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[casi] Iraq Peace Team: Martin Edwards - Letter From Baghdad - 3/31/03


Friends Everywhere,

I'm sub-titling this letter, "Bridge To Peace".
Hopefully, the reason may become clear, as you read

It's "crunch time", as they say here, in IPT.  Meaning
things have gotten a stage more difficult, or at least
many in IPT are feeling that way.  To signify this,
IPT'er Neville Watson, broke out a whole box of Nestle
Crunch (gee, how I'm looking askance at myself in my
mind as I indirectly promote Nestle, or any candy
bars), but then, I'm just reporting facts and feelings
and observations.  I passed, but only due to my
personal blood sugar sensitivities.

We've been meeting at least twice a day, for two days,
on this matter, and in groups of two's, three's, etc.
in between.

This morning, in a large meeting some of us were
attempting to sing a song, a kind of parady written by
Theresa, wife of Gabe Huck in our Chicago office.
Thereaa and Gabe have been here together in the past,
more than once.  Theresa sang this song at the
send-off and press conference at the Chicago's O'Hare
Airport, as we (the March 6th team) were about to
board Royal Jordanian Airlines for Shannon, Ireland,
and then on to Amman, Jordan.

Support team, please check the IPT website for this
song, or contact the Chicago office.  One way or
another, I'd appreciate the words and information on
the tune (what song it's a parady on) added, as a
viewable file, to LAMPTIP.  It's a great job on
Theresa's part.  I'd like to encourage it to be sung
at rally's and protest actions that continue to take
place, I know, to end this war.  It can help to remind
folks back home that we're not dealing with some
back-woods tribesmen over here; that these people had
created an advanced civilization thousands of years
before we colonized the America's, "blessing" the
native peoples with our form of "civilization", in a
not so civilized manner.

The chorus is,

"We're going to the fertile crescent
The cradle of civilization
The land between two rivers
We're going to Mesopatmia"

If our troops began to learn this song, as well, and
began singing it, maybe, one by one, they'd drop their
guns, and ask to be arrested and taken home, having
realized what they've become caught up in, who they
have become a pawn of, and that if thousands took such
an action, the war would end immediately.

The Iraqi government has seized the high moral ground.
 It's time we joined them there, taking our fears and
this war, off he battlefield, out of Iraq, and back to
the UN where it belongs.

Back to the meetings scene, it looks like, after the
expected departure tomorrow morning of  about 14 team
members, there will be 10 to 12 of us left.  The group
remaining consists of about 6 "veterans" of the Voices
work to end the sanctions and now the work, in
non-violent ways, to stop this war (and all wars),
plus 4 to 6 of us who have much more recently come to
support this effort with our presence in Baghdad as
part of IPT.

The group that is leaving are mostly doing so because
they feel they can contribute the most to this effort,
one way or another, through work they can do on the
outside, some possibly from Amman Jordan.  There are 2
or 3 who were told they must leave, by the Iraqi
government.  Some of those leaving are part of a CPT
(Christian Peacemaker Team) delegation which arrived
just about a week ago, under the "sponsorship" of IPT.

This exiting group is in the process of putting out a
press release which will explain their viewpoint that
they are "not leaving Iraq, but rather taking Iraq
with them, in their hearts and spririt, and through
their words and actions.  They have built community
here, and where violence is destroying community, they
will take their experience with them and stand against
such destruction." You will be able to learn more of
their efforts by getting on IPT's email distribution
list, by sending an email request to: Info@VitW.Org.
There's also the website: Www.IraqPeaceTeam.Org.

Those of us who are staying, feel we can contribute
the most by staying.  Those of us staying, including
our founder, Kathy Kelly, will be issuing a press
release, as well.  I am staying, personally, for all
the reasons I state in my document on this subject
which is posted as an accessible file, for Yahoo Group
members, under the Yahoo Group name: LAMPTIP at:
Www.YahooGroups.Com .

I have the opportunity to get email out today, by
sending a disk with those who are leaving.  This is
making it possible for you to hear further from me at
this time.

For once, I have found space and opportunity to use a
computer in the middle of the day, rather than what
has been more the norm (the middle of the night).  I
small part of my mind realized that not all the noise
outside the window was traffic; that as is often the
case now, even in the day time, there were bomb and/or
cruise missile explosions going off in the distance.
I'm in our little office here, a small hotel room at
the Al Fanar Hotel, which has been converted to an
office by replacing the two single beds with simple
office furniture.  I can see the Tigris River, to my
right, from the South facing balcony of this 5th floor
room.  And plumes of smoke in the distance, in all
directions.  Some are from bomb/missile strikes.
Others are from oil being burned in open trenches to
make aircraft navigation more difficult.  But I don't
think it really makes any effective difference with
the latest U.S. technology being applied against the
Iraqi people at this time.  Unfortunately, there have
been great advances in weapons guidance during the 12
years since the "Gulf War".  So, the oil being burned,
with good intentions, to save human lives, is creating
environmental damage far worse than (pardon me) Los
Angeles smog. With perhaps the first victims being the
children of Baghdad, followed by those adults whose
systems are already weak from other factors.

Meanwhile, back at the skyline.  Directly ahead is the
local Sheraton hotel, which is a tall, attractive
building.  Why not?  The first organized cities in
history, the first building arches, architecture in
general, originated in this area.

Down below, in the streets, the traffic seems to
increase a little each day.  Most of the stores and
businesses that closed the day before the bombing
started, are still closed.  But a few more re-open
each day, as more of the people adjust to the current
situation.  They say here, often, and have for
decades, or centuries, as a cultural expression: "This
is the life, what can I do".  That's a rough
interpretation of a common Arabic phrase, which I
understand is common throughout the Middle East, but
which I can't put my finger on, in Arabic, at this

Speaking of the Sheraton makes me think about prices
here.  Amazingly, the cost per night there is only
100,000 Iraqi dinars.  I say, "only", because at the
current conversion rate for U.S. dollars, that's less
than $40.00 per day.  Our hotel is costing us about
$6.00 US per day, per person, with 2 persons per room,
or 4 per 2 room suite, which includes a decent
breakfast of cheese, eggs, bread, and tea or coffee.
Each room also has a small fridge, so we can save
money by buying food on the outside.  Imported food
items are relatively expensive, though.   I bought a
kilo (i.e. 2.2 lbs.) of bulk tea the other day for our
group for about $1.00 U.S.  Tea in tea bags, even
local, are far more expensive.  The hotel charges
almost half that for just one cup of tea in the dining
room (except at breakfast, when it's included.  But
one can soft drink, imported from Jordan, costs almost
$1.00 U.S. because it's not local and now must be
brought in on roads which have been damaged to some
degree by U.S. bombing and are definitely far more
dangerous to travel now then when we first came in,
because U.S. forces have apparently even set up road
blocks and in some cases purposely "taken out"
civilian cars and busses with missiles, according to
eye witnesses our team members have witnesses.  But I
can buy a batch of 15 falafel "sandwhices", 2 of which
make a very complete meal, for a group of us, and
bring them back to the hotel, for only $1.00 U.S.  If
us forces initiate a siege of Baghdad, like they are
attempting to enforce in Basra, prices for even
simple, basic, food and water could go sky high.

I am feeling somewhat ashamed shortly after another
team member (Ramzi Kysia, of Washington D.C.; born in
the U.S., but of Lebanese parents) joined me on the
balcony and we sat down to discuss various subjects
related to our presense here and the ways we want to
help.  The shame rose in me because at a certain
point, I realized that we, as most of the population,
were sitting there chatting, almost oblivious to the
fact that every few minutes, there would be another
string of explosions in the distance.  Some of them,
even though in the distance, were strong enough to
give the building a good shaking.  Ramzi is a great
source of information, observation, reflections, and
analysis, based on having spent much time working for
peace in the Middle East for many years, and due to
having been born into a family of Middle Eastern
descent, and living in an Arabic community in the
U.S., beginning as a child.  Unfortunately, he is
among those leaving tomorrow.  He would have stayed
here, but he was accused by the police of doing
something he didn't do (staying at the home of a local
family overnight, when in fact, he was visiting
friends at a hotel close by).  So, he was ordered
expelled, as a penalty, but has been told he may be
able to return soon.  Meanwhile, he will be doing a
lot for our the cause from Jordan and/or the U.S.

Did I tell you about the "peace water" ritual, and the
responsibility I accepted, regarding same?  The day
before I left, friends of mine from Sonoma County,
brought me a vial of specially blessed water.  They,
with about 30 friends, had created a
ceremonial/ritual/event wherein water brought back
from many special places in the world, as well as
water from local streams, lakes, and rivers.  In this
event, they sought to imbue the collected waters with
special prayers and powers to foster peace.  They then
poured these waters into the Pacific Ocean, with the
hope that by their actions and the world-wide
interconnections of the Pacific would help spread
peace throughout the world.  But first, they saved a
little in a special vial, with a wax sealed cork, to
send to Iraq with me.  Some leaked out on the way
here, in my daypack, but at least half made it, in
liquid form, and the rest is with me in residue and
sprit, such that my day pack is now my Peace Pack.

When my Sonoma County, CA friends gave me the vial of
Peace Water, they asked me to bring it to Iraq, and
find an opportunity to pour it into either the Tigress
or the Euphrates, in the spirit that the mixing of
this special water with either of these historical
rivers, of great importance to the region since
ancient times, might help spread peace throughout Iraq
and flow out into the Gulf to spread peace throughout
the region.

About a week ago, several team members and I walked
out on a bridge across the Tigress, with the Peace
Water in mind.  The bridges are all guarded by the
military, as is not surprising in the current
circumstances.  We're doing the same thing, after all,
in Northern California, for example, with the Golden
Gate Bridge, and Iraq has not even threatened to
invade California.

As we first walked onto the bridge, several military
personnel hurried over from a guard post to speak with
us, looking very concerned.  We showed them one of our
"Magic Sheets" (explained in one of my earlier
comunique's).  That eased tensions a bit.  Then they
explained with gestures that no pictures were allowed.
 I have chosen not to carry a camera with me, as
pictures being taken outdoors, of any kind, are
forbidden by our hosts unless we are given specific
permission to photograph a specific person and/or
place/thing, from a specific angle, at a particular
time, on a particular occasion.  To violate this rule
is the quickest way I know of to get thrown out of
Iraq at this time.  This sounds rather harsh.  But,
then I remember that if I was an Iraqi in the U.S.
right now, I might well be in detention, simply
because I am from Iraq.  I pray for the day when most
of us, individuals and nations, have learned to come
together, on all occasions, coming from a place of
love, instead of fear.

Once we understood their greatest concern, those with
cameras, and the rest of us as well, confirmed that we
would take no pictures, and we walked out onto the
span.  The bridge is one known locally as "The British
Bridge".  It has a proper name, I believe, but there
are special reasons for its common name.  It was built
by the British, long ago.  As I understand the
history, it was originally built for a rail line, but
was later converted to vehicle traffic.   During the
Gulf war, the U.S. led coalition forces purposely
destroyed much civilian infrastructure in Baghdad,
including ALL of the bridges over the Tigress.  But
this bridge, specifically, was not touched, because
the British arm of the coalition demanded that it not
be destroyed, as they had built it.   So critical are
these bridges to the life of the people in Baghdad,
that they rebuilt them all within one year of our
previous assault on Iraq.   Note that we never even
attempted to approach Baghdad during the Gulf War,
with our troops, but we disabled, civilian
infrastructure, purposely, which is a clear violation
of the Geneva Conventions.  But it doesn't seem that
we, as a nation, care at all about international law,
unless we can use it against another party.  There's a
water treatment plant at the edge of the city, where
some of us have been spending some of our time, to
protest the disabling of civilian infrastructure in
the last war, and to warn against doing the same
during this war.  We have hung a large sign there,
stating that to damage such a facility is a WAR CRIME.
 Of course, we have been commiting war crimes (for
that is what they are, based both on the Geneva
Conventions and any sense whatsoever of morality) here
for over 12 years now, beginning with much of our
response to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.  Perhaps, in
some minds, since the current invasion and bombing of
Iraq, has been from the beginning a WAR CRIME, in its
entireity (for the initiation of any war, is to me a
WAR CRIME - this war in particular, due to the lame
reasons we have given for doing so), then what does it
matter, perhaps, what what individual crimes we commit
in the course of commiting the overall crime?  Well to
me, and to the Iraqi people, it matters very much, for
this crime, these crimes, have been affecting them
severely, for 12 years now, causing much suffering,
and civilian deaths, as I have mentioned before, and
will continue to speak out against, totaling over ONE

My fellow team member, Charlie Liteky, 72 (a much
decorated Viet Nam Vet - a chaplain - decorated for
saving many lives through his heroism on the battle
field - and now known for his anti-war actions that
have landed him in jail more than once, and recently
in a U.S. Prison for over a year) said yesterday, when
he was explaining to our group here, why is  not
leaving Iraqi, no matter how difficult life becomes
here: I came to Iraq some months ago, because I heard
the children crying out.  They are crying even louder

Well, it seems I was speaking of Peace Water and a
bridge.  Sorry, this could be more organized.  Forgive
me for it's being more a stream of consciousness
thing, but I have much to share with you, and not much
opportunity to do it, let alone, get it to you in a
nicely edited package.  Please feel free to cut and
paste, excerpt from, etc., any of my letters home, as
you share them and their contents with others,
throughout the land, as long as you are careful not to
take anything out of context.  It would also be nice
if you give credit to IPT and even to me, as the
specific voice, but that's not my main concern.
For the importance of IPT's voice, and my voice, is
that we be a voice for the voiceless in this case, the
Iraqi people.  It's not that they are incapable of
speaking for themselves.  It's that they have not been
able to be properly heard on the world's stage, and
when they have spoken, not enough of us have been
listening and acting on what we have heard.  Or,
because of who is speaking for them, we have killed
the message because of the messenger (a purposeful
switch on the old saying from Roman history).

I have crossed many of Baghdad's bridges, but always
before when I had been on a bridge, it was in a car or
taxi or bus.  Each of those times, I had the Peace
Water with me.  But to stop a vehicle in the middle of
a bridge in the middle of Baghdad, in these times, get
out, pour something into the river, then speed off,
would have invited instant bullets with the questions
being asked later, perhaps of my dead body and those
of others with me.

So, on this occasion, we walked slowly out onto the
bridge, which due to it's being just a day or so after
the bombing had begun, was basically void of any
vehicular traffic, as the city was still adjusting to
the new situation.  We stopped way before the center
of the river, spoke words of peace and prayers for
Iraq, the end of this war, the end of all wars, and I
poured the Peace Water from the vial into the Tigres.
Thank you Numea, thank you Dragon, thank you and all
my special friends in Sonoma County, and their
friends.  I feel honored to have had to opportunity to
help complete your intent, your creative and not
insignificant gesture of peace for Iraq, peace in the

For we know, but want to say it anyway, that it takes
many small actions (or inactions such as not going to
the polls to elect a different President), on the part
of millions, to create the conditions for a war such
as this.  Now, millions at home, and millions more
around the world, are acting, responsibly, and
non-violently, for peace.  Thank you, if you are part
of this, for your efforts.

And if you are one who truly believes are attack on
Iraq is justified, I respect your view, but I ask you
to take the time to research and re-examine your
reasons, and to go inside.  To pray for God's
guidance, if you are a religious person, to ask what
Christ would do if you are a Christian.  Or if you are
not religious, to simply meet quietly with the sense
of right and wrong we each have inside of us.  Try
putting yourself in the other person's shoes.  Make
that person an Iraqi woman, man, or child.  Be, for a
moment, such a person here in Iraq.  Move into a place
of compassion.  Maybe you could also do the same with
world leaders who are involved in allowing or even
participating in this insanity.  What if your family,
your children, have been and are being, seriously
affected.  How would you want to be treated?  Most of
us have, since childhood, a very good sense of
fairness, of we give time to check with it.

Most of the Iraqi people truly love Americans.  It's
really hard for them to imagine how any American could
be supporting our government's actions here.  I try to
be gently honest with them when this comes up.  I
point out that while many Americans are protesting,
saying: "Stop The War", "Not In My Name" (and they see
our demonstrations on Iraqi TV, there are still
millions of Americans who are still supporting this
war.  If you are such a person, I respect your fears.
But I ask you to examine the basis for your fears.
For our "reasons" for war, no matter how justified and
logical they may seem, must be based on fear, or we
would not be engaged in war, as either a defender or
an offender.

For if you do go through such a soul searching
process, acknowledging all your fears, large and
small, and their basis, I believe you too will
experience a shift of mind and heart and eventually
(soon, I pray) begin to speak out for peace.  And do
you know, friend, that while this will help achieve
peace in the world, it is you, yourself, who will
first benefit, for peace in the world begins first
with peace in you and peace in me.  To arrive at such
a place inside ourselves, is a great blessing, both
for ourselves and for those around us, near and far.

But keep in mind, that as each day moves on, as our
lives move on, we must continue to take the time, make
to effort, to continue to be coming from a place of
peace, each of us.  For we all slide down the slope,
into a place of fear, often.  The question is, how
quickly can we rise back up, on God's wings, trusting
that we are all held in the palm of God's hands, to
the peace that is there for all of us, inside and
outside, if we but trust and try.

And if, for some reason, maybe not on the surface, but
underneath, you believe an American life is worth more
than an Iraqi life, how many American soldiers will
have to die, their bodies sent home in body bags,
funerals in every city and town, large and small,
across our land (land and people that I too love),
before you will begin to say WHY?  WHY are we in Iraq?
 And, even if you believe, in your heart, that we have
a justifiable reason to be here, IS IT WORTH IT?

I know that for most who are reading this, I am
"preaching to the choir".  Please share my message
with those you know who have not yet joined the choir.
 If you are finding it hard to help them find peace,
maybe my words and the place I am currently at, inside
and outside, might give them a different kind of
opportunity to cross over a bridge in their own lives,
to a more peaceful life, coming less from a place of
anxiety, anger, fear, resentment, hurt, rejection, all
negative feelings, and more, just very simply, from
love and compassion.

My love and the love of the Iraqi people, go out to
you, today and every day, even as the bombs continue
(with sometimes an hour or two's let-up) to fall all
around us, reminding me to feel compassion and love
for the millions in the world who suffer from the lack
of peace in themselves, which may, in a way, be even
worse than being in the midst of this war, knowing
that today could be your last.


If a reader has questions, we may be reached via -

Martin Edwards: Email: EagleEyeLite@Netscape.Net

                Address: 1083 Vine Street
                         Healdsburg, CA 95448, USA
                Phone:   707-431-2713

                See, Also: LAMPTIP at Www.YahooGroups.Com

For Background, more information on our organization,

                Voices In The Wilderness - Iraq Peace Team
                A Campaign to End Sanctions and Stop the War
                    Email: Info@VITW.Org
                    Tel: (Chicago, USA) 773-784-8065,or 8837

        and: Www.NonViolentPeaceForce.Org

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