Unshackling Ourselves: Lessons from War Zones
Kathy Kelly is one of the founding members of Voices in the Wilderness, and currently a co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence. Believing that “where you stand determines what you see,” Voices activists have stood alongside people in war zones and helped educate U.S. people about the terrible consequences of U.S. wars. As a guest of the Afghan Peace Volunteers, she has frequently visited Kabul. Experiences there have led her to frequently speak and write about the futility of U.S. militarism and the potential for nonviolent resistance to war and injustice.
To break the economic sanctions against Iraq, she participated in 27 delegations to Baghdad, and she lived in Iraqi combat zones during the early weeks U.S. wars in Iraq in 1991 and 2003. She has also focused on nonviolently resisting U.S. militarism by living in Gaza and Lebanon during and after Israeli airstrikes that used U.S. weapons, and has been helping build resistance to U.S. collaboration with a Saudi-led coalition that has subjected Yemen to airstrikes and blockades.
She has been arrested numerous times at home and abroad, and written of her experiences among targets of U.S. military bombardment and inmates of U.S. prisons. During 2015, for having attempted to deliver a loaf of bread to a commander of a U.S. base that was operating weaponized drones over Afghanistan and other countries, she was sentenced to three months in federal prison. In 1988, she served one year in maximum security prison for planting corn on nuclear weapon silo sites.
Since 1980, for reasons of conscientious objection, she has successfully refused all payment of federal income taxes to the U.S. government.
U.S. militarism exacerbates and prolongs wars in places like Afghanistan and Yemen. Visiting in Kabul with destitute families, numerous widows, people living in refugee camps, and child laborers, Kathy and other Voices activists have seen the wasteful and devastating consequences of U.S. militarism.
The U.S. military claims to care about humanitarian concerns but it has shown almost no capacity to actually help Afghanistan or Iraq with significant reparations for suffering caused by U.S. invasion and occupation. The Afghan Peace Volunteers, working independently, have shown remarkable abilities to identify and help solve problems they and their neediest neighbors face.
20 million people in the Horn of Africa region and Yemen face death because of starvation, disease and displacement within lands affected by northern industrialization and consequent climate change. Droughts and civil conflict have ravaged populations in Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria and Yemen. The UN says the worst catastrophe afflicts Yemenis, and yet the U.S. continues to sell weapons to the Saudi – led coalition which regularly bombs and blockades Yemen. President Trump has called for slashing U.S. contributions to the UN budgets for agencies that assist refugees and people facing starvation and cholera. The Saudis threaten to make similar cuts even as their war making exacerbates the crises.
U.S. exceptionalism is continually fostered by the U.S. media and congress.
U.S. people have an opportunity to refuse cooperation with the U.S. military and the “base nation” constituted by over 800 U.S. military bases world wide by joining public protest actions and organizing events to hold elected officials accountable for collusion with war profiteers. All of us can join protests at military bases where drones are being operated.
We can also organize delegations to call and visit elected representatives in protest of U.S. weapon sales to Saudi Arabia.
Listen to Kathy’s interview on WDIY’s Lehigh Valley Discourse, aired 05/31/18 here: http://wdiy.org/post/peace-activist-kathy-kelly-lv-discourse