Impressions of Iraq
by Manna Jo Greene
As a life-long environmentalist I've spent years helping people
understand the importance and the practicality of transitioning
our current dependence on fossil fuel and nuclear power to energy
efficiency and clean, renewable, locally abundant and sustainable
sources of energy such as solar, wind and geothermal heating and
cooling systems. In the last few days of December, 2002, as I
the preposterous absurdity of spending up to $200 billion on massive
destruction in a possible war in Iraq, something inside of me
Thinking how far $200 billion would go toward energy independence,
education and universal health care, I responded to email asking
join the "Human Shields."
Desperate to take an action that would be effective in preventing
impending war, I signed a pledge that said that I would go to
5,000 other Americans would also go. Well, 5,000 Americans didn't
up, and I quickly realized that my body wouldn't stop bombs or
I decided to go anyway with an organization called Voices in the
Wilderness Iraq Peace Team, which had six year's experience bringing
hundreds of peace delegates, including Nobel Peace laureates and
congressional delegations, safely in and out of Iraq.
By the end of January, I and two other Hudson Valley Women,
Riddell and Lorna Tychostup of New Paltz, had passed Voices' rigorous
screening process, and were oriented to our trip. With widespread
coverage and a series of fundraisers, we raised over $11,000 in
generous donations from the people of the Hudson Valley who supported
our desire to bring a message of peace and friendship to the people
Iraq, and to bring back the faces, hopes and dreams of the Iraqi
Aware that we were ignoring a travel ban that could cost us
up to $1
million in fines or 12 years imprisonment, and in spite of the
for our safety by our family and friends, on Saturday, February
boarded a plane from JFK to Amman, Jordan. In Amman, a friendly
crew and seven other members of the Iraq Peace Team greeted us.
three trips to the Iraq Embassy in Amman, we received our visas
off early the next morning for Baghdad, crossing 500 miles of
In Baghdad we were greeted with surprising warmth and gracious
hospitality. For the week I was there, I experienced no hostility
toward me as an American: none, zero, zilch. This was quite remarkable
when you consider that the US was about to attack Iraq. There's
question that Saddam Hussein has repeatedly participated in torture
despotic rule. I do not, and never have, defended him or his regime,
but regime change is not a justification for war, especially if
country does not pose a "grave and imminent threat"
to the United
States. By international law, nations are required to exhaust
violent, non-military means before resorting to war. We certainly
not do that in this case.
I was also amazed to find that political opinions of the Iraqi
varied as much as ours do here in the US -- from genuine respect
their President and his regime to the cab driver who told me in
uncertain terms that "there can be no peace without democracy."
However, most Iraqis thought both leaders had gone mad, theirs
ours, and no one wanted US occupation.
While in Iraq we participated in daily prayer vigils in front
headquarters of the UN weapons inspectors. One day an inspector
over and thanked us for being there, saying, "It really helps
morale to know that people support the inspection process."
was the Islamic holiday of Eid, and there were more than 500
internationals in Iraq, I never saw a government "minder"
time I was in Iraq. I did contact a government official through
correspondence to obtain permission to install a Peace Pole from
World Peace Sanctuary in Amenia, NY, in the courtyard of the UN
Development Program in Baghdad. A few days later, I got word that
permission had been granted.
Now that I'm back in the US and war has started, I deeply mourn
losses -- ours, theirs and those yet to come -- the horrendous
life, the destruction of infrastructure and the inevitable devastation
of ancient historic resources what is truly the cradle of human
With war abroad and the potential for increasing repression
our democracy is seriously endangered. The Homeland Security Patriot
Acts (with Patriot II pending) threaten the very freedoms that
founders of our nation envisioned and institutionalized in the
Constitution. The sinister Project for a New American
Century/Rebuilding America's Defenses replaces defense with offense,
an unprecedented plan for unilateral world domination.
The Golden Rule asks us to put ourselves in the other's position.
my compassion, I have been verbally attacked and accused of being
unpatriotic and worse; however, I have never felt more patriotic
life. I pledge the flag with a new fervor as I remember that "when
the course of human events_" dissent becomes necessary, it's
responsibility of an informed citizenry to speak out. This is
check and balance that keeps America on track.
I believe that out of these flames a phoenix will rise. Americans
freedom and democracy deep in our DNA and we will not allow this
taken from us. I want to live in an America that leads by power
example, not one that rules the world by military might and controls
its own people by fear.
Humans have developed two very advanced technologies: powerful
force and the ability to solve problems through conflict resolution,
mediation and collaboration. We are currently undergoing an
unprecedented evolution of human consciousness. Millions of people
profoundly questioning the use of violence as a means to solve
personal, community-wide or international problems.
In my work, I've had the privilege of facilitating successful
collaborations amongst people who initially saw each other as
enemies. I've discovered that collaborative solutions developed
people with diverse values and positions are inevitably far superior
those formulated by people who all agree with each other. When
of goodwill focus on creating fact-based solutions, and taking
responsibility rather than blaming others, miracles can happen.
May Peace Prevail.