Babylon, continued from page 17 site, with a friendly posse of schoolkids, the only visitors this morning, trailing behind us chanting “Down Down Bush!” practicing their rudimentary English and slapping fives. “How are you?” and “Hi, my name is Muhammad!” are particular favorites. The Shields have come to Babylon hoping to set up shop here, but the Iraqi authorities build roadblocks. The Minders want us to install at what they consider to be priority infrastructure sitesrefineries, power, plants, water treatment facilities that are sure to be bombedbut not hospitals, schools, or the ancient ruins that define this place. We send our volunteers into the facilities that the government insists we man and woman in pursuit of a quid pro quo that would hopefully grant us access to the humanitarian sites we have come here to protect. But there is no real dialogue with the authorities, and the push and pull of where the Shields now in Baghdad will be deployed seems destined for a dark end. Spanish and Turkish comrades have already threatened to return to their home countries unless they are allowed to pitch their tents in front of local hospitals, but how easily their exit will be accomplished is still anyone’s guess. No, we are not yet unwelcome guests, but the writing is indeed on the wall, and the choices narrow as the war draws near. But settling in at the Daura Oil Refinery and the Seventh of April Water Treatment Facility is only half the business we are about. The international volunteers are resolved to maintain a steady drumbeat of street protest, and almost daily we parade along the boulevards of Baghdad, yelling at both Bush and Blair to get off the Iraqi peoples’ backs. On Sunday, February 23, we strung up a 17-meterlong banner on one of the eight bridges that connect the banks of the Tigris River \(all were blown up the last time ous honking of horns. “BushThe Whole World Is Watching You!” the banner reads, but whether it can be seen 10,000 miles away in Tampa, Florida, from whence the missiles will be triggered, is not assured. That same morning, we marched on the United Nations headquarters here, our hands tied together by thick rope, to ask that international tribunals be convened to try us for the war crime of being human shields, as suggested by U.S. “Defense” Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Should we be declared innocent, we demand that Rumsfeld be tried instead for the potential million murders his grotesque weaponry could mow down in the coming days. The day before, the Turkish comrades had danced through Martyrs’ Square, pounding drums and tambourines in an exuberant effort to drown out the dirges of death that Bush and Blair duet. Earlier that morning, we had descended upon the International Press Center, hollering “No More Lies!” into the cubicles of corporate media. Those folks just love ing ratings and bigger budgets, billions in expanded advertising revenues, and extravagant overtime for the all-star corre John RosS Marcia Perskie spondents and their crews. “No More Lies!” we shouted at a CNN flunky who stomped out of her cardboard-walled cave muttering “I ask the questions around here.” But for all our fury, in the still of the soon-to-beexploding, we know it is all a pantomime.The. missiles will whistle in very soon. Many here would just as soon get it over with as quickly as possible because the waiting is killing their souls. “We eat America for breakfast,” says Bassam, an ex-army man who invented a way to feed sheep war, and now works as a driver at the swank Palestine Hotel. “Every morning, we listen to the news. If it is good our day will be good but if it is bad we cannot eat…” Bassam and I have agreed to celebrate our birthdays togethermy 65th is March 11 th, when we may still be alive, but his is April 19th, by which date our fate will surely be sealed. Only an impossible miraclethe apparition of the Pope in Baghdad or a transplant of George W. Bush’s evil heartcan save us now John Ross, who normally sends dispatches from Mexico, traveled to Baghdad last month to be a Human Shield.He implores you to try and save his life by inkrming the President of the United States and your congressional representative that he is on site at the Daura Oil Refinery in Baghdad. Demand that the White House cancel plans to bomb that facilityand indeed all others in the ancient land of Iraq.
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