Left Justified: Cost of war and return of Kathy Kelly

Left Justified: Cost of war and return of Kathy Kelly

By Stanley Campbell

Kathy Kelly is my heroine. She recently returned from eight months in Iraq. She’ll be speaking at a special Memorial Day concert to raise funds for war relief. Kathy did not go to Iraq as a human shield, but as a longtime friend and supporter of the Iraqi people (she’s been there many, many times before). It should go without saying that she’s not a supporter of Saddam nor any dictators (which is more than we can say for Donald Rumsfeld).

She started her Iraq visits shortly after 1991 and was determined to get goods into that beleaguered country, at least as far as food and medicines were concerned. She would bring as many medical supplies as she could carry, in spite of the U.S.-managed embargo. She was concerned about people who suffered while the dictators thrived.

Kathy has a Catholic background, and she found friends among the small Christian communities of Baghdad and Basra. She’d stay with nuns in a convent or at individual parishioners’ homes, and became well-known among all circles of Iraq.

Kathy Kelly is well known among American peace activists, having founded a Catholic Worker house in Chicago after quitting her job as a school teacher. She still teaches some Catholic classes, but not enough to pay income taxes: she’s not responsible for American weapons of war.

The group she started, Voices in the Wilderness, has led peace marches to war-torn Yugoslavia in the hopes of standing between armies. She once walked a small squad of pacifists onto a battlefield and did stop the fighting for a day (soldiers were probably so chagrined, they couldn’t fire their rifles).

Ms. Kelly has spoken here in Rockford, always to ever-increasing crowds. We hope to give her something from the collection taken at our Memorial Day Concert. Her group, Voices, which was so active in Iraq for the last 12 years, will remain there in hopes of increasing human rights and bringing true democracy to all people.

Of course, if you have a favorite charity that does Iraqi work (mine is Church World Service, the Hunger Walk people), then you are welcome to make out a donation and bring that to the concert.

Music will be the mainstay of our Memorial Day Benefit. Our own hometown favorite, David Stocker of One Drum fame, will lead a reunion of the a cappella group, Bridges. That’s Monday night, Memorial Day, May 26, 7:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Rockford.

The war in Iraq really destroyed that country. It will take a long time for them to recover, even if the United States keeps its promise of using their oil for their relief.

But the war also did a job on our country. Somebody’s going to have to pay for the $60, $70 or $80 billion worth of expenditures. The “awe and shock” will hit the American taxpayer even though it hardly fazed Saddam Hussein.

To explain a little bit more about the true costs of war, Rockford Peace & Justice Action Committee is inviting Tom Webb from United for a Fair Economy to a Coffee Talk this Monday, May 19, 7:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church. Tom will share a program called “War and the Economy Project” that explains how defense-related money is used, its impact on the economy, and who benefits and loses.

I’m sure people know that military spending doesn’t help the economy, except those employed in the defense industry. Of course, the same amount of money spent in housing, health care, or education provides at least four times as many jobs and produces lasting benefits.

You are welcome to join in the discussion. As always, the coffee is on me.

Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.

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