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News ::
Letter from Iraq :: 12.24.02 (english)
08 Apr 2003
Letter home from an Norwood resident visiting Baghdad before the war began. (Originally posted to an Indymedia newswire on Dec. 24, 02, and later featured in the Boston IMC , 'Boston Free Press'.)
Where to begin? I wish you could all be here Ė itís so different from what we see on TV. As we drove through Baghdad for the first time, all I could think, over and over, was the simple truth that at the heart of it all, this is just a place where people live. Ordinary people, welcoming people. Thatís it, at the core and these are the people who will suffer. Baghdad is a sprawling, residential city. Kids tote backpacks to and from school, play soccer on patches of dust along the road, wave at us from the sidewalks. The streets are busy with cars, and the sidewalks are lined with small shops -- although most have very few shoppers and many are closed completely. Elderly people, women, and men greet us. Many of the men, I notice especially, walk with prayer beads -- one of the prayer traditions of Islam is to recite the 99 names of God. The seeming normalcy of life is a sharp contrast to the anxiety that the people live with, and which we learn when we meet them up close.

Today we went to a maternity hospital run by the Dominican sisters here in Baghdad. Sr. Bushra Gaggi, OP, who runs the hospital, told us that many of the women have been coming to the hospital, begging her to give them Caesarean sections, so that their babies will be born before the bombing begins. She smiled at us and greeted us so graciously, but when she talked about the war, she couldnít hold back tears, and she was very afraid. It is so painful Ė why donít US citizens know about the ordinary people here in Iraq?

Yesterday, we went to a public hospital. There has been a huge increase in cancer -- most likely caused by the depleted uranium in the US bombs used in the Gulf War. (Which has also caused thousands of US veterans to become sick). And only one Iraqi hospital in the entire nation has a machine for radiation treatment. All of the other 13-year-old machines have broken down [as a result of sanctions]. Most children and adults with cancer have no hope. So the oil-for-food program is not enough -- the hospitals still do not receive enough medicine, equipment, or training, and malnutrition is still an enormous problem: more than 5 million Iraqi children are malnourished.

Today, we visited three bishops. Together, in many ways, they said to us Ė We are a peaceful people, we do not want war. Please, tell all the people of faith in the US to pray for us. The war would be a catastrophe for the Iraqi people. Please, tell your people what you see here, what you hear. Tell them the truth.
A war will only hurt these ordinary people who live here. They are already so beaten down, and war will only make it worse. Since Iíve come, I feel fearóNOT fear for my personal safety, but fear for the safety of our whole planet. I just donít know what will happen. Iím starting to realize that we ordinary American people may be the only hope Ė itís our responsibility to speak out against a war, to seek other means to resolve the conflicts.
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