I attended an event at the Community Church of New York, sponsored by CODEPINK and Gold Star Families for Peace. Speakers included Cindy Sheehan, Mimi Evans of Military Families Speak Out, singer/songwriter/ Holly Near, Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CODEPINK, and the Iraqi Women's Delegation.
Ms. Near's beautifully clear voice and song for peace was the perfect prelude to the words of the other women.
Benjamin, who hosted the program, has a long record of activism, working over 20 years to support human rights around the world. Tireless and dedicated in her beliefs, this dynamo has traveled to Iraq, providing humanitarian aid to so many Iraqi people.
The Iraqi women's stories are heart wrenching testimonials to the atrocities of war. It was painful to listen as each spoke with dignity, telling what their lives had been like before the United States invaded and what they live with, day in, day out, now. Each of us should just try and imagine what it would be like to have our culture destroyed, our cities leveled, and our loved ones taken in the night or killed. Then attempt to reconcile this with the words of George Bush, the architect of the invasion, who continues to lie about spreading democracy and freedom.
These personal stories are never presented by our mainstream news outlets that parrot the Bush Administration and tell us that the insurgency is under control. The Iraqi women said, "Don't believe what you hear in your news." Their politicians live in the "Green Zone," and are inaccessible to ordinary Iraqis.
These courageous women told the audience they want us out of their country. We've leveled their cities, changed everything about their lives, and tortured their children. Each day and night of the occupation is another day and night of abuse""unrelenting wretchedness and despair. One woman said that it's hard to reconstruct psychology""the children of Iraq see a violence that's continued for three years. Most Americans, with the exception of residents of New Orleans, have no concept of this suffering.
A Kurdish woman said that her people were abandoned by our country after the first Gulf War. "As a Kurd, I know what it's like to live under
bombardment. The United States brought Saddam into power and gave him weapons to use against Kurds." She spoke of the 20 million Kurds now living as refugees in Turkey.
Another Iraqi woman described the aerial bombing that's flattened the cities and killed so many civilians. She said, "When Americans hear a terrorist may be in a house, they bomb and destroy." In other words, we aren't just targeting a few men, we're taking out huge areas and killing innocent people. These actions don't spread freedom and democracy. Instead, we are raining down destruction, fear and hatred, using the same kinds of weapons we went there to wipe out""weapons banned by the international community.
I took a picture of my nephew, Marine Lance Cpl. Chase J. Comley. He was killed in Iraq on August 6, 2005. I wanted to show the photo to Cindy Sheehan. I'd never met her but we have an e-mail relationship and share the bond of loss. She'd asked me to speak in Brooklyn on behalf of GSFP early in January and to read her message at the World Can't Wait Rally in DC. A nice man I met gave me a nod that Cindy had arrived so I went outside to meet her. She looked at me and when I said, "I'm Missy Beattie" we fell into each other's arms and cried. Then, I showed her Chase's picture.
When it was Cindy Sheehan's time to stand at the podium, the audience sat in reverence for this mother who galvanized the peace movement, bringing attention to a cowardly president. We cheered when she let George W. Bush have it. She was emphatic in her conviction that Bush pulled the trigger that entered her son Casey's brain. She chastised him for valuing American babies more than Iraqi babies. She ripped him one for lying that he's making the world and our country a safer place. Cindy, then, told a poignant story about receiving an e-mail from an Iraqi woman whose son was killed when Casey died. This grief stricken mother wrote to Cindy, telling her "We don't want to kill Americans. We just want you out of our country."
Cindy praised the courage of the Iraqi women who sat behind her. "They didn't want this," she said. "They're not crazy about George Bush's freedom and democracy."
The crowd roared.
"Their country is in shambles; our country is in shambles."
"No more money for killing; instead, money for reparations."
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