Some members of Christian Peacemaker Teams responded to George W. Bush’s Sunday evening address by putting it in the context of the experience of ordinary Iraqis.[1]  --  Maxine Nash, who first went to Iraq in April 2004, said she hadn’t been able to watch because “there was no electricity.”  --  Peggy Gish, a 63-year-old organic farmer from Ohio who is the author of Iraq: A Journey of Hope and Peace, feared that Bush’s theme of staying “on the offensive” meant “continued mass arrests, house raids and bombing of civilians, continued illegal detentions, torture, and abuse.”  --  Sheila Provencher, a Catholic lay minister from South Bend, Indiana, said she believes that those fighting Americans “perceive themselves as fighting for the freedom of their country” and that “the very presence of U.S. troops exacerbates the violence.”  --  And in a separate piece on the frequency of the crime of kidnapping in Iraq, Greg Rollins, a Canadian from Surrey, British Columbia, asked:  “How often do those of us outside of Iraq hear about kidnapped Iraqis?” and “If [the innocent Iraqis arrested in sweeps by Multinational Forces or Iraqi Security Forces] are innocent yet still have to sit in jail, isn't that similar to a kidnapping?”[2] ...



December 19, 2005

BAGHDAD & AMMAN -- Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) members working in Iraq and Jordan reacted early Monday to President Bush's address on the war in Iraq. Reached by telephone in the Team's apartment in a Baghdad neighbourhood, Maxine Nash reflected on the impacts of the war on the services on which ordinary Iraqis rely: "I tried to watch President Bush's speech," she said, "but I couldn't -- there was no electricity."

From the failure to rebuild basic civilian infrastucture to the thousands of Iraqi detainees in U.S. Detention Centers to the tens of thousands of civilian casualties and injuries, CPT believes that the United States and Coalition Forces war has failed to bring peace and true democracy to Iraq. Yet, in his address, the president insisted that the way to defeat what he calls terrorism and make way for democracy is to continue to go “on the offensive.”

To this, full-time Iraq team member Peggy Gish, 63, commented in Amman, "based on my three years of listening to Iraqis who have suffered the pain of war, U.S. and Iraqi forces ‘on the offensive’ means continued mass arrests, house raids and bombing of civilians, continued illegal detentions, torture, and abuse."

Sheila Provencher, 33, who left Baghdad for Amman just three weeks ago, added, "Where are these seven out of ten Iraqis that he quotes as saying that their lives are going well? I wonder if the poll he quoted is like another I read about recently, which omitted the entire Anbar province because of security concerns."

"I noticed that the president framed his argument for the war almost entirely in terms of what he called the 'global terrorist movement' that will 'attack America wherever they can'," Provencher continued. "Ironically, he does admit that the desire to attack Americans 'has attracted Al Qaeda into Iraq.'"

"But," she added, "he does not seem to realize that there are thousands of members of a nationalist Iraqi insurgency who will use force to end the American occupation of their country, without using suicide bombers or civilian attacks. If he fails to understand the true nature and grievances of the nationalist insurgency -- namely, that they perceive themselves as fighting for the freedom of their country -- he will never understand that the very presence of U.S. troops exacerbates the violence."

CPT has worked in Iraq for more than three years, focusing since the U.S. invasion on the plight of Iraqi detainees and their families, the effects of U.S. and Iraqi offensives in civilian areas, and the development of Iraqi peace and human rights groups.

Instead of further offensives, which only increase the violence and chaos, members of CPT currently living in Iraq with ordinary Iraqis recommend stating an intention to withdraw all U.S. troops immediately, beginning with urban areas; stopping U.S. bombing; and providing sufficient funds to the Iraqi people to rebuild basic infrastructure.

Further, CPT urges an end to illegal detentions and torture in U.S. detention facilities and a fair and speedy judicial process for detainees. Additional diplomatic means are urged to pressure the Iraqi government to take corresponding actions regarding detainees held in Iraqi detention facilities.


By Greg Rollins

Christian Peacemaker Teams
December 19, 2005

As this kidnapping draws out I am reminded of the Tom Petty and the Heart Breakers song that says "the waiting is the hardest part." We fill our days with work -- important work -- but work that helps us avoid the waiting. If we stop and wait we grow restless, even edgy.

What we are currently experiencing here in Iraq is nothing new. Iraqis civilians are kidnapped often. Almost every Iraqi knows someone who has been kidnapped. The day before the abduction of our colleagues, Jim, Harmeet, Norman, and I visited a Chaldean church where we met a 17 year old who was kidnapped a year ago. His kidnappers held him for several weeks. They didn't know him; they only wanted money from his family. He told us they treated him well.

Recently, I was in a police station. While I sat there, a man walked in and asked how many kidnappings the police were familiar with in 2005. "I couldn't tell you the real number," the police officer said. "There are too many. It is too high." After some questions and guess work the officer behind the desk concluded he was familiar with around three hundred cases. And these are just the ones that people reported to the police in his designated area of Baghdad. Many families do not say anything when one of their kin is abducted. They choose to deal with it as quickly and quietly as they can.

How often do those of us outside of Iraq hear about kidnapped Iraqis? Very rarely. In the news we hear about the bombs and ambushes. We hear about the assassinations of political and religious leaders and the fighting in Anbar province, but we rarely hear anything about the many Iraqis held hostage.

And what about the innocent Iraqis arrested in sweeps by Multinational Forces or Iraqi Security Forces? If they are innocent yet still have to sit in jail, isn't that similar to a kidnapping? Just because governments do it with a "legal" force while others do it as criminals, doesn't change the circumstance for the people that are taken. We have witnesses that prisoners in the custody of the Multinational Forces and Iraqi security forces can be tortured and killed. How is that different than what criminal kidnappers are capable of doing?

In the past few weeks we have taken a lot of cues from our Iraqi friends. They are more experienced, and we are in Iraq. Our Iraqi friends have told us how to word letters or statements, how to talk to the local press and how to find the ear of people of influence.

If we in CPT have received a lot of press over our kidnapped colleagues, it is only because we are foreigners. It is disturbing that CPT's personal tragedy outshines the more frequent abductions of Iraqi civilians but in the end, it doesn't matter if you are Iraqi or a foreigner, the waiting is still the hardest part.

--Christian Peacemaker Teams is an ecumenical violence-reduction program with roots in the historic peace churches. Teams of trained peace workers live in areas of lethal conflict around the world. CPT has been present in Iraq since October, 2002. To learn more about CPT, please visit Photos of our projects may be viewed at