Kathy Kelly: "Time to Break Ranks"

Revolutionary Worker #1132, December 23, 2001, posted at http://rwor.org

Voices in the Wilderness has organized 39 delegations to visit Iraq. Kathy Kelly has been on 13 of these delegations since January 1996, when the campaign to lift sanctions in Iraq began. She and other campaign members have been threatened with $163,000 in fines and 12 years in prison for the "crime" of bringing medicines and toys to the people of Iraq.

At the October 27 program in Berkeley, Kathy Kelly talked about her trip to Iraq this past summer. She stayed in Basra in southern Iraq, where temperatures reach 140 degrees. Due to the war and sanctions which have crippled Iraq's electricity grid, people only have electricity for 10 hours a day, have little clean water to drink, and can't afford to buy all the bottled water they need. Every night U.S. planes flew overhead early in the morning, while the children covered their ears and yelled to drown out the piercing noise.

Kelly described the heart-breaking choices Iraqi doctors have to make every day because of the sanctions which have also blocked the import of needed medical supplies:

"You have full responsibility for pediatrics and gynecology, and you start the day with four blood bags [for transfusions]. And the price of blood bags on the black market is 75,000 Iraqi dinars, and the average income for a civil servant, or a teacher, or a doctor hovers around 5,000 to 10,000 Iraqi diners a month. So these blood bags are enormously precious.

"So you're down to one at the end of the day. And in one part of your hospital there's a woman who is hemorrhaging and she needs that blood bag, and you know her husband. And he says to you, 'please you know my wife, she needs the blood bag, she will die without that bag.'

"And at the other end of the hospital, there's a newborn baby, and his mother says, 'please, without blood my baby will die.' And he has to make the decision to whom shall he give that one blood bag."

In the wake of September 11, Kathy Kelly wrote, "It's still hard to speak while hearts ache for loved ones killed on September 11, 2001. But how can we stay silent when we hear screams for revenge? No, it's time to again 'break ranks'--be voices for peace amidst the cries of hatred and war."

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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