Iraq Diary

Kathy Kelly

November 4, 2002. Since my last visit to Basra's Jumurriyah district, in June of 2002, I can spot at least one improvement. Curbs have been built on both sides of one unpaved street. Almost every other aspect of Jumurriyah's infrastructure is in disrepair, but the curbs will help keep raw sewage from flowing into homes _ a welcome change. Not so far from here, on US carriers and in US bases under construction in nearby countries, enormous investments pour in to develop infrastructure to support US troop buildups in the region. Troops must be housed, fed, supplied with clean water and electricity, and equipped with state of the art military gear. Sewage and sanitation systems must function properly to prevent outbreaks of disease among the troops.

When President Bush first approached the UN to seek support for US plans to "disarm Iraq," he used a line earlier delivered by Mr. Paul Wolfewitz which justified the US insistence on a right to attack Iraq by observing that Iraq's president would watch security services torture children in front of their parents. In hospitals across this country, I and many others have watched children dying in pain in front of their parents. When bombs fall on cities and villages, children are tortured in the presence of their parents. When families flee from war and end up in refugee camps, thousands of children suffer and die in the arms of their parents. I can only agree with President Bush. It is a crime against humanity to knowingly and deliberately torture children in the presence of their parents.

We have seen the truth of bombings and of economic sanctions, and that is why we passionately oppose the

coming war against the families of Iraq.

Mothers whom I've regarded as being among the strongest women in the world showed sheer alarm as they spoke about the war they believe is both imminent and inevitable. Imagining survival, Mal, her husband and their three small children rent a decrepit home in Baghdad. She tries futilely to dig her way out of debt by selling the paintings she creates after the children go to bed. I timidly asked her what she anticipates if an attack comes. She is very definite. She will hire a taxi, pack what belongings she can, and flee to the north where she hopes to rent a home in the countryside, away from the many targets she believes will be hit in her neighborhood in Baghdad. What are the odds that this imagined empty home awaits her? When was the last time she traveled north of Baghdad? How many boxes of provisions can she load onto a taxi? How will she find water and fuel? It would be cruel and pointless to pummel her with these questions. Her imaginative drawings have sustained her family for over a year. Maybe, just maybe, her bold hopes will help them survive the next year.

Kathy has traveled to Iraq numerous times with the group Voices in the Wilderness to oppose sanctions and war.