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Learning from the Courage of Ali

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    Learning from the Courage of Ali Right Livelihood By KATHY KELLY http://groups.yahoo.com/group/libertyunderground/ Irbil, Iraq. Earlier this month, I visited a
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 4, 2006
      Learning from the Courage of Ali

      Right Livelihood

      Irbil, Iraq.

      Earlier this month, I visited a center in Sulaymaniyah, Iraq which
      has, since it began in 1991, helped survivors of land mine
      detonations and other war related injuries gain a new lease on life.
      On the walls of the Emergency Rehabilitation Center are small photos
      of people whom the staff has treated, over the years, with surgery,
      physical therapy and prosthetics.

      Workshops train people in carpentry, tailoring, shoemaking and other
      skills so that people can return to their homes with a new vocation.
      Several of the therapists and technicians were maimed by weapons.
      They adamantly oppose war as a means to solve disputes. The staff's
      dedication and the familial atmosphere at the center give many
      people hope in a dark time.

      They gave hope to Ali, an 11 year old boy who was severely injured
      by accident. While he was climbing a high voltage tower, the power
      was turned on. Electricity surged through his body, leaving him
      armless. It seemed a miracle that he survived. He is bright,
      energetic, and thoroughly engaging.

      His mother, who is Kurdish, beamed with energy and pride as she
      helped Ali cope with physical therapy. She saved her tears until he
      was out of sight. Ali's father, an Arab Iraqi, has taught Ali to
      speak both Arabic and Kurdish. Ali helped me practice my fledgling
      language skills over the course of a few days. But mostly, from Ali,
      I learned about courage.

      One day, as technicians at the center showed me a video about one of
      their "success stories," Ali walked into the room. He climbed up on
      the chair where I sat, and immediately grew curious about the 28
      year old man, in the video, who was struggling to use his artificial
      limb, with a spoon inserted in the plastic hand, to feed himself.

      I glanced at Ali's face several times, anxious that he might feel
      frightened or overwhelmed. First he was curious, and then clearly
      taken aback as he stared at the man's repeated failures to bring the
      spoon to his mouth. Ali quickly realized that he would face this
      challenge. Suddenly he sat up straight, nodded his head eagerly, and
      then smiled with delight when the man on the video succeeded in
      feeding himself. The next day, Ali was fitted with an artificial
      limb. Within hours, he proudly posed for a picture that shows him
      putting a spoon in his mouth.

      Just before I headed off to visit this Rehab center renowned for
      helping victims of war, I received a letter from Brian Willson, a
      U.S. Viet Nam veteran who, unlike Ali, received horrible wounds from
      direct military action. He received these wounds from the U.S.
      military, on American soil.

      Here is how he remembers September 1, 1987:

      "In 1987, while peacefully blocking a military train at a U.S. Navy
      munitions base in California loaded with armaments headed for
      Central America, I received severe injuries and was almost murdered
      when the train chose not to stop. The Navy train crew and their
      supervisors knew in advance of our nonviolent three-member veterans'
      blockade and had a clear, 650-foot view as the train approached us
      at high noon on a bright sunny day.

      Though expecting to be arrested and jailed by the nearby armed U.S.
      Marines and local police, we never imagined the conscious and
      criminal acceleration of the loaded train to more than three times
      its posted five-mile-an-hour legal speed limit.

      I lost both legs, suffered a fractured skull, multiple other
      injuries, and nearly lost my life as I was run over by the speeding

      One of the other veterans jumped high in the air to grab onto the
      cow catcher railing on the front of the locomotive just above the
      platform where the two government spotters stood.

      A military ambulance and crew quickly arrived on the scene but
      refused to transport me to a hospital, alleging that my limp, maimed
      body was not lying on military property.

      In the meantime, my wife, who was a midwife, and other friends at
      the scene, worked feverishly to stop my bleeding and to preserve my
      life energy while we awaited arrival of another ambulance 15 or 20
      minutes later.

      Shockingly, unbeknown to us, we had been labeled "domestic terrorist
      suspects" by the FBI, explaining the orders given the crew that day
      to NOT stop the train to prevent what they feared was to be
      a 'hijack.' This case remains an illustrative example of the severe
      danger of the government using the 'terrorist' label for dissenters,
      both at home and abroad, so prevalent today."

      Ever since, Brian Willson has bravely "walked the talk," although he
      must do it on two artificial legs, traveling all over the world to
      campaign against weapons and war and the voracious resource
      consumption, chiefly by Western nations, which spurs so many of the
      world's conflicts. In more recent years, Brian has, with impeccable
      logic, started staying closer to home to avoid consuming more than
      his fair share of energy resources wasted in nonessential air travel.

      By living simply, while working hard for justice, he aims to attain
      what he calls "right livelihood." Brian and his community are
      striving to consume services and goods that originate in their own
      local bioregion. Voluntary simplicity, for them, includes refusing
      to pay taxes, even if that requires living under the taxable income
      level. They work toward dramatic reduction in use of petroleum for
      transportation, and they increase their use of solar energy for hot
      water and electricity. The community is experimenting with creating
      its own internal currency and has formed a local "peak- oil" action
      group to alert others to the dire and permanent energy crisis
      expected when oil reserves start to be exhausted.

      Now Brian, at age 65, is in training for a 1200-mile-round-trip
      journey from his northern California home to the national Veterans
      for Peace conference this August in Seattle. He's going to use a
      hand-pedaled recumbent tricycle. "I don't know whether I can do it,"
      he writes. "I'll let you know when I get there."

      But his main purpose in writing to me concerned my capacity to "walk
      the talk." Brian quoted from an article I recently wrote urging U.S.
      people to slow down and think about where our country is going, to
      feel remorse for suffering caused in Iraq, to try and stop the flow
      of funds for the war, and to demand that the U.S. pay reparations to
      Iraq. Brian urged me to "jack up" my prescription for what people
      can do in response to the reckless direction in which our country is

      Brian is right.

      We can't control the U.S. government. It is every bit as reckless as
      the train which ran over Brian Willson. (This train was believed to
      be carrying white phosphorus ­something like powdered napalm-for use
      in the dirty wars in or own hemisphere). But we can control our
      personal budgets. Brian suggested asking people to stop
      fuelling "the train." If we can't control our own government, can we
      at least stop actively helping it? For most of us who have entered
      into adulthood, the U.S. government doesn't want our bodies fighting
      in the war; they don't even care very much about our consent. They
      do want our labor, and our money. What right do we have to keep
      giving it to them?

      Often, if I'm invited to speak with a group in the U.S., either my
      host or I will mention that I haven't paid federal income taxes
      since 1981.

      Generally, audiences applaud. Almost always, a questioner will
      ask: "How do you avoid paying taxes?"

      I advise people to visit the National War Tax Refusal Coordinating
      Committee website, www.nwtrcc.org, and to order the fifteen dollar
      manual called "A Guide to War Tax Refusal." I urge them to study the
      manual and then download four pamphlets that offer a practical guide
      to war tax refusal.

      I insist they must get in touch with the nearest war tax refusal
      counselor before embarking on what is, admittedly, a difficult route.

      But I also hold that if we oppose the U.S. government by refusing to
      fund U.S. war making, the risks are not that high. For several years
      now, the U.S. has stood on the precipice of all out devastation-of
      itself and of the world. Throughout modern history people faced far
      more dire personal circumstances to resist injustices and calamities
      like those we are tacitly helping our leaders foment. They faced
      dreadful risks to resist oppression in Nazi Germany, in apartheid
      South Africa, and in the Jim Crow South of the U.S. (and its
      horribly segregated Northern counterpart). The risks we face for
      nonviolent resistance are comparatively trivial. If we refuse to pay
      our taxes for imperial war, we won't be disappeared by a death
      squad. We won't be lynched or shot. Our families won't be massacred.
      People ruthlessly crushed by U.S. foreign policies, beyond our
      borders, faces such risks. For us, the risk of continued
      collaboration with the reckless group of warmongers currently
      leading the U.S. is, however, extremely high.

      We fear terrorism. And yet, with our ongoing, unlimited war of
      U.S. "wholesale" terror against reactive "retail" terror we are
      creating new, more committed, more dangerous terrorists much faster
      than we can kill them. But the greatest terror we face is the danger
      caused by what we're doing to our own environment. We pour
      pollutants into the air, water and ground, seed the planet with
      festering hatred and relentlessly deplete irreplaceable natural

      In his letter to me, Brian Willson recommends calling for massive
      and permanent presence of people in particular locations who will
      not move until the war ends and money is redirected to social needs
      at home and reparations in Iraq, similar to Martin Luther King's
      prescription for a permanent "Resurrection City" in Washington, D.C.
      Many are now planning or enacting such projects, and yet we must
      become many more than we are now.

      It's easy to feel daunted by the tasks ahead. But Ali's responses to
      extraordinary challenges could guide us: straighten up, smile
      eagerly, catch courage from one another, and use our gifts to start
      over, to gain a new lease on life.

      Kathy Kelly is the author of Other Lands Have Dreams and a co-
      coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, a Chicago based
      campaign to end U.S. military and economic war against Iraq,
      www.vcnv.org She can be reached at: Kathy @ vcnv.org



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