Justice for Fallujah Project:
Ross Caputi joined the US Marine Corps in June 2003. A year and a half later, he found himself participating in the 2nd siege of Fallujah, one of the most destructive operations of the entire occupation of Iraq.
It took Ross years to come to grips with the harm that he had helped bring to innocent people in Fallujah. Thousands of civilians had been killed. An entire city had been destroyed. When he learned of the crisis of birth defects and cancer plaguing Fallujah, he could no longer ignore the obligation he had to the people of Fallujah.
Ross founded the Justice for Fallujah Project in 2010. He has since organized Remember Fallujah Week every November to call on us all to remember the atrocities committed during the 2nd siege. In 2013 he released his documentary film, Fear Not the Path of Truth: a veteran’s journey after Fallujah.
After years of speaking out and raising awareness, Ross realized that something more was needed. Truth-telling alone was insufficient if Fallujans never saw justice for what was done to them. Ross wanted to do more. The concept of reparations brought him to more direct action, not only for Fallujans, but for so many others impacted by empire and its wars.
When the US invaded Iraq for the 2nd time in 2003, Debra and Kali made every effort to stop the invasion. By 2007, having failed to stop the invasion, they felt it necessary to give voluntary reparations to the Iraqi people for their complicity in the occupation.
They wanted to go to the Middle East, bear witness to the atrocities experienced there, and offer their labor and expertise. One Iraqi friend living in the US challenged them. He said: “If you can keep just one child alive for one year, only then do you deserve to face the Iraqi people. Until then, you have not proven to Iraqis, or even to yourselves, that you can have a material impact.”
He pointed them to a dire medical case: Amani. She had a rare blood disorder that was too expensive for the UNHCR to pay for, and her family had already spent everything they had. Amani was dying.
The Santa Cruz community, and friends from other parts of California, crowd-sourced over $10,000. With help from contacts in Jordan, they sent money for Amani’s medication and received photos of Amani being treated each month. Those acting in the spirit of Islah kept Amani alive for a full year. Meanwhile, advocates worked to expedite Amani’s resettlement. She and her family now live in Michigan, where Amani’s health is maintained.
In 2009, Debra and Kali took a leave of absence from work and college to live in Jordan and Syria. There, they asked their Iraqi friends and neighbors for the opportunity to give reparations for their complicity in the US occupation of Iraq. Those who accepted asked for different things:
Medical cases abounded during this year of reparations. But for many other families, the primary concern was resettlement. Debra and Kali found that by approaching the UNHCR on behalf of individual families, they were able to sort out longstanding stagnation in the settlement process. Institutional representation became a critical form of reparations they did not expect. Their reparations work has been ongoing ever since.
When Debra and Kali connected with Ross and Cam, they realized their reparations efforts had outgrown their small family and needed to become an organization that took on larger projects of repair.