Chicago, IL – Three of us from Voices in the Wilderness–Amy Mooney, Heidi Holliday and Ceylon Mooney– celebrated Ash Wednesday at Boeing World Headquarters, 100 North Riverside Plaza in downtown Chicago. As our nation moves closer to war, we found it necessary to confront Boeing World Headquarters, in the tradition of nonviolence, with the consequences of their business of weapons and war; we brought ashes and photographs of children killed by a Boeing AGM-130 in Iraq on January 25, 1999.
We presented these photographs to employees and security, speaking of the weaponry which killed these children in Iraq; we spoke of our experiences in Iraq, of meeting these children’s families and staying in their homes, then began our Ash Wednesday service. We were charged with criminal trespass and released in time to attend a rally at Chicago’s Federal Plaza topping off today’s National Stop the War Moratorium, where students gave testimony of their day of walk-outs, teach-ins, direct actions and rallies.
“The ashes with which we bless this picture are a testament to our faith,” we offered. “We call for penance by Boeing in for death of this 6-year-old girl–the rebirth of Boeing from these ashes–that this company invest its resources into those which advance human lives, not reduce them to ashes.” Reactions were varied; many Boeing employees walked into the office wearing ashes on their foreheads.
Boeing is the second largest weapons company in the U.S.; Boeing manufactures Tomahawk Cruise missiles, integration systems for nuclear weapons, Joint Direct Attack Munitions (or JDAM, a conversion system to create “smart bombs”), and Apache combat helicopters; Boeing’s weapons have been used against civilians in the Israeli-occupied territories, Columbia, and Iraq.
Boeing moved its world headquarters to Chicago, IL, with massive tax breaks: up to $41 million in state tax breaks and various grants over 20 years and $19 million in city property-tax relief over a similar period; Chicago also pledged $1 million to retire the lease of the existing tenant in the space that Boeing will occupy. This support of the Boeing is inconsistent with the resolution the Chicago city council passed in opposition to war against Iraq.
Boeing is another link in the chain of “profits over people”-both the Iraqis who will lose their lives and the Boeing employees who lost their jobs. We poured ashes to show Boeing what their cruise missiles do to Iraqi civilians. It’s not “collateral damage”-human lives, both Iraqi and American, are at stake.
Since September 11, 2001, Boeing has laid off more than 30,000 employees while netting billions in profits from arms sales alone; 2002 saw a net increase in sales to the U.S. Department of Defense-up $3.3 billion from 2001. Boeing has an annual lobby budget in excess of $8 million.
We entered the lobby of Boeing at 8:30AM, laid our photographs on the ground, scattered ashes, and offered the following litany:
In Judeo-Christian and Pagan traditions, ashes are a symbol of both rebirth and atonement for one’s sins. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Christian Lenten season leading up to the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. We carry to the world headquarters of Boeing, the second largest arms company in the United States, faces of Iraqis whose homes, lives and children have been reduces to ashes by a Boeing AGM-130.
For this we must atone: -For the 23 million Iraqis sentenced to war by political leaders and arms companies. -For the crucifixion of Jumeriyah in Basra, Iraq on January 25, 1999. -For the lives of Nor and her sister, reduced to ashes by a Boeing AGM 130
To be born again, we must: -Face the consequences of our pursuit of mass destruction. -Divest our vast wealth from pursuit of death to embrace of life. -Build a nonviolent future by scattering the ashes of a violent present.
The little girl in this picture was named Nor, which means “light” in Arabic. At 9:30AM on January 25, 1999, the United States bombed her slum neighborhood in Basra, killing her and several other children. Nor’s light was burnt to ashes by a Boeing AGM-130. Nor and her family represent the more than one million Iraqi civilians killed by U.S.-led economic sanctions and U.S. air strikes and the more than 10,000 Gulf War veterans who have died since Desert Storm. Nor and her family represent the millions of Iraqis who will face famine as they are bombed out of their homes, and the thousands of Iraqi civilians waiting to die at the hands of the Pentagon’s “shock and awe” and Boeing’s weapons. Boeing builds and sells these killing machines, the people of America foot the bill, and the ordinary Iraqi civilians pay the price.
Lord and lover of humankind, Teach us to groan as you must groan, Mourners all of us. Instruct us in the language of lamentation.
With the ashes of war and terror, The ashes of so many lives gone, We mark ourselves this Ash Wednesday.
Good Lord, hold us in your arms As we ask the hard questions: Is this the hour to trample down violence, To deny death any more lives, To refuse the false safety of walls and weapons, To beat swords into plowshares And to bring new life from ashes?
Lord, hear us. Lord, be merciful to all.
Amy Mooney Heidi Holliday Ceylon Mooney On Behalf of Voices in the Wilderness and the ordinary civilians of Iraq
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