Monday, December 26, 2005

Christian Peacemakers Respond

19 December 2005
BAGHDAD/AMMAN: Christian Peacemakers in Iraq and Jordan respond to Presidential address

Christian Peacemaker Team (CPT) members working in Iraq and Jordan reacted early Monday to U.S. President George W. Bush's address about the war in Iraq. Reached by telephone in the team's Baghdad apartment, Maxine Nash noted how the war has affected the services on which Iraqis rely: "I tried to watch President Bush's speech," she said, "but I couldn't; there was no electricity."

Citing the failure to rebuild basic civilian infrastructure, the thousands of Iraqi detainees in U.S. detention centres, and tens of thousands of civilian casualties and injuries, CPT has asserted that the United States and Coalition Forces have failed to bring peace and true democracy to Iraq. Yet, in his address, the president insisted that the way to defeat what he calls terrorism and make way for democracy is to continue to go "on the offensive."

Regarding this claim, full-time Iraq team member Peggy Gish, 63, commented in Amman, "based on my three years of listening to Iraqis who have suffered the pain of war, U.S. and Iraqi forces' 'on the offensive,' means continued mass arrests, house raids and bombing of civilians, continued illegal detentions, torture, and abuse."

Sheila Provencher, 33, who left Baghdad for Amman three weeks earlier, added, "Where are these seven out of ten Iraqis that he quotes as saying that their lives are going well? I wonder whether the poll he quoted is like another I read about recently, which omitted the entire Anbar province because of security concerns."

"I noticed that the president framed his argument for the war almost entirely in terms of what he called the 'global terrorist movement' that will attack America wherever they can,'" Provencher continued. "Ironically, he does admit that the desire to attack Americans has attracted Al Qaeda into Iraq."

"But," she added, "he does not seem to realize that there are thousands of members of a nationalist Iraqi insurgency who will use force to end the American occupation of their country, without using suicide bombers or civilian attacks. If he fails to understand the true nature and grievances of the nationalist insurgency -- namely, that they perceive themselves as fighting for the freedom of their country -- he will never understand that the very presence of U.S. troops exacerbates the violence."

CPT has worked in Iraq for more than three years, focusing on the plight of Iraqi detainees and their families, the effects of U.S. and Iraqi offensives in civilian areas, and the development of Iraqi peace and human rights groups.

Instead of further offensives, which only increase the violence and chaos, CPT representatives currently living among ordinary Iraqis in Baghdad recommend the U.S. state its intention to withdraw all U.S. troops immediately (beginning with urban areas), stopping U.S. bombing, and providing sufficient funds to the Iraqi people to rebuild basic infrastructure.

CPT further urges an end to illegal detentions and torture in U.S.facilities and a fair and speedy judicial process for detainees. It also urges that the U.S. government employ diplomatic means to pressure the Iraqi government to take corresponding actions regarding detainees held in Iraqi detention facilities.

At present, four members of CPT remain missing in Iraq after their disappearance in late November.
(Thanks to Barbara Siler)

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