A hero in Baghdad

A hero in Baghdad – Editor’s Note

Matthew Rothschild

Kathy Kelly is my idea of a hero. The founder of Voices in the Wilderness, she and her organization have done more than anyone to highlight the humanitarian disaster that economic sanctions have brought to the people of Iraq. Now she and her colleagues are putting themselves on the line in Baghdad, vowing to stay there even if Bush decides to attack.

This is taking civil disobedience to new levels of courage. I salute her for it. She is in the fine tradition of Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and the Berrigans–individuals who take their convictions so seriously that they put their own freedom and sometimes their own lives at risk.

Even as I mourn the death of valiant Philip Berrigan, I’m pleased to be able to share Kathy Kelly’s piece “A Witness to War” with you.

For this issue, we also wanted you to consider the perspectives of two other individuals who are well acquainted with the situation in Iraq: Joe Stork of Human Rights Watch and Faleh A. Jabar, a former Iraqi communist who had to flee Baghdad for his life back in 1978. Both caution those of us in the peace movement not to minimize the horrors of Saddam Hussein but to propose alternatives for dismantling the horrific Ba`th regime.

I’m grateful for their wise contributions.

On December 3, two other peace activists and I were supposed to address an anti-Iraq War teach-in at Memorial High School in Madison, Wisconsin. About twenty students and a faculty adviser had planned the teach-in over the course of a month. But the day before it was supposed to happen, a student involved with the Young Republicans went on a local rightwing radio program and complained that the teach-in was unbalanced. He and the host drummed up enough negative calls and e-mails to the school administration–some referring to the school district as “subversive and anti-American,” according to The Capital Times–that within a matter of hours, the school superintendent, Art Rainwater, postponed the teach-in until it could be more balanced.

When holding an anti-war teach-in out here in liberal old Madison, Wisconsin, becomes verboten, you know that the chilly winds of McCarthyism are picking up speed.

Here’s another example.

Richard Abdoo is the CEO of Wisconsin Energy Corp., based in Milwaukee. Earlier this fall, Abdoo sent a $250 check to the peace group Not in Our Name.

On November 11, rightwing talk radio hosts in Milwaukee got wind of Abdoo’s contribution and began to pillory him for endorsing “an anti-American screed.”

At first, Abdoo stood his ground. “I think every American has the freedom to state their views,” he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “I’d still send the $250.”

But the negative comments kept coming, and the Journal Sentinel shamefully editorialized against Abdoo on November 13, in a piece entitled, An Executive’s Bad Decision.”

On November 14, Abdoo backed down. In an e-mail to his employees, he wrote: “Please accept my apology for the distraction, confusion, and pain this situation may have caused you.”

By the way, Not in Our Name’s statement says, in part: “We believe that questioning, criticism, and dissent must be valued and protected. We understand that such rights and values are always contested and must be fought for.”

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