Families For Peace Delegation
Organized by Global Exchange and Code Pink December 27, 2004-January 4, 2005 The day our delegation left for the Middle East to take humanitarian aid to the refugees of the devastating US military attack on Fallujah —December 26—was the same day the tsunami devastated Southeast Asia. While our delegates had little news of the terrifying wrath with which Mother Nature swallowed over 100,000 victims, we did learn horrifying details of a man-made disaster of similar proportions: the invasion and occupation of Iraq. During our week-long exchange with Iraqis, we heard allegations of US atrocities that made Abu Graib seem like childish pranks: a woman raped in full view of other prisoners, who is now seeking permission from religious leaders to kill herself; a seven-year-old girl, left momentarily in the car while her father stopped at the market, screaming and clawing at the window while a US tank crushed the vehicle; a mother watching in horror as the troops raided her home in the middle of the night, shot her son in the chest and then stomped on him as he bled to death. In Fallujah alone, thousands of civilians were killed in one brutal week. We wept together as we saw gruesome pictures of bodies burned beyond recognition, possibly from the use of napalm, and limbs eaten by dogs because anyone trying to retrieve the dead would be shot. A young Iraqi woman who risked her life taking our humanitarian aid to those too old and infirm to flee was still traumatized by the devastation she witnessed. At our press conference in Amman, Jordan, we explained the historic nature of our delegation: US parents of fallen soldiers and 9/11 victims bringing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of aid for the innocent Iraqis suffering from this war. While the US press largely ignored this unprecedented gesture of compassion on the part of grieving parents, the Arab press—including Al Jazeera, Al Arabia, Dubai and Iranian TV—followed us assiduously from the moment we arrived in Amman. They were astounded to meet a group of Americans so deeply affected by the war who care so deeply about the Iraqi people. And they were heartened to learn that the donations we brought came from you—thousands of Americans appalled by our government’s policy and determined to work for peace. Adele Welty, whose firefighter son died on 9/11, wrote this in her diary. “At dinner one evening, one of the Iraqi doctors asked if Americans know how privileged we are. I answered yes, but I wondered if most Americans do know they are privileged or if they believe we deserve to be by virtue of an accident of birth. Dr. Jeff Ritterman, a member of our delegation, responded that privilege incurs responsibility, and that is key. We have a responsibility to keep ourselves informed and to participate in the development of government policies. We also have a responsibility to help those who are not so privileged, those who are not only victims of natural disasters, but man-made tsunamis as well.” We came home from our delegation with fire in our bellies, knowing we MUST continue to call for an end to the occupation and the killing now. Below are some other ways that you helped:
1. Invited a member of our delegation to speak to your community group, school or church, and to show the video was produced from the trip. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. Contacted your local radio station or newspaper columnist and asked them to interview one of the delegates about their experiences.
3. Joined us on January 20 in Washington DC to protest Bush’s inauguration, or joined/organized a “sister” protest in your community. www.codepinkalert.org, www.unitedforpeace.org.
4. Prepared for massive peace rallies on March 19, the second anniversary of the US invasion.U.S. Parents who lost loved ones in Iraq and the World Trade Center:Amalia Avila is the mother of 19-year-old son, Lance Cpl. Victor Gonzalez, who died in Iraq on October 13, 2004. He was killed in a roadside mortar explosion in Al Albar province just 5 weeks after his arrival in Iraq. Amalia is joining this delegation to help deliver humanitarian aid to the people – particularly the children – of Iraq and call for the US troops to come home. Nadia McCaffrey resides in Percy, California and is the founder of Angelstaff.org, a group of volunteers who bring a caring presence to the terminally ill patients and their families. When her son, Sergeant Patrick McCaffrey, died on June 22, 2004 in Iraq, Nadia began to focus much of her work on promoting peace and justice and reaching out to parents that have lost loved ones in the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq. Nadia received international attention as the “mother who defied the Bush Administration” when she asked the media to be present at the airport to photography her son’s flag-draped coffin. Fernando and Rosa Suarez del Solar lost their son Jesus on March 27, 2003 when he stepped on a US cluster bomb while fighting in Iraq. Since then, Fernando has been traveling around the country speaking out against the invasion and occupation of Iraq. In December or 2003 he traveled to Iraq with Global Exchange and a group of military families to listen to the needs and desires of the Iraqi people, and returned home to meet with congress people, UN officials and the media to call for the withdrawal of US troops. Adele Welty is a retired social worker and member of September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, a group of 9/11 families who have channeled their grief into action for peace and justice. Her son, Firefighter Timothy Welty, died in the line of duty at the World Trade Center, leaving behind a wife and two children. Adele has traveled to Afghanistan and is on the humanitarian aid delegation to Iraq to raise awareness of the true cost of war as well as to determine how best to help the Iraqis and create a climate of understanding that can lead to peace. Medea Benjamin is Founding Director of the human rights group Global Exchange and has traveled several times to Afghanistan and Iraq. She is a leading activist in the peace movement and was one of the founders of the coalition United for Peace and Justice. Medea co-founded the women’s peace group Code Pink, one of the most active US groups opposing the occupation, and helped organize the International Occupation Watch Center in Baghdad. Jodie Evans is editor of the book Twilight of Empire, which includes her first-hand look at the effects of the occupation of Iraq on the Iraqi people. She is cofounder of the women’s peace group Code Pink, and has been a community, social and political organizer for the last 30 years. She organized a Peace Conference in Dubrovnik in June of 1999 about imagining Peace in the 21st century, and she is coauthor of the forthcoming book How to Stop the Next War Now. Hany Khalil is the Organizing Coordinator for United for Peace and Justice, the coalition that spurred the largest U.S. demonstrations against the war in Iraq and the organizer of the August 29th "World Says No to the Bush Agenda" demonstration, which attracted a half million people. An Arab American, he has worked for 15 years as a researcher, educator, and organizer to achieve new, respectful U.S. foreign policies toward the Third World and for greater racial and economic injustice within the US. He teaches at New York University and holds a B.A. in Religious Studies from Brown University and an M.A. in Urban Planning from UCLA. Vivien Feyer is a professional psychologist, educator, mediator and fair trade activist. She began teaching at Harvard University in the 1970s, teaching communication skills to physicians and professionals in other fields. She has facilitated workshops throughout the U.S. on group process, diversity and alternative dispute resolution. Much of her work and writing has been focused on bereavement, loss, death and dying. She trains and coaches community mediators and promotes direct person-to-person, heart-to-heart communication between adversaries and across borders. Personally, Vivien has lost much of her own family to war. She has raised a child who is now serving in the U.S. Air Force. Dr. Jeffrey Ritterman is a cardiologist and the Chief of Cardiology of Kaiser Richmond and he’s on the steering committee o the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), the board of PEHAB (the Public and Environmental Health Advisory Board), and the advisory board of the Center for Health in North Richmond. He is also the co-founder of The Committee for Health Rights in Central America (CHRICA), The Salvadoran Medical Relief Fund, and the Southern Africa Medical Aid Fund. Dr. Ritterman has delivered medical supplies to Salvadoran refugees living in camps in Honduras and Costa Rica during the war in El Salvador in the 1980s and to the African National Congress’ Clinic in Lusaka, Zambia prior to the end of apartheid. Gael Murphy holds a Bachelor's Degree in Anthropology, and Masters Degrees in African Area Studies, in Public Health and in Fine Arts. Ms. Murphy has worked in Africa and the Caribbean as a public health advisor specializing in maternal and child health. Active in the peace and justice movement, Ms Murphy serves on the executive committee of CodePINK:Women for a Peace. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the International Occupation Watch Center and a steering committee member of United for Peace and Justice. A resident in Washington, DC, Ms. Murphy has traveled extensively and has lived in Africa and Europe. Currently, Ms. Murphy is documenting social justice issues and women1s activism in the United States and the Middle East. Dr. Ahmed Ismaeel graduated from Baghdad University College of Medicine in 2001 and finished first in his class for the Iraqi board of medical specialties, specializing in Ophthalmology. Dr. Ismaeel completed his residency at Iraq’s largest medical complex, “Baghdad Medical City”. Currently, Dr. Ismaeel works in the Surgical Specialty Hospital for the Ophthalmology Department at Baghdad University College of Medicine in Baghdad Medical City. In addition, Dr. Ismaeel is a member of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Dr. Muhammad graduated from Tikrit University College of Medicine in 2001. Dr. D al sawah completed her residency in general medicine and surgery at Iraq’s largest medical complex, “Baghdad Medical City”. Currently, Dr. D al sawah works at the Department of Pharmacology at AlKindy Medical College of Baghdad University. Dr. Aisha received her medical degree at the University of Baghdad with special M.A.s in Vaccine Treatment and Sterilization. Currently, Dr. Aisha is in charge of the Pharmaceutical Section in Al Yamouk Hospital.