Thursday, March 20, 2003

The newspaper headlines are six inches high: WAR

It is foggy and strange outside. It feels like the world
wants to stay under the covers.

Here is an article from Common Dreams which I would
like to share this morning---

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

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 risks.

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' (
) 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


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