Meg Lumsdaine / Najaf Emergency Peace Team – 2004-05-11 08:57:42
NAJAF (April 29, 2004) Despite warnings of imminent danger of violence, we prepared to engage with the military at the Spanish/American garrison on the Najaf/Kufa highway on the hot dusty afternoon of April 28th 2004.
We were greeted by a swarm of news media preceding our vigil– all seeking to hear our perspective for why were about to undertake this risk. I felt unworthy to comment to this assembled crowd regarding the threat of violence. Any risk we were taking paled in comparison to the daily violence that exists for the people of Najaf who anxiously live with the question, “will today be the day my children will die under US assault?”
No, I could not comment on risk. But I could comment on what I knew best — the American perspective. “The American perspective,” as later underscored in a conversation with an official spokesman for the CPA in Najaf, Darian Arky, is seeing the US as “liberator” for the Iraqi people.
Yet what is liberation? Can the title of “liberator” be claimed by the same country that backed Saddam and kept him in power during the worst of his human rights abuses in the 1980s and during his mass slaughter of the Shiite population during their uprising of 1991?
Can the title of “liberator” be claimed by a country that has repeatedly told the Iraqi people “you are not ready” when they demand free elections?
Can the title of “liberator” be claimed by the country that has barely restored the infrastructure to the level of pre-war sanctions, selling off its resources to the highest bidding international corporation?
“Liberation,” it would seem, is a term best defined by those who are oppressed — those who feel themselves under the thumb of a foreign occupation, those who look to the day when they will have liberty to determine their own future.
This is the reason I came to Iraq. I have no delusions of grandeur telling me I can change the minds of the military — that we, as five Americans, can single-handedly stop an attack on the people of Najaf if that is what our government intends to do.
Yet my purpose for being here has been affirmed again and again through the encouragement and support we have received from the Iraqi people for our witness here. It is not about the expectation of stopping the military — they know we are going into battle against a tank armed with the equivalent of a pea-shooter.
The value of our delegation, however, is not judged by our effectiveness in stopping the military’s planned assaults. Rather, we are measured by our intention to remember the suffering of the Iraqi people — to stand, even in a limited and small way, in solidarity with their struggle and to say to the USA that the occupation of Iraq is wrong and it must end. Neither we nor the Iraqis expect a miraculous peace to come simply by our witness. Yet perhaps the seeds of peace begin with the small step of showing that someone in the world cares.
The Califonia members of the Najaf Emergency Peace Delegation — Meg, Mario and Peter — are looking forward to providing report-back slide presentations and talks on future delegations. The Peace Delegation may be reached at: (831) 457-9914 and email@example.com