Albany, NY
February 4, 2003

Open Letter To Baghdad

by Joe Quandt

Dear Sa'ad, Zienab, Yusraa, and Nazar,

I'm sorry I haven't written before this. I did try to post a letter to you, but it came back. I know you understand about this.

I have been very busy, writing about Iraq and the people there, speaking about my time in your country. On Thursday I spoke to students at a college, on Sunday, a Christian group that is against the sanctions. On Monday, 5 classes in a high school. So you see, I have not broken my promise to you.

I am trying to write in a simple way, so that you can understand every word. Perhaps Sa'ad can read this out loud. His English is the best.

When I speak to people and tell them why we must not bomb your country, I always tell them that it is because I am selfish-I have friends in Iraq now, people who shared their food with me, and told me about their lives, people who asked about America and what the Americans are thinking, people who care about their children and children everywhere, people who love their country. So I must work very hard to tell this story, because I am terribly worried about these friends of mine in Baghdad.

I'm sure that if Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney had friends there, they would not be thinking so hard about destroying Iraq. Or maybe they would use their great wealth to get their friends out of there. I wish I had that much money.

I wish I had enough money to take all the children in the Al-Monsour cancer clinic out and bring them with their families to live somewhere that would be safe for them, a place where they could get the medicine and food they need.

Even now as I write this, water comes to my eyes.

It is very cold here now and there is snow on the ground. Do you ever have snow in Baghdad?

We are dreaming of spring, yes?

And change.....

I believe that hearts are changing in America. Every day I hear more stories about how the peace movement is getting bigger, and how more and more Americans are starting to think that there is no good reason for war with Iraq. Please, you must have faith and hold onto the hope that we will be in time to stop it. I promise you I am doing all I can. I know there is nothing you can do, and so we must do it for you.

Nazar, I'm sorry I did not see you before I left Baghdad. But I often use your words in my talks and writings. You said, "It's like Iraq was put in a hole; it's like...we're watching a movie about the world, and we're not in the movie." Americans can feel your pain when I say such words to them.

I will end now, so this letter is not too long. But I must tell Yusraa that her painting is hanging on my wall. If she remembers, it was the picture of all the doors and windows, and she said that "when you look thru someone's door and into their house, you see yourself in that house, and you know that you are all one people everywhere."

I also believe this. Many Americans do.

Special greetings and a beautiful rose of my imagination for you, dear Zienab.

Till we all meet again, Salaam.


[Joe Quandt, a 52-year old actor/teacher/cab driver/musician/poet/activist, was in Baghdad for the month of October 2002 with the 49th Voices in the Wilderness delegation to Iraq.]

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