Letter from Our Iraq Correspondent

Cynthia Banas

Dec. 6, 2002. Christmas, Chanuka and E'd Al Fitr and Festival of Lights. Greetings and Blessings to you and yours the year long.

As an Iraq Peace Team (IPT) member, I am now in Iraq observing and reporting on how the 12-year-long economic sanctions have devastated the lives of ordinary Iraqi people. The Team is sponsored by Voices in the Wilderness <www.vitw.org>. Since its founding in 1996, Voices in the Wilderness has called for the lifting of the economic sanctions against Iraq. On December 10, 2002, Nobel Laureate Mairead Maguire will nominate Kathy Kelly and Voices in the Wilderness for the Nobel Peace Prize.

I left home on October 22 and have so much to process: meeting with UN officials (among them Dr. Ghulam R. Popal, an Afghan who is the World Health Organization director)… visits with Iraqi families… visits to schools, mosques, churches… trips south to Basrah and north to Mosul… journeys to Babylon and the cradle of civilization in the fertile crescent between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers… to Mesopotamia where writing and the wheel were invented and where agriculture began… to Ur, home of Abraham who is called Father Abraham here… to Kerbal and Najaf, two important Muslim Shrines… and to Nineveh, land of Jonah and the whale…

According to George W. Bush's "War Plan" (NY Times, Nov.9), the United States wants to help transform Iraq quickly into a "liberated nation." To accomplish this, he says the bombing campaign would be carried out in a way to avoid the horrific destruction of the Gulf War.

According to medical wisdom, however, the best kind of care is preventative. I urge Mr. Bush and those among his wise counselors and all of you to study the report, "Collateral Damage: the Health and Environmental Costs of War on Iraq." It was issued on November 14, 2002, by the US and UK affiliates of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW). Without apportioning blame, the report by this 1985 Nobel Peace Prize laureate spells out conservatively the death and destruction a war will probably cause directly and indirectly in Iraq and worldwide.

From the report's Executive Summary:

Up to 4,000,000 people could die in the war involving nuclear weapons. A more contained conflict could cause 1,000,000 deaths and have a devastating impact on the lives, health and environment of the combatants and beyond. It could also damage the global economy and thus indirectly harm the health and well-being of millions of more people across the world.

The Report is on IPPNW's web site,<www.ippnw.org>. Important reading for all so I urge you, Sherry [Boehlert, Cynthia's Congressional Representative] as Chair of the Science Committee, and Senators Clinton and Schumer to share this report on the floor of Congress at a full session of all who represent us.

Barbara Tuchman's The March Folly is must reading for understanding these critical times, as is Joy Gordon's "Cool War: Economic Sanctions as a Weapon of Mass Destruction," in the November 2002, Harper's magazine. Also read Ramzi Kysia's, "Malnutrition in Iraq: What the New UNICEF Study Shows," published on November 22, 2002, by CommonDreams.org.

I am confident that those taking the time to study these writings will conclude that the dispute between the US and Iraq must be settled by negotiation and not by war. The US media has done a fine job reporting the abuses of countries in this area, but they have failed in reporting the story told in the above-mentioned documents. (As a librarian who believes professionally in the free flow of information, I expect better of the media in a democratic country such as ours.)

If there is war on Iraq, it will result in a human catastrophe of apocalyptic proportions. From a selfish point of view, US Americans need to realize that our precious youngsters also will be sacrificed. This will not be a 100-hour war like the Gulf War. There will be limited "force protection" and lots of "friendly fire."

Since ours is the most powerful country in the world, I am praying that the people of our country will let their power be known and use this power to demand not violence, but negotiation.

If you would like to further the work of the Iraq Peace Team, you can do so by sending a check to Voices in the Wilderness, 1460 West Carmen Ave., Chicago, Illinois, 60640. Include a note specifying that the money is for IPT. If further bombardment occurs (there have been some 40,000 sorties by American and Brits over the no-fly zones with dozens of Iraqis killed and hundreds injured and maimed since 1998), we will need $400 each for several generators and lots of bottled water. This adds up to big bucks. Anything you can do will be much appreciated.

Love to All, God Bless, Cynthia

Cynthia is a tireless and long-time activist who lives near Syracuse. As we go to print she is still in Iraq.