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This Christmas, consider a Christian peacemaker’s book about Iraqi reconciliation

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img_0790_2One of the most compassionate people I have had the privilege to get to know is Peggy Faw Gish, a member of the Christian Peace Maker team, who went to Iraq in October of 2002 before the illegal and immoral U.S. invasion. While millions of us were protesting, lobbying our reps and being arrested because of our stances against the invasion during the fall of 2002 and winter of 2003, Peggy took a much more serious and ultimately life threatening step: she went there to try to stop the invasion.

“I first went to Iraq in Oct. 2002 because I wanted to do all I could to try to stop that war from happening,” she writes. “As I fell in love with the Iraqi people, and saw the horrific devastation the U.S. caused, I wanted to walk with Iraqis who were discovering nonviolent ways of struggling for justice and reconciliation in their society. ”

Peggy has a second book out about her direct experiences with the Iraqi people. It includes collecting direct reports starting in the spring and summer of 2003 from family members of people who were tortured and of those tortured in Abu Ghraib. Here is a book description of Walking Through Fire: Iraqis’ Struggle for Justice and Reconciliation:

Through Iraqis’ eyes—through their stories—this book “tells the truth” about what war and the U.S. government’s antiterrorism policies have really meant for them. Iraqis recount the abuses they experienced in the U.S. and new Iraqi detention systems, the excessive violence, and collective punishment of the U.S.-led occupying forces, as well as tensions between Kurds and Arab Iraqis—tensions rooted in Saddam Hussein’s genocide against the Kurds. Stories coming out of Iraq between 2004 and 2011 also describe the efforts of courageous and creative Iraqis speaking out against injustices and building movements of nonviolence and reconciliation. We also get a glimpse of how the author, a peace-worker, immersed in the violence and chaos of war, dealt with the pain and suffering of those around her, as well as her own personal losses and kidnapping ordeal. Her experiences strengthen her belief that the power of nonviolent suffering love (the way of Jesus) is stronger than the power of violence and force, and can break down barriers and be transformative in threatening situations. She counters the myths of the superiority of violent force to root out evil in places such as Iraq and challenges us to do all we can to prevent the tragedy of any future war.”

This is a time of year when many people are hopefully in a spiritually reflective mood,and millions are focused on the birth and life of a man, Jesus Christ, who dedicated his life to peace, love and understanding. This book about Iraq was written by a woman who walks in his foot steps. It would make a great gift for those interested in peace and reconciliation, in walking the talk.

Peggy also has a new blog dedicated to helping others develop a deeper understanding about just how the invasion effected the Iraqi people. Her blog is focused on peace and reconciliation. Please join her.


57 year old mother of three, activist, concerned citizen

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7 Responses

  1. Susie Kneedler on December 26, 2013, 12:08 pm

    Thank you, Kathleen. How lovely that you’re writing here, to add to all you’ve taught us in your helpful Comments. Thanks for telling us about Gish’s book–with her beautiful photo–, as well as all you’ve said for years about her and her late husband, Art Gish. Thanks for all your great work, Kathleen.

  2. Krauss on December 26, 2013, 1:38 pm

    As much as she is right in her criticism of the Iraq war and its aftereffects, it is also impossible to deny the sectarian tensions between Shia, Sunni, Kurd and Christian that existed before. The invasion and the disaster of governing afterwards made it all worse, but from what I’ve read from Iraqis that have since fled they insist what was coming was coming anyway, just like the chaos in Syria is being exploited by Al-Qaida, but Iraq was like Syria on steroids.

    In fact, many of these people say it is only a matter of time before the fightning erupts once again but that the fresh wounds of war keeps people from taking the step. (Although the violence has increased since the bottom in 2010/2011).

    • on December 27, 2013, 1:37 am

      hey krause
      do you remember that unforgettable hollywood-like staged scene set where israel and it’s espionage agents called neocons great “useful idiot” the one and only george w. bush memorably declared “mission accomplished”?
      and all the stupid brainwashed americans thought their fearless intrepid, hiding-from-military-service-getting-drunk-all-day-long-in-alabama- president was referring to the successful execution of the iraq war?
      well, considering the abominable reality on the ground then and continuously thereafter, did you ever think that what bush really might’ve been referring to was a code from his jewish neocon handlers that the initial stage of their PNAC plan(iraq-saddam) to ultimately destablize israel’s enemies of the middle east was the accomplishment so spoken of.
      i mean, nobody who had just the most basic knowledge of the arab muslim world didn’t think that once saddams iron grip on all the sects would be let lose that there wouldn’t be war between them all.

    • Kathleen on December 27, 2013, 11:03 am

      Krauss as you have so articulately pointed out it is tough to avoid that these tensions have and continue to exist in Iraq. Although what Peggy, Seymour Hersh, Scott Ritter, the 2007 documentary about Iraq “No End In Sight” (a must watch) as well as Lt Col Karen Kwiatowski ( wrote the “New Pentagon Papers”) who worked in the Pentagon when Douglas Feith, Wolfowitz , Cheney etc were creating, cherry picking and dessiminating false WMD intelligence( so called) to the American people and around the world have pointed out is were those in control of this invasion in the Bush administration after destabilization of Iraq not after peace or a democracy. Many of us who protested the potential invasion in the fall of 2002 and winter of 2003 had heard or read the warnings that the validity of the WMD intelligence was highly questionable . These warnings were being repeated by former IAEA weapons inspector Scott Ritter, head of the IAEA El Baradei, former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, Kathleen and Bill Christison. Pre invasion warnings about the validity of the WMD intelligence also came from McClatchy reporters Jonthan Landay, Warren Strobel, the Nations reporter Jason Vest in his August 15th 2002 Nation article “The Men from Jinsa and the CSP” goes into detail about the neoconservatives Richard Perle, James Woolsey, Douglas Feith, Harold Rhode, William Luti, Micheal Ledeen and others who not only pushed for the invasion of Iraq but were very much part of the twisted team to come up with false WMD intelligence and really wanted “endless war” in the middle east to destabilize the region for control of oil and for Israel.

      The Bush administrations goal in Iraq was clearly not peace and democracy. Douglas Feith and team clearly understood the potential infighting that would take place by sending in too few troops, Bremer disbanding the Iraqi army.

      When Lt General Jay Garner “a retired United States Army lieutenant general who was appointed in 2003 as Director of the Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance for Iraq following the 2003 invasion of Iraq but was soon replaced by Ambassador Paul Bremer and the ambassador’s successor organization to ORHA, the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA)” was replaced by Paul Bremmer who very soon after disbanded the Iraqi army putting hundreds of thousands of Iraqi soldiers out of jobs and onto the streets of Iraq. This was not a move that a U.S. leader would make if they wanted peace in Iraq.

      “In 2003 Garner was selected to lead the post-war reconstruction efforts in Iraq, along with three deputies, including British Major-General Tim Cross. Garner was regarded as a natural choice by the Bush administration given his earlier similar role in the north. General Garner was to develop and implement plans to assist the Iraqis in developing governance and reconstructing the country once Saddam Hussein was deposed.[2]

      Following the defeat of the central regime in Baghdad, there was widespread looting, rampaging, and general chaos throughout Iraq. Some of the most important monuments, such as the national museum, were under attack.[2] Furthermore, the infrastructure of the country was in ruins, ministries were broken into, and government records were destroyed. The situation in Iraq became chaotic and anarchic.[3] The only ministry which was protected by the occupying forces was the oil ministry. In addition, many exiled leaders from Iran and some from the West returned to Iraq.[4] The Bush Administration selected Lieutenant General Jay Garner to lead the Coalition Provisional Authority (an intermediary government) in an attempt to rid Iraq of the chaos and anarchy that consumed the area. Garner’s plan was to choose government officials from the former Iraqi regime to help lead the country.[5]

      Garner began reconstruction efforts in March 2003 with plans aiming for Iraqis to hold elections within 90 days and for the U.S. to quickly pull troops out of the cities to a desert base. Talabani, a member of Jay Garner’s staff in Kuwait before the war, was consulted on several occasions to help the U.S. select a liberal Iraqi government; this would be the first liberal Government to exist in Iraq. In an interview with Time magazine, Garner stated that “as in any totalitarian regime, there were many people who needed to join the Baath Party in order to get ahead in their careers. We don’t have a problem with most of them. But we do have a problem with those who were part of the thug mechanism under Saddam. Once the U.S. identifies those in the second group, we will get rid of them.”[5] On April 15, 2003, General Garner called a conference in the city of Nasiriyah, where Garner, along with 100 Iraqis, discussed the future of Iraq. Garner called a follow-up meeting on April 28, 2003.[2] 250 Iraqis attended this meeting, and five of these Iraqis were selected by Garner’s administration as the core leaders of the new Iraqi government: Masood Barzani was appointed as head of the Kudistan Democratic Party, Jalal Talbani as head of the rival Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, Abdul Aziz Al Hakim was appointed as the leader of the Supreme Assembly for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, Ahmad Chalabi was chosen to represent the Iraqi National Congress and Iyad Allawi was appointed as the leader of the Iraqi National Accord. Garner’s selection caused quite a stir amongst many Iraqis. Although many Iraqis were open to the change that Garner and the U.S were bringing to Iraq, others were resentful. Iraqis with a Shi’a background felt underrepresented in Garner’s selection for government.[6] Three of the five officials appointed as key members in Iraq’s new government were of Sunni background, one official was form a mixed Sunni-Shi’a background, and only one of the officials was of pure Shi’a background. The Shi’a felt left out and underrepresented, considering they comprise over 60% of the Iraqi population.[6] Therefore, this caused a great deal of controversy. Furthermore, many Iraqis felt this new government was not selected in a democratic manner as the U.S had promised, but rather was simply a different form of dictatorship led by the U.S.

      Once the leaders were selected, a plan to hold elections in Iraq, where members would be selected, began on May 6, 2003 and ended on November 14, 2003, when the plan was abandoned.[3] General Garner would be replaced by a new American Ambassador to Iraq, Paul Bremer, who took his role as head of the Coalition Provisional Authority. Following Garner’s dismissal, it was planned that sovereignty would be returned to the Iraqi people in June 2004. Iyad Allawi was designated to lead the Iraqi interim authority. Allawi was a former Baathist of Shiite origin. Allawi had many credentials, including previous work experience with the CIA. The main drawback of having Allawi as the leader of the new Iraq was that he was chosen by the coalition forces”

  3. Walid on December 27, 2013, 6:35 am

    What Saddam did to the Kurds was a picnic compared to what he did to the Shia. After the Gulf war in 1991, the Americans encouraged the Shia and the Kurds to rebel against Saddam and when they did and took almost all the country (except Baghdad), the promised American help never came and Saddam and his Republican Guards went after both groups with a vengeance. Tens of thousands of Shia died, thousands of Kurds were gassed and in the south whole villages were burned and farmlands flooded by Saddam’s soldiers.

    • seafoid on December 27, 2013, 9:51 am

      And the Marsh Arabs had their marshes drained and were forced into the slums of Basra. I wonder how many of them died before their time.

    • Kathleen on December 27, 2013, 11:17 am

      And then a horribly ineffective U.S. invasion (unless the Bush administrations goal was as it seems to destabilize) that killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi people, injured thousands and displaced millions of Iraqi people.

      Who is in control of the oil? Privatized not nationalized as it had been

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