Ashcroft Targets Group for Bringing Medicine to Iraq

At a time when America should be focusing massive resources on
rebuilding civilian infrastructure, devastated from two U.S.-led
wars and a decade of economic sanctions, the Bush administration
has filed a lawsuit against Voices in the Wilderness (VitW) for
providing humanitarian relief and medicinal supplies to the people
of Iraq. Since being founded in 1995, VitW has organized more than
65 delegations to Iraq. Many delegates carried symbolic amounts of
medicine as an act of civil disobedience against economic

In a statement responding to the lawsuit, the organization
noted, ‘In every phase of this matter, we must never allow the
government to obscure the key point that the sanctions imposed on
the people of Iraq caused the deaths of over 500,000 children under
the age of five and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of others.’
Indeed, throughout the existence of the program, Voices in the
Wilderness has never lost sight of this tragedy or the dire need to
end sanctions. Thus, members of the program have actively engaged
in nonviolent civil disobedience, including multiple 20-day,
water-only, hunger strikes and a walk from the Pentagon to the
United Nations Headquarters in New York. Many of the members refuse
to pay taxes for war and VitW officials have said they have no
intention of paying the most recent fines imposed by the Department
of Justice. Because of the highly critical nature of their protests
against U.S. foreign policy it is likely that the legal attacks
from the government have more than a little political motivation.
In the past, members have been arrested, fined, and continually
threatened with legal action.

Organization leaders say they have taken what can be seen as an
extreme stance on the issue because other options for political
speech and action have not worked. They have lobbied congress,
written letters and op-ed pieces, and held up masses of signs at
hundreds of protests. They write, ‘In short, as individuals and as
a group, we have exhausted every legal means we know of to address
the daily deaths of so many blameless human beings. And so, in the
spirit of Gandhi, Thoreau, and Dr. King, we knowingly and willingly
broke a law that has brought suffering to the innocent and
prohibited our fellow citizens from learning about it.’

Voices in the Wilderness is asking for 20,000 people to raise
their voices against the lawsuit by

signing a petition on their website

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