Sunday, November 30, 2003

Sunday, November 30, 2003 5:52 pm

Will blog quickly because I need to go to dinner soon. Today we got up early for a trip to ancient Babalon. Believe me when I say that this excavated city no longer gets "tourists". We had to have permission and be escorted into the site by the Polish Army since it is completely surrounded as a military encampment. However, inside we were met by an Iraqi archeologist who gave us an excellent tour of the ancient city. It was something very incredible....and built 6,000 years ago. Even at that time, this land had courts, writings, libraries, and plumbing.

We also took time to visit with some of the soldiers (U.S. army and Polish) stationed there and handed out fliers reminding them of international human rights. This has been a great issue since U.S. military "justice" officials are quick to point out that apparently the U.S. has never signed the Geneva Convention. Still, we like to remind soldiers of the basic ethical responsibilities that they have and they seem to enjoy the contact with CPT.

I seem to have caught a minor cold, but hope to clear it up tonight with several hot teas ("chi" in Arabic).

We are having a surprise birthday party tonight for one of the CPT members, Anne Montgomery. She turned 77 today and I found a shop with birthday cakes and will pick up a couple of tallboys on the way home from the Inet cafe.

Tomorrow we go to Fallujah. Peace, Charlie

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Sunday, November 30, 2003 5:43 pm from the Balloon Internet Cafe, Baghdad

Sorry I wasn't able to blog for 2 days. Friday things closed down early, like on Sunday evening in the U.S. Yesterday we didn't get back from Kerbala early enough. With the power going in and out (and losing my blogs), I'll write Friday and Saturday's and then create a new blog for today.

Friday we first went to the orphanage run by Sisters of Charity (Mother Theresa's order). They take care of about 20 severely handicapped children (cerebral palsy to congenital malformations). We were there in time also to feed the children lunch, a big help since each child needed to be spoon-fed. Then I went to Friday "mosque" with Safa to Faraj Ali Al-Saleh, a new mosque. We had lunch with the Imman and the mosque owner/realtor. Lots of good discussions about the current situation. Later that evening I had dinner at the home of Seeham Abas along with 3 of her sons (her husband and other son were at work). It was a good reunion. We ate by lamplight due to the lack of electricity.

Yesterday we visited the city of Kerbala (home of the famous Shi'i shrine) and met with the Human Rights Organization there. After that we held a joint prayer service at some of the graves of those who were killed by Saddam in the 1991 uprising in that city (over 100,000). We didn't arrive back to Baghdad until about 9 pm because the highway was backed up for hours as cars were routed around where (we later learned) Spanish spooks were attacked and killed. We could see the helicopters, humvees and the burned out white stationwagon as we slowly crawled through the small village of Al-Latafiah.

(see today in the next blog up)

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Sunday November 30, 2003 5:23 pm from the Balloon Internet Cafe, Baghdad

Sorry I haven't been able to blog for the past 2 days. Friday things closed early (like Sunday evenings in the U.S.). Yesterday we didn't get back from Kerbala until late (see below). Things here at the Inet cafe go up and down depending on the electrical situation AND evething is slow.

Friday we started out with a trip to the orphanage run by the Sisters of Charity (Mother Theresa's order). They attend to about 20 severly disabled children with everything from cerebral palsy to congenital deformities. We also got to help feed them lunch - a big chore for the sisters because all of the children want to be fed right away and there aren't enough hands to go around. I also attended the Faraj Ali Al-Saleh mosque with Safa. It is a new mosque in a tony part of town. Had lunch with the realtor/owner and visited with the Amman. More on this later. That evening I went to Seeham Abas' home for dinner and got to see her and three of her sons once again. A good reunion, but by lamplight since the power was off (as usual).

Yesterd, we went to Kerbabala to meet with the Human Rights Organization of that city and to hold a joint prayer service at one of the sites of the victims of the 1991 uprising that were killed (perhaps as many as 100,000 in Kerbala)

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Thursday, November 27, 2003

Thursday - November 27, 2003 Thanksgiving 4:10 pm Baghdad time

I've just sent out my first article, on the religious life here and hope it gets forwarded. I'm writing up my trip inside the "Green Zone" and what is going on with the military here and also the special Thanksgiving feast that we have planned for this evening (it's a secret).

Today we visited the World Health Office (WHO) that is only being manned by a skeleton crew of Iraqi professionals. After seeing, at close hand, the destruction of the Red Cross center I can understand why they are on such high alert at the WHO. We heard a bit of automatic fire last night and "booms" are frequent in the distance throughout the day. However, everyone goes about their business and usual and even the women on our team who have been here awhile are unafraid of walking unescorted through the streets. Yesterday, when we were in another part of town someone, a local, joked "you know I could get a lot of money if I kidnapped you and held you for ransom." He was only joking but those are the kind of thoughts that enter my mind from time to time.

This morning we returned to the Amerya shelter that was bombed in 1991 with one of the "smart" bombs. Approximately 400 women and children were killed there. Since the electricity was out in that part of the city, we entered the building with only the light from the bomb-hole in the roof. Someone wondered if any of the members of the current U.S. occupation, the visiting congressmen, and women, or any other administration official had ever visited the site. I wonder.

It has also been raining for the past three days. While it is welcome to recieve rain in the desert, the streets have turned muddy and the sky is overcast and gray.

However, we have a great Thanksgiving "surprise" scheduled for our team (no it's NOT at the Bob Hope Dining Hall at the Airport). I'll have more about that in an article soon.

After spending several days talking to folks throughout all parts of the city I am getting a clearer picture of the situation and how the US peace community might respond. There are varying opinions about whether it would be better if the US leaves now or later but the general consensus is that the sooner the Iraqis are in charge the better off everything will be, so - Bring them home now! Anger continues to grow over the occupation and the US mission is still a LONG way from any sort of normalcy here. The current plans for the puppet government to take over next July 1 is being condemned roundly by all quarters here. This has made it tough for the professionals at the Coalition Provisional Authorities (CPA) to fulfill their mission from Washington and it appears that cooperation is going down - not up - despite the millions (billions) of dollars that are being thrown at it. There is general fear that more, and larger attacks on the military may be being planned and that, if they come, the US will respond by escalating into a full-scale war. Let's hope not, for both the Iraqi people and our own (not to mention world peace).

More blog tomorrow. Charlie

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Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Wednesday - November 25, 2003 7:00 pm Baghdad

I wasn't able to write yesterday because of our schedule. The latest that the Internet cafes stay open is 9:30 pm. I've waited one hour for this machine so I'll give a quick blog of today and yesterday.

Yesterday we spent much of the day at the Abu Hanifa Mosque in West Baghdad as the guest of the Imman (religious leader). This is the largest Suni mosque in the City.

We learned much about the Mosque but also saw the damage that was done during the fighting by U.S. soldiers who sent a missile through their tower and used RPGs inside to gain access to the interior rooms, including their relic (the tomb of Abu Hanifa).

The Imman, Shiek Mouyad Al-Adhami is in his early 40's and, well educated and jovial. His take is that Saddam was "a devil" but also that the U.S. "promise to do somethings but we hve seen nothing." He says that things are getting worse in his part of the city. More about this trip later.

I was responsible for cooking dinner for our group so was busy in the evening getting things ready for that.

Today we had a quite busy schedule. We visited 2 families who had their home bombed, went to the National Museum that was ransacked (closed today for the holidays), and also had a visit with the Coaition Provisional Authority within the "Green Zone". That meeting revealed some interesting things about some of the personalities that are making decisions about Iraq.

I'll have a full report soon but suffice to say that those in charge don't seem to have a clue as to what is going on outside of their walls. They seem to be frustrated.

We also visited the bomb United Nations building and also the International Red Cross (ICRC) building that was bombed by terrorists. The rain today and the gray skys only added to the somber scene.

It's night but the streets are full of fireworks and children enjoying the holiday (even with the power out), lots of car horns, etc. Businesses like this Internet Cafe (the Balloon Cafe) run on generators.

See you with more soon. CJ

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Monday, November 24, 2003

Monday November 24, 2003 9:00 pm Baghdad time.

Today we visited the oncology department of the chief Children's hospital in Iraq. The staff gave us a very good overview of the way conditions worsened during the years of sanctions and what the current situation looks like today. Unfortunately they have not had any doctors to help out from the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) or even volunteer doctors from the U.S. They have only had one doctor volunteer from Italy. They have seen about a 10% increase in medications but the conditions of the hospital, like most in Iraq, remains in dire straights. Our meeting on depleted uranium (DU) at the World Health Organization (WHO) office was postponed due to the start of holidays following Rammadan.

Today starts Eid, the most significant holiday on the Muslim calendar, and will go on through Friday. Lots of families are out visiting and I've been invited to one Kareem's home on Friday to eat with her family (see photo page). More soon.

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Sunday, November 23, 2003

Sunday Nov. 23, 2003 4:oo pm Baghdad Time

from the Baghdad Internet Cafe:

After spending some time this morning getting acquainted, we took a taxi to the Human Rights Organization of Baghad, located next to the Ministry of Justice. Along the way we saw the many ministry and commerical buildings that were bombed. Most of the green zone and other "important buildings" (i.e. where U.S. contractors and media live) are surrounding by 12 foot concrete walls and concertina wire. Entire sections of the city are off limits to traffic. Military presence is light with the troops esconced within their "secure" zones.

I'll have more on the human rights violations in another report.

I am taking a break before we go to evening mass at St. Raphael's Church (Catholic) which is just up the street from our hotel. Then we are scheduled to go to dinner with members of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) stationed here.

I will post more tomorrow and begin to write some of the stories with more details about what life is like here and what we are learning about the current situation in Iraq.

BTW, the Inet cafes are numerous and full of folks chatting, playing games, surfing, etc. Lots of clicking going on.


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Saturday, November 22, 2003

Sat. Nov. 22 3:15 Baghdad time. We finally made it here fine after a long flight to Amman, 4 hours in Amman and then left at 2:am to Baghdad. There are lots of new Internet cafes springing up throughout the town, however the connection leaving Iraq is still VERY slow. Electricity is also a problem so often things break down. Because of the slow connection I'll not write more (and we need sleep first). Look for more tomorrow. Charlie

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Wednesday, November 19, 2003

News reports from Iraq indicate that a new "Shock and Awe" campaign may be used to quell continuing insurgencies.

Here is a link to a story about the resumption of night bombings: http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/DA271053-1C31-44ED-9A70-95CE005050B9.htm

After seeing that the story mentions 1000 and 2000 lb bombs, I decided to look up and see what the effect of such bombs are. Here is a link to a military site that has an animation of an explosion: http://www.fas.org/man/dod-101/sys/dumb/fae.htm

I leave around noon tomorrow (November 20) for my 2-week visit to Iraq.

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Monday, November 17, 2003

1. Duluhaya: Destruction and Dignity

Message: 1
Date: Mon, 17 Nov 2003 03:35:37 -0600 (CST)
From: "CPT Iraq"
Subject: Duluhaya: Destruction and Dignity

Duluhaya: Destruction and Dignity

by Le Anne Clausen

Recently, CPT members Anne Montgomery and myself, and visitors Peter and
Meg Lumsdaine traveled north from Baghdad to the village of Duluhaya to
document human rights abuses by the US military. Duluhaya is a small
agricultural village just south of Samarra, in the ‘Sunni Triangle’ of

On the road, traffic was blocked for hours due to the ambush of a US
military Humvee. A sergeant blocking traffic one-half kilometer from the
ambush told us that Iraqi insurgents attacked the vehicle with an
improvised explosive device (IED) and a gunman firing an AK-47 after the
blast. He also said the soldiers inside the Humvee were very badly
wounded. However, something seemed awry: the Humvee was part of a
20-vehicle military convoy heading north along the road. There was
immediate availability of communications, but it was taking an unusually
long amount of time for a helicopter to arrive to transport the wounded.
I realized what this meant: the soldiers were likely already dead.

We next visited a farm near the village, which had been hit by US shelling
on September 29th. The 30kg shell destroyed a support pillar at the
corner of the house, as well as a one-square-meter area of the patio on
which it landed and shattered several windows. The shell hit the house at
10pm, when most of the family was inside the home. The family reported
that US forces had shelled the area nightly for the past three months.
The father of the home, who is a sheikh in the village, met with US forces
to ask them not to fight in civilian-occupied areas. “Every evening they
bomb my gardens,” he said. “We don’t need this; we need freedom and

The family members also took us to document walls around the village,
dozens of which had been bulldozed by US forces. “Any graffiti that
opposes the US military’s presence, they bulldoze the wall,” said one
relative. “They could use paint if they wanted to, but they want to teach
a lesson.” On one such wall, which fronted the village’s school building,
someone had written, “This is Democracy?”

Next we traveled to a large date palm grove which had been completely
clear-cut by the US military. The military said it was necessary to do
this because an insurgent fired upon US troops from the grove. Over 1,000
trees and two houses were destroyed in the process. Eighty families
nearby depended on the income from this grove. Date palms must grow for
fifteen years before they are able to bear fruit.

Our final stop for the day was a funeral. Men were lined up in mourners’
tents outside in a dusty field, while crowds of black-clad women filled
the house. We met the family of the man who had been killed by US forces
during a raid of their home. The man was killed as he was trying to
protect his wife from being beaten by the soldiers. The soldiers also
shot their 12-year-old son, wounding him in the shoulder, torso, and
thigh. The bullets are still in his body. Their house—doors, floors, and
even the refrigerator—-were pockmarked from the soldiers’ machine-gun
fire. The soldiers also ransacked the house and took $1,500 and several
family photographs. Just before we left, the dead man’s friends brought
out a letter to show us, signed by 1st Lt. Justin Cole at a nearby US
military base. The letter, bearing the dead man’s photograph, stated that
the man had been helpful to US troops previously and if US officials
needed anything else from him, he would willingly cooperate. The letter
closes, “Please treat this gentleman with the dignity and respect that he

Something has gone terribly wrong in my country’s quest to bring freedom
to the Iraqi people. Most of the human rights abuses I saw carried out in
Palestine by the Israeli military during my two years with CPT there I
have seen carried out in Iraq by US forces in just the two months since I
arrived here. Many Iraqis our team has listened to from this area speak
of initially welcoming the US troops, who removed Saddam. They were
hopeful for a peaceful, prosperous life on their farmland with their
families. What they received instead was house raids, and dead wives and
children. Now they support the armed resistance. In return for these
violations of dignity and human rights, daily my neighbors return to the
US in coffins draped with flags. At the end of these past several weeks
of numerous soldier casualties, what has my country learned?

Traveling back along the road blocked earlier by the Humvee ambush, we
noted that the site of the ambush was completely cleared of all evidence
of an attack. Even the burn marks were cleaned away. It is a practice
designed to increase morale of the soldiers who must still patrol the area
after an ambush, and to remove any signs which might raise the morale of
the resistance: Pretend it never happened. Our team has seen this
practice used by US forces on several prior occasions.

How much more will we pretend has never happened, and at what cost?

Photos corresponding to this release will be posted shortly on

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NEWS 1. Early Morning in Iraq

Message: 1
Date: Fri, 14 Nov 2003 08:28:04 -0600
From: Cliff Kindy via "CPT (Gene Stoltzfus)"
Subject: Early Morning in Iraq

Subject: Sunny, Early Morning in Iraq
Notes from Cliff Kindy, CPT Team member in Baghdad
Date: Thu, 13 Nov 2003 02:00:08 -0600 (CST)

Dear Friends,

Last night from the rooftop we could hear a steady roll of mortar rounds
in the distance with what sounded like anti-aircraft fire and other heavy
explosions. Helicopter traffic and even fighter jets during the evenings
have become regular parts of recent days. But this morning dawns fresh
with a clean slate.

Yesterday we visited the sheik at his mosque in Adumiyah district. He
reported that a day earlier the Coalition military patrols had rolled
through the streets and announced, "This is the last warning for
inhabitants of this area. We will use the tanks to bomb Adumiyah."
This is a Sunni Muslim area where people had felt the heavy hand of the
Sadaam Hussein regime. There is a US military base directly across the
river in one of Hussein's old palaces and there have been times when the
base shoots randomly across the river into the central civilian area of
the district. Many of the main buildings have received damage, including a
minaret of the mosque. Much repair and rebuilding is being done even in
the midst of this back and forth turmoil. As in most parts of Iraq, there
is also an armed resistance to the occupation.

Tomorrow, 14 November, there are ten scheduled press conferences across
the US. At each event there will be peacemakers who openly proclaim their
visits to Iraq during the sanctions and the buildup to war and who did
this as a way to turn the violence away from war. The US government has
threatened a one million dollar fine and/or twelve years in prison for
taking unapproved humanitarian goods into Iraq or even for traveling
there. This witness now is in solidarity with individuals who have been
charged with violation of the sanctions, perhaps because they have no
support group. Those of us in Christian Peacemaker Teams and Voices in the
Wilderness have been more difficult to separate out for prosecution. I
invite you to add your support to this attempt to make normal and expected
the acts of building friendship in the midst of hostility.

Two nights ago as most of us were preparing for bed, pistol shots rang out
on our street. It soon escalated with rifle shots and automatic weapons
fire. We moved back from the windows as shots started popping right
outside the window. As I pulled the curtain back to peek out I could see a
guard unsnapping his holster and hunching his Klashnikov into position.
Helicopters were in the air. Within an hour the firefight faded. The next
morning we learned that the Iraq soccer team had won their match game!
What a time to be here in Iraq!

Cliff Kindy

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RECENT NEWS 1. CPTers intervene in U.S. Checkpoint Confrontation
From: "CPT Iraq"

Message: 1
Date: Sat, 15 Nov 2003 05:30:03 -0600 (CST)
From: "CPT Iraq"
Subject: CPTers intervene in U.S. Checkpoint Confrontation

IRAQ: CPTers intervene in U.S. Checkpoint Confrontation

by David Milne and LeAnne Clausen

November 14, 2003

BAGHDAD—On November 13, at 11:15 am, CPTers Le Anne Clausen and David
Milne intervened peacefully at a potentially deadly checkpoint

The two were leaving Abu Ghraib prison camp in a car with two Iraqi men
and their translator. As their car pulled up to the intersection of the
four-lane highway and the gravel road to the prison, they came upon a
makeshift U.S. checkpoint.

One Humvee, parked sideways, blocked the passing lane just past the
intersection. Another sat in the median twenty yards ahead. Three U.S.
soldiers stood in the passing lane or on the edge of the median in front
of the Humvee. Traffic on the highway was heavy, including large trucks,
and moving at high speeds. The soldiers had posted no signs warning
drivers of the checkpoint and vehicles in the passing lane had to merge
into one lane to avoid the Humvee ahead.

As the driver of Clausen and Milne’s car waited to cross the highway, a
black Jeep Cherokee approached the checkpoint. The driver had been
following the vehicle ahead too closely and appeared not to have seen the

Two soldiers pointed their weapons at the vehicle, yelling for the driver
to stop. As the driver braked, one soldier pointed his pistol pointed at
the windshield and walked toward the car, yelling and signaling for the
Iraqis to get out of the car. Another soldier, aiming his M-16 at the
vehicle, indicated the Iraqis should stay in the vehicle. While the
driver looked back and forth at the two soldiers in confusion, the
soldiers stationed on each Humvee also trained their machine guns on the

Clausen began taking pictures from the car as the soldiers paused and both
gestured with their weapons for the vehicle’s occupants to get out. Three
Iraqi men quickly exited. The soldiers ordered them to put their hands on
their heads and stand in the median. One soldier frisked the men while
another soldier searched the vehicle.

By this time Clausen and Milne were out of their car. Milne walked slowly
to the shoulder of the highway where he could observe and also be visible
to the soldiers conducting the search.

A soldier noticed Clausen taking pictures and ordered her to stop.
Clausen lowered her camera. The soldiers were clearly aware of the CPTers
presence and were treating the Iraqis less aggressively. Shortly
thereafter, the soldiers allowed the men to return to their vehicle and
drive away.

U.S. soldiers have killed many Iraqi civilians at checkpoints over the
past several months. Human Rights Watch documented this phenomenon in
their report of October, 2003. CPT has also documented cases where
soldiers opened fire on civilian vehicles. Often the checkpoints were
poorly marked or unlit. Only moments earlier outside the prison a young
man told Clausen that four friends had been shot dead and another three
wounded and detained when the driver of their van hadn’t been able to stop
in time at night at an unmarked U.S. checkpoint.

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I will leave from San Antonio on November 20 as part of a 2-week delegation to Iraq with Christian Peacemaker Teams. If all goes well, I plan to blog daily while in Iraq (or as soon as possible if away from Baghdad).

Charlie Jackson
Texans for Peace
5801 Westminster Dr.
Austin, TX 78723
512-573-8627 (Austin)
210-492-8915 (San Antonio)

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