Why I am going to Iraq

On March 5, I head for Baghdad to join the Iraq Peace Team (IPT), a project of Voices in the Wilderness. About twenty IPT members, including myself, will stay in Iraq indefinitely, even if President Bush invades Iraq.

We will not deploy ourselves as human shields at highly likely targets, as some peace activists are doing. We will live independently in Baghdad and provide support and assistance to the Iraqi people as best we can. We will witness, listen, observe, and report back on what we learn. We will participate in vigils and other demonstrations to protest the war.

With my tax dollars, my government is preparing to inflict untold death and suffering on Iraqi civilians – even though most of the world opposes this war. This rush to war, based on bribery and threats designed to overcome the will of the people, is a challenge to democracy worldwide. So I am compelled to say “not in my name,” as strongly as I can.

I am compelled to help stop this war and make amends for the damage that is being done with my money. By joining the Iraq Peace Team, I can do both at the same time. I can protest the war while simultaneously assisting those who will suffer as a result. And I can communicate in person that the American people are not their enemy.

I would prefer that the progressive movement were more proactive, and less reactive. I would prefer to build a large, democratic, fully inclusive grassroots membership organization to advance a longer-term, comprehensive program for justice, democracy, and peace. I would prefer that we operate more out of love and joy, and less from fear and anger.

But the people of the world cannot afford to sit back and wait to see if Bush pulls the trigger. The Bush Administration’s foreign policy is a train wreck waiting to happen. We must reverse the Bush Doctrine before it is too late.

The case for war is founded on lies, distortions, and wishful thinking. One lie is the claim that there is a close connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda. Most Americans who support war on Iraq believe this unfounded claim, which the mainstream media has not seriously examined.

A major distortion is the allegation that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction, which has not been proven, according to Hans Blix. The United States certainly has not presented the “smoking gun.”

The wishful thinking assumes that virtually all Iraqis will welcome the U.S. Army as liberators, enabling the occupying force to leave within a year. But unlike Germany and Japan, which the West occupied following World War Two, Iraq has no cohesive traditions and is torn with bitter, centuries-old divisions. And there is no commitment to a Marshall Plan for Iraq following a war.

So the official rationale for war is far from convincing. Whatever the real reasons for this drive toward war, it is imperative that the people of the world stop it. I believe that IPT offers one way to help.

IPT belongs to a growing peacemaking community. In recent years, nonviolent peacemakers, such as Nonviolent Peaceforce and Christian Peacemaker Teams, have begun to place themselves in the midst of violent conflicts, trying to help protect human rights and the lives of civilian communities, prevent violence, and promote the peaceful resolution of conflict.

If enough people with the proper approach get involved, these efforts bear great promise. By going to Iraq, I hope to help build this movement. Eventually we could have a well-trained peace force that is large enough to help stop wars.

-Wade Hudson is a community organizer, activist, and writer living in the San Francisco Bay Area. People can subscribe to his Baghdad Journal at http://lists.inlet.org/mailman/listinfo/baghdadjournal

Links: Iraq Peace Team, www.iraqpeaceteam.org

Nonviolent Peaceforce, http://www.nonviolentpeaceforce.org/

Christian Peacemaker Teams, www.prairienet.org/cpt/

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