IRAQ: Are We Dupes?

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CPTnet

December 18, 2002

IRAQ: Are We Dupes?

by Peggy Gish

[Editor’s Note: Peggy Gish has been with CPT in

Baghdad for the past two months. She is a 59-year-old

mother from Athens, Ohio. She has spent many years

teaching and working with nonviolent experiments.

Peggy is a member of New Fellowship Community, a

Church of the Brethren congregation.]

“How do you know you aren’t just being dupes of the

Iraqi government?” several Americans have asked us.

This question implies that Iraqis or the Iraqi

government could use or manipulate those of us coming

on such a peace mission, would mainly feed us

propaganda, or even possibly take us hostage. Many

back home assume the Iraqi government tightly controls

what we see, who we talk to, and what we hear.

We are quick to share that our purpose in coming to

Iraq is not to support either U.S. or Iraqi government

policies, but to understand what the Iraqi people have

experienced since the Gulf War: the 12 years of

devastating sanctions and, now, the possibility of a

new assault. We also hope to report our experiences

and to dispel the image of the Iraqi people as our

“enemies.” But we also need to say that yes, we don’t

have full control over what we do while here or how it

could be interpreted. These are risks we take–the same

risks we take when holding an unpopular viewpoint or

working for peace and justice in our own country.

We must keep in mind that we are not only foreigners,

but also citizens of a country that has systematically

devastated Iraq over the past twelve years and is

threatening war and assassination of the country’s

leader. Given this, it is not surprising we are

watched and under suspicion. It’s been obvious at

times that Iraqis we meet with feel inhibited or just

repeat a “party line,” but that is fairly easy to

spot.

It’s actually surprising how much freedom we have been

allowed. A government representative usually

accompanies us when we visit institutions or when we

travel to other cities. Yet we often visit families,

daily walk the streets of Baghdad, visit shops and

meet people at random, and meet with U.N. agency

representatives on our own. Our group has initiated

most of our contacts and appointments. We feel we’ve

witnessed a pretty fair view of living conditions and

varying perspectives among the Iraqi people.

In truth, it seems there are many ways power

structures in our own society “dupe” us. These

structures daily feed us lies and half-truths and

one-sided and distorted facts. Fair and balanced

stories that challenge our administration’s positions

rarely make it into our mainstream media. Do we take

the trouble to find alternative news sources? (How

many people understand how the sanctions have been a

weapon of mass destruction, killing hundreds of

thousands of Iraqis, most children?) We have been

programmed into identifying with the wealthy, the

powerful, the elite, and into excusing or downplaying

the crass sin, injustice, power plays, mass murder,

and exploitation our government and corporate elite

are engaged in. We are taught to be suspicious of or

hate certain groups of people. Is this not being

duped?

Yes, we cannot know for certain that others won’t

distort us or our efforts or that Iraq or the U.S.

government won’t slander or imprison us, but that is a

risk I am willing to take. Either we can risk seeking

to do what is right or we can hold back out of fear of

making mistakes or being taken advantage of. Maybe

that is why, whenever we step out in faith, it is

important to also seek humility, humor, child-like

faith and vision, openness, and the ability to not

take ourselves too seriously. And, most of all, it is

important to be grounded in a faith that God is caring

for us, is ultimately in charge, and is the One

bringing about any change.

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