JOHN ROSS Back From Babylon AMMAN, Jordan n the day that the Blix report was broadcast to an expectant universe, my Turkish comrade, exGreenpeace Mediterranean campaigner and Elvis Presley lookalike Tolga Temuge, and I were perched upon the rickety roof of the engine house at the Daum oil refinery in west Baghdad. We were marking the site with industrial black paint, when the Human Shield action finally fell irrevocably apart. We had already filled in the six-meter-long 1-1-U and were outlining the M in the words that, when spelled out completely, would signal George Bush’s missiles that the refinery was a United Nations-certified civilian site that provides fuel and home heating oil to the residents of Baghdad and beyond. By blasting the plant off the face of the earth, the U.S. president would also be endangering the lives of his own citizens and those of many other nations. Suddenly a delegation from the Organization of Peace and Friendship, our hosts in Iraq, summoned us down to the ground to read us the riot act. Under a fatwa issued by Dr. Abdul Al-Hasimi, the “non-governmental” group’s director, we were ordered to leave Iraq immediately, banished because we had usurped the function of an existing NGO by facilitating the deployment of over 100 Shields to five key infrastructure sites in and around Baghdad. Now the NGO and the government of Saddam Hussein would take control of such deployments. Among those who would be forced to leave were Gordon, a rangy, spike-haired Australian who was now coordinating the site assignments; Eva, an uppity lawyer from Slovenia who had led many of the unprecedented anti-war demonstrations on the streets of Baghdad that were an essential adjunct to our work; and ex-Desert Storm Marine Ken Nichols O’Keefe, the initiator of the Human Shield action whose confrontational style and delusions of personal aggrandizement had thoroughly disaffected the Iraqi government. At a disturbing meeting the previous evening, Dr. AlHasimi had accused us of, among other heinous crimes, forcing volunteers to attend three-hour meetings against their will. The expulsions effectively decapitated an action whose autonomy had become a thorn in the side of Saddam just as George Bush was revving up his killing machine. As Hans Blix was pronouncing his words to the UN Security Council, we gathered at the Meridian Palestine Hotel. My Turkish pal and I argued that we needed to depart quietly into the night so as not to hand Bush new ammunition for his crazed crusade to “liberate” Iraq. Saddam was a problem, as are all two-bit dictators installed by the CIA, but not the primary enemy of world peace. Now it was time to go home and deepen the larger movement, the one against Bush’s reign of terror, of which the Human Shields had always been just a sideshow. Accompanied by four drum-pounding Buddhist monks who kept muttering about what a crazy world they had walked into, we were soon on the road. Out there in the dark of the desert only marginally illuminated by the sliver of a new moon, with an uncertain destination in our immediate future, my cohorts dozed while I eyed the thick necks of our minders. Would our hosts veer suddenly into the wilderness, order us out, strip us naked, and riddle our corpses with dun-dum bullets as payback for our gratuitous disobedience? Would the iron gates of Saddam Prison ominously yawn open to receive us? None of the above. They were genuinely embarrassed by the prospect of expelling us from a country we had come to protect with our lives.They treated us with kindly kid gloves, shaking our hands at the border, and inviting us back once the terrible deeds up ahead were done with and the Iraqi people could finally live in peace. The illuminated sign at the Iraqi border featured the usual portrait of Uncle Saddam and the unusual inscription: “Isn’t it nice to come to the border of a country where no one has impeded your mission?”The gods of irony were working overtime in that frigid desert dawn. The morning sandstorm blew furiously as we swerved up towards Amman, dodging the endless train of rusting tanker trucks that defy the unconscionable UN sanctions by ferrying fuel to the oil-less kingdom of Jordan. The blinding grit flew continued on page 23 My Turkish pal and I argued that we needed to depart quietly into the night so as not to hand Bush new ammunition for his crazed crusade to “liberate” Iraq. Saddam was a problem, as are all two bit dictators installed by the CIA, but not the primary enemy of world peace. Now it was time to go home and deepen the larger movement. 3/28/03 THE TEXAS OBSERVER t3
You May Also Like
The documentary in Falfurrias is sinister and spiritual.