The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

[Main archive index/search] [List information] [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

[casi] SF Chronicle: Activists take faith in peace to Iraq

The following link is a nice piece on the Iraq Peace Team from the San
Francisco Chronicle:
(also reproduced below for those without web access).  On the same page you
can also vote on whether or not you support US activists in Iraq.

Best wishes,

voices uk

Activists take faith in peace to Iraq
Some vow to stay even if war comes

by Robert Collier, Chronicle Staff Writer   Monday, December 23, 2002
Baghdad -- A candle clutched in one hand, Elizabeth Boardman is
bundled up in a chill desert wind, standing outside the Al-Taji
power-generating plant 15 miles from downtown Baghdad.

The plant was destroyed by U.S. bombs in the 1991 Gulf War, and if war
comes again, as seems increasingly likely, American missiles may once again
reduce the plant to rubble. Elizabeth Boardman, 61, is here to "bear
witness," doing her part, however small, and possibly in vain, to try to
stop it.

      "Saddam Hussein doesn't know me, and I'm not here to support him,"
says Boardman, one of several dozen foreign peace activists conducting a
vigil in the cold Iraq night air. "I'm here to stand with the Iraqi people,
who are suffering from U.S. policies that I think are completely wrong."

      With war perhaps just weeks away, activists such as Boardman have been
coming to Iraq, and some say they will stay even if the bombs start to fall
and American soldiers fight their way through the streets of Baghdad. They
are here, they insist, not to support the regime of Saddam Hussein -- "He's
an evil man," says Boardman -- but to remind the world of the damage a war
can bring.

      Their presence angers critics who regard activists like Boardman as
propaganda dupes of a totalitarian regime.

      When actor and Marin County resident Sean Penn visited Baghdad last
week, he was labeled by some as a latter-day "Hanoi Jane," a reference to
actress Jane Fonda's notorious visit to North Vietnam during the Vietnam
War. Further ammunition for such criticisms came when the Iraqi government
claimed that Penn agreed with its contention that the regime possessed no
weapons of mass destruction, an assertion angrily denied by Penn.

      Boardman insists she is not driven by politics or ideology. The
executive director of the North and South Market Adult Day Health Center, a
San Francisco nonprofit that provides medical care for senior citizens,
Boardman describes herself as a "hard-core Quaker pacifist."

      The daughter of a World War II conscientious objector, she protested
U.S. intervention in Central America in the 1980s by withholding her federal
income taxes. Now, with a war in Iraq seeming closer, she decided that
Baghdad was the place to be.

      "My daughter said, 'Oh, Mom, you would do this,' and a lot of other
friends and family worry about me here. And I was petrified for a while
after I made the decision to come," she says. "But I just remind people now
of the Iraqi civilians and U.S. soldiers who will be in real danger. They're
the ones to worry about."

      Standing alongside Boardman outside the Al-Taji power plant are
Catholics, Mennonites, Jews and Buddhists, prompted to come here, they say,
by deeply held religious beliefs.

      "The principal thing for me, for my soul, is to identify with the
victims," says Charles Liteky, a former Army chaplain who says he plans to
stay if war comes. A San Francisco resident whose long career as an anti-war
activist has earned him two stints in federal prison, Liteky spends most of
his days here at a local orphanage run by Catholic nuns, helping children
with cerebral palsy to eat and play.

      "I may be able to save a child in the orphanage during the bombing, or
administer first aid to somebody in the neighborhood with the skills I
learned in Vietnam," says the 71-year-old Liteky, who was awarded the
Congressional Medal of Honor in 1968 when he carried 22 wounded soldiers to
safety during heavy combat in Vietnam.

      Asked whether he would do the same for a wounded American soldier
fighting in Baghdad, Liteky responds, "Of course I'd go get him, no matter
whether he was an American soldier or an Iraqi soldier. They're all human

      Liteky, Boardman and other activists are members of an organization
called Voices in the Wilderness, whose headquarters is in Chicago. The
anti-war group has brought dozens of American delegations to Iraq since 1996
to protest U.S. policies toward Iraq and U.N. sanctions, in effect since the
1991 Gulf War, saying they have unfairly affected Iraq's civilian

      After Voices in the Wilderness was fined $20,000 by the Treasury
Department for violating the U.S. ban on travel to Iraq, members of the
group traveled to Washington earlier this month to deliver payment -- in
virtually worthless Iraqi dinars.

      Kathy Kelly, co-founder of Voices in the Wilderness, acknowledges that
her organization's credibility was tarred last September when it staged a
demonstration outside U.N. headquarters in Baghdad. Critics point out that
demonstrations except those staged by the government are usually banned.

      It was "a disaster," she said. "We're here to protest the fact that
U.N. sanctions and U.S. bombs have killed hundreds of thousands of children
in the past decade, but we get saddled somehow with being dupes."

      Many of the activists seemed aware of the contradictions of protesting
against U.S. policies in a country where free speech is sharply curtailed.

      "If I got up in a church service here and yelled, 'Down with Saddam,'
I'd be tossed out of here, I wouldn't last 24 hours," admits the Rev. Roy
Bourgeois, a Catholic Maryknoll priest and longtime anti-war activist who
just ended a two-week visit with other religious activists, during which
they held a service at a local Chaldean Catholic church and read a statement
opposing a U.S. war. "There's control here that I've never seen."

      Many of the visiting Americans say that whatever their misgivings
about the political situation, they have been surprised by the warmth and
hospitality of everyday Iraqis they have met.

      "I expected people here to be very angry at Americans, but I've found
that they make distinctions between the American people and our government,
which is a lot more than our government does in return," said Sister Simone

      a Catholic nun who is a Sacramento lobbyist for Jericho, an interfaith
social- services coalition. "I met a mother who can't get chemotherapy for
her young boy with cancer because the medicines are viewed as 'dual use,' "
referring to materials that the United Nations says could be used for
chemical or biological weapons. "It broke my heart. But she was very sweet.
She wasn't angry at me."

      But even those who say they are willing to stay even if war comes know
there may be little they can do once the shooting starts.

      "We couldn't stop a bomb with our bodies, and we can't stop the war,"
said Kelly.

      Nevertheless, for Boardman, who plans to return to the Bay Area early
next month, her visit to Iraq has been more than a quixotic gesture. In
addition to resuming her day job, she says, she will be undertaking a hectic
round of speaking engagements.

      "I hope that my experience here can help invigorate people back home
who may think war is inevitable and are losing hope," she says.

Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
To unsubscribe, visit
To contact the list manager, email
All postings are archived on CASI's website:

[Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]