The Cluster Bomb Tour

October 23rd, 2008 - by admin

Friends Committee on National Legislation – 2008-10-23 22:45:59

“Soraj Ghulam Habib lost both his legs to a US cluster bomb he picked up when he was just 10 years old, playing in a park. You can’t hear his story without wondering why the US insists on using these weapons.”
— FCNL Legislative Representative Lora Lumpe

That’s why FCNL’s Lora Lumpe spent two weeks this month driving a wheel-chair-accessible van around the Midwest. She organized this tour because FCNL wanted people in these key states to hear the stories of the 17-year-old Afghan boy who lost his legs, the Lebanese father whose five-year-old son was killed by these weapons, and the mother of a US Marine who died in Iraq cleaning up cluster bomblets that the United States dropped.

Lora’s cluster bomb tour succeeded. Now we need your help to sustain FCNL’s effort back on Capitol Hill. In FCNL’s 65th anniversary year on the Hill, will you make a special contribution of $65, $650, or $6,500 to help our uphill work for peace? With your partnership, we can ban cluster bombs.

FCNL’s tour resulted in a city council resolution urging a cluster bomb ban, many public events, and media coverage across the Midwest. It touched the hearts and minds of more than a thousand people including representatives of the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago and other religious communities, local elected officials, Arab Americans, Quakers, and college and high school students.

In each state Lora urged local leaders to reach out to their senators, and she explained why their particular senators need to act. Because of their committee positions and respect among their colleagues, Sens. Carl Levin, Richard Lugar, and George Voinovich could all be leaders in winning bipartisan support in the Senate for the cluster bomb ban.

Lora and her team need your help to sustain this work. In FCNL’s 65th anniversary year on the Hill, will you make a special contribution of $65, $650, or $6,500 to help our uphill work for peace?

Lora is also paying attention to the next administration. The Midwest tour included a stop at Barack Obama’s campaign headquarters to meet with a sympathetic military and foreign policy advisor to the campaign. Here in Washington, she’s reached out to John McCain’scampaign. Cindy McCain, John’s wife, is on the board of directors of a group that specializes in removing landmines.

The cluster bomb ban still has powerful opponents in the United States. While the military leaders of more than half the world, including most US NATO allies, have agreed to ban these indiscriminate weapons, the Pentagon insists the United States needs to keep them in its arsenal until at least 2018.

None of us can predict what the next president will do, but FCNL will make every effort to ensure that he and Congress understand these issues and are ready to act for human security. Your contribution today will make a real difference to help FCNL continue this work to ban cluster bombs?

Thank you,
Joe Volk, Executive Secretary, FCNL

The Tour Blog

FCNL Lobbyists Lora Lumpe and Laura Chirot spent two weeks on the road with the Cluster Bomb Survivor Tour, co-sponsored by American Task Force for Lebanon, Human Rights Watch and Handicap International. Here are some personal notes from the tour.

October 17, Chicago
Today is the absolute last stop on the Cluster Bomb Survivors Tour. Soraj and Suliman will speak to the morning exercises at Frances Parker School — the senior school gathering of an elite private Soraj and Sulaiman at Frances Parker High School

Soraj and Sulaiman speak at Frances Parker High School in Lincoln Park, where a dear friend of mine teaches. I often forget that Soraj is 17, high school age. He says that he is in grade 8 in Afghanistan, his eighth year of studying. He was not allowed to study for some time after the accident that took his legs. His Uncle had to advocate strongly for him to be allowed in school because of his disability. Over the past two weeks, Soraj has often commented wistfully (or angrily?) on how wonderful it is that all buildings are accessible in the US Life for a wheelchair user in the US is infinitely easier than in Afghanistan, which, despite the high rate of amputees in its population, does not have any accessibility standards.

I do not know how Afghani school compares with ours, but I can say Soraj’s wisdom, patience and grace are far beyond what I would expect from a 17 year old here. His English has visibly improved on the trip. He follows much of what is being said. And his comments, as conveyed by Sulaiman, always impress me with their wisdom and political acuity. The students of Francis Parker are in for a treat.

Soraj and Sulaiman start their 24 hour journey home at 15:45 today. Lynn is back in Portland, ready to step up her advocacy in support of a cluster bomb ban. And Raed should be back with his wife and kids in Nabatih by now.

I cannot begin to thank them all for what they have done. I hope that it was worth it.

October 16, Chicago
This was the day for Sulaiman the Amazing. Sulaiman runs the Afghan Landmine Survivors Organization (ALSO). He is on a personal quest to get Afghanistan to sign the Convention on Cluster Munitions, and to create a better life for Afghanis with disabilities. Today we held meetings with disability rights groups in Chicago to see if we could make some helpful connections for his work in Afghanistan.

It was a glorious morning and Lynn walked with Soraj, Sulaiman and me down to the Swiss Consulate — above Nieman Marcus on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile stretch of Michigan Ave — to see if they could facilitate their visa process for a trip to Geneva in November. No luck. Even though there are many international embassies in Kabul, Afghanis have to travel to Pakistan to procure visas for most international trips (including trips to the US).
Meeting Hector Casanova

Cluster Bomb Survivors Tour meets with Hector Casanova, Director of CIR
Next up we met with Hector Cassanova and many of his staff at the Center for International Rehabilitation. They are doing amazing work developing low cost, easily replicable prosthetic limbs. They also had recently provided 100 wheelchairs to Afghanistan and are looking to ramp up their work there. They provided us with many good ideas about potential sources of US funding for Sulaiman and Soraj’s work.

Then we had an even more amazing 3-hour meeting with Marca Bristo — a pioneer of disability rights advocacy — who was appointed by President Clinton as the chair of the National

Council on Disability and is currently the CEO of Access Living Chicago — a disability rights pioneer and all around super amazing advocate. We learned more than I can possibly write. Along with dozens of other ideas, approaches, etc, Marco suggected some possible partnerships for ALSO with international disability rights organizations.

October 15, West Lafayette IN
When I awoke at 7 to get a cup of coffee, Raed was suited up and ready to leave! The Indy hotel was a surprise — plans to stay with local folks at this stop had fallen through at the last minute, when it became clear that no bathroom was wheelchair accessible.
Laura at Purdue

We hit the road for West Lafayette, IN, the home of Purdue University — the Big Ten rival to Indiana U (my alma mater!). After “making circles” (see below), we eventually got to Beering Hall, where Laura, Lora, Soraj and Sulaiman taught Professor Harry Targ’s a Peace Studies class. This went fine. A little hard to read the 70 or so students, but they all shook hands with Soraj as they left.

Then a chaotic reunion with the rest of the group, lunch in the student union and back on the road to Chicago. The Tour was over…well for everyone but Soraj and Sulaiman…

We had dinner at the same Indian restaurant where we had gotten to know one another at orientation slightly more than a week –and 1000 miles — before. We toasted our new, deep friendships, our shared work, and our journeys home.

October 14, Indianapolis
We got up and headed out early the next morning for appointments in Indianapolis with the staff of Senators Evan Bayh and of Richard Lugar. We found parking downtown right off of the Circle, in front of the Senators office, and we met our local host — veteran and peace activist Charlie Wiles. Charlie is of Lebanese heritage, and he and Raed hit it off immediately.

At Sen. Bayh’s office, we got a warm but noncommittal reception from his regional director, Doran Moreland. A Chicago woman who had hosted our first stop on the tour, Peg Duncan, had mentioned to me as we left her home that her brother knew Sen. Bayh pretty well. Her brother turns out to be the Vice Chancellor of Indiana U-Purdue U of Indianapolis, the largest university in Indy! He was unable to come with us but had written a fulsome email to Doran, explaining the importance he and his family placed on this issue.

We told Doran to expect postcards to come pouring into the office. That we knew he needed to be able to show others in the office that Hoosiers care about this issue. (SEND THOSE CARDS!) He noted that Sen. Bayh had challenged the Pentagon before and thought it possible he would do it again on this issue. But…SEND THOSE CARDS!
Senator Lugar’s office

Coffee break and then we dropped down five floors to the offices of Senator Richard Lugar. Lugar is an Indiana icon, having served in the Senate for 38 years. He’s also the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The conference room was covered with pictures of him seemingly dismantling Russian nuclear weapons, a quilt of running shirts from various races, and pix of him visiting all sorts of places. We met with Lesley Reser, Sen. Lugar’s state director.

She gave us a good hearing as we asked for Sen. Lugar’s leadership in bringing the US into the global ban treaty on cluster bombs. But she seemed most eager to tell us about Sen. Lugar rather than to engage with what we came to tell her. She said she would relay the information to the staff in Washington, and I nearly shouted NO! I have been to see the staff in DC, set up briefings, etc. Our ask to her was that she take the packet we had given her — which included original letters from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, from the Episcopal Church of the USA, from the United Methodist Church, from two dozen development and relief groups — and the information from Raed, Lynn and Soraj and pass it directly to Senator Lugar. We told her that we were sure if he knew of the impact these weapons had on children, farmers and even US soldiers that he would work to ban them. No more gatekeepers, please…

We headed out to “make some shopping” — Raed’s favorite hobby. (According to Raed, Laura and my favorite hobby on this trip was to “make circles” — ie, get a bit turned around while driving!) After that we headed to the City Market, in search of Middle Eastern food. Mission accomplished, we headed to our hotel to rest up for the evening’s talk at Earth House Café, a newly emerging center for interfaith peace work and gathering, attached to the Lockerbie United Methodist Church. The event was a little disappointing in terms of turn out, but those present scooped up the Hands Cards (so called because of the pictures of cluster bomb-mutilated hands on the front), petitions and other resources. Josh, who works the Earth House, led us to Mikado for Japanese food. Many of us enjoyed this, but not our Afghani guests! Not their fav cuisine! Many threats of Japanese food followed…

October 13, Columbus OH and Richmond IN
On Monday morning Lynn and I drove over to the OSU campus to meet my niece, Emily, who just started at the massive school (in the Honors Program!) a few weeks ago. She gave us a 1-hour tour of campus, including her high rise dorm suite that she shares with 11 other honors students.

Then we met the rest of the group in downtown Columbus to speak with Ann Fisher, a columnist for the Columbus Dispatch. She didn’t need any convincing about the importance of writing a column on the issue, but she did need a local angle since she writes for the Metro Section of the paper. Our local angles were unable to come with us, but we gave her contact info for Bounthanh, a woman who lives in Columbus and works on mental health issues for the state of Ohio. As a child — from birth to age 9 — she lived through the United States’ massive cluster bombing of Laos. We also gave Ann the contact for our host, Connie Hammond, who took on organizing our Columbus stop without any direct prior experience with these weapons (mercifully), but out of a deep emotional reaction to their impact. The Columbus Dispatch ran the story two days later.

Next stop: Richmond, Indiana — home of Earlham College, a Quaker college that my husband and several of my friends attended. We were hosted at a formal sit down dinner by the President of the College, Doug Bennett. Doug had invited the Mayor (declined), the Richmond Human Rights Commission (some in attendance), the editor and publisher of the local paper (in attendance) and several faculty and international students — about 50 guests in all. Beautiful photos from Lebanon flanked the room, and Raed had a cherubic, faded gray picture of his son Ahmad on the computer screen.

The presentations were greeted with near silence, not surprisingly. There were few questions, as people digested the hard realities that Lynn, Raed, Soraj and Sulaiman had related. But students and faculty scooped up several hundred copies of the “Hands Postcard” which we asked them to send in to Senator Lugar and Senator Bayh in the coming two weeks. And they took many copies of the blank petition to Secretary of Defense Gates. I routinely ask people to take a petition and “make 500 copies” and get them signed and mail them in. We will deliver them just before the treaty signing in early December. The local paper ran an article the next day.

October 12, Columbus
We spent the morning at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in downtown Cleveland, in order to provide an authentic American cultural experience for our visitors. A rock star could certainly give our campaign a little lift — anyone know any celebrities who care about cluster bombs?

We drove to Columbus this afternoon. The trees are starting to change to reds and yellows, and the drives in rural Michigan and Ohio have been quite beautiful, punctuated only periodically by strip malls. The event tonight was close to OSU, but the Sunday night turnout was quite small. Marjorie Nelson, a member of the FCNL network in Ohio, attended the presentation.

Marjorie served as a doctor with the Quakers in Quang Ngai Province during the Vietnam War. She spoke of the injuries that she saw inflicted on civilians by cluster bomblets, and of her own encounters with US bombs while she was a captive of the North Vietnamese. What the Vietnamese and Laotians call “bombies” are baseball-sized spherical cluster submunitions dropped out of giant mother bombs, and sprinkled the forests, riverbeds and beaches. Marjorie showed us a bombie shell (thankfully, opened) that she found during the war.

As the tour approaches its end, we are all wondering what its lasting impact will be. Certainly, more Midwesterners now know what a cluster bomb is. Undoubtedly, Senators Lugar, Levin, Voinovich and Bayh will be hearing from their constituents that citizens of Indiana, Michigan and Ohio will not stand for children dying unnecessary deaths from US-produced weapons. Possibly, this will translate into some or all of the four Senators supporting the Cluster Munitions Civilian Protection Act. And hopefully, all of this will create the political space for the president-elect to voice his support for the international ban treaty in early December.

October 11, Cleveland
We bid Stéphanie goodbye at the Cleveland airport this afternoon. During the tour she became enchanted by big Midwestern breakfasts and enormous take-away coffees, and she promised that she would be back to the US sometime soon. Most of our group will meet her in Oslo in about two months for the signing of the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

Our event on Saturday afternoon was at AACCESS-Ohio, the Arab-American community center in Cleveland, hosted by Bassam Khawarm. Before the event, Sulaiman and Soraj spoke with an Afghani in the audience who had lost his arm to a cluster sub-munition in Afghanistan in 1981.

Congressman Dennis Kucinich appeared halfway through the presentations, and improvised a moving speech on his trip to South Lebanon in September 2006. He said that when cluster bombs are used in a conflict, “the war never ends” — that the violence is revived each time a child or a farmer happens upon an unexploded bomblet. Congressman Kucinich presented Congressional certificates to Lynn, Raed, Sulaiman, Soraj, Lora and George, “in recognition of their outstanding efforts to rid the world of cluster bombs.” He bent on one knee to present the certificate to Soraj. He also pledged his support to future congressional efforts to cut off Defense spending on cluster munitions.

Attendees were a mix of passionate peace activists and Arab-American community leaders, and we could tell that we were in Kucinich’s district during the Q & A period. One man stood up and asked how we could present Raed with this American flag, knowing that it was an American-manufactured bomb that had killed his son. Raed, always gracious, answered that to him the flag represented “the American people, not their ugly government” that had sold these weapons to Israel.

October 10, Ann Arbor and Dearborn
Lora, Raed and Cori left the charming Red Roof Inn early on Friday morning to drive to Ann Arbor. They met with about a dozen people, including a few motivated U. Michigan students.

We all converged at the Arab-American Museum in Dearborn, a southwestern suburb of Detroit with a large Middle Eastern population. The museum was spectacular, with a central dome and mosaics on the American Task Force for Lebanonceiling and walls. The luncheon was attended by leaders in the Arab-American community, including the Lebanese consul-general and the Michigan state commissioner of health.

The mayor of Dearborn sent a letter expressing his support for the cause. Several active Quakers attended the luncheon as well. At every meeting we’ve held, we have encountered people who are appalled by the stories that they hear, and who want to help move the US toward a ban. In the six cities we’ve been to, we’ve handed out 2000 postcards to be mailed to senators, and received numerous commitments to organize delegations to go meet with the senators while they are home for the campaigning season.

George Cody, director of the American Task Force For Lebanon (ATFL), flew to Detroit for the event today. ATFL and Congressman Darryl Issa are the sponsors for this tour. ATFL has worked hard to bring American attention and funding to demining in South Lebanon. The cluster bomb issue is one that, sadly, Arab-Americans (and particularly Lebanese-Americans) understand much better than most.

The most exciting (and unexpected) moment of the afternoon was when a man approached Raed after the presentations and introduced himself as Raed’s first cousin! The two men had grown up together, living in next door houses in Beirut. They had not seen one another for 25 years, and neither knew that the other would be at the museum this afternoon. Raed’s cousin recognized the family name in the video on Raed’s son’s death, and realized that this was his cousin speaking. The two were thrilled to be reunited.

October 9, Lansing
I woke up at 6 am to do a live radio interview by phone for AM radio 1320 WILS. The host gave 20 minutes of drive time coverage to the issue. zzzzz.

Soraj. Sulaiman, Stephanie and I hit the road around 10 am for Lansing. I was particularly excited about this stop on the tour. Ann Francis was our local super organizer-and she was/is super! The main event was a talk at Michigan State U at 7 pm this night, hosted by Students for Peace and Justice and co-sponsored by the Red Cedar Friends Meeting, the local Amnesty chapter, the UN Association chapter, the Unitarians, a local book store, the Greater Lansing Network Against War and Injustice, and many others. Margaret Nielson had done extensive media outreach, and we had already had several radio interviews.

Now we were headed to the Everyone Reads bookstore to sit for an interview to be podcast by the Lansing Peace Education Center. The rest of the team showed up and we had lunch at Gone Wired Café.

Both local cities, Lansing and East Lansing, officially welcomed the Cluster Bomb Survivor Tour. The Mayor of Lansing, recognized this week as Cluster Bomb Awareness Week. Cluster bomb survivors were welcomed to Lansing City Hall at 4 pm by 20 faith and community leaders, including a Presbyterian minister, a Maryknoll sister, Pax Christi, Quakers. Also in attendance was a staffer for Sen. Carl Levin and one local TV station.

Raed and I rushed off to a radio interview, which I thought was taped. We got a bit lost and called in for guidance. We arrived with 30 seconds to spare before the live segment broadcast!

Then on to the main event at MSU. The campus is enormous. I asked several people for directions to the Hall where the talk would be held. Finally someone knew the place. A crowd of 75-100 gathered. East Lansing City Council member Nathan Triplett read off the resolution that the council had unanimously passed earlier in the week. After several good “whearas” clauses:

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the City Council of the City of East Lansing hereby urges Congress to enact legislation that would prohibit military use of cluster bombs and encourage participation in a global ban.

Afterwards one of our local hosts-Prof Jack Smith and his wife Prof Susan Waltz (a long time colleague of mine from an Amnesty USA committee)-treated us to Lebanese food at a local Lansing eatery. You should have seen the smile on Raed’s face! He fed us, fork full after fork full. Would not take no for an answer. Everyone looked exhausted, except for an exhilarated Raed.

October 8, South Bend
As I write at the end of day three, I am left wondering: was it really yesterday that we went to Obama HQ? So much has happened since then, it can’t possibly have been yesterday.

We picked up a second vehicle-a small car, packed up, and left Chicago first thing this am, headed for South Bend, IN. We had a talk in the main atrium of Holy Cross College. We arrived just in the nick of time! Five minutes before the talk, thanks in part to my somehow missing the large “HOLY CROSS VILLAGE” sign.

The standing room only audience of 50 or 60 were mostly students, with a smattering of Quakers, Mennonites, faculty and peace activists. One woman was/is working on getting a declaration from the South Bend Mayor about cluster bombs (against them!). Another said that she would work on getting us some face time with Sen. Lugar, since we were rebuffed in our effort to get a meeting with him when he was in South Bend today. Several took copies of the petition to Secretary of Defense Gates and said they’d Xerox a bunch of copies and work it.

We were promised pizza at this gig, but by the time we were done it was all gone! So we went to an Irish restaurant in downtown SB, right around the corner from the local Congressman’s office. Which was convenient, because we had a meeting with his chief of staff at 2 pm. The staffer allowed as how we were the first ones to come speak with the office about cluster bombs.

We pulled out of SB at 3 pm, literally drove around in circles for about 20 minutes , and finally headed on toward Grand Rapids, MI. We found our hotel in GR around 5:30 pm. Mean me, I made the speakers get ready to bare their souls again, 2x in one day, with little rest. We headed out at 6:30 for a nearby Community of Christ Church. FCNL currently has two fabulous interns who came to us from the Community of Christ. They are with us learning how to help make COC a “peace church”-that is, how to proactively work strategically to bring about the desired peace.

I admit to being a little surly when we arrived at the church (again 5 minutes before the event! Laura and Cori had gone earlier to set up), to find only 25 or so people there. The church was really peaceful, though. Had a great feeling and was set in a nice, leafy Grand Rapids neighborhood. I became less surly.

Pastor Tom Reynolds introduced Soraj, Sulaiman, Raed, and Lynn without much ado. They started. Soraj is an amazing communicator. Of course I don’t understand his actual words, but the confidence with which he speaks and the connection he makes with the audience is really amazing. He is one charismatic 17 year old. Then Raed played his video of Ahmad and told his story and explained why he had come here: to ask the American public to cause their government to join the treaty banning these weapons. Then Lynn explained how her son had died while clearing a farmer’s field of clusters, so that no Iraqi children would stumble upon them.

Then it was time for me to give the political kicker. I cried.

I pulled it together, and the small crowd turned out to be amazing. We left more than 1.5 hours later, pretty sure that everyone in that room would go forth and do their part, as Pastor Tom had prayed.

We all came back to our cozy Quality Inn (truly! If you ever go to GR, you’ve got to stay in the QI on 28th street!). We ordered in Chinese and all went swimming. It was Soraj’s second time in a pool. It was his and Suleiman’s first time in a church.

It was another amazing day.

October 7, Chicago
This afternoon we had a luncheon at the MacArthur Foundation with 30 leaders from religious, peace, and human rights organizations in Chicago. Lora introduced the event by starting (as always) with everyone’s question, “what exactly IS a cluster bomb?” She was followed by Soraj, with translation from Sulaiman. Soraj speaks powerfully and with the maturity of someone far older than Human Rights Watchseventeen. Raed began his presentation with photos of his 5 year old son Ahmed who was killed in 1999 by a US-manufactured, Israeli-dropped cluster submunition in a playground. As Lora put it, Raed’s story leaves people thinking about their own families, and feeling that ‘There go I but for the grace of God.’ Lynn’s message was also compelling. Steve Goose finished off the presentations with more information on the treaty.

Today we were joined by Jim Harris, who has spent many years working as a field deminer in Laos. I see the Oslo Process and demining as two sides of the same coin. The cluster munitions ban treaty will stop nations from using cluster munitions, which is critical since the billions of submunitions in stockpile (750,000,000 in the US alone) threaten a humanitarian disaster in the making. The ban is essential because we don’t want other countries to end up with the same problems as Laos, which was saturated with ordnance that the country will never, never be fully cleared of dangerous duds.

The highlight of the afternoon was our visit to the Obama campaign headquarters in downtown Chicago. All eight of us trooped into the office, which felt a bit like a parallel universe — – the place was filled with people and computers, and the walls were blanketed with posters and photos of the man of the hour. We talked with a sympathetic military and foreign policy advisor to the campaign. Lynn told him the story of her son’s Marine friends who have recently contacted her to tell her that they agree entirely that the US should not be using these weapons, and that this is an issue that transcends political differences about the war.

This perspective of US Marines who have to deal with cluster submunitions on the ground is potentially very meaningful for politicians as they consider their position on the ban, given that every American politician is terrified of being portrayed as not ‘supporting the troops.’ After our conversation, our host kindly gave us a tour off the campaign headquarters. In every room that we passed, there were people working the phones and perusing blogs. The smell of popcorn was in the air, in preparation for tonight’s debate.
Whole team at Obama HQ

The whole team at Obama headquarters

We left the meeting satisfied, and with hope that (the potential) President-elect Obama might make good on his statement in Arms Control Today. Two weeks ago in that newsletter, Obama stated that despite legitimate concerns from the military, the US should follow the international trend toward a ban on these weapons.

And tomorrow, we leave Chicago for a new time zone and a new state, which has a senator who is not running for president, but whose position on the cluster munitions ban treaty matters a great deal — Carl Levin.

October 5-6, Chicago
I manically look for a certain model of black easel carried by Office Depot. I visited three Office Depots on Sunday, wiping each of them out… These are for the photo display: 12 two foot by two foot copies of beautiful pictures commissioned by the American Task Force on Lebanon. These photos will be on display at most of our stops.

Raed from Lebanon and Stephanie from Handicap International Belgium arrived on Saturday; no problem. Laura and Lora were there to greet them with the “Ban Van”–the wheelchair accessible van we had picked up when we arrived, earlier that day. We stayed out by O’Hare, and Raed got 15 hours of blessed sleep! Lora and Laura introduced Stephanie to suburban America, which in this case included gaggles of girls going to a boy band concert (New Kid on the Block?). Also, inexplicably, there seemed to be a limosuine convention in the parking lot of the shopping mall. Twenty or thirty stretch limos… no clear reason why.

Soraj and Sulaiman were to arrive the next morning at 11 am. They got held up for several hours at passport control in Atlanta and missed their connecting flight to O’Hare. So three of us were at the airport for hours togreet them, and I was with the wheelchair accessible van in short-term parking. But somehow we missed them! they found their way to the hotel we had stayed in the previous night and called my mobile from there. It was only 5 minutes from O’Hare, so we found them right away, at last! We loaded up the van and brought this group into Chicago. Soraj and Sulaiman got to rest after days of difficult travel.

Handicap InternationalLynn Braddach arrived from Portland OR that night, in great spirits and ready for action. Cori Cohen, from Handicap International US also arrived that night.

We had a great first day in Chicago, yesterday. We had a radio interview first thing on Worldview, Chicago Public Radio.

Then we had a 1.5 hour orientation session at an Indian restaurant near the hotel (which is right by Grant Park). We were joined by Steve Goose, of Human Rights Watch for this. Steve is one of the main architects of the global cluster bomb ban treaty. Lora explained where in the world we are (the Great Lakes Region of the USA) and why (influential senators from the states we will travel through). We went through the packed itinerary and the different kinds of events we would take part in– a mix of public speaking, interviews, and meetings with political folks.

At 6 we went to the home of Peg Duncan, who is on the Chicago Committee of Human Rights Watch. She invited 30 or so influential folks–politically active and connected–to come and dine in her home with us and hear Lynn, Raed and Soraj’s stories. Steve Goose also spoke very compellingly about the problem and the solution–the global treaty. We talked about what is needed to bring the US into the treaty. People were very moved by the speakers’ stories and very engaged.

Up today: a meeting at MacArthur Foundation for Chicago-based human rights, humanitarian, and international law groups, plus the social justice wings of the Catholic Archdiocese, the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago and the Evangelical Lutherans. After this lunch session, we will have an interview with In These Times and Detroit Public Radio, and then on to Obama HQ.

— Lora Lumpe