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Today inBaghdad

by Jeff Guntzel/Iraq Peace Team Monday, Mar. 24, 2003 at 3:44 PM
info@vitw.org

In Baghdad today as I write, things are relatively quiet, but we have seen bomb craters...

Dear friends,

In Baghdad as I write, things are relatively quiet. Today IPT

delegate

Wade Hudson had a chance to take a limited drive around Baghdad with a

driver and a government minder. After passing by the still smoking

Ministry

of Foreign Affairs building, he drove to a residential neighborhood

where he

reports having seen a bomb crater 8 to 12 feet deep "in the middle of a

wide,

divided street. Traffic in one direction was blocked." He also

reported

passing by "many small homes in the neighborhood with all of their

front

windows blown out, presumably from the blast that created the crater."

A few hours ago, we spoke with Kathy Kelly at the Al Fanar hotel in

downtown

Baghdad. Kathy told us that they will be going around and visiting

some

hospitals tomorrow where there are apparently quite a lot of children.

It is

expected that the worst is yet to come.

This grim forecast is not mitigated by Gen. Tommy Franks’ promise

earlier

today of "a campaign unlike any other in history, a campaign

characterized

by shock, by surprise, by flexibility, by the employment of precise

munitions

on a scale never before seen, and by the application of overwhelming

force."

We are getting unconfirmed reports of fighting in Basra, Iraq’s second

largest city. Regretfully, we have no IPT presence outside of Baghdad.

We

are trying to reach friends in Basra and have had little success. Just

two

very shaky connections that were terminated after less than a minute.

This war is an explosion of uncertainties. In the recently "liberated"

town of

Safwan, on the Iraq-Kuwait border, a reporter for the Guardian today

may

have unwittingly provided a window into the next weeks, months or years

in

Iraq:

"Yesterday afternoon a truck drove down a side road in the Iraqi town

of

Safwan, laden with rugs and furniture. Booty or precious possessions?

In a

day of death, joy and looting, it was hard to know.

"[T]he marines' presence was light. They had not brought food,

medicines,

or even order. All day hundreds of armoured vehicles poured through the

town. But they did not stop, and the looting continued. Every

government

establishment seemed to be fair game. People covered their faces in

shame as they carried books out of a school. Tawfik Mohammed, the

headmaster, initially denied his school had been looted, then admitted

it.

'This is the result of your entering,' he said. 'Whenever any army

enters an

area it becomes chaos. We are cautious about the future. We are very

afraid.'"

Exactly one month ago, also in Safwan, the Iraq Peace Team released an

open letter to members of the United States Military. The letter, read

to the

press as nearly 100,000 soldiers prepared an invasion just miles away,

attempted to provide some measure of clarity in a time of hysteria:

"To U.S. soldiers and sailors: our prayer for every one of you is for a

quick

return to families and loved ones without having to participate in the

horrors

of war. We recognize that you have been placed in a position full of

anxiety

and danger, and we share in the responsibility for you being here. We

recognize you are in this position because back home we do not truly

govern ourselves - but are instead ruled by a minority who decide

questions

of war and peace in the interests of the few instead of the many. Our

inadequate democracy has led us into deadly quagmires in the past, and

now to the brink of another conflict that can only be described as a

tragic war

of empire."

Today we are neck deep in a conflict millions of us worked tirelessly

to stop.

Still, the protests grow. As the war-makers threaten a "campaign

unlike any

other in history," let us continue to match their promise.

Sincerely,

Jeff Guntzel, for Voices in the Wilderness



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