Operation Burning Bush, peace activist plans Iraq trip

Santa Barbara News-Press

Santa Barbara, California

"I'm mainly interested in reaching out to the people who are just frustrated (with the crisis), but haven't found a way to solve it."
--- David Crockett Williams, Peace Promoter

Thursday, November 22, 1990

Isla Vista peace activist plans Iraq trip

By Chris Malcolm
News-Press Staff Writer

There is a small island in the Tigris River just off the coast of Iraq where David Crockett Williams believes peace will thrive.

"But there are certainly some things to be done before that's achieved," said Williams, a 45-year-old resident of Isla Vista.

Williams wants to go to Iraq.

Plans to organize 100 people, including Native American Indian chiefs and peace activists, for a trip to the island are under way. The local group would stay at a peace camp that was set up on the island several weeks ago in response to the growing tensions between the United States and Iraq.

The main focus of Williams' mission, dubbed "Operation Burning Bush," is to promote the non-violent teachings of the Indians. Mohawk Chief Jake Swamp, who planted a tree of peace on the UCSB campus five years ago, has already said he would go. The mission would include planting a similar tree in Iraq as well as carrying a Peace Flame from Santa Barbara to Baghdad.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson has been invited to meet the group and Williams said plans have been made to meet with Iraq officials. The mission will also include a tentative address to the United Nations General Assembly by Chief Swamp. After the address, the group would fly to Iraq.

The trip is far from fantasy, Williams said.

"I'm mainly interested in reaching out to the people who are just frustrated (with the crisis), but haven't found a way to solve it," Williams said Wednesday after meeting with several interested student groups on the UCSB campus. Several area peace groups and six campus groups, including the Associated Students Lobby Office, have endorsed the mission.

So far 12 people, not including Chief Swamp and nine other native Americans, have told Williams they will go.

Williams spent three days in October speaking to officials from the Iraqi Embassy in Washington, D.C. and said they were "interested in any overture of peace." Plans to transport the mission on an Iraqi Airliner are also under way. The problems begin there.

Williams and his friend Lawrence Karol are seeking funding to take the activists and gear from Santa Barbara to New York. The two are unsure how much that leg of the journey will cost, although Operation Real Security, an Arizona-based peace group, has said it might help fund the trip.

The drive behind the entire mission is the peaceful teachings of Native Americans who stress non-violence and cooperation. Operation Burning Bush also includes a four day walk from Baghdad to Babylon where the Indians would teach their non-violent beliefs to others.

Another problem is the credibility of the mission, which Williams admits seems far-fetched. Getting the word to international journalists in the Middle East who can publicize the island is a key part to the success of his trip, he said. The mission is planned to begin by the end of November although that depends entirely on funding and the public's response.

"If it looks like a reality," Karol said, "the public gets behind it. But they don't want to be in a position where they're left hanging."

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Note that within a few weeks after this when support was not apparent, Chief Jake Swamp phoned to withdraw his agreement to go to Iraq then. Recently he has expressed interest to go to Jerusalem and conduct the Peace Tree planting ceremony there and offer the Iroquois teachings from the Peacemaker about the Great Law of Peace and the Tree of Peace, pending support for such mission.