|This woodcutting by Rita Corbin says:
THE WORKS OF MERCY:
FEED the HUNGRY
CLOTHE the NAKED
GIVE DRINK to the THIRSTY
VISIT the IMPRISONED
CARE for the SICK
BURY the DEAD
THE WORKS OF WAR:
Four days ago on Ash Wednesday in Washington, Arthur Laffin, 44, a pacifist who lives with and helps house poor people, began Lent as he often does: fasting on water and fruit juice.
As a believer in Christ's teachings on nonviolence, as well as the biblical command, "Thou Shalt Not Kill," Laffin expects to twin his Lenten exercise in self-denial with an exercise in free speech. On sidewalks near the White House and Pentagon, he will undertake vigils and protests against what he calls "U.S. violence against Iraqi people."
If the pattern holds, the state is likely to see Laffin – his fasting and sincerity aside -- as a chronic lawbreaker. That's fitting, because that's how Laffin sees U.S. government officials: breakers of such laws as the War Powers Clause of the Constitution (Article I, Section 8); the Geneva Protocol 1, Article 54, which prohibits "starvation of civilians as a method of warfare;" and the Executive Order prohibiting conspiracy to assassinate.
For Laffin, all of that involves U.S. policy toward Iraq. He is not alone. Last month, Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of Detroit called President Clinton and other administration officials war criminals for imposing economic sanctions on the people of Iraq.
Four months ago, Denis Halliday, the chief humanitarian worker for the United Nations in Baghdad, resigned in protest. Sanctions, he said, "are starving to death 6,000 Iraqi infants every month, ignoring the human rights of ordinary Iraqis and turning a whole generation against the West."
Laffin spent 10 days last year in Iraqi cities and villages to see and hear in a close and personal way the suffering that is, for many Americans, a distant abstraction.
He went to the Al Amervah shelter where more than 1,100 Iraqi civilians were bombed and burned to death by U.S. pilots in 1991. He stayed at the bedsides of dying and hungry children in four hospitals. He spoke to humanitarian workers who confirmed findings of the April 1998 UNICEF report -- that economic sanctions have killed far more people than the approximately 150,000 civilians who died in 1991 when 88,000 tons of bombs were dropped in 52 days.
"In the hospitals, I saw children dying and suffering from diseases
they would never have had without the sanctions. I can remember the childrens'
names: Khafar, Zahra, Ann. These are kids that officials in the Clinton
administration treat as expendable, all in the name of getting at the demonized
He writes of his fasting:
“During those moments when I crave a sumptuous meal, I think of what it must be like for the more than 35,000 children who die daily from hunger or preventable diseases. While I know I can eat in a few days, these sisters and brothers cannot. God have mercy on me and on our world for allowing this scandal of hunger."