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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