The Public Square

Carl Estabrook on Peace Activist Kathy Kelly


I'm Carl Estabrook, of the local anti-war group AWARE.

Despite the huge anti-war demonstrations that preceded the US invasion of Iraq, the anti-war movement today contrasts sharply with that of the Vietnam era -- or of the Reagan wars in Latin America.

Journalist Alexander Cockburn recently wrote that there are only "a few good efforts -- the anti-recruitment campaigns, the tours of Military Families Against the War, ... the efforts of some returning vets, the stands taken by some enlistees refusing deployment to the Middle East-and three or four brave souls. Cindy Sheehan single-handedly reanimated the anti-war movement last year; ... there is also the radical Catholic Kathy Kelly..."

There is indeed Kathy Kelly, who will visit Champaign-Urbana next week for a series of talks and lectures. Ms. Kelly, from Chicago, is an American peace activist, pacifist, and three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee. She was active with the Catholic Worker movement and, as a pacifist, has refused to pay federal income taxes for 25 years.

In 1988 she was sentenced to prison for planting corn on a nuclear missile site. Her account of her arrest by an embarrassed young rural soldier is hilarious -- until one realizes that it took place directly over a weapon of the sort the administration is threatening to use again, many times the force of the Hiroshima bomb.

Kelly served nine months in a maximum security prison. She claims that attending Catholic school prepared her for the experience.

At the beginning of the Gulf War, in 1991, she was part of a peace encampment on the Iraq-Saudi border and helped coordinate medical relief convoys, as she also did in Bosnia and Haiti. During the Clinton administration she and friends formed a group to use nonviolent civil disobedience against America's ongoing economic and military warfare against the Iraqi people. They organized over seventy delegations to Iraq in violation of the US/UK economic sanctions, which caused the deaths of a half million children.

In the spring of 2004, she served three months at Pekin federal prison for her non-violent witness against the so-called School for Assassins at Fort Benning, GA. She is currently co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence and the author of several books, notably OTHER LANDS HAVE DREAMS: FROM BAGHDAD TO PEKIN PRISON.

Her principal talk in town will on Thursday, October 4, at 7pm, at the Community United Church of Christ, 6th and Daniel streets in Champaign. The title is "BATTLEFIELD WITHOUT BORDERS, CONSEQUENCES WITHOUT END."

For more information, see the AWARE website at