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[casi] VITW Press Release

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
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

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

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
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!

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


Voices in the Wilderness

~ Anai Rhoads

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