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Santa Cruz Activists Face Off with US Military outside Najaf, Iraq

The Najaf Emergency Peace Team, "Peace Between Peoples", includes two members of the Santa Cruz activist community. Meg Lumsdaine and Peter Lumsdaine are among the handful of determined volunteers who have placed themselves "nonviolently, symbolically and physically" between the U.S. armed forces massed nearby and the civilian population of the ancient holy city, Najaf.

As numerous people from nonprofit organizations working in Iraq evacuated the country during the past week, an independent emergency delegation of U.S. civilians was preparing to enter the conflict-torn nation, traveling to the tense stand-off around Najaf, where the U.S. military recently deployed almost 3,000 troops for a looming assault to crush Shiite rebels there.

[ Peace Between Peoples Update: Najaf 4-28-04 I Peter Lumsdaine on Democracy Now (4/27/04) I AP article (4/30/04) ]

[ Indybay's Iraq page I Al-MuaJaha I Occupation Watch I Electronic Iraq ]
U.S. Civilians Confront U.S. Military in Najaf, Iraq


NAJAF, IRAQ - April 23 - As numerous people from nonprofit organizations working in Iraq evacuated the country during the past week, an independent emergency delegation of U.S. civilians was preparing to enter the conflict-torn nation, traveling to the tense stand-off around Najaf, where the U.S. military recently deployed almost 3,000 troops for a looming assault to crush Shiite rebels there.

The Najaf Emergency Peace Team, "Peace Between Peoples", a handful of determined volunteers from several well-established peace/global justice/human rights and religious organizations, has now arrived in the area, to place themselves "nonviolently, symbolically and physically" between the U.S. armed forces massed nearby and the civilian population of the ancient holy city - in the way of any American military assault.

The delegation has received messages of encouragement from religious and community leaders in south-central Iraq, including an advisor to Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. "We understand the dangers of our journey, but we are determined to try and contribute in our own small way to peace and justice for the people of Najaf and Iraq. Only when peacemakers are willing to shoulder some of the same risks that soldiers take in war, can we begin to move away from the cycle of violence that grips human society at the dawn of the 21st century," says the group's statement.

Meg Lumsdaine, Peter Lumsdaine, Mario Galvan, Trish Schuh, and Brian Buckley - of California, New York and Virginia, respectively - are now in south-central Iraq to carry out their peace mission.

Rev. Meg Lumsdaine is an ordained Lutheran pastor who has previously been involved in human rights delegations to Latin America and Iraq. Peter Lumsdaine is coordinator of the Military Globalization Analysis Project and organizer of the Najaf delegation. Mario Galvan, a high school teacher, is a national board member of Peace Action, with 100,000 members throughout the U.S., and a founding member of the Zapatista Solidarity Coalition. Trish Schuh co-founded the Military Families Support Network in 1990 and was involved in Military Families Speak Out. Brian Buckley is a carpenter and member of the Little Flower Catholic Worker community.

The Najaf emergency delegation can be contacted for interviews and more information by e-mail (mariogalvan44 (at) hotmail.com), as their peace witness and nonviolent challenge to the U.S. military assault plan unfolds in the days ahead.
 
 


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Re: Santa Cruz Activists Face Off with US Military outside Najaf, Iraq

wow, they are courageous. inspirational, though quite possibly suicidal. regardless, in these times of "what can be done?" they are doing...good luck peter and meg...and may the resistance here be equally bold.
 

Re: Santa Cruz Activists Face Off with US Military outside Najaf, Iraq

I knew Peter back in the Abalone Alliance time-frame. I'm surprised to see anyone I actually know doing what Peter is doing, but I'm not surprised to learn that its Peter.

From Portland Maine.
 

Update from Najaf, April 26

As I write, the call to prayer sounds again in the street of Najaf. Yet, on
the edges of the city, U.S. and coalition forces maneuver closer, and rumors
of an impending attack are increasing. Having just arrived yesterday, we are
still trying to get a grip on the situation. Even as I write, other members
of our group are driving around town, trying to size up the situation, and
looking for the place where our presence will be most effective.

This afternoon we had planned to visit a hospital where, we had been told,
U.S. troops had opened fire and killed several people who pulled up to the
hospital, not knowing it had been occupied by them. Today, just before
leaving, we were informed (by the news team from Al-Arabia news from Dubai,
who had just interviewed us) that it might be certain death to approach the
hospital. Snipers in the building, we were told, would kill anyone who
approached. And that the troops there were not U.S. at all, but Spanish. We
held a quick council and decided that we had come to confront U.S. troops,
not Spanish, and that if we were going to get shot before we could say a
word, there was no chance to get a message across in any case. We cancelled
our plan.

The reason this was on our minds in the first place was that yesterday when
we arrived, we were told at al-Sistani's office that the U.S. had occupied
the main hospital in the area, forcing people to go to smaller, overcrowded
clinics. This, combined with Rahul's report (on epirenotes.org) of the U.S.
forces closing hospitals elsewhere, and the report mentioned in our earlier
update of lack of medicines, made us think that this was worth looking into.
Then we were told about the people who had driven up to the hospital
unknowingly, and were shot without warning. On the way from Kerbala to
Najaf, we had passed an army base with a sign on the fence that said "Guards
will fire without warning." We hadn't realized how true that was!

Let me back up a bit, to our drive over from Kerbala yesterday. I may have
mentioned before the general sense of disorder. There were no traffic
signals, and very few traffic police to help out. It was a tangle at every
intersection, and a relief to get out of town onto the highway (4 lanes),
where we sped southward to Najaf.

At the edge of town, we ran into a police checkpoint, where, to our dismay,
we were stopped because our passports had not been stamped at the border!
There was some talk of sending us back to the border, but thanks to the
letters we had from al-Sistani and others, we managed to get through. One of
the policemen came with us, and directed us to al-Sistani's office.

It's hard to describe our entry into Najaf, the city itself, and the entry
into al-Sistani's "office." There are a million details that it is
impossible to capture here; I can only share some impressions. As in
Kerbala, life seemed to be going on as normal. There were cars and buses and
people walking everywhere. But the landscape seemed like a battleground (as
indeed it is!), with rubble and twisted metal and a general worn-down
feeling to everything, as if it had been beseiged for 10 years (as indeed it
has been!).

The entry into al-Sistani's was an entry into an armed camp. There were many
guards with rifles as we walked thorugh a labyrinth of streets (alleys?) too
narrow for a car to enter. Yet the atmosphere was somehow relaxed, as if
this were normal. One guard played with a small child, his rifle leaning
against the wall. Others smoked and talked, guns across their laps. And
people passed by, women and children and old men, coming and going on their
daily errands. WE were the abnormality! In one place, a break in the wall
let us look down into the ruins of some ancient building, and I realized
that the street we were walking on was maybe twenty meters above the
original floor of this building. Along the sides, for the roof had fallen
long ago, columns carried a series of arches, and dusty tiles hinted at it's
past splendor. The we turned another corner and were swallowed up in the
roar of a huge industrial-size generator in a shed, bringing the light of
the modern world to this ancient place.

Another omnipresent modern touch, that we see in Latin America as well as in
the U.S., was the ever-present TV, left on even in the midst of our meeting.
(At the police station, they were watching soaps as they interrogated us!)
Later, when we met with al-Sadr's representatives in the lobby of our hotel,
the TV was also on the whole time, and no one (myself excepted, perhaps)
even thought of turning it off. Even in the bazaar around the holy shrines
in Kerbala, booths in the street with multiple TV sets and loudspeakers
thundered out their ancient holy messages in the new universal
electro-technical language.

I can't go into all the details of our meetings with the organizations of
Sistani and Sadr, but there were some common themes. Both received us and
our mission warmly, but warned of the dangers we were exposed to in Najaf.
Sistani's office advised us not to stay, as they could not protect us. They
had enough of a challenge protecting their own people, they said. When they
learned that we were going to stay anyway, they offered to help us contact
the various media in town. Sadr's people, on the other hand, while also
warning us of the danger, offered to send us armed bodyguards. They seemed
to be surprised that we declined, saying that we came to oppose the use of
violence, and that it would be inappropriate for us to have armed men with
us, even as protection.

We have been interviewed by various news teams, from the moment of our
arrival. Our story is being seen in Lebanon, Iran, Dubai, and al-Jazeera is
waiting for their turn. We have not seen any western reporters yet, nor has
there been any response from major U.S. media to us. The bright spot so far
is that we are going to be interviewed on Democracy Now tomorrow, and just
this evening we have received requests for interviews from Boston and Radio
Euzkadi.

The word is definitely getting out, even in the silence of the major media.
We have received messages of encouragement and thanks from Asia, Latin
America, North America, and Europe! People-to-people contacts, web sites,
and list serves are making connections and taking our story around the
world.

To all of you who have written, too many to reply to, we send our thanks.
Your words feed our souls and spirits, and make us see that, whatever may
happen, our mission has already touched many lives, and is already, in that
sense, more successful than we could have hoped. There is still more to be
done, where all of you are, as well as here.

Goodbye for now.


Mario
 

Re: Santa Cruz Activists Face Off with US Military outside Najaf, Iraq

here have always been those people who have made history, sacrificed for it, lived it, and become it. These men and women will be immortal. They will live forever through their legacy if not remembered by name. I do not believe that their goal is to make history, but to change what may in time become history.

So while these men and women make their way through life, in the mountains, fields, on outskirts a thousand sprawling metropolises, or on the war-torn lands of the 21st century empire, history drags its feet beneath them until the next time the people dare rise up in its path, bracing themselves for the storm to come.
That time is now.

I have the deepest respect for these 5 men and women and the deepest love for Peter and Meg Lumsdaine, as their daughter and step daughter.
 

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