Yesterday in Columbus, Georgia, Kathy Kelly, co-founder
of Voices in the Wilderness and three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee, was sentenced
to three months in federal prison for enacting her habit of bearing witness
against US military violence, this time by crossing onto the property of Ft.
Benning military base in November of 2003, as a form of protest against the
School of the Americas/Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation
(SOA/WHISC). You can read "Hogtied
and Abused at Fort Benning," her account of the inhumane treatment
that she received by her arresting officers.
By visiting the SOA Watch website,
you can find more information about the SOA/WHISC, which has trained many of
the military dictators and soldiers who have massacred hundreds of thousands
of people of Central and South America, especially indigenous people. You can
also learn about other ways to support the project of closing the SOA/WHISC.
Just as the US occupation in Iraq fails to provide for the security of ordinary
Iraqis, the SOA/WHISC has, at the very least, failed in its stated task of 'security'
for Latin America and, in actuality, created more insecurity and fear for millions
of people in the Global South. Kathy's act of crossing the line with 27 other
witnesses for peace, including VitW friend Rev. Jerry Zawada, O.F.M., is a sign
of the commitment to nonviolent direct action which Voices in the Wilderness
clings to as a hopeful road to peace and social justice in our world.
Alongside Kathy, Fr. Jerry Zawada, an Iraq Peace Team member and recent
VitW delegate to Iraq, was sentenced to six months in federal prison (he
was convicted of trespassing at the SOA/WHISC last year as well), Faith
Fippinger, a former Human Shield in Iraq, was sentenced to three months in
prison, and Scott Diehl, a CPT member who was in Iraq during the 2003
invasion, was also sentenced to three months in prison. May we all begin
to draw the connections between the destruction caused by surging US
militarism in Iraq and its effects elsewhere, wherever that may be. Here
in the United States, military recruiters continue to steal the lives of
students in our poorest schools and US police officers (such as those in
Miami during the recent FTAA protests) are being ordered to beat down and
trample their fellow US citizens who nonviolently protest the architects
of social injustice.
Below, please read Kathy Kelly's statement before Judge Faircloth.
If you'd like to find new ways to resist the militarism of our time, go to
the "What We Can Do"
section on the VitW website.
Voices in the Wilderness is still facing a lawsuit of its own from the federal
government; we'll keep you updated on the proceedings of that case (http://vitw.us/summons).
If you haven't already, please
sign our petition to John Ashcroft and the Justice Department.
In the meantime, Kathy and Jerry wish to extend their gratitude for the
support of the VitW community at this time. They are going into this
prison witness with a confidence that such witness brings us all closer to
those who suffer injustice and, in essence, closer to true peace.
In peace and with hope for social justice, Voices in the Wilderness Chicago
Please find us at http://www.vitw.org, where
you can also read Kathy's statement
and other new entries from friends of VitW
in Iraq. Thank you!
Statement before Judge G. Mallon Faircloth, who sentenced me to 3 months
in federal prison after I pled not guilty but stipulated to the facts of a
charge for a November 22, 2003 entry onto Fort Benning, an open US
military base in Columbus, GA.
by Kathy Kelly Columbus, GA January 26, 2004
I'm fortunate to have been influenced by the life and witness of some
extraordinary individuals, many of whom have appeared before you in court,
several of whom are now co-defendants.
Their witness in this court has been valuable, constituting a rich and sad
It's important to continue bringing before this court testimony from or
about those who can't appear, people whom we've met when visiting places
directly affected by US expenditures on military training and military
solutions. Quite often these solutions are based on threat and force,
rather than considerations of mercy and compassion.
A report in the London Observer yesterday quotes US Armed forces medical
personnel warning that 20 percent of the veterans returning from Iraq will suffer
post traumatic stress disorders -already 22 soldiers have committed suicide.
Families of these soldiers, whose arms will ache emptily for loved ones
that will never return, can, I believe, find understanding in the families
of others far away from the US who similarly feel bereaved.
In 1985, very aware of Joe Mulligan's and Bernie Survil's work, I traveled
to San Juan de Limay, in the north of Nicaragua. Children there were
radiant and friendly, many of them too young to understand that during the
previous week US funded contras had kidnapped and murdered 25 people in
their village. Later that summer, I fasted with Nicaraguan's Foreign
Minister, himself a Maryknoll priest, and listened to stories pour forth
as many hundreds of Nicaraguan peasant pilgrims vigiled and fasted in the
Mon senor Lezcano church to show solidarity with the priest-minister's
desire to nonviolently resist contra terrorism. Rev. Miguel D'Escoto urged
us to find nonviolent actions commensurate to the crimes being committed.
This experience gave me reason to believe that the US could have used
negotiation and diplomacy to resolve disputes with Nicaragua.
The Christian Peacemaker Teams maintained a steady presence in Jeremie, in
the southern finger of Haiti, throughout the time when the US had
determined it was too dangerous for US soldiers to be there. In 1995, I
was there for the three months just before the US troops returned.
Throughout this stretch of history, the US spent more money on troop
movements, equipping troops, training troops, than it spent on meeting
human needs. The Commandant of the region, Colonel Rigobert Jean,
commented publicly that he was "ashamed and embarrassed that it was left
to the 'blans' (Creole for foreigners) on the hill to preserve peace and
security in the region." He was referring to our five person team. Again,
I had reason to believe that unarmed peacemakers could be relied on to
create greater security in areas of conflict.
Indelibly marked in my memory from that summer are the Creole words that
children could no longer suppress as evenings drew to a close and they
longed for adequate meals. "M'gen grangou," I'm hungry.
More recently, in Iraq, during the US bombing in March and April of 2003,
I saw how children suffer when nations decide to put their resources into
weapons and warfare rather than meeting human needs. All of us learned to
adopt a poker face, hoping not to frighten the children, whenever there
were ear-splitting blasts and gut wrenching thuds. During every day and
night of the bombing, I would hold little Miladhah and Zainab in my arms.
That's how I learned of their fear: they were grinding their teeth,
morning, noon and night. But they were far more fortunate than the
children who were survivors of direct hits, children whose brothers and
sisters and parents were maimed and killed.
Judge Faircloth, we have experienced and seen the deadly effect of US
military policy on mothers and children, on families. We have held the
children and tried to comfort them under bombs.
It is because of these experiences that we feel so strongly. And this is
why I'm willing to go into the US prison system and experience again, as
we have before, the suffering of all of these women who are being
separated from their families in the American prisons. It's important to
hear the voices of women trying to comfort their own children over the
telephone, children they won't see be able to hug and cuddle, I remember
my friend Gloria, in the prison telephone room: "Momma's gonna tickle your
feets, oh baby, momma's gonna tickle your feet, you momma's baby." Gloria
and many thousands of other mothers locked up in a world of imprisoned
beauty would never tickle their baby's feet, because they'd been sentenced
to mandatory five year minimums.
Sometimes I think we face a wilderness of compassion in this country. But
when I think of the many voices that have tried, in this court, to clamor for
the works of mercy rather than the works of war, I feel at home, I feel grateful,
and I feel a deep urge to be silent and listen to the cries of those most afflicted,
their cries are often hard to hear but when we hear them, we're
called, all of us, to be like voices in the wilderness, raising their laments
and finding ourselves motivated to build a better world.
For more information about Voices in the Wilderness, please visit the website
at www.vitw.org. Thanks!