Sunday, March 20, 2005


Voices in the Wilderness and Kathy Kelly

In this post's comments section armavirumque mentions the name Kathy Kelly who is the director of Voices in the Wilderness (VITW):

Ouch, that's a fairly harsh view of Corrie. I wonder what you have to say about someone like Kathy Kelly who remains a personal hero to a lot of us because she has always lived a life of conviction (yes, even when it happened to result in income tax evasion or arrest). And you'd be pretty hard pressed to dismiss her as so easily as just some secular leftist. If the world loses her because of the cause and the people she fights for and is dedicated to, will her life and accomplishments be dismissed so readily?

As armavirumque might know, Kathy Kelly taught me religion at a Chicago area high school for two years and I am fairly positive she would remember me if not for my name at least because I was an active participant in class. Ms. Kelly has been a consistent supporter of the peace movement so if that is why you admire her then you are correct to do so. What I don't think you realize is the harm the Kelly's organization has done to the people it purports to want to help. How does VITW positions hurt people? Well, first I will tell you why.

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. Ralph Waldo Emerson

Being for peace and against war seems like a perfectly reasonable philosophy except that it means you askew using force when it serves to protect the weak from the strong. In fact, VITW has turned a blind eye towards the violence that Saddam visited on his own people since its existence for the sole reason that mentioning any Iraqi human rights abuses would have prevented VITW from entering Iraq and becoming mouthpieces for Saddam Hussein. From a interview of Kelly:

Carolyn: Were there any alternatives to war that would have addressed the human rights abuses of Saddam Hussein’s regime? How might we address other situations where there are abusive regimes?

Kathy: ...Before the war, I was often in touch with the Iraqi technocrats at a low level of government. Many of them were decent people. You wouldn’t call them collaborators with an atrocious, evil government. They were people trying to solve a myriad of problems. I think that people like that, given time, would have been able to wean the government away from the control of the human rights abusers. They would have needed some measure of prosperity to maintain a middle class. And they would have needed to have social services sufficient so that people had time to think about their government. And they would have needed communication. But 11 years of economic sanctions did precisely the opposite. They wrecked social services, the education system, and the communications infrastructure. Iraqis didn’t have communication within the country nor from outside Iraq. They couldn’t analyze their situation as well as we could because they didn’t have access to the materials we were reading. So they kept blaming whomever was closest, which was their affluent classes and Saddam Hussein, but they didn’t even realize the extent of what was being done to them at the hands of the United Nations and the U.S.-led sanctions. At the same time, Iraqis didn’t have any sense of anybody really wanting to help Iraq...

So you see if only those good and decent mid-level Baathists had been given a chance to wean the government from the upper level Baathists then everything would have been alright. Sounds like she was encouraging coup. Wean: " To detach from that to which one is strongly habituated or devoted." So the habit of violently suppressing a population is a lot like smoking. Maybe someone can create a despot patch. Saddamoderm.

In the eyes of Kelly, the real culprit is the sanctions, not Saddam Hussein. She wants to teach the Iraqis that it wasn't Saddam that was oppressing them, it was the United States and the sanctions. Do I need to go any further or is this as ridiculous to you as it is to me? But you know what, in Kelly's defense, she is being consistent. Consistently blaming the U.S. for real and imagined atrocities. A former member of VITW wrote about his epiphany that the group was not interested in the welfare of the people of Iraq so much as it was interested in promoting its agenda. From David Horowitz's

"To be perfectly frank, we were less concerned with the suffering of the Iraqi people than we were in maintaining our moral challenge to U.S. foreign policy. We did not agitate for an end to sanctions for purely humanitarian reasons; it was more important to us to maintain our moral challenge to 'violent' U.S. foreign policy, regardless of what happened in Iraq. For example, had we been truly interested in alleviating the suffering in Iraq, we might have considered pushing for an expanded Oil-for-Food program. Nothing could have interested us less. Indeed, we even regarded the paltry amounts of aid that we did bring to Iraq as a logistical hassle. When it suited us, we portrayed ourselves as a humanitarian nongovernmental organization and at other times as a political group lobbying for a policy change. In our attempt to have it both ways, we failed in both of these missions. We were so preoccupied with our own agenda that we didn't notice or care that the regime made use of us. When critics asked us whether the group was being exploited by the Iraqi regime, we obfuscated, and in so doing put Saddam and his minions on the same level as the U.S. government."

What is apparent in Kelly's approach to Iraq is blindness to any evidence that Saddam was the cause of the problem. Is denial a characteristic required of a peace activist? Does non-violence have any meaning if it covers up the atrocities of dictators? Corrie was young. Maybe she did not understand who she was involved with. That terrorists were not beyond using the naivete of the left to further their cause. But Kelly is not young and she should know better than attribute the suffering in Iraq to the sanctions. She should have known that VITW was repeating Iraqi propaganda.

Is Kelly a dupe? I will leave that up to you. Does it matter? Not to me. You can decide for yourselves where the line at complicity is drawn. All I would ask of you is to answer the questions do we excuse VITW because they are true believers? Do you absolve yourself for supporting policies that result in the death or disfigurement of people because it is in the name of peace? I will defend the U.S. invasion of Iraq because it was in the interests of my country and also in the interests of the Iraqi people. I cannot deny the death of innocent civilians caused by the U.S. military and I support every effort to avoid these deaths. But the peace movement refuses to own the damage and death their support of Saddam Hussein has caused. Conviction to a cause which is blind to injustice is nothing to celebrate so I suggest that you learn more about VITW and decide if they are consistent in the cause of human liberty and life.

More on Kathy Kelly and VITW.


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