Nov. 20-26, 2003
By Connie Cissell/ SUN editor
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Local activists gather again to speak out on the war in Iraq
Jesus died on the cross rejecting violence, forgiving His persecutors and loving His enemies. That action was –– besides His later resurrection –– one of the most powerful images and messages He left for the world. Still today people of all faiths are entangled in war and violence, killing and bloodshed. While all this is captured in sound bites, pictures and rolling news strips on the bottom of television screens, there are groups of people asking for a different outcome, a different method. In September of 2002, when war in Iraq appeared imminent, Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, wrote to President George Bush. He wrote, “Given the precedents and risks involved, we find it difficult to justify extending the war on terrorism to Iraq, absent clear and adequate evidence of Iraqi involvement in the attacks of September 11th or of an imminent attack of a grave nature.”
Later in October, people in cities across the Syracuse Diocese gathered in peaceful demonstrations calling on the U.S. government to seek a more international approach to solutions to the problems of oppression in Iraq, and to resist entering into a war. Some Syracuse activists gathered on Nov. 14, over a year later, at the gymnasium at St. Lucy’s Parish to again voice their opposition to the situation in Iraq and to draw attention to people who are being fined by the U.S. government for providing humanitarian aid to the people of Iraq.
Local resident Ed Kinane, who arrived home from Iraq a week ago, and Dick Keough, a former priest who made two trips to Iraq in 2001, took part in the press conference there. The theme of the press conference was “We will not Go Quietly” and similar press conferences were planned in Binghamton, Chicago, Ithaca, Los Angles, Minneapolis, Montgomery, New York City, San Francisco and Seattle. Statements from Cynthia Barnes, who had recently returned from Iraq, Kinane, Keough, Richard Mundy, a Quaker and professor who had traveled to Iraq with Keough, and Dr. Rafil Dhafir, a Muslim incarcerated at the Onondaga County Justice Center since February for sending millions of dollars in what he describes as humanitarian aid to the region, were read aloud at the press conference.
Kinane and Keough fielded questions after the statements were read. Before the press conference began, Keough said he was disappointed that strong statements made by Catholics at the beginning of the military action in Iraq had subsided or were now non-existent. “They were on target then. It was very difficult for them to justify the war, but their silence now can be viewed as complicity,” Keough said. Kinane, who was in Baghdad during the 21-day “shock and awe” campaign, said the U.S. went into the war expecting to eventually control oil. “They do control the lucrative contracts for rebuilding the Iraq that their bombs destroyed,” he said. Kinane also said that Mussolini defined facism as “the merging of corporations and government.” Keough’s trips to Iraq were made, he said, to seek some sort of reconciliation with Iraqi people who were suffering after years of sanctions and bombings. His second trip to Iraq was as part of a Christian Conference. “I went there as a person of faith; faith being the ultimate decision maker for us. If anything we know about Jesus, we know He was non-violent. If we turn on the TV, we see the death of our Americans and Iraqis.” Keough said people need to study, pray and act in a nonviolent way to bring about the end of evil.
Kinane described the constant bombing that took place while he was in Iraq. “It was dreadful. It was very frightening. The hotel was shaking, the windows rattling,” Kinane said. He visited hospitals and saw casualties and visited neighborhoods seeing the shrapnel embedded in the walls from the cluster bombs. Kinane said he spoke to U.S. soldiers while he was there. “My impression is that these are very decent young people. They felt the military was a good opportunity for them and I think they truly believed they were liberating the Iraqi people. My guess now is that these young people are extremely disillusioned right now. They are operating under heinous conditions. My heart goes out to these soldiers. They really shouldn’t be there,” Kinane said.
Kinane noted that if soldiers can take such enormous risks for war, activists should take such enormous risks for peace.