OUR STORY | Iraqi Minnesotans and U.S. veterans tell their stories: Meet them January 24

Luke Wilcox of the Iraqi and American Reconciliation Project told TCDP about the January 24 reception for U.S. vets and Iraqi refugees who told their stories through the Veterans Book Project. The reception will be 7-9 p.m. at the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business, Schulze Hall Atrium, 1000 LaSalle Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55403Iraqi immigrants living in Minnesota and U.S. veterans of the Iraq war told their stories in books and videos, through the Veterans Book Project.How did this project start?The director of the Veterans Book Project, Monica Haller, a local artist — she and I had conversations with visiting Iraqi artists who were participating in an art exhibit that IARP organized in 2010 in Minneapolis.These visiting Iraqi artists said they did not think Iraqis had a voice in American media or consciousness — the stories of just ordinary Iraqis were not being heard by Americans.Monica’s project — the Veterans Book Project — had been creating books with veterans. She and I decided to expand that project to add Iraqi voices, to include both Iraqis and American veterans to tell how the war had impacted, affected and changed lives.So we applied for a grant and got some funding through the Minnesota State Arts Board to work with local Iraqis. Some had been here a while, some grew up here — a variety of Iraqi voices here, who had experienced war in different ways. Continue Reading

5 weeks in Iraq

For the last 5 weeks, I’ve lived and worked with the Muslim Peacemaker Teams and my host, Sami Rasouli. Tomorrow I fly back to Minneapolis.

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If there’s one general insight that has stayed with me from the IR501 (International Relations and Religion) course I took in grad school, it’s that categories suck. “Christian,” “American,” “Arab,” “Muslim,” “Liberal,” “Friend,” etc. serve an important purpose of helping us order the complex information we process every day, but they also simplify and homogenize that complexity.

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Care for collateral damage

Over the last two and a half weeks, my host Sami and I have visited a number of medical facilities in Iraq: the public hospital in Najaf, a prosthetics and orthotics center, and the public hospital in Nasriyyah. All confirmed the disastrous human cost of the Iraq War.

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Three days in Karbala

Last week I spent three days in Karbala, a city about an hour north of Najaf. Like Najaf, Karbala is a holy city for Shia Muslims, containing the shrines of Imam Hussein and Imam Abbas. A group of artists who work with the Muslim Peacemaker Teams hosted me.

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Rutba, Iraq: “Getting in the way of war”

On May 29, 2003, a group of American peacemakers left Baghdad for Amman, Jordan. In the middle of the desert, they blew a tire and flipped into the ditch, injuring several of the passengers. Weldon Nisly, a Mennonite pastor from Seattle, was one of those injured. He recalls what happened next: “Some Iraqi men in a car speeding the other direction saw us and stopped to help us while U.S. Continue Reading

FREE SPEECH ZONE | How to Turn the Page on the Iraq War

In his recent Oval Office address, President Obama marked the “end” of combat operations in Iraq: “We have met our responsibility. Now, it is time to turn the page.” Not so fast. No doubt many Americans would love to forget the whole thing, but, annoyingly, the Iraq War has etched itself onto our history. Indeed, it has struck the heart of both American and Iraqi life: more than 4,400 Americans dead; at least 100,000 Iraqis dead; more than 32,000 Americans wounded; at least two million Iraqis forced to flee their country. Continue Reading