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Report from Iraq

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  • Robert Waldrop
    This is from Tom Cornell of Peter Maurin Catholic Worker farm. Robert Waldrop, Oscar Romero House, Oklahoma city A contemporary essay in the Catholic Worker
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 10, 2003
      This is from Tom Cornell of Peter Maurin Catholic Worker farm. Robert
      Waldrop, Oscar Romero House, Oklahoma city

      A contemporary essay in the Catholic Worker tradition
      from the Cradle of Civilization -- To the Grave?
      By Tom Cornell

      “Eez beautiful, my city, Baghdad!” Thirteen year old shoe-shine boy
      Ahmed throws his arms into the air, his face beaming to the morning
      sun across the Tigris. “Eez beautiful city, no, Baghdad?”

      I can’t tell him, once surely, a beautiful, even a magnificent city,
      unimaginably beautiful: broad boulevards and splendid mosques of
      gleaming tiles, glowing domes, lovely private homes and public
      buildings, parks and monuments depicting tales from the Thousand and
      One Nights. But now the park bordering the river across the street
      from our modest hotel is derelict. Its open air fish restaurants seem
      rich and gaudy lit up at night with neon. In the light of day they are
      revealed bleak and forlorn.

      Ahmed has a spot on the sidewalk in front of our modest hotel for his
      shoe-shine box. He is proud of his city. “Ad ogni ucello il suo nido e
      bello,” I remember the Italian proverb, “To every bird its own nest is
      beautiful.” Ahmed belongs here and his city belongs to him. He is in a
      state of denial. Everyone here has to be. We are under unspeakable
      threat. No one could function here constantly aware of the
      overwhelming destructive power of American technological warfare
      gathering to strike. Bomb shelters offer slight comfort after two U.S.
      shells pierced through five layers of reinforced concrete at the
      Al-Amariyah shelter in 1991, killing hundreds, wiping out entire
      families. Shadows of victims are still imprinted on floors and walls.

      Rubble in the streets, broken pavements, hollowed bombed out
      buildings, piles of bricks from demolished buildings everywhere;
      buildings destroyed by the force of concussion still stand empty
      shells alongside working buildings. All this the result of five weeks
      of around-the-clock U.S. bombing in 1991 and the embargo, “sanctions”
      ever since. Men in military uniform carry automatic rifles on every
      street, boys many of them. There is no soft-core pornography on
      billboards luring customers to buy tooth-paste and automobiles.
      Beggars press upon me, women hold malnourished children for display,
      little girls follow doggedly pleading; old women and men sit on the
      sidewalk with paper cup in hand. But there is no evidence of
      homelessness. People apparently still take care of their own.

      Portraits of “The Great Leader” are everywhere, Saddam carrying a
      sword, Saddam brandishing a rifle, Saddam sitting serenely in a chair
      looking very Western in tie and tailored suit, or praying or wearing a
      kaffiyah around his head. “The great leader,” duce, fuehrer. Saddam
      Hussein is one of many ruthless dictators around the world, some of
      them are our best “friends,” as he was not so long ago when the U.S.
      supplied his military.

      Few women are on the streets, and most of them are accompanied by a
      man. Very few are veiled, fewer in the all enshrouding burqa, but
      almost all women wear a scarf. Most men on the street wear Western
      dress, a few wear caftans, most have a kaffiyah on their heads, some
      flowing, some twisted as a turban. Men wink at young boys in the
      street and they smile, as Americans did when I was a boy. But that was
      many years ago. You can’t do that in the home of the free and the
      brave now, not any more.

      The atmosphere on the street is brisk. Men respect each other but
      there is a no-nonsense feel to the place. And a sense of God. The Call
      to Prayer sounds from the minarets five times a day. Sometimes you can
      hear competing chants from mosques not far from each other, echoing.
      Few seem to notice, no one stops to pray, or so it seems. They bustle
      on, but many with prayer beads in hand recite the names of Allah. It
      is a kind of consolation to me that when I ask about the teachings of
      the Koran, most people seem to know as little about their religion as
      fellow Christians in the West do about ours. Nevertheless, there is an
      awareness of the saturating presence of The Other here, far more than
      in Times Square.

      As night falls three pre-teenage boys sift through a mound of garbage
      for lettuce leaves, stuffing them into their mouths. I thrust a few
      dinar notes into the hand of the nearest and rush away in shame.

      Households have been given five months' food rations in order to get
      supplies out of the main storage sites in the event of bombardment.
      The Iraqi food distribution program, according to Denis Halliday,
      Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and UN Humanitarian
      Co-ordinator in Iraq (1997-98) who resigned in protest, is efficient,
      involving 49,000 food distribution agents with strict accountability.
      Iraqis are also stock-piling water.

      Under the UN Oil-for-Food Program only about half the oil revenues can
      be used for buying food and other necessities for the population of
      the center and south of the country; the rest being used for
      compensation to Kuwait, food for the Iraqi Kurds in the north, and the
      costs of the UNMOVIC weapons inspections. According to UNICEF,
      twenty-five percent of Iraqi babies are born weighing less than five
      pounds, a key indicator of famine. One million children under five
      suffer acute or chronic malnutrition.

      Father Michael Baxter, C.S.C., of the theology faculty at the
      University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, the new national
      secretary of the revived Catholic Peace Fellowship, and I, the old
      national secretary, are here to visit people, especially in the
      religious communities, especially fellow Christians to bring the
      message home that Iraqis are people, that many of them, over a million
      Iraqi Christians in the same Mystical Body of Christ pray just as we
      do, and for the same things.

      Fr. Baxter has taken a shine to little Hassan, Ahmed’s eight year old
      apprentice shoe-shine boy. They play soccer in the afternoon with a
      group in the park. Ahmed spots me for an easy touch. I don’t mind.
      After we get to know each other I ask him what he earns and he tells
      me. He is making three dollars a day. But he wears just the same
      thin turtle-neck pullover every day and a light-weight golf jacket. He
      coughs in the morning cold. At three dollars a day and a six day work
      week, the boy is taking home more than a college professor, but he
      certainly isn’t spending it on himself . He’s giving it to his
      family, the major breadwinner. I have been there myself. So I put him
      on account, a retainer, as it were, and have my shoes shined three
      times a day. It’s been decades since I had my shoes shined in New

      Hassan is small for his age and grimy and out much too late at night.
      His father is an “Ali Baba,” a thief, the taxi man tells us, currently
      in jail, and his mother in the underground economy, so Hassan is
      neglected. But he is spunky and maybe something of an an actor. He can
      call up the tears at will as he puts fingers to mouth to mimic
      eating. “Monney pleeze, monney,” he pleads, trotting along beside his
      target. He’s so funny I peel off a couple of 250 dinar notes, two
      bits, twenty-five cents. He smiles as I teach him how to accept folded
      bills surreptitiously, palm to palm in a handshake, as they do at the
      fancy restaurants in the States when you tip the maitre d’ for a good
      table. I’ve never done it myself but I know how. Later I come upon
      Hassan in the dark, crying, and there is no audience. He is hungry and
      cold and alone.

      “Don’t eat the fish! I got so sick I lost more weight than ever in my
      life and my tongue turned black,” Dee Ann tells me. She and her
      husband, a physician, are making a second tour. Eating fish taken
      from a river that swallows 40,000 tons of raw sewage a day might
      compromise one’s health. That’s one reason why so many people have
      died, half a million children under the age of five since the 1991
      bombings of the water treatment plants. It’s a form of biological
      warfare, and it is also a means of mass destruction.

      Voices in the Wilderness got us entry visas into the country. It is
      illegal for us to be here without specific U.S. State Department
      authorization, at the risk of a one million dollar fine and up to
      twelve years imprisonment. No one has yet been prosecuted. Voices
      has sent over sixty delegations to Iraq since 1996, breaking economic
      sanctions through incurring travel related expenses and by
      transferring medical supplies. In November, 2002, the U.S. Office of
      Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) imposed penalties on Voices and selected
      individuals, a total of $50,000 in fines.

      Entry visas are processed at the Jordanian border. Our passports are
      not stamped, the visas (renewal stamps are required every week or ten
      days) are on separate pieces of paper. We will answer questions on
      re-entry into the U.S. fully and truthfully and leave it up to the
      feds what to do about it. We are carrying over thirty thousand dollars
      in antibiotics to give to St. Raphael Hospital in Baghdad. It’s a work
      of mercy. So be it.

      Christian Peacemaking Teams, mostly Mennonites and Brethren have for
      many years done excellent accompanying work in Palestine, and now
      Iraq. Our whole group numbers nearly thirty, shifting frequently,
      delegations and individuals coming and going. Coordinating such a
      group is extraordinarily difficult. The Iraqi Foreign Ministry assigns
      an officer to clear our plans beforehand with his superiors and then
      arrange to have “minders”accompany us wherever we go. The minders tell
      us what we may and may not do, where not to take photos, for instance,
      or to aim field glasses. They accompany us to museums, concerts and
      private homes and on trips to other cities. The most freedom we have
      is in religious houses. Our Foreign Ministry man is as cooperative as
      he can be and seems genuinely concerned for our safety. He is shaken
      by the death of George Weber, a 73 year old Canadian CPT veteran of
      several campaigns in Hebron. George died in an automobile accident on
      the road back from Basrah in the south. The government man allows us
      more lee-way. The Voices volunteers and the CPT people are doing a
      hard job with skill, patience, good humor and prudence. Kathy Kelly
      is the central organizer, and Gabe Huck, once of Liturgy Training
      Publications in Chicago, an old friend from the Viet Nam days, works
      full-time in the Chicago office. It is a delight to see him again and
      his wife Theresa Kubasak here in Baghdad.

      Cathy Breen of the New York Catholic Worker has here for three months.
      She intends to stay as long as the authorities renew her visa, come
      what may. What a joy to see her, an effective ambassador of goodwill!
      In a matter of fact way, we discuss in a meeting the possibilities of
      being taken hostage, of what to do with our mortal remains if it comes
      to that. “My mother and father want to know it’s really me,” Cathy
      says. “Just have someone identify the body and dispose of it as you

      Voices and CPT people are in three hotels, two around the corner from
      each other. Cathy is only about six blocks away. She and Cliff Kindy
      of CPT have become invaluable detail people. They even have kitchen
      privileges at their hotel. We have to be very careful how we present
      ourselves, and Cathy and Cliff know just how to do it. Iraqis are
      sensitive to breaches in good manners and the media will twist and
      misrepresent our message without conscience, so everyone has to be on
      guard. It’s also necessary to anticipate what might compromise an
      on-going presence in an authoritarian state under siege.

      There is a huge electrical generator in a cage on the sidewalk in
      front of our hotel, and huge plastic containers of gasoline to fuel it
      in case of a power failure. The hotel manager assures us that his
      staff will take care of us in case there is an attack and we can’t get
      out. They too are stocking up on bottled water. “My dear Mister
      Thomas, how are you this morning?” the manager greets me, upturned
      moustache and British accent making him like seem like a character
      actor in an old movie.

      This is certainly a male society and almost all the men smoke almost
      everywhere and they drive like maniacs. So does the young nun who
      drives me home from a visit to her school and church. I was impressed
      to see thirty-five or so young women in the Catholic church venerating
      the relics of Saint Therese which are here on loan only for a day.
      There were prayers and hymns and a student rose to the ambo to deliver
      a meditation. The girls filed out. Then another group, the same
      routine, then another. About three hundred and fifty young women in

      Cathy Breen introduces us to her new friend, a neighbor, Adma. She
      paints Iraqi scenes on paper, cloth and canvass and sells her work to
      supplement her husband’s income as a religious teacher in a mosque.
      She is hospitable, offers small glasses of sweet tea and freely
      speaks of her faith and customs with sensitivity and respect for
      ours. Later she, her gorgeous little daughter and two smaller boys
      accompany us to a power plant outside the city for a candle-light
      demonstration to highlight the vulnerability of the infrastructure
      and the devastating effects on the civilian population of its
      destruction. Nine year old Abeer’s beauty is unforgettable, blue eyes
      set in perfect features, fair complection and flowing, gleaming black
      hair. What is more precious? I think of my blond granddaughter Rachel
      and staunch the tears. We demonstrate on New Year’s Day also at the
      UN headquarters. The inspectors wave at us as they drive out in their
      white vans.

      It is the people we came to see, especially the Christian communities.
      There are at least one million Christians in Iraq. The largest
      communities are Orthodox, then come Catholic, both Latin and Chaldean
      rites. The Chaldeans use Aramaic, the language of the Holy Family.
      There are Armenian Orthodox and Catholic and Assyrians and Nestorians
      and... it’s bewildering. One seminary in Baghdad serves students from
      all the communities, with 47 faculty and over 263 students, some in
      training as catechists and DREs, a few for the priesthood. Bishop
      Jacques Isaac, a Chaldean Catholic, is rector. He takes most of a day
      to pick us up, drive us to his school, walk us through and introduce
      us, then take us to a neighborhood called “The Little Vatican” where
      many Christian communions live side by side with Muslims as well, and
      to houses of religious women.

      If an Orthodox priest has to leave town unexpectedly, he is likely to
      call upon the Catholic pastor down the street to cover his Masses for
      him, so the bishop tells me. They don’t ask their bishops’ conferences
      if it’s all right because the Orthodox bishops refuse intercommunion
      except in cases of dire necessity, in extremis. It’s an on-the-ground
      ecumenism that Bishop Isaac thinks is a blueprint for the future.

      He also claims that the tenacity of the Chaldean church during the
      time of the Islamic and Arab conquest was due to their liturgy. It was
      and is an organic expression of their own culture, whereas in North
      Africa, Christians were eased away from their Christian religion into
      Islam because their liturgy was in Latin and followed forms that grew
      out of an alien, European culture.

      An Armenian Orthodox priest invites us to his home after Mass. He had
      been a soldier in the army before seminary, he tells us, and his
      language resonates the barracks more than the sacristy. “If you send
      ground forces,” he says, “we’ll beat the shit out of you. We’re not
      afraid to die. You are. We will take tens, hundreds of thousands of
      losses. You will not!” He is not pacific. “Our leader will protect

      Over and over we heard that Christians are respected in Iraq, that
      they have been there six and seven centuries before the Muslims,
      except for the Armenians who came only a hundred years ago from Turkey
      to escape persecution, that they are deeply embedded in the society.
      On top of that, the current government is swift to squelch any
      manifestation of religious extremism. All Christians we spoke to, in
      all the churches, said the same thing. This government protects us.
      We fear chaos more than anything because it will make us vulnerable
      to extremist elements. People do not speak of political alternatives.
      They dare not. The first item on the agenda has to be faithfulness,
      simply to keep the faith, then survival.

      Fr. Baxter went to Basrah for Christmas. He concelebrated Christmas
      Mass in the Chaldean rite with Archbishop Kassab. I had a bug and
      stayed low in Baghdad. But Kathy Kelly, the leader of Voices in the
      Wilderness, saw me straying past the desk at our hotel and nabbed me.
      “Are you well enough to visit the papal nuncio?” she asked. “He’s on
      the telephone. You can go over with Cliff and Cathy. He probably won’t
      give you an interview today but you can set something up for the CPT
      and for yourself later.” We took a cab.

      Archbishop Francesco Filoni, the Pope’s ambassador to Iraq, was
      expansive, very hospitable, from Southern Italy! He spoke from a broad
      vision of the need to develop cultures of peace, how impossible that
      is in a matrix of materialism. He spoke of his recent predecessor,
      Bishop Maroon Oles, who had been here during the 1991 bombing. Oles, a
      Pole, refused to leave his home for safe ground and stayed alone in
      the house. A building nearby was leveled. So Bishop Oles was revered
      by all for his courage. Filoni will stay also. I spoke of the duty to
      disobey, of conscientious objection. He listened carefully and agreed
      that citizens have the duty of conscience. He had no sympathy for
      President Bush’s intentions toward Iraq and made it clear that he
      stands with the Pope and the bishops around the world who have
      questioned the morality or even stated clearly the immorality of
      preemptive war. He reminded us that every social, economic, political
      or military policy has to be looked at under the question, “What does
      it do to the most vulnerable?” He thanked us for our work and he
      blessed us individually laying his hands upon our heads.

      The happiest people we met were religious women, the Little Sisters of
      Jesus, the Chaldean Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, Mother
      Teresa’s Missionary Sisters of Charity, the Dominican Sisters of the
      Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary who run St. Raphael’s
      Hospital. Sister Mary Anne Pierre is a classic type, large and jolly
      and gently forceful. When she calls a man down off a scaffold he comes
      down, fast! Her sisters love her as a mother, and their home, as the
      other women’s homes, is a refuge of peace because their lives are
      entirely given over to God whose will is their pleasure. Vowed life
      may not be “better,” but it seems happier. Baxter delivers the
      antibiotics to Sister Mary Anne and takes blueprints of the addition
      the sisters hope to be able to build onto their hospital. She insists
      that Fr. Baxter take a rug as a gift, a wall hanging representing The
      Last Supper.

      In an archway in the ancient wall of Nineveh, Fr. Baxter reads aloud
      the whole of the Book of Jonah. It is short enough. I heard it as for
      the first time and very gratefully. Baghdad is more than a castor oil

      In Babylon we walked through the remnants and reconstruction of the
      palace of Nebuchadnezzar next to the river where the Psalmist hung his
      harp upon a willow: “How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange
      land?” Our guide tells us Alexander the Great died in this room,
      right here. Alexander, great but vile, the one who established the
      “oecumene,” the ordered house that became the great empire under Rome.
      How twisted is human history, how ambiguous, mysterious the interplay
      of good and evil, how real Original Sin!

      On to Mozul in the north. It is a rainy day and we don’t have much
      time, Just enough to walk the market place and notice the hostility
      of the stares directed our way, to eat at a popular local restaurant
      and to visit the Dominican Fathers. Why the hostile stares, so unlike
      Baghdad where I felt safe anywhere walking alone, looking like a
      well-dressed American? This is Kurdish country. Is it because the U.S.
      promised to come to their aid if the Kurds rose up and then left them
      stranded? Who knows?

      The Jesuits are gone from Mozul, the New England Jesuits who educated
      me at Fairfield. I can not find parishioners of my late classmate and
      friend, Father Walter Young, who served here for more than twenty
      years. I preached for him at the prison for young adult men in
      Cheshire, Connecticut, after he returned from Iraq the victim of a
      stroke, just after Gulf War I, in 1991, when Baxter and I returned
      from counseling American military personnel in Germany who refused
      deployment to the Gulf. Nothing I could say against Gulf War I was
      strong enough for him then. His men, the Iraqi Christians, were the
      cannon-fodder of that war, on the front-lines, shot in the back from
      U.S. helicopters as they fled and buried alive or dead in the sand by
      U.S. tanks and bulldozers. But the Dominicans are here. Prior Nageeb
      Mekhail led us through the splendid complex of his church and told us
      the same story we heard over and over again. How can the U.S. not
      understand the folly of its present course?

      Fr. Baxter has brought along three books which I poured through as he
      read War and Peace. I have bought them to continue studying and I
      recommend them to you. One is Iraq, the Bradt Travel Guide, by Karen
      Dabrowski, Globe Pequot Press, 2002, Guilford, Conn., available at
      most book stores with a travel section. The next is A Peace to End
      All Peace, by David Fromkin, from Holt, and The Vision of Islam, by
      Marata and Chittick, from Paragon House in St. Paul, Minn., which goes
      into greater depth than Karen Armstrong’s excellent Islam: a Short
      History, from Modern Library Chronicles. Fromkin details the lunacy of
      British and French imperialist policy propelling the disastrous
      division of the fallen Ottoman Empire after World War I. Armstrong,
      Marata and Chittick make available an appreciation of the beauty, the
      authenticity, the strength and vitality of the Muslim way to holiness,
      something that few Westerners seem even to want to understand. But if
      it in fact comes down to a clash of civilizations, don’t count on
      technology to win over spirit!

      “Will you come back to Baghdad?” Ahmed asks me. He knows that Mike and
      I are preparing to leave. “No, probably not. But I won’t forget you,”
      I tell him. “I hope you find a good wife and have many beautiful
      children.” He smiles broadly, shakes my hand, and then kisses me on
      the left and then the right cheek. I bend to kiss little Hassan.

      We left Baghdad by overland route to Amman. A herd of camels, one
      hundred and fifty raced our Suburban, which cruised at 150 kph. They
      lost. Nobody passed us in ten hours on the road. From Amman by plane
      to Rome and four days of meetings in the Vatican, first with
      Archbishop Renato Martino and Dr. Giorgio Filibeck at the Pontifical
      Council for Justice and Peace. Cardinal Stafford for the Council for
      the Laity was very encouraging in an extended telephone conversation.
      We were received graciously by Monsignor Khaled Akasheh at the Council
      for Inter-religious Dialogue in charge of relations with Islam who
      asked us to try to make the American people more aware of what really
      motivates Muslims, and to let Muslim leaders know that we have great
      sympathy and respect for them. We met too with Father Augustine DeNoia
      at the
      Council for the Doctrine of the Faith. No one spoke for attribution
      but only “for background.” No one in the Vatican is defending the
      proposed attack on Iraq. Archbishop Martino told us to look for Pope
      John Paul’s statement due on the 13th of January. He said it would be
      startling. It was the clearest condemnation of the proposed war yet!
      The bottom-line in Vatican political thinking is that the U.S. is
      threatening the fabric of international law which is a sine qua non of
      any lasting international peace.

      We brought up the question, is there ever a duty, as well as a right,
      to disobey? Gaudium et spes, of the Second Vatican Council, numbers
      79-81 and Evangelium Vitae, John Paul II’s 1995 encyclical which uses
      the term conscientious objection for the first time in a authoritative
      document, explicitly in the context of abortion and euthanasia,
      clearly indicate that this is so. Then what if an American service man
      or woman forms his or her conscience on the basis of explicit
      teachings of the Church and comes to the conclusion that military
      service is no longer justifiable, either in general or in a
      particular instance: does the Church then have an obligation toward
      that individual? The answer, go to your bishops in the States, ask
      them, go to the Military Ordinariate,
      to Bishop O’Brien! All right. We will go and ask them to follow
      through on the promise they made upon the re-institution of
      registration for Selective Service to make the good offices of
      Catholic agencies available to the support of any and everyone who
      comes forward with a problem of any kind in regard to military service
      or the draft ( USCC Administrative Committee, 1980).

      The Community of Sant’Egidio Vesper Service at the Church of Santa
      Maria in Trastevere had three hundred and fifty people on a Thursday
      night, a fifth of them black Africans, with Asians and men and women
      in equal proportion. Another group of younger adults and adolescents
      was meeting at the same time. One of their leaders, a specialist in
      Middle Eastern affairs, Claudio Betti, invited a couple of community
      members, Baxter and me to his apartment for supper. Ideas crackled
      like Roman candles. Sant’Egidio is the closest thing to the Catholic
      Worker I have found anywhere, serving the very poor by direct outreach
      and putting into practice the theory of nonviolence, but it is
      organized, rational, and gets things done. They agreed that Africa is
      the touchstone of globalization, that black Africa is heading to
      disaster, not just because of AIDS but because neo-liberal
      globalization is marginalizing whole nations on that continent.
      Claudio agreed that most of the world acts as if it would prefer that
      black Africa simply disappear, just as white America would prefer to
      wake up one day and find that our marginalized non-white population
      had simply vanished.

      Most of the community’s work is practical, down to earth, and they are
      prayerful, recognizing the primacy of the spiritual. They are serious
      about reading the true mind of the Church and putting into practice
      the imperatives of justice and peace that have been defined as
      constitutive elements in the “new” evangelization since the 1971
      Synod of Bishops. We can learn something from them.

      The pending war is not inevitable. Can the President ignore the will
      of such a large cross-section of the people, of a quarter of a million
      people in D.C. on January 18, and as many more in smaller
      demonstrations across the country, of world public opinion, of Pope
      John Paul in Rome and the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in Istanbul
      and the Primate of the Anglican Communion Rowan Williams in Canterbury
      and almost all the religious leadership across the globe?

      The President bullies France and Germany and the United Nations,
      deploys more troops, aircraft carriers, heavy equipment, over one
      hundred thousand troops, as many more on the way. The sleight of hand
      that threatens to turn the “war on terrorism” into a war upon Iraq
      will enflame the Arab world and one billion Muslims around the
      globe. Pakistan’s government may well fall. Eighty percent of Turkey’s
      people oppose the war. A ripple effect in the entire region is not
      unlikely. Hatred of Israel will mount. The world economy may not
      revive but reverse. Terrorist groups will see a flood of recruits
      eager to outdo September 11 in slaugher. Our civil liberties may
      never recover. Every stated goal of the war policy is undermined by
      its pursuit.

      Can the President imagine the huge masses of people who would come out
      into the streets if he bombs Iraq? Can he imagine how he would keep
      the government running if the American people clog its machinery with
      our own bodies?

      The people may have stopped this war. I want to believe it. God grant
      it! Insh’Allah! Pray for Iraq, for the children, and pray for our
      country. We need prayers even more than the Iraqis. It is no sin to
      die. It is a sin to murder.
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