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Be present

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  • Vyrle Owens
    26 March 2003 Dear all, I had an occasion to meet a person (Ken Sehested) two weeks ago who had just returned from Baghdad after a three week stay. He had a
    Message 1 of 2 , Mar 26, 2003

      26 March 2003


      Dear all,


      I had an occasion to meet a person (Ken Sehested) two weeks ago who had just returned from Baghdad after a three week stay.  He had a very interesting report, far too lengthy to repeat.  The jist:  Life was reasonably normal at the time he was there, hospitality was good, even for American peace activists (or maybe especially for American peace activists) but a very real anxiety about possible attack. 


      The below crossed my screen earlier in the week.  Transcends the rhetoric.


      I trust some of you will appreciate it,






      >Published on Friday, March 14, 2003 by CommonDreams.org


      >This Present Moment: Living in Baghdad on the Eve of War

      >by Ramzi Kysia


      >"The present moment is the only moment available to us, and it is

      >the door to all moments."

      >- Thich Nhat Hanh


      >I am in Baghdad with the Iraq Peace Team, and we will stay here

      >throughout any war. We will share the risks of the millions who live

      >here, and do our best to be a voice for them to the world. Our risks

      >are uncertain. Thousands here will surely die. But most Iraqis will

      >survive, and so too, I hope, will I.


      >A banner the government put up a few blocks from where we stay reads

      >simply, " Baghdad : Where the World Comes for Peace."


      >It's meant as propaganda, I'm sure, flattering Saddam Hussein. But

      >without knowing it, it states a simple truth: that the world must be

      >present for peace. We must be present in Baghdad as in America - in

      > Kashmir or Chechnya , the Great Lakes , Palestine and Colombia - where

      >there is war, and rumors of war, we must be present to build peace.


      >We are present.


      >My country may arrest me as a traitor, or kill me during saturation

      >bombing, or shoot me during an invasion. The Iraqis may arrest me as

      >a spy, or cause or use my death for propaganda. Civil unrest and mob

      >violence may claim me. I may be maimed. I may be killed.


      >I am nervous. I am scared. I am hopeful. I am joyous, and I joyously

      >delight in the wonder that is my life.


      >I love being alive. I love the splendor of our world, the beauty of

      >our bodies, and the miracle of our minds. I bless the world for

      >making me, and I bless the world for taking me. I feed myself on the

      >fellowship we inspirit, in standing one with another in this, this

      >present moment, each moment unfolding to its own best time.


      >Different things move different members of our team, but all of us

      >are here out of deep concern for the suffering of our brothers and

      >sisters in Iraq. 20 years of almost constant war, and 12 years of

      >brutal sanctions, have killed hundreds of thousands of innocents in

      > Iraq .


      >We are here, today, because most of the world refused to be present,

      >then. What more right do I as an American have to leave then all the

      >people I've come to love in Iraq ? An accident of birth that gives me

      >a free pass throughout the world?


      >All of us are here out of a deep commitment to nonviolence. Peace is

      >not an abstract value that we should just quietly express a hope

      >for. It takes work. It takes courage. It takes joy. Peace takes



      >War is catastrophe. It is terrorism on a truly, massive scale. It is

      >the physical, political and spiritual devastation of entire peoples.

      >War is the imposition of such massive, deadly violence so as to

      >force the political solutions of one nation upon another. War is the

      >antithesis of democracy and freedom. War is the most bloody,

      >undemocratic, and violently repressive of all human institutions.

      >War is catastrophe. Why choose catastrophe?


      >Even the threat of war is devastating. On March 11th, when we

      >visited a maternity hospital run by the Dominican sisters here in

      > Baghdad , we found that eight new mothers that day had demanded to

      >have their babies by Caesarean section - they didn't want to give

      >birth during the war. Six others spontaneously aborted the same day.

      >Is this the spirit of liberation?


      >Don't ask me where I find the courage to be present in Iraq on the

      >eve of war. 5 million people call Baghdad home. 24 million human

      >beings live in Iraq . Instead, ask the politicians - on every side -

      >where they find the nerve to put so many human beings at such

      >terrible risk.


      >We're here for these people, as we're here for the American people.

      >The violence George Bush starts in Iraq will not stop in Iraq . The

      >senseless brutality of this war signals future crimes of still

      >greater inhumanity. If we risk nothing to prevent this, it will

      >happen. If we would have peace, we must work as hard, and risk as

      >much, as the warmakers do for destruction.


      >Pacifism isn't passive. It's a radical challenge to all aspects of

      >worldly power. Nonviolence can prevent catastrophe. Nonviolence

      >multiplies opportunities a thousand-fold, until seemingly

      >insignificant events converge to tumble the tyranny of fears that

      >violence plants within our hearts. Where violence denies freedom,

      >destroys community, restricts choices - we must be present:

      >cultivating our love, our active love, for our entire family of



      >We are daily visiting with families here in Iraq . We are daily

      >visiting hospitals here in Iraq , and doing arts and crafts with the

      >children. We are visiting elementary schools, and high schools. We

      >are fostering community. We are furthering connections. We are

      >creating space for peace.


      >We are not "human shields." We are not here simply in opposition to

      >war. We are a dynamic, living presence - our own, small affirmation

      >of the joy of being alive. Slowly stumbling, joyous and triumphant,

      >full of all the doubts and failings all people hold in common - our

      >presence here is a thundering, gentle call, to Americans as to

      >Iraqis, of the affirmation of life.


      >We must not concede war to the killers. War is not liberation. It is

      >not peace. War is devastation and death.


      >Thuraya, a brilliant, young girl whom I've come to love, recently

      >wrote in her diary:

      >"We don't know what is going to happen. We might die, and maybe we

      >are living our last days in life. I hope that everyone who reads my

      >diary remembers me and knows that there was an Iraqi girl who had

      >many dreams in her life..."


      >Dream with us of a world where we do not let violence rule our

      >lives. Work with us for a world where violence does not rule our

      >lives. Peace is not an abstract concept. We are a concrete, tangible

      >reality. We the peoples of our common world, through the

      >relationships we build with each other, and the risks we take for

      >one another - we are peace.


      >Our team here doesn't know what is going to happen any more than

      >does Thuraya. We too may die. But in her name, in this moment, at

      >the intersection of all our lives, we send you this simple message:

      >We are peace, and we are present.


      >Ramzi Kysia is a Arab American peace activist and writer. He is

      >currently in Iraq with the Voices in the Wilderness' (www.vitw.org)

      > Iraq Peace Team (


      ), a project to keep

      >international peaceworkers to Iraq prior to, during, and after any

      >future U.S. attack, in order to be a voice for the Iraqi people. The

      >Iraq Peace Team can be reached through







      >Thank you all for supporting this work by forwarding it to everyone

      >you know.


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      >Open to the possibilities... www.greatmystery.org


      -----Original Message-----
      From: Kristen E Cheney [mailto:kcheney@...]
      Wednesday, 26 March, 2003 11:06
      To: echeney@...; funkydrummer@...; recheney@...; lkelley@...; wingsofwellbeing@...; newmanjs@...; newmanjess72@...; ujeni@yahoogroups.com; louisew@...
      Subject: [ujeni] [Fwd: Fw: US War Crimes]

      A good article from the Guardian, especially in light of Ari Fleischer's refusal to address Helen Thomas's question about the Geneva Convention and Guantanamo Bay in yesterday's press conference...

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