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An American Peacemaker Reports from Baghdad, Part II

Day Thirty-One
by Wade Hudson

Late morning, Yarub from the Islamic Relief Agency drops in as we convene for a meeting. Kathy tells him that she and others have decided to leave tomorrow and asks for a show of hands to indicate who wants to leave with them. Seven of us raise our hands.

We engage in an extended conversation with Yarub, who reports that hospitals had to turn the wounded away yesterday. He also expresses remorse about so many important government records, including vital statistics, being burned. He estimates that it will take ten years to replace them.

After the meeting, Robert tells me that he toured nine districts yesterday and saw filth and debris, buildings burning, and looting everywhere. A commentator on BBC TV states that under the Geneva Convention, law and order is the responsibility of the occupying power. The anchor asks a U.S. military spokesperson, "Do you accept that responsibility"? The spokesperson evades the question, and proceeds to legitimize the looting by arguing that the victims were people who gained wealth under the old regime.

In another report, BBC states that scenes of medics guarding their hospitals with guns may be more etched in memory that scenes of statutes toppling, though "the Americans seem to think it is part and parcel of invasion." Once again, BBC shows Defense Secretary Rumsfeld attacking the media for reporting the disorder. BBC describes Rumsfeld's tirade as "a breathtaking dismissal that surprised the world in its ferocity."

BBC then shifts to scenes of a spontaneous Iraqi demonstration in front of the Palestine Hotel that features a banner reading, "We want a new government as soon as possible to insure peace and security." BBC states, "The liberation honeymoon is over" and points out that more disorder could prompt people to seek security within their own ethnic group, which could lead to more strife.

BBC leaves much to be desired in general, but I won't be surprised if these kind of reports failed to make it onto CNN or NPR.

Myself, I'm not at all surprised by these developments. In recent years, the U.S. has demonstrated an inclination to promote the fragmentation of national governments. This pattern may well be due to the fact that nation-states are the last refuge against the forces of economic globalization. Anyone with only a cursory knowledge of Iraq knew full well that maintaining Iraq as a unified state would be extremely difficult if the U.S. overthrew Saddam by force.

I spend the afternoon packing and working on my evaluation of IPT. Shortly after 6 PM, I hear gunfire outside. The Marines have apparently spotted a hostile Iraqi near the river and start moving in that direction on foot and in armored vehicles. Forty or so journalists, mostly photographers, join the assault. After about ten minutes, the gunfire subsides, but I'm unable to determine if they captured or killed the target.

Robert then informs me that Kathy, Cathy, and Cynthia have decided to stay longer. Kathy later comes to my room and confirms this plan. I had decided to stay for a good while longer, if those staying asked me to stay, and I let people know about this willingness. I'd been hoping to stay long enough to help IPT get better organized. Don't get me wrong. I have great respect for all that Voices and IPT have accomplished. It just that it seems to me that they could be even more effective with some relatively minor changes in how they operate.

As time passes, however, it's become increasingly clear that the core group understandably prefers a smaller configuration. So I decide to stick with the plan to leave tomorrow. This development disappoints me somewhat. The adolescent side of my ego feels rejected. My desire to be useful is frustrated. But when I stop being so self-centered, I realize that I am not the point. My needs are secondary. It's time for me to move on. If I cannot contribute to the cause in one way, I can find another.

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[Editor's Note: I've received permission from the IPT media coordinator to replace all of the text he'd requested to have removed. Restored full texts will be available in the archives at http://lists.inlet.org/pipermail/baghdadjournal several hours from now. peace, ~steven]

From Baghdad to Amman
by Wade Hudson

Shortly before 8 AM, Jooneed, Ed, April, Robert and I head out of Baghdad in a SUV with "TV" markings on its sides. It's my first time away from the hotel for about a week and what I see boggles my mind. Burned out cars, looted stores, debris all over the streets, abandoned tanks, devastated buildings -- it's like a neighborhood destroyed by a riot in the States that goes on and on to the edge of the city. Many times, our driver is forced to change his route because the road is blocked. We drive over impromptu dirt roads and down one-lane streets in low-income districts that have never seen so much traffic.

Eventually we make it back to the main freeway, only to encounter mounds of dirt that have been placed in the freeway, presumably by the U.S. military, to slow down traffic so that they could inspect the occupants. Once the road clears up, we pass a particularly harrowing scene. Most of the freeway, which is a bridge at this point, has been blown away by a bomb. And in the right lane, there is a large, completely charred tour bus. I visualize all of the occupants being burned to death, and hope that the bus had been abandoned instead.

We see no U.S. military until we reach the Jordanian border, where a Special Forces officer examines our passports. It seems that we arrive at the border just as the Jordanian visa personnel take a long lunch break, so it takes us three hours to be processed. While we're waiting, an A.P. reporter approaches us and tells us that he was robbed at gunpoint at one of the s-curves with mounds of dirt just outside Baghdad. The bandits took $500 and all of his luggage, but missed his passport. I estimate that he left two hours later than we did. Fortunately, our people knew that we should leave early. As is the case in the States, the risk of crime increases with each passing hour.

Leaving Baghdad feels like I'm waking up from a bad dream.

The Al Monzer Hotel in Amman feels like home sweet home. We bump into some IPT and CPT people in the lobby and have some warm connections. I call Jordanian Airlines, learn that I can't fly to Chicago until Thursday, and compose this journal entry quickly so that I can go to the Internet CafÈ and let everyone know that I'm alive and well.

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Reflections on the Battle of Baghdad
by Wade Hudson

Lying safely on my bed in Jordan fifteen hours after arriving from Baghdad, I reflect on last night's bad dream, a war scene rooted in what I had witnessed from my balcony in Baghdad, and I cry convulsively for several minutes. After a nap, I wake and start weeping again. I decide to write in order to stop crying.

My thirty-one days in Baghdad with the Iraq Peace Team (IPT) were both horrific and wonderful. I arrived less than seven days before the bombing began and left the day after BBC TV reported, "Scenes of medics guarding their hospitals with guns may be more etched in memory than scenes of statutes toppling."

The hospitality of the Iraqi people was overwhelming. Even when people learned that we were from the United States, they treated us with immense affection. When Iraqis learned that we opposed the war, spontaneous expressions of appreciation were common. If the chicken hawks had been right about an overwhelming Iraqi desire to be liberated forcibly by America, most of the Iraqis whom we met would have simply kept quiet.

Iraqis were happy when the Saddam regime collapsed. The fear and anger toward Saddam was palpable. Even those with mixed emotions must have felt some satisfaction.

One should not overestimate the joy, however. BBC reported thousands in the streets celebrating, not tens of thousands. And the military brought in a crowd of Shiites, who are vehemently anti-Saddam, to cheer the televised toppling of the statute in front of the media center at the Palestine Hotel. Earlier that day, the Iraqi families in the lobby of our hotel laughed when they watched TV and saw Iraqis stomping on posters of Saddam. But they responded with silence at the climax of that well-crafted media event across the street.

A large portion of the positive response to the arrival of American troops was relief that the bombing was over. For three weeks, bombs and missiles that shake the ground for miles around fell on Baghdad relentlessly. It was like living through 20 or 30 San Francisco earthquakes day after day.

As IPT documented in our report, "Civilian Casualties and Infrastructure Damage in the 2003 U.S.-led Attack on Baghdad -- March 20-April 1, 2003," the cost was terrible. When American troops entered Baghdad, the human toll increased. Body parts being blown away by machine-gun fire. Charred bodies lying by the roadside. Tanks trying to kill snipers a mile away, not knowing whom they would hit. Soldiers deciding not to shoot out the tires of approaching cars but killing the occupants inside instead.

Then, as expected, post-invasion, anarchy ensued, adding to the death toll. Not only did the U.S. not bring in a police force to keep order. Not only did the U.S. give the looters a green light by being passive. They actually encouraged the mayhem. On the ground, they blew open banks and buildings and invited in the looters. And at headquarters, they tried to legitimize the banditry by saying that the victims were people who had benefited from the old regime.

No one will ever know how many Iraqis die in this escapade, because the U.S. allowed the burning of key government records, including vital statistics.

One soldier told me that he lost sleep many nights because he knew that he had killed innocent civilians when he made the wrong split-second decision. Another said that he never fired his gun and told others that his gun jammed when asked about it. The damage done to the souls of these kids may persist for the rest of their lives.

The invasion honeymoon was over quickly. Other feelings soon surfaced. One Iraqi, for example, said, "I'm glad that Saddam is gone, but I wish that it had been Iraqis who got rid of him." Another commented, "I think the U.S. will secure Iraqi resources and leave some other crazy guy in charge."

As we left Baghdad yesterday, April 13, all the way to the edge of town we saw burned out cars, looted stores, garbage and debris, abandoned tanks, and devastated buildings. Many times, our driver was forced to change his route because the road was blocked by wreckage of one sort or another.

While stuck at the Jordanian border, an AP reporter who left about two hours after we did told us that he was robbed at gunpoint just outside of Baghdad. Once again, I felt lucky. The Iraqi people have not been so fortunate.

My Roommate's Journey to Amman

Given the lack of communication, I did not know much about what happened to my former roommate, Shane Claiborne, and his fellow travellers to Amman until I got to Amman myself and spoke with one of them. And just now, while going through my backlog of emails, I discovered this report, which was written by Shane.

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This is our account of the journey from Amman to Baghdad!!! Road of Angels; the Desert journey to Amman March 29 -- a long day for the twelve person convoy heading for Jordan through the Western Iraqi desert from Baghdad.

The morning began at about 8am loading their three vehicles, one a GMC truck and the other bright yellow taxis. The final touches of precaution were made, applying tape crosses to the cars and gathering white towels to wave out the windows. With hugs, waves, and tear, they headed off -- nine members of the Iraq Peace Team (two with Voices in the Wilderness and seven members of the Christian Peacemaker Teams) along with two Japanese journalists and a Korean peace activist. Nine of them were ordered out of Iraq by the government, two chose to leave in order to be conduits of the stories and lives they have encountered in Baghdad.

As the group headed west in the early morning light, there was ample evidence of the effects of US British bombing -- downed bridges, destroyed military and civilian vehicles strewn along the road. A few hours into the trip, they began looking for gas. One station was bombed, another abandoned, in desperation they stopped at a final vacant station, tanks on empty, and were immediately joined by a van filled with Somalian students leaving the University of Baghdad. Then another car joined them. Imaginations began to collaborate, and the battery of the van was used to run the gas pump so the tanks were all filled. And they set off with renewed vigor.

The roads became increasingly treacherous. Bombed out buses, an incinerated ambulance, they swirved out of the way of lightposts, car parts, and shrapnel. Soon they could see the gigantic smoke clouds from bomb hits, only seconds old in the near horizon. One of them hit only about a kilometer away. The drivers became increasingly tense, speeding up to about 80 mph to minimize the likelihood of their becoming "collateral damage" from this war.

The last of the vehicles, which had fallen significantly behind the others, suddenly had a tire burst, spinning the car out of control. The car plunged into a 10 foot ditch, creating an immediate impact and flipping it onto its side. They were able to open the doors on the top side of the vehicle and pull everyone out. Everyone was bruised, badly shaken, but conscious, though it was clear that Weldon was badly injured, and Cliff was bleeding profusely from a large gash in his head. Shane's left arm was hurt, Sang Hyun's face swollen, and the driver's head and leg were injured.

The first thing they noticed was a car of Iraqi civilians that had stopped to help them (it was the first car to pass, within one minute of the accident). Without a second thought, they piled the 5 additional passengers into their car and drove, and headed off to the nearest town. Miraculously, a town called Rutpa was only minutes away, a city of about 20,000 people located about 150 km east of the Jordanian border. As they drove to the hospital, the Iraqis pointed to a fighter jet in the sky heading towards them, and he desperately grabbed a white sheet and began waving it in the wind. The jet approached and began to turn away, leaving a trail of smoke behind it.

Arriving in the town, the group was astounded to see that this civilian town, with no apparent military structures had been devastated by US/British bombing. Before they could get out of the car, doctors greeted them, and brought them into a small clinic with 4 beds. The doctors (one of whom spoke fluent English!) began immediately began taking care of them, apologizing for the severe limitations and scarce medical supplies due to the sanctions. And he explained that in the past week their town had been riddled with bombings -- the communications center, the Customs building, and then with tears in his eyes he said: "Three days ago, they bombed the children's hospital." One of them men pointed to the bombed ruins only a hundred meters away. When they learned that several of us were from the US, the head doctor asked: "WHY this? WHY? Why is your government bombing us? Why?" In the same breath he added with a dignified smile: "You are our brothers. We take care of everyone -- Christian, Muslim, Iraqi, American, it doesn't matter. We are all human beings, sisters and brothers."

The townspeople began to gather to inspect their foreign guests, growing from a few curious neighbors to nearly thirty people. The IPT group hastily offered a copy of the IPT handout, written in English and Arabic, describing their mission in Iraq. One person came in and gave them blankets. Another offered them water, and smiled reservedly motioning that it might make them sick, but was all he had. Two of mobile IPT members began working on returning to the car to gather essentials (i.e. passports,). When they inquired about going back out, the Iraqis looked at them like they were crazy. One of them doctors said, "We want to take you but they will kill us. They will bomb our car. They have bombed even our ambulances. It is not safe for you to leave." At this point they began considering what life might be like in Rutpa! The other vehicles eventually became concerned about their missing car, and pulled off to wait.

After quite some, the van of Somalians reached them. They had seen the crashed taxi and tried to see what had happened. They told the IPT members that the taxi had been in an accident, and there was much blood around, but no passengers left in the car. Remembering the nearby town, the other cars headed back, and were warmly greeted. When they asked where the hospital was, the Rutpa civilian said, "The hospital is there, but it was bombed," and pointed to the clinic. Quick introductions were made, and an urgent decision to pile everyone into the remaining vehicles. Agreeing to stay in Rutpa and be picked up on the way home, the injured driver gave us hugs. The he and the doctor leaned into the window of the GMC where Weldon lay, and kissed him goodbye. On the way out we tried to give the doctors some money, and they adamantly refused, insisting that they were caring for us as brothers and friends. They did have one request: "Tell the world that the US bombed our hospital."

Again they hit the road, singing and praying. But they were still not in the clear. In the distance Leah spotted another smoke trail from a jet headed towards them. Bodies tensed and hearts cried out to God. Once again the plane slowly steered away. They passed through more of the wreckage of war, and finally arrived at the Jordan border, after passing through the Iraqi checkpoint. They were warmly greeted by a humanitarian organization and their Somalian angels. As the Iraqi drivers left to pick up the other driver and blaze the dangerous trail again, they tried to give them a tip, but the driver refused the money! Weldon was in much pain, and they were very concerned that he might have internal bleeding, so they quickly accepted the offer of free transportation, going through the refugee camp, sharing some food, and taking a bus to Amman. At one point Weldon lost consciousness, and some Jordanian medical students came to his assistance. Others called for an ambulance, where he would be accompanied by Jonathan. Little did they know the adventure was hardly over. The first ambulance broke down and they were transferred to another. This one had a flat tire (it was a rough road!) -- after 3 ambulances, 14 hours after the accident, Jonathan and Weldon arrived at the hospital in Amman where Weldon went into the ICU. He was diagnosed with broken ribs, a broken clavicle, broken thumb, and a minor head injury. The others went through the refugee camp and traveled to Amman by bus. Cliff had a final cleaning of his injury, a few more stitches, and some antibiotics. Shane's shoulder was seen to have no major fractures but some ligament damage from dislocation and was put in a sling. When they inquired about the cost of it all, one doctor offered to help with the bill. Another cut the bill nearly in half. And yet another escorted them back to the hotel where he would later return to clean Cliff's wound.

This story is a testimony of the tremendous courage and generosity of the Iraqi people. It exemplifies our time in Baghdad, in all its beauty and in all its horror. At one point we said that we were glad to be alive, and one of the doctors said, "I too am glad you are alive, but many people are dead." So while we rejoice in God's protection and in our friends' continued recovery, we also mourn because many Iraqi families and children have not lived through this terror.

Iraq Peace Team members on this journey: Weldon Nisly, Peggy Gish, Betty Scholten, Kara Speltz, Cliff Kindy, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, Leah Wilson-Hartgrove, Michael Birmingham, Shane Claiborne

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Statement to the Press at O'Hare Airport
by Wade Hudson

Following is the statement to the press that I made at Chicago's O'Hare Airport when April Hurley and I were greeted by a delegation from Voices/IPT on Thursday, April 17. The local CBS and ABC affiliates covered the event and presented sympathetic reports on their 11 PM news programs.

++++++

Iraq, the birthplace of Western civilization and once the most modern Arabic nation in the Middle East, is in shambles, reduced to ruin by the most powerful military in history.

The invasion gave Iraqis relief from the oppressive dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. But as BBC reported, "Scenes of medics guarding their hospitals with guns may be more etched in memory than scenes of statutes toppling." Many Iraqis were happy when the Saddam regime collapsed. Even those with mixed emotions felt some satisfaction.

One should not overestimate the joy, however. BBC reported thousands in the streets celebrating, not tens of thousands. Many Iraqis simply felt relief that the bombing was over. For three weeks, bombs and missiles that shook the ground for miles fell on Baghdad relentlessly. It was like living through 20 or 30 San Francisco earthquakes day after day.

As IPT documented in our report on civilian casualties and infrastructure damage, the toll was terrible. When US troops entered Baghdad, casualties increased dramatically. Body parts were severed by machine-gun fire. Charred bodies lay by the roadside. Tank commanders tried to kill snipers a mile away, not knowing whom they would hit. Soldiers decided not to shoot out the tires of approaching cars but killed the occupants inside instead.

Then, as fully expected, anarchy ensued, adding to the death toll. Not only did the invaders not keep order, their passivity gave the looters a green light. At a press briefing, a military spokesperson tried to legitimize the looting by saying that the victims were people who had benefited from the old regime.

No one will ever know how many Iraqis die in this military adventure. But any estimate must include those who died due to water-borne disease and the lack of medical care.

One Marine told me that he kept losing sleep because he knew that he had killed innocent civilians when he made the wrong split-second decision. Another said that he never fired his gun and, when asked about it, told others that his gun jammed. The damage done to the souls of these kids may persist for the rest of their lives.

If there was an invasion honeymoon, it was over quickly. New feelings soon surfaced. One Iraqi, for example, said, "I'm glad that Saddam is gone, but I wish that it had been Iraqis who got rid of him." Another commented, "I think the U.S. will secure Iraqi resources and leave some other crazy guy in charge."

As we left Baghdad on April 13, all the way to the edge of town we saw burned out cars, looted stores, garbage and debris, abandoned tanks, and devastated buildings. Several times as we tried to get out of Baghdad, our driver was forced to change his route due to roadblocks or wreckage of one sort or another.

The Bush Administration is headed toward a never-ending war against the Arab world. The war against Iraq may -- or may not -- help George Bush get re-elected. But it will certainly enrich the military-industrial complex. And it may enable U.S. oil companies to increase their assets.

The official reasons given for this war remain unconvincing. No weapons of mass destruction were used against U.S. troops and none have been found. There still is no evidence of ties between Al Qaeda and Saddam and this war will increase rather than decrease the threat of anti-Americanism and terrorism. It is unlikely that the Bush Administration really wants to facilitate democracy and the rule of law in Iraq.

Violating international law is no way to promote law and order. Ignoring the will of the people of the world and trying to bribe their governments is no way to promote democracy. If the Bush Administration wants to spread democracy, they should stop giving so much aid and comfort to brutal dictators who support U.S. foreign policy.

Democracy grows best from the ground up; Cultural exchanges, enhancing the flow of information, boosting educational institutions, improving the economic welfare of ordinary citizens, strengthening international institutions like the United Nations that monitor and hold all governments accountable, providing positive examples that inspire others -- these are nonviolent alternatives that will prove far more effective in the long run than any supposed attempts to impose democracy from afar by force.

If the Bush Administration wants to reduce the threat of terrorism, it should stop taking sides with Israel and hold them accountable to Security Council resolutions. And the United States must withdraw its troops from the Middle East, stop acting like a bully, and establish a foreign policy based on respect, cooperation, and security for all.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

War IS Terrorism

by Wade Hudson

My brief stint in Jordan is consumed primarily by resting and trying to send and receive email at the Internet CafÈ, at which I am once again struck by the incredible affection that Arabic men express to one another. Behavior that would be considered a likely sign of homosexuality in the States is common in the Middle East, demonstrating once again the degree to which gender roles are socially conditioned.

Though the connection at the CafÈ is slow and I frequently run into glitches, still I'm able to catch up on much of my email backlog. What I read blows my mind. Touching, articulate messages from people all over the world expressing their appreciation for my Baghdad Journal. These emails erase any lingering doubts about whether doing the Journal was worth while.

Almost 400 people subscribe and receive the Journal by email, about 70 a day visit the website and read it there, and many people have told me that they send it to lots of their friends or post it at work. Steven tells me that at least 22 news articles on the web include the address of the journal site, at least 12 sites have reposted one or more of the journal entries with a link back to the journal site, and at least 32 sites have quoted from the journal and/or linked to the journal site. We estimate that almost 1,000 people a day have been reading the Journal, which I find very satisfying.

Our last night in Amman, Rick and Mary, two AFSC volunteers staying in a spacious apartment with a great view, invite April and me to a marvelous dinner. Ed, who has been staying with them, joins us. They help me re-work the statement that I'm preparing for the press conference at O'Hare when we arrive in Chicago.

The flight to Chicago is relatively painless. We don't leave the hotel until 9 AM, so I'm able to catch a good night's sleep. I get a window seat, rest my head against the wall, and nap. My seatmate is an Indian computer whiz on his way to Milwaukee where he works for a telecommunications company. He's curious about my time in Baghdad and strongly opposed to the war. He reports that almost everyone in India shares his opposition. I listen to some tunes on my portable cd player, read the English language Jordan Times, whose editorial page presents strong criticisms of American foreign policy, and bide my time.

Royal Jordanian Airlines, like most airlines from countries other than the U.S. it seems, provides better service than do American cattle cars. The seats are more comfortable, the food is tastier, and the movies are better. On this flight, we're offered three movies, each of them of relatively high caliber: Rabbit-Proof Fence, which skewers Australian racism; Catch Me If You Can, a fun, anti-establishment "outlaw as hero" romp; and Two Weeks Notice, which affirms grassroots activism (and whose villain is named "Wade"!).

When April and I arrive at O'Hare Thursday night, folks from the Voices office are waiting for us along with four TV cameras, two of which are from local network affiliates. Angela introduces us and I read my prepared statement. Since I was in a jet lag fog, I figure it's a good thing that I did not try to speak extemporaneously. As I read my statement, passersby gather round, and I start speaking louder to make sure that they can hear. I get a serious case of cotton mouth, and stumble over my words a few times, but overall I figure that I did ok. April apparently has no problem with jet lag, for she speaks very eloquently and with great passion. Afterwards, the media address all their questions to her, and I just stand there dazed, grateful that no one asks me any questions. It turns out that the two affiliates present very sympathetic segments on their 11 PM news

Friday, April and I meet with several staff in the Voices office. We share some of our experiences and exchange ideas about what has happened and will happen in Iraq. We also discuss strategies that peace teams in the future might adopt in similar situations. One issue is how to facilitate sending larger numbers of people, while doing so in an organized manner so that a larger number could work together effectively. The staff tells me that they have very much appreciated my Baghdad Journal and my evaluation of IPT, which I find reassuring. I leave Chicago feeling closely connected with the wonderful group of young people who fill the Chicago office with great joy and intense energy.

Brandon, Steven, and Steven's partner, April, meet me at the Seattle airport and I breathe a deep sigh of relief for finally being back on the Left Coast. Partly because Brandon and Steven, and especially Steven, who has been the principal contact person for my support team, have done so much in support of this project, particularly in terms of Internet-related work, it feels great to touch base with them before going home. At April and Steven's home, I notice a bumper sticker on their refrigerator that reads "War IS terrorism," and figure that that sums it up fairly well. We eat some lasagna, kick back, plan to tie together some loose ends, and I crash, sleeping nine hours.

I awake more committed than every to a resolve that crystallized during my time in Baghdad. I've decided to return with increased vigor to the project that I was working on indecisively before I applied to the Iraq Peace Team. That project involves, firstly, writing a new book that will present proposals for fundamental social transformation. The second step is to build a strong, democratic, fully inclusive organizing committee to act on the proposals presented in that book (after, perhaps, re-writing the book).

Before going to Iraq, I had begun writing the book, whose working title is Toward Peace: Analysis, Vision, Strategy. I had wanted to self-publish the book, distribute a limited number of copies, and hope that it would spark a reaction. But my experience in Iraq has increased both my self-confidence and my sense of urgency. As a result, once I finish putting my ideas down on paper, I'm now determined to meet with people one-on-one and make presentations to community groups persistently in order to coalesce the kind of initial organizing committee that will be needed.

The progressive community in this country is fragmented, with a multiplicity of organizations pursing their own issues. Far too often, we react to threats, rather than work proactively to implement positive change. We need a longer term, comprehensive vision that can bring together a broad array of progressives over the long haul, without being forced to start over from ground zero repeatedly. We need practical strategies that will enable us to build momentum by winning concrete victories. And we need mechanisms that will enable people to provide support to one another in a timely manner, without sacrificing particular priorities.

By writing Toward Peace, I will present my ideas concerning how we can accomplish those goals. I believe that forming a truly diverse, small, local organizing committee should be an early step in this process. To my mind, such an organizing committee could form anywhere, and I will always encourage others to take the initiative to form such a committee. But if no one else does so by the time I finish Toward Peace, I will make every effort to pull together an organizing committee in the San Francisco Bay Area.

People who are interested in the Toward Peace project can subscribe to an e-mail list similar to the Baghdad Journal list by completing the form at: http://lists.inlet.org/mailman/listinfo/towardpeace

On Saturday, I'm the guest on Seattle Indymedia Center's RadioX public affairs program, which is produced by Brandon. Being in IMC's community center moves me profoundly. I find it very poignant to be in the presence of this flame that is being kept alive against all odds. The contrast with the might of the U.S. military that I just encountered is striking.

Afterwards, we return to April and Steven's house and proceed to try to publish all of the Baghdad Journal entries as a paperback book within the next 36 hours. The aim is to have a gift to give people at my Welcome Wade Back event Monday night.

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