Kathy Kelly

Millions Are Facing Death by Famine in Yemen

The ruins carpeted the city market, rippling outwards in waves of destruction. Broken beams, collapsed roofs, exploded metal shutters and fossilized merchandise crumbled underfoot.

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The Shame of Killing Innocent People

On April 26th, 2017, in Yemen’s port city of Hodeidah, the Saudi-led coalition which has been waging war in Yemen for the past two years dropped leaflets informing Hodeidah’s residents of an impending attack.  One leaflet read:

“Our forces of legitimacy are heading to liberate Hodeidah and end the suffering of our gracious Yemeni people. Join your legitimate government in favor of the free and happy Yemen.”

And another: “The control of the Hodeidah port by the terrorist Houthi militia will increase famine and hinder the delivery of international relief aid to our gracious Yemeni people.”

Certainly the leaflets represent one aspect of a confusing and highly complicated set of battles raging in Yemen. Given alarming reports about near famine conditions in Yemen, it seems the only ethical “side” for outsiders to choose would be that of children and families afflicted by hunger and disease.

Yet the U.S. has decidedly taken the side of the Saudi-led coalition. Consider a Reuters report, on April 19, 2017, after U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis met with senior Saudi officials. According to the report, U.S. officials said “U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition was discussed including what more assistance the United States could provide, including potential intelligence support…”  The Reuters report notes that Mattis believes “Iran's destabilizing influence in the Middle East would have to be overcome to end the conflict in Yemen, as the United States weighs increasing support to the Saudi-led coalition fighting there.”

Iran may be providing some weapons to the Houthi rebels, but it’s important to clarify what support the U.S. has given to the Saudi-led coalition.  As of March 21, 2016, Human Rights Watch reported the following weapon sales, in 2015 to the Saudi government: 

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Our 2017 Resolutions Should Be About Fighting Racism, Greed and Militarism

This New Year’s Eve, 750 heavy wooden crosses were distributed to a gathering of Chicagoans commemorating the victims of gun violence killed in 2016. Rev. Michael Pfleger and the Faith Community of St. Sabina Parish had issued a call to carry crosses constructed by Greg Zanis. The crosses, uniform in size, presented the name, age, and in many cases, a photo of the person killed. Some who carried the crosses were relatives of the victims. As the group assembled, several sobbed upon finding the crosses bearing the names and photos of their loved ones

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After the Israeli Assault: Truth and Trauma On the Ground in Gaza

Dr. T., a medical doctor, is a Palestinian living in Gaza City.  He is still reeling from days of aerial bombardment. When I asked about the children in his community he told me his church would soon be making Christmas preparations to lift the children’s spirits.  Looking at his kindly smile and ruddy cheeks, I couldn't help wondering if he’d be asked to dress up as "Baba Noel," as Santa Claus.  I didn't dare ask this question aloud.  

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'Soft Necks Will Not Be Slaughtered': Why the Afghan War Needs Peace Talks

Abdulhai remembers his father being killed by the Taliban. “Anyone who takes up a weapon in revenge, whether the Talib or any other, is acting like the Talibs who murdered my father,” he says, in a matter of fact way. “The solution does not lie in taking revenge, but in people coming together like the people of Egypt to defend themselves in a nonviolent way.”

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Campaign to Ban Homeless in Colorado Springs Going After Wrong Target

Here in Colorado Springs, student and community organizers recently invited me to try and help promote their campaign against a proposed "No Camping" ordinance, a law to ban the homeless from sleeping on sidewalks or public lands within the city limits. The organizers insist it's wrongful to criminalize the most desperate and endangered among us, that it instead seems quite criminal to persecute people already in need of far more care and compassion than we've been willing to offer, especially during these bitterly cold winter months. But others in the area are intent on eliminating the tent encampments near the Monument Creek and Shooks Run trails, complaining that the encampments mar natural beauty, deter tourists, create fire hazards, and degrade the environment by strewing heaps of trash and debris near the creek and even in it.

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Bombs Do Not Discriminate

Cathy Breen and I visited Amal at the home of her friends, having heard that her home had been further destroyed by ongoing bombing. Amal took us to her house, which faces the river, graced by a garden where flowers are blooming. Picking our way through broken glass at the entrance, we entered what was once one of the most well-appointed homes in Baghdad. The rooms were in disarray. Several walls were cracked, the windows shattered, and a thick layer of dust and grime covered the exposed furniture, books, carpets and floors.

"It was my silly feeling," Amal said matter-of-factly, "that this will not happen. I did not move anything."

She emphasized several times that neighbors could have removed everything, in the past two days. "The house is open. The whole area knows about it. But nobody moved anything."

Amal wasn't in her home when the windows shattered and the doors were blown out. "By chance, that night, I forgot my key and for that reason I stayed with my friends."

Ten minutes after we arrived at her home, the U.S. began bombing.

"They are starting it again," Amal said with a sigh. "We should go very quickly."

We rejoined Amal's friends, two sisters who, like Amal, are elderly, scholarly, staunch and furious. I first met them in the summer of 2002, when they invited me to tell a gathering of two dozen or so Iraqi friends about my experiences in April 2001 inside the Jenin Camp in the West Bank, just after Israeli troops had destroyed hundreds of homes in a civilian neighborhood, using overwhelming military force. Amal and her friends were deeply angered when I showed them pictures of homes in Jenin that were reduced to rubble. They said they've always felt intense grief for the Palestinians who've suffered under occupation.

Back then it was unthinkable that Amal herself would become homeless and face life under occupation less than a year later.

"It is so unfair," said Amal. "From the simplest people to the highest people, all have suffered."

Later that night, we learned that Voice of America radio had confirmed that an Iraqi military officer approached a U.S. military checkpoint in Iraq appearing to be a cab driver wishing to surrender. The driver detonated a load of explosives inside the cab, killing himself and four U.S. soldiers.

Amal has paid a high price for guessing wrongly about whether or not the U.S. would wage a massive attack against Iraq. She didn't bother to safeguard her impressive collection of valuable artwork, books and other belongings. She and her friends aren't guessing now. They are positive that U.S. warmakers will pay a lethal and grisly price for any attempts to overtake and occupy Iraq.

"We will lose the battle, but the U.S. is not the winner," she said. "The children talk about the monster coming. We will push back the monster, with our hands."

Kathy Kelly is co-coordinator of Voices in the Wilderness and the Iraq Peace Team. The Iraq Peace Team can be reached at info@vitw.org.

Let There Be Life

BAGHDAD, March 12, 2003 -- Late in the evening on March 10, we learned from a UN worker that remaining support staff for UN organizations other than UNMOVIC inspectors would be shuttling out of Baghdad on March 12, in accordance with involuntary departure orders. Many of the UN staff had already left in a slow attrition accomplished through applications for vacation leave or re-assignments. We lined the departure road in early morning hours on March 12 holding enlarged photos, on vinyl banners, of Iraqi people, many of them children, who've befriended us during seven years of regular visits to Iraq. Our banner, strung in front of a tent encampment across from the UN Compound, read:

Farewell UN Please Advise: Who will protect Iraqi children?

Rumors proliferate around us. Who knows if any of them are true? But we do know is that time is very short. Within days, the U.S. government may start the saturation bombing of Iraq.

I spent this morning coloring with eight year old Sohab, a patient in the cancer ward at the Al Mansour hospital. She is too weak to uncap the markers, but delights in choosing colors and carefully making bright colored pictures in a children's coloring book. War seemed light years away from warfare during the calm quiet morning with this radiantly beautiful child. I remember the broken glass and shattered windows that lined the roadway in front of this same hospital, in December 1998, when Desert Fox bombing destroyed a decrepit "old ministry of defense building" across from the hospital. I hope we can help comfort Sohab, if she's still hospitalized when bombing comes.

It's too much to hope for protection of the vast majority of people here from anticipated consequences of an attack and invasion on Iraq. According to a UN document for the planning of humanitarian relief, the expected outcomes of a US campaign of bombing and invasion includes:

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