Human Shields pour into Iraq; 100,000 Jordanians offer to join them

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Tue Jan 14 05:13:20 MST 2003


Human Shield volunteers appear to be  coming to Iraq by the many hundreds
and possibly even thousands,  and 100,000 Jordanians have offered to join
them. Three current news clippings.
http://www.sky.com/skynews/article/0,,30200-12224449,00.html

Sky News (Britain)
January 14, 2003
American's Human Shield Plan For Iraq
EX-MARINE'S PEACE PROTEST
A former US marine is leading a campaign against a
second Gulf war by going to Baghdad to become a human
shield.

Ken Nichols O'Keefe wants to prevent attacks on the
Iraqi people. He claims to have been "overwhelmed" by
the number of others who want to take similar action.


"I believe our so-called democracies are not
representing the views of their people," he told Sky
News. "Polls show people are against war but
governments are clearly leading us into a conflict."

"George W. Bush has more than 7,000 nuclear weapons.
He has said as recently as last month that he is
willing to use them. The US must disarm first, then
the rest of the world would be justifiably compelled
to do the same."

Mr O'Keefe served in the first Gulf War in the early
1990s but later renounced his American citizenship.

He strongly denies he is being supported by the Iraqi
government.

"It's a ludicrous suggestion, " he said. "But I'm not
a pacifist, either. I just believe people have the
right to fight back if they are threatened. I stand by
what I believe in - I'm concerned about the state of
the world.

"People in the West are lulled into a state of
prosperity and comfort which makes them quite naive to
the fact that we are on the brink of a global
revolution."

Mr O'Keefe warned that the US had no interest in
popular democracy in Iraq.

"If that was so, the oil would have to be distributed
equitably. Any government after Saddam would be a
puppet regime doing the bidding of the US and
protecting its oil interests."

Mr O'Keefe plans to leave for Iraq on January 25.

He claims that huundreds of people have volunteered to
go there, in what he calls a mass migration, "with the
ultimate goal of saving thousands of brothers and
sisters whose only crime is the existence of oil
beneath their feet".
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A51883-2003Jan13.html


Activists Bring War Protests to Baghdad (excerpt)
by  Rajiv Chandrasekaran
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, January 14, 2003

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Jan. 13 -- With tens of thousands of
U.S. troops mobilizing for a possible invasion, waves
of anti-war activists have descended on Baghdad in
recent days to plead for a peaceful solution to the
showdown between the Bush administration and President
Saddam Hussein's government.

They include Italian legislators, South African
Muslims, German musicians and a flurry of Americans,
from church leaders and professors to four women who
lost relatives in the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
They have reasoned that the backdrop of Baghdad, where
scars are still visible from the 1991 confrontation
with the United States, will give added currency to
their appeals for peace.

Although most said they plan to leave by this weekend,
others claiming to represent several hundred
protesters from Europe, the United States and
neighboring Arab nations said they intend to arrive
later in the month to engage in a far riskier form of
activism: They plan to act as human shields, hunkering
down in hospitals, water-treatment plants and other
civilian installations to dissuade U.S. commanders
from targeting those facilities.

The peace delegations and the impending influx of
human shields have delighted Iraqi officials, who have
given some of the visitors VIP treatment, including
arranging conversations with senior government
officials, banquet meals and trips to hospitals and
schools. The government even helped the South Africans
organize a brief demonstration in front of the local
U.N. headquarters.

"Not in Hanoi or Panama or Baghdad last time, or
anywhere else for that matter, has there been this
many people coming to a city that probably will be
bombed to bits saying, 'Don't do it. It doesn't make
sense. There are other ways to resolve this
disagreement,' " said James Jennings, the president of
Conscience International, an anti-war group based in
Atlanta.

For all the trouble and expense involved in traveling
here, the activists appear split on whether their
trips will help prevent a war. Jennings said that a
U.S. invasion seems inevitable, while others expressed
hope that there is still time for a change of heart in
Washington.

"We wouldn't be here if we didn't think there would be
a point to it," said Keith Watenpaugh, a history
professor at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, N.Y., who
came here Sunday night with a 35-person delegation of
American academics and activists that is led by
Jennings and includes Bianca Jagger, the longtime
human rights advocate and former wife of Mick Jagger
of the Rolling Stones.

"We're going to go back to our schools and our
communities to tell them what's happening here,"
Watenpaugh said. "People in America need to see people
who think it's okay to oppose this war."

Most of the activists have not waited to return before
beginning their lobbying efforts. With the
encouragement and sometimes the assistance of their
Iraqi hosts, they have sought out foreign journalists
through news conferences and photo opportunities.

Several activists said that even if they fail to sway
the White House, they hope their efforts will
complicate the Pentagon's war plans and lead European
nations to sit out the action, spoiling the Bush
administration's hope for an international coalition
against Hussein. In most West European nations,
including Britain, France and Germany, a majority of
people questioned in opinion surveys oppose
participation in an attack.

That is also the logic behind the Iraqi government's
decision to welcome the activists. "It helps us to
strengthen public opinion in Europe," said Abdelrazak
Hashimi, director of the Organization for Friendship,
Peace and Solidarity, a quasi-governmental group that
coordinates visiting delegations. "It proves we are
not alone . . . and it has an effect."

Although the Iraqi government has offered to pay for
hotels, food and, in some cases, airline tickets, the
leaders of each of the large peace groups here over
the past week said they financed their trips
independently. But unlike journalists and many others
who want to visit Iraq, the activists had no problems
getting visas, sometimes receiving them in just a day
or two.

Hashimi said his government also will eagerly admit
people who want to serve as human shields. "If we can
prevent the war any way we can, we have the privilege
and the right to do it," he said.

"The inspections seem to be working," said Terry Kay
Rockefeller of Arlington, Mass., a member of Peaceful
Tomorrows, an anti-war advocacy group made up of
relatives of Sept. 11 victims.

"Why not let them continue?" said Rockefeller, whose
sister, Laura Rockefeller, died in the attack on the
World Trade Center. "Why are we rushing into a war?"

She and three other members of Peaceful Tomorrows,
like many of the peace groups who have traveled here,
were taken by government escorts on tours intended to
highlight the devastation of the Gulf War and the
economic sanctions imposed after Iraq's 1990 invasion
of Kuwait. They saw a Baghdad bomb shelter that was
incinerated by a U.S. cruise missile. They visited the
cancer ward of a children's hospital where doctors say
they lack adequate chemotherapy drugs. And they saw a
school that lacks electricity and running water.

"I truly believe if people understood the actual
conditions and the extent of the suffering, people
would want to see something different than what they
are proposing to do," said Kristina Olsen, a singer
from Newburyport, Mass., whose sister, Laurie Neira,
was aboard the American Airlines plane that crashed
into the World Trade Center's North Tower.

None of the activists said they support Hussein's
authoritarian government, and several said they were
troubled by an inability to ask political questions to
ordinary people they met.

"We're here out of no love for the current regime,"
Watenpaugh said. "But we're also opposed to the
arrogant American position that we know what's best
for the Iraqi people."



http://abc.net.au/news/newsitems/s763127.htm
Australian Broadcasting Company
Janaury 14, 2003 (excerpt)

Jordanian group delays departure of 'human shields'
A pro-Iraqi Jordanian group says the departure of a
first group of 100 volunteer "human shields" to
Baghdad has been delayed in line with Iraqi wishes.

The National Mobilisation Committee for the Defence of
Iraq also announced in a statement, more than 100,000
Jordanians have signed up to serve as "human shields"
in Iraq in the run-up to an eventual US-led war on
Baghdad.

"In view of contacts with Iraq... the committee has
decided to delay the departure of the first group of
participants in this Arab and international campaign
until further notice," the statement said.

"We urge the Jordanian people to appreciate the reason
for this delay which is due to a congestion in the
Iraqi capital, Baghdad, which has seen the arrival of
a large number of delegations from across the world
who wish to express their rejection of an aggression
on Iraq."

Anti-war groups have succeeded one another to Iraq
over the past few weeks from the four corners of the
world, including Europe and the United States, as war
clouds gather over the country amid a US troop
build-up in the region.

The committee said that more than 100,000 Jordanians
had signed so-called "honour lists" as part of its
campaign to dispatch "human shields" to Baghdad to
protect key Iraqi installations against eventual
US-led military strikes.

The group announced last week the first group of 100
"human shields" would leave for Iraq on January 16,
"to spend a week in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, around
sensitive sites to share the danger," facing Iraq's
people.



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