She’s going to be gone for only four days, but it’s where Leah Wells went that makes Devon Chaffee so nervous.
“I’m extremely concerned,” said Chaffee, who works with Wells in Santa Barbara. “My cell phone never leaves my hip.”
Wells is in Iraq. She left Monday and isn’t scheduled to be back in United States until Friday.
The 26-year-old Wells, who works for the Santa Barbara-based Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, said she felt compelled to go there despite Iraq being in President Bush’s cross hairs.
She said she has no illusions that her trip will change Bush’s mind, even though she is being joined by 1,000 students from around the world protesting any use of force against Iraq.
“I think the goal isn’t to be successful. It’s to be faithful to what we believe in,” Wells said Monday while on a stopover in Chicago. “We have to act as compassionate human beings toward those who have been through 12 years of hardship.”
The State Department isn’t condoning trips to Iraq. Its Web site informs travelers that there is no U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. In fact, the Polish Embassy, which was being used for Americans in distress, also is closed.
“It’s not a real good idea to be going there,” a State Department official said. “We’re asking people not to go to that particular region.”
That doesn’t matter to Wells. What does matter is the story of the people who live in Iraq. She said her job is to document the lives of average Iraqis using her digital video camera and interviews.
Wells will bring this information back to the United States to share both with her Santa Barbara friends and some students she teaches in Santa Paula.
“Raw vegetables are hard to come by for the average citizen there,” she said. “The water is contaminated. They need help, not bombs.”
As for Saddam Hussein, she knows his government is repressive, and she does not support it. But, the pacifist said, war isn’t the answer.
Instead, she likes to quote an ancient proverb that says when two elephants fight, it’s the grass that gets hurt.
“Nobody is talking about the grass,” she said. “That’s why we have to.”