Skip to comments.4 (Washington) state residents to look for peace on Iraq mission
Posted on 01/17/2003 12:09:40 AM PST by lewislynn
4 state residents to look for peace on Iraq mission
By Sarah Anne Wright Seattle Times staff reporter
Four Washington residents, one from Seattle, are heading to Iraq on a mission of peace.
The sponsor, Voices in the Wilderness, or Voices, as the group calls itself, opposes economic sanctions it says harm ordinary Iraqis. It has sent about 50 peace-delegate groups to Iraq since 1996.
Its mission, it says, is to put a human face one other than Saddam Hussein's on Iraq.
But as the threat of war against Iraq looms, this latest delegation faces a potentially more dangerous situation: putting U.S. citizens inside a war zone where they might be used as human shields.
Peace delegates said they go only as witnesses.
"Is the purpose here to be human shields in some way? The answer is no," said participant David Berrian, of Seattle. "We want to personalize this."
Berrian has been active for years with the Buddhist Peace Fellowship but said he felt a need to do more than march and participate in vigils in opposition of war.
"If you had asked me a month ago, 'Do you think you would be interested in traveling to Iraq?' I would have given you an intellectual response: 'Thanks, but no thanks,' " said Berrian.
But when two Buddhist Peace Fellowship colleagues had to back out due to health reasons, he reconsidered.
"I came to realize, this is my time," said Berrian.
Currently, the only Americans allowed in Iraq are journalists or people working for the United Nations or the U.S. government.
"We have had a travel warning since 1990," said U.S. Consular Affairs spokeswoman Kelly Shannon. "We certainly continue to urge Americans not to travel to Iraq."
To visit Iraq without special permission from the State Department is in violation of U.S. law and could result in fines or imprisonment.
Voices, fined $20,000 last year, disregards the regulations. It paid its fines in Iraqi , priced at pre-Gulf War values.
The group has seen a boom in would-be peace delegates lately. About 300 people applied recently to go to Iraq.
Each applicant is interviewed and warned of the potential dangers of the trip.
"We are looking for people who aren't new to the field of peace work," said Stephanie Schaudel, Voices co-coordinator.
Most applicants, said Schaudel, are in their 50s, with strong ties to their communities and a history of activism. They also have traveled internationally.
Berrian has six children and nine grandchildren. He works for the city of Seattle as a contract administrator and has traveled to Central America and Africa. He said his wife, currently in South Africa, supports his trip.
Berrian said he is gathering questions from Americans to ask Iraqis. Children are curious about what Iraqis eat, where they get pizza and whether they have pets, he said.
In addition to Berrian, 57, other Washington delegates include Anna Bachmann, 40, of Port Townsend; Dana Visalli, 54, of Twisp, Okanogan County; and Bettejo Passalaqua, 41, of Omak, Okanogan County.
The state contingent leaves in mid-January for a two-week stay. It will fly first to Amman, Jordan, obtain Iraqi visas and then drive 12 to 15 hours to Baghdad.
Sarah Anne Wright: email@example.com or 206-464-2752
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This will cut out some of these "Jane Fonda" missions.
Yep, I'm sure that's what's on ALL government educated childrens minds.
I THINK I'M GOING TO THROW UP NOW !!
I say, lock up their asses for treason and disrespect of the USA for a few years.
They could simply call Sean Penn. I am sure he asked those burning questions during his visit.
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