Longtime community organizer Elce Redmond has joined a 6-member team traveling to Iraq, as part of a delegation sponsored by Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT). Elce and the team departed Sept. 16 and will return Sept. 30.
Redmond will document current conditions in Iraq, meeting with representatives of non-governmental organizations, Iraqi human rights groups, the U.S. military, and others.
We asked him what he hoped to accomplish.
Redmond: Pretty much to work with the non-governmental organizations there, develop strategies and tactics on infrastructure issues like the streets, the water treatment, the uncollected garbage. Bechtel, which is a large multinational corporation, has the contract to do all that, and they haven’t done it. The residents there are concerned, and they want to organize, so I’m going to help them do that.
AWN: Where will you stay?
Redmond: Baghdad, a private residence. I’ll be in Baghdad and probably travel to some of the other places like Basrah and Tikrit. We hope to have an accountability session with some Bechtel officials before I leave on Friday, Sept. 30. I think that organizing is the way to go. The only way to deal with violence is through non-violent militant needs. If people have strategies and tactics and have a real target, they don’t need to resort to violence. For organizing to succeed in Iraq, it has to be in pursuit of positive short- and long-term demands. People don’t organize just because they are oppressed or exploited. They organize for something?”they organize because they have higher goals and objectives that seem achievable. I believe that community organizing is a great tool to address the issues of oppression and disenfranchisement. Violence solves nothing.
Redmond has conducted leadership development and organizing training sessions in other war-torn countries, including Bosnia-Herzegovina; Belfast, Ireland; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Dili, East Timor; and Yamoussoukro, Cote D’Ivoire to name a few.
Redmond is a member of the South Austin Coalition. The organization held a small going away party for Elce on Friday prior to his departure.
(Bechtel Corp. is under contract with the U.S. government to repair, rehabilitate and reconstruct Iraq’s infrastructure. It includes restoring power and water, and repairing schools, clinics, and bridges, and restoring telephone service. The contract runs from January 2004 through December 2005, with a value of up to $1.8 billion?”see bechtel.com)