countless occasions, Voices
delegates, among them medical professionals and artists, clergymen and
clergywomen, students and professors, Nobel laureates and veterans, have
imported and delivered both antibiotics and cancer fighting medication into
Iraq, medicine that we know has saved lives that would otherwise have been
claimed by the sanctions. On our return, we have exported the stories of
Iraqis whose lives depend on the Oil for Food rations, pieces of missiles
that have hit their homes and killed their children, and art and music that
so eloquently express their suffering. Additionally, we have reported on
meetings held with senior UN officials working in Iraq. Unlike the sanctions
we work to end, Voices seeks to export friendship rather than discord, to
rebuild rather that to destroy, and, to paraphrase the words of Thich Nhat
Hanh, to be peace in our every step.

You suggest that, if Voices had requested US government permission to travel
to Iraq and bring medicines to its citizens, such permission may have been
granted. Let us not be misunderstood. Each of us knows for a certainty that
it is no more necessary to ask our government’s permission to visit and care
for the sick, no matter where they live, than it was for women to seek the
permission of men for the right to vote, or for African Americans to petition
their white brothers for equal protection under the law. Further, each of the
world’s religions adheres to the basic moral principle that all people share
the obligation to treat every person as they wish to be treated. Voices would
most certainly welcome any official permission the US government might wish
to bestow on our acts of charity, solidarity, and justice. Make no mistake,
though, that we will continue to act according to the dictates of our
consciences should our government continue to deny us permission to alleviate
the suffering of an already devastated people.

All of us understand that you, too, must follow your conscience as you
perform your job. We ask you once again, however, to examine both UN and
independent findings of the sanctions’ effects, to reevaluate your position,
and to join us in our efforts in bringing an immediate cessation to the
economic and military warfare currently being waged against the Iraqi people.
We further ask that you enlist your coworkers and supervisors in sharing our
attempts to aid the innocent civilian population of Iraq. Finally, we request
that we be given the opportunity to present our case at an open and public

As payment for these fines, we have included 6,750 Iraqi dinar (ID). Prior to
the Gulf War and economic sanctions, these dinar were valued at approximately
$20,000; today they are worth roughly $3.33! This drastic rate of deflation
is a direct result of the draconian economic sanctions, which US
Representative David Bonior has termed “infanticide masquerading as foreign
policy.” If we work together in search of the truth and reconciliation with
Iraq, just compensation will be found in a world where human rights are
guaranteed, and the freedom to travel, to love, and to care for each other
are protected, not limited, by governments.

We thank you for this opportunity for dialogue, and we remain


Voices in the Wilderness

Roger Stroope
"Ideas are more powerful than weapons"
Austin College, Sherman Texas

"Individuals have international duties which transcend the national
obligations of obedience…Therefore [individual citizens] have the duty to
violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity from
occurring" -- Nuremberg War Crime Tribunal, 1950

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