Letters from Iraq-Dec. 4

Dec. 4- Iraq journal

Woke up at 4AM and couldn’t get back to sleep so Peter reads and I write. We had a very thought-proving conversation at dinner last night with Cliff, David Hilfiker, and Neville. After talking about the structure and style of the Church of the Savior in Wash., DC, the conversation moved into reflection on our role as empire and how we deal with the PTSD caused in it’s wake- particularly to its own members. Cliff talked about the need to find creative ways to heal from the stress caused by his CPT experiences in Colombia, Kosovo, and Palestine so he didn’t transfer the stress he embodied when he returned to his own family.

We talked about the war that is coming in relation to the war that is already here. The economic sanctions have so devastated people’s lives that the children are left to pester tourists to have their shoes shined to help support their families. We were followed down the street for 5-6 long blocks after dinner by boys aged 6-12 wanting to shine our shoes. Is this a modern form of “foot washing”?

Although we requested that breakfast be ready by 7 AM so we could eat before leaving for the orphanage, there is no sign of life anywhere near the dining room of the hotel at 6:55. I am wearing dress pants, a coat and tie. The rationale given by the VITW veterans is to help us blend in with the people around us. Despite the calamitous effects of the sanctions, the Iraqi people want to appear in public as anything but destitute. So, because we are going as a team to the orphanage for an event to honor St. Therese of Liseaux, we want to dress in a way that communicates our respect for the people we meet.

Language continues to be a major barrier in feeling we have really communicated – this in the country of the fabled “Tower of Babel”. I am chagrined at the almost universal lack in the US of learning other languages early-on in the educational process. It makes me all the prouder of Zach that he continues on with his Spanish in high school.

The constant barrage of pictures of Saddam Hussein beaming down on us only serves as a reminder that we are in a police state here. If one of every seven people here report back to the ruling Ba’ath party, one must wonder who here at the hotel is reporting back and what they are saying about us! It gives me the creeps to know that Saddam used to be our ally when he was fighting the Iranians in the 1980s.

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