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Dear Anai Rhoads, "Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon, which cuts without wounding and ennobles those who wield it. It's a sword that heals."--Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. For Immediate Release January 20, 2003 On Site DC: Kathy Kelly (917)217-6809 Stephanie Schaudel (917)567-5048 Chicago: Danny Muller (773)784-8065 Americans Resist US Fines and Continue Travel to Iraq Washington, DC-- Voices in the Wilderness campaign members who have refused payment of $50,000 in fines for their previous travel to Iraq will hold a press conference at the National Press Club, West Room, Tuesday January 21st, at 9:30 a.m., to announce future delegations and assert continued readiness to challenge both economic sanctions and US led warfare against Iraq. Returned delegates will offer testimony, photographs, and information, based on their recent travel to Iraq as members of the Iraq Peace Team. Voices in the Wilderness (VitW), a campaign to end economic sanctions and military warfare against ordinary Iraqis, has, since 1996, sent over sixty delegations to Iraq, breaking economic sanctions through incurring travel related expenses from transporting medical supplies. In November, 2002, the US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) imposed penalties on VitW and select members, with a total of $50,000 in fines. Voices in the Wilderness has responded by refusing payment, and instead raising funds for an increase in delegations and aid. In January 2003, Voices in the Wilderness was nominated, for the third time, for the Nobel Peace Prize. Presently, over a thousand Americans have contributed to the campaign by publicly declaring their commitment to break sanctions and find peaceful resolutions to US disputes with Iraq. At the press conference, Voices in the Wilderness will present i- a full list of over 200 delegates from 34 states who have traveled to Iraq and are available for interviews; ii-- samples of medicines and toys they are accused of having brought to Iraq and iii-- correspondence between Voices in the Wilderness and the US Treasury Department Future delegations organized by Voices in the Wilderness will depart from the US on January 26th, February 3rd, and February 8th, 2003. to participate in the Iraq Peace Team. Voices in the Wilderness members call for an end to the embargo which is a completely unjustified form of collective punishment that has cost the lives of over a million Iraqi citizens in the last twelve years and denied the people their fundamental human rights to housing, employment, education, and healthcare. They declare their support for nonviolent, diplomatic alternatives to war against Iraq (such as the US is presently employing in the case of North Korea), including the implementation of a previous UN resolution proposing the negotiated removal of Weapons of Mass Destruction from all countries in the Middle East-not just Iraq. They concur with Mr. Denis Halliday, former UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq, who believes that now the only hope for avoiding war, in which so much innocent blood would be shed, is "for the American people themselves to demonstrate that they will not tolerate, they will not support, they will not give their lives nor their money, for milit! ary aggression against the people of Iraq." Attached is a statement distributed by VitW members while traveling in Iraq ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ We are members of an international campaign, Voices in the Wilderness, based in the U.S. and the U.K. Since 1996, we have worked to end the economic sanctions against Iraq. Over 60 delegations from our group have traveled to Iraq in open violation of the sanctions. Now, as the Iraq Peace Team, we stand in opposition to further warfare against Iraq. Each of us represents thousands of people in America, Britain and other nations. We are teachers, social workers, authors, health care professionals, trades people, farmers, and church workers who, in the tradition of Mohandas Gandhi, advocate nonviolence as a means of social change. We oppose the development, storage and use, by any country, of weapons of mass destruction, be they nuclear, biological, chemical or economic. We see the disaster already caused by the 12 long years of sanctions now heightened by the threat of further war. U.S. authorities have warned us that the penalty for traveling to Iraq, in violation of U.S. laws, could be as much as 12 years in prison and many thousands of dollars in fines. While these penalties may seem grave, we realize that they are slight in comparison to the tremendous suffering inflicted on the Iraqi people. The true crime is the U.S./U.N. policy of sanctions and war. We pledge to do all we can to be voices for our brothers and sisters in Iraq. By reporting to our home countries the situation here, we hope to bring awareness of the reality of Iraqi life, a reality that is not available on most media outlets. Our intent is to take up residence in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities before and during a U.S. assault, should a new attack occur. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Letter to OFAC Voices in the Wilderness A Campaign to End the U.N. / U.S. Economic Sanctions Against the people of Iraq tel: 773-784-8065, 784-6144 fax: 773-784-8837 email: firstname.lastname@example.org website: www.nonviolence.org/vitw 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 "nationa! l 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 alleviat! e 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 hearing. 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 Respectfully, Voices in the Wilderness ~ Anai Rhoads - - - - Y E S _________________________________________________________________ MSN 8 with e-mail virus protection service: 2 months FREE* http://join.msn.com/?page=features/virus _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. 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