March 24 update VitW

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Posted by Sadie from D006025.N1.Vanderbilt.Edu ( on Wednesday, March 26, 2003 at 1:49PM :

Dear Friends,

Today we received a flood of phone and email updates from our people in
Baghdad. On most everybody's mind is the looming siege on Iraq's capitol.
What follows is a collection of excerpts from today's updates:

April Hurley:

"I'm at the al Fanar Hotel right now. Baghdad is still being bombed. We
were bombed as recently as fifteen minutes ago. It rattled all the windows
and shook the walls. It was a series of explosions, but that seems to have
passed. I don't know where the bomb hit, but it was not too far from here,

Kathy Kelly:

"General Tommy Franks described the bombing as a mosaic and we can
understand that. We simply don't know the time of day when bombs are
suddenly going to burst overhead. It continues to be horrifying when you
think about what's happening to families, particularly now as members of the
Iraq Peace Team have started to go to the hospitals and to the sites where
family people have been harmed. We were utterly appalled when we heard
that the Bush Administration is saying the war is a success because there
have only been hundreds of casualties in spite of ... thousands of cruise
missiles and bombs.

"But we now know of some of these so-called success stories and it can
make you wonder what kind of perversity can be possessing the oval office
and the defense planners. Some of our team members today, with Dr. April
Hurley, encountered a family that was just rushing into a hospital after a
bomb hit the picnic lunch they were having in front of their home. At least one
child was killed, two others are in uncertain condition.

"And at both of the hospitals we visited today, doctors are working around
the clock really trying their best to heal people and - if they have minimal
injuries - send them on their way so that they can make beds available for
the many, many more casualties they expect to come. Particularly as there
are reports of more massive bombings and a possible siege of Baghdad.

"Meanwhile of course, we are very, very concerned for people of Basra on
their third day without electricity and water [ed. note: we are hearing water
service has been partially restored in Basra]. They cant survive without

"The air raid sirens are wailing. This has been a frequent daily and nightly
event. We are all sleep-deprived. I continue to marvel at how well people
handle themselves - from the youngest of children to the most seasoned of
peace activists to the people who are new to war zones. And of course
these many, many families that are no strangers to war."

Lisa Ndjeru:

"We get many phone calls from the media wanting to know casualty
numbers and information about places hit. There's a lot of talk about
precision. Are the Americans hitting precise targets? Are they keeping
casualties to a minimum? It makes me very angry. Even if it were precision
bombing, precision being that not a single civilian or home were hit, it still
doesn't make this war legitimate.

"I don't know how were going to hold the American administration
accountable. But it isn't that precise. We've gone to a hospital to see the
civilian casualties. We've gone to visit bomb sites. There are civilian
homes that are being hit. It makes me angry. I wonder how many people,
little girls, little boys, mothers, fathers, grandparents do we need to see
either dead or maimed in order to say this is wrong.

"I watched TV yesterday and I saw some American casualties, some
prisoners of war and some dead, and it breaks my heart to see those young
soldiers stripped of their gear and their teams and their armaments and their
weapons and their certainties, alone in the enemy camp. It shouldn't come
to that."

Scott Kerr:

"The city has been engulfed in a thick black smoke caused by large ditches
of oil fires. These smoke clouds are supposed to make it more difficult for
missiles to hit their mark. There were also winds from the south today which
brings a heavy dust covering. It seems like twilight everyday.

"We have all heard about 'shock and awe' but I can tell you that on the
ground it feels a lot more like 'misery and terror'. For the last week people
have not been working, there has been a very limited access to food, and
other basic necessities. I would say that about 95 percent of the city is shut

Stewart Vriesinga:

"Most of the Iraqis we meet seem to remain calm in the face of bombing.
They ask us, 'Why?' They ask us after each bomb, 'How many people do
you think died in that one?' The question is rhetorical. We know that. We do
not respond because there is really nothing to say.

"While the Iraqis continue to be friendly, many see the invasion as hostile,
and there are many civilians with guns. Perhaps not state of the art guns, and
perhaps not with any uniforms, but it seems clear that there are many people
here who - in addition to the armed forces - are prepared to defend
themselves from any invasion forces."

Thorne Anderson:

Note: Thorne Anderson and Jerry Zawada left Baghdad for Amman, Jordan
yesterday. Having heard reports about everything from bombing to looting
on the road connecting the two capitals. We were relieved to receive this
update from Amman this afternoon:

"The trip from Baghdad was lonely and creepy . We saw burning oil pits,
bombed and burned out cars on the side of the road, a couple of downed
bridges, a destroyed roadside tea stand (the place we always stop on the
trip to Baghdad from Amman), a destroyed ambulance abandoned down
the embankment, a few routes hastily blocked with piles of rocks, etc.

"The Iraqi border crossing was surprisingly painless - Jerry and I had
separate 'conversations' ('This is not an interview or an interrogation,' the
man told me) with a Jordanian official on the border. UNHCR (United
Nations High Commission on Refugees) observers at the border told us that
they had seen ZERO Iraqi refugees crossing into Jordan and were worried
about that. Many young Iraqi men were being expelled from Jordan back
into Iraq. They walk across the border into the empty dark desert with small
bags slung over their shoulders."

To read more, visit

Today we also received the first in a series of reports and photographs from
Baghdad's emergency rooms. The first of those reports, written by
physician April Hurley, can be seen at:

Some of the pictures are quite graphic. Our decision to share the images is
an urgent attempt to show the real face of war at a time when so much of
what we see is antiseptic and distant.

Thanks to all of you who have called or emailed us with words of support. It
means a lot to all of us - from Chicago to Baghdad - to know people are
listening...and acting!


Jeff Guntzel, for Voices in the Wilderness

-- Sadie
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