These emails come from Jordan and Iraq. From 15th February to 28th February Mike Hartnell was in Iraq and was writing back to Martha of the Pennant Hills Peace Group in north-western Sydney.
Later emails come from Rosemarie Gillespie who has stayed on in Iraq.
These are all just personal accounts of the experiences of the days there and the impressions gained.
Feb 15, 2003
I am in Jordan today after nearly 30 hours travelling.
It's been snowing and is cool and raining. Off to Baghdad tomorrow.
Feb 16, 2003-02-27
Hi Phil, Martha and everyone,
Wow! I have watched some CNN this morning and they reported 150,000 in Melbourne yesterday and over 200,000 in Sydney marched today. What a fantastic result. Can John Howard ignore that???
News shows marches all over the world, but in a CNN poll 37% of Americans still support action soon.
It's winter and cold here in Jordan with rain. Tonight at 1900 I fly out to Baghdad so that's when it reallystarts for me.
Obviously, if I can I will email reports on progress. Thanks for changing the email address - that will helpa lot. This morning I got 46 messages so the inbox will fill up really quickly.
Best regards to all
Feb 18, 2003-02-27
Well tonight I have found a way to send email, but cannot receive it as yahoo.com is blocked.
Today has been an incredible day. I have learned so much about Iraq and been so overcome by the welcomes and friendship extended to me. I am part of a large group from many nations who have come here under the banner of the Non-Aligned Students and Youth Organisation. There are probably 50 from Belgium, 40 from Japan, some from other European countries and supposedly 10 from Australia, although I have only met another 4.
We have been taken around Baghdad today by our hosts, virtually on a tourist drive. I have been lucky enough to have an Iraqi student Wael sitting next to me. He is doing a masters in English-Arabic translation and his English is excellent. He has explained lots to me.
Everyone, without exception has been welcoming and they all seem to know about and appreciate the large turnouts at the protest marches.
The more I learn, the more imperative it becomes that we stop this insane war. What are we letting ourselves in for? It's crazy. The people here are just like us - talking, laughing, with families, and very hospitable.
It would be absolutely criminal to allow a war to begin and we must stop it!!!!!!!!!
What could we possibly have to fear from them? We must not let the Bush gang rhetoric and false justifications for military action win. The more I meet the people here, the more urgent it becomes. I think they feel a sense that something terrible is going to happen and they don't understand why. I don't blame them.
As for being liberated from the tyrant Saddam - forget it!!!! He is their leader and they will fight for him is the message I am getting from everyone I am speaking to (they might be afraid to say anything else?). So what if he has his photos everywhere. So does King Addullah in Jordan, and no-one calls him a despotic tyrant.
It is really a vastly different situation when you are over here amongst the people. No way do they hate Australia or anything like that.
They seem to suffering very badly under the sanctions.Tomorrow we are going to the Saddam hospital and expect to see sick children and I will find out more about the effects of the sanctions.
The people here claim that their country is complying with all disarmament requirements, so lets really push for more time by having more inspections.
Please continue to work for it however you can. Imagine how we would feel if we were going to be attacked soon in Australia by hordes of bombers and we knew their reasons for doing it were completely wrong.
Today I spoke to an official from the department of Foreign Affairs and put in a formal request for their government to make an official invitation to John Howard to come to Iraq to see for himself. I am sure if he did have the courage to that he could not pursue a war after receiving anything like the hospitality I have.
I have to genuinely say "wish you were here". It would be a real eye-opener for all of you learning how the practice in Iraq differs from the theory that we are taught.
Take care everyone and please keep up the efforts for peace.
(Received Fri Feb 21, 2003)
Bill, Julia, Martha, Vacy - could you please pass this on to appropriate people.
Today is the first day in which the delegates to the peace conference here are encouraged to input into the process. We are looking for practical suggestions for preventing war. Many people are talking about how wrong it is, but we want to stop it, rather than just discuss the rights and wrongs of it. Practical ideas are what is being looked for.
A few of us has a meeting with Dr Houda. She is the one woman on the Revolutionary Command Council (22 members) which is pretty influential in talking to the president. She is a very nice and impressive lady and it was a privilege to meet her and listen to her. She has the interests of the people at heart. I have suggested to her that it would be great if she could come to Australia and talk to something like the press club to get Iraq's message of peace across and also to detail some of the history of the conflict and the sanctions.
Bill, could you please try to find out the email address for politicians like Dana Vale, John Howard and Alexander Downer. You can get messages to me by just replying to this one and making sure my name is prominent (that's why I put it in the subject).
Other Australians are here and are making films. I met up with George Gittoes, a prominent artist and journalist who has covered every war in the last 24 years he says. He has an excellent book of his work, called George Gittoes, which he gave a copy of to Dr Houda.
I hope that things are going well in the anti-war department over there. If anyone would like me to address groups or anyone has an IN with TV stations I would be grateful for the contact. There is a real message to tell and it is urgent. I will have a VHS tape of both the opening ceremony and the foreign ministers address.
Best wishes to all.
(Received Sat Feb 22, 2003)
Sorry, I have not been able to receive any emails, so I don't know any news. Have not heard anything about the impending war, except that one of the journalists I spoke to here had the impression that it might start in the next few days. I hope from the bottom of my heart that he is wrong.
Today we had the closing ceremony for the peace conference. I was greatly honored to be chosen as the one from the almost 500 delegates to read the closing statement to the conference. People here are very warmly welcoming towards Australians and that is very gratifying. I have also been asked to be on the committee to follow up from the conference, so it might mean coming back here at some point. I certainly hope so.
This afternoon we were treated to a trip to ancient Babylon. It is very impressive, this old city skeleton, but my thoughts were clouded by the prospect of imminent aggression against Iraq.
It would be so absolutely, desperately, criminally wrong for us to support any aggression against the beautiful Iraqi people!!!!! I can't emphasise that strongly enough. Please everyone talk to as many people as you can to stop it. Put yourselves out. Reach into your heart and imagine the beautiful innocent Iraqi children who would be killed and maimed in such a conflict. The Bush campaign is all based on imagination and possibilities and fuelled by the desire to go to war. I hope everyone can see through that. We all can over here. It is so different over here, when the people you meet become your friends instead of some sort of distant, unknown threat. I am so glad I came over here, and I hope many more of you will consider coming here. How great it would have been if you had all been at the closing ceremony today or if I could bring all the delegates back to Australia to meet you..
I plead with all of my friends from the East Timorese struggle to remember the lies and disinformation at government level and to realise that the American and Australian governments are just as capable of this as the Indonesian government was in 1975-1999. Please do all you can to work for peace. It's urgent.
Please everyone, pass this on to your circles of email friends. It is really desperate that we act quickly and forcefully. What a triumph it will be if we can stop this war together.
Have a good weekend and please consider what you personally can do to get peace here.
Received Sunday 23, 2003-02-27
Hello everyone, Please forward news as appropriate.
Firstly, Rosalie and Mahmoud, this morning your brother and sister? came to the hotel to say hello. I have a photo for you. I will visit their home probably on Monday.
This morning there was some confusion and I did not go to visit a hospital with many people. I thought I had missed the group, but it appears not. So I got a taxi with two women here (one from Australia, one from Croatia) and we headed to the hospital to try to catch the group.
However, the hospital we were taken to was not the right one and we missed the group.The difficulty in language causes some problems sometimes.
We did manage to see through the childrens cancers and leukemia wards and were horrified at the suffering that the sanctions are causing. People die here because due to the sanctions, they cannot get the correct medicine. The sanctions are imposed by the U.N. and are in all our names!!!!! We will have to work to get them reversed.
There is so much wrong here caused by actions in the name of the west and we are at least indirectly responsible. We must wake up to what our governments and diplomats are doing and reverse the damage and apologise to the peoples we have hurt in the past.
Please do what you can to get firstly NO WAR and secondly removal, or at least modification of the sanctions. We must find ways to stop the suffering, even without the outbreak of war!!!
Take care everyone. Enjoy all the things we take for granted in the west.
Still have not been able to receive any emails. Please reply with my name in the subject if you are writing.
(Received Mon Feb 24)
Hope everyone is going well in Australia. Over here things are getting better, as a positive feeling about being able to make a contribution is great.
I am on the committee to follow up from the conference and yesterday we had a meeting to decide on strategy. We have a few things in mind, including inviting prominent people to Iraq A.S.A.P. to learn about the people and the truth. This morning I have sent emails to many of the members of the Australian Parliament to invite them to come here. I can get visas arranged for anyone who wants to come here. You will be looked after. We want prominent people especially.
This morning the Director of Australian Relations from the Iraqi Department of Foreign Affairs came to visit me at the hotel. We had some good and frank discussions and were open and honest and friendly with each other. The attitude of the Australian government towards relations with the Iraqi government has to be examined. Iraq wants to open communications and get an Australian embassy here, but are frustrated by Australian bureacracy (aren't we all?). Some times our democracy seems very closed and wrong. The Director assured me of every help and support for Australian people wanting to come here and I have his phone number and email contact. They really want to open up relations between our two countries. And I can't stress enough, they are good people.
I will attach below the text of me email to Australian parliamentarians. I have emailed many members of the House of Representatives. Because email is difficult here (I have not received any emails from any of you so far - please us the REPLY function and make sure my name is in the subject. I'd love to hear from you if possible).
Perhaps you could contact the politicians, visit their electoral offices and deliver my request below for them to visit here.
Hope you are all well. You can probably fax me here or ring between 7.am and 4pm Sydney time. I am in room 1026. numbers below. In case you are wondering why so many typos, the letters are all worn off on the keys and I am doing all this from memory and hope.
Cheers (see below)
Hello politicians of Australian Federal Parliament.
My name is Mike Hartnell. I live in Carlingford NSW. Last week I came to Iraq to learn about the country and its people and it's attitudes towards Australia and the world.
What I have learned is almost diametrically opposed to what I expected. Iraqi people in Baghdad are happy and communicative, interested and knowledgeable about Australia. They are genuine, lovable and warm people and they have captured my heart. I have been privileged to be part of a NASYO peace conference here.
This morning I was visited in my hotel by the Director of Australian Relations from the Foreign Affairs department. He came to plead with me to open communications between Iraq and Australia, so that Australian people can know the truth about what Iraq is like. He asked me to invite leaders and businessmen so that dialogue can begin between our two countries and relations can develop and a warm and genuine friendship can develop between our countries. He speaks highly of the relationship the Wheat Board has established here.
We are about to go to war with Iraq because the U.S. is leading us along that path. But from my experience its allegations are completely wrong. The Iraqi people have won my trust and my heart.
Please, it is an urgent situation. I extend to any of you who might have the courage to come here and learn the truth, an invitation to do so immediately. The government and people of Iraq will welcome you. Don't come as politicians, but as members of the human race, and help us avoid getting into a criminal invasion of Iraq. Yes, I feel that strongly.
Other Australians are here too, and have been captivated by the warmth of the Iraqi people and can see the injustice of our nation's stance.
The Director told me this morning that visas will be issued instantly for anyone wanting to come here. You will need two to three days here to understand and to love the people. They are suffering terribly through the U.N. sanctions. Many people here have leukemia, quite possibly caused by the depleted uranium the Americans used here in earlier military campaigns
and they can not be saved because the Iraqis cannot get the right drugs because of the blockades.
The Iraqis are lovely people and this pending war will kill and maim them. They don't deserve more suffering, but instead, our love and friendship and help.
Please, I beg you, come for just a few days.
I hope you will contact me in Baghdad. I am at the Hotel Palestine and the number is 964 1 8164400. Might be better to use the fax number 8162613. I am in room 1026. Please ring any time between about 11pm - 8am here, as I will be in the room for sure. Iraqi time is 8 hours behind Sydney, so any time between 7am and 4pm there should catch me.
Email does not always get here, but the best chance to get it here is to "REPLY" to this one but put "For MIKE HARTNELL" in the subject.
As the Iraqis so constantly say "salaam alekum" peace be with you. You are people of influence and you may be the hope of humanity.
Looking forward to hearing from you. Please pass this invitation on to all your colleagues.
(Received Feb 24, 2003)
Martha, got your email - thanks. I think on every machine here the do a send/receive as we are using Outlook. So incoming mail might well be received on any of the machines and when you look on the central machine they are not there. Perhaps if anyone has been sending them this is why I have not got them.
Iraq is a cash society and unfortunately I am almost out of cash. I have travellers cheques, but they don't cash them in Iraq. I may leave Tuesday or may borrow some money from one of the other Australians and stick to a Friday departure.
The committee to follow up the conference has been a fizzer. The government liked out idea so much that they took it over, and so they are now going to do the inviting of prominent people. We will have a meeting tomorrow night, but I think it will be thank you and goodbye. Still, that's OK because I have a lot to do at home when I get back. Still thinking of going back to Palestine on the way home, but may be home earlier than I originally thought.
It is much quieter now without all of the people from the conference.
In case I did not tell you, the Director of Australian Relations from the Dept of Foreign Affairs rang last night and came to see me today. He has asked me to try to open up relations between Australia and Iraq. This morning I emailed about 50 federal politicians and asked them if they would visit Iraq in the next couple of weeks. So far no responses, but still hoping.
Hope the Director will arrange for me to see over the Al Amiriyah Serum and Vaccine Institute which is the one that Mr Powell cited as a problem judging from satellite photos.
OK, love to all. Cheers.
(Received feb 25, 2003)
Hope all is going well for you at home.
Martha, thanks for your call. ABC did not ring, but it was great to hear from you.
Andy, thanks for your call - it was great. Any calls would be welcome, but tonight will be my last night at the Hotel Palestine. It's too expensive and I have very little money left. I can only afford to eat in the evenings, but that's good because it makes me experience the hunger that many of the people must be feeling. Tonight I am going to a dinner with Dr Zorba (one of the conference organisers) so I will eat up big for tomorrow. Have $1000 of travellers cheques in my bag, but no-one accepts them in Iraq. It's a shame because I could help so many people just a little bit with some of this.
Carol, Veronica, thanks for your emails. Unfortunately I have received no reply from any of our politicians yet, but am staying in this hotel tonight just in case, and am still hoping. After that I don't think I will be contactable until Friday when I am in Jordan firstname.lastname@example.org
This morning I went to the U.N. office and met a lovely lady Vivienne. She explained that this office only handles the aid and development projects and not the inspectors. They are elsewhere. All the street protests are to the wrong address! She was very kind and gave me lots of information. Look on the web site www.iq.undo.org <http://www.iq.undo.org> Perhaps it will be there. Some stats in 1999 include 118 / 1000 infant mortality and 131 / 1000 under 5 mortality.
It's our responsibility - that's the sanctions causing this.
Also this morning a lovely young Japanese lady from the conference and I met on the street. She too is low on funds and I let her use my hotel room as long as she wanted. She can stay there tonight - there are twin beds, but from tomorrow she will have to find other accommodation, as I do. One of the other Australians has found a house at $US200 a month and perhaps she might be able to go there. She has a limited budget. There are a few nearly broke foreigners here now. Good hearts, but little cash.
This afternoon a local lady rang me in my room and we met later in the street. She gets a small wage working at the hotel but desperately asked me if I could get her an invitation to go to Australia. You all probably know how big Phillip Ruddock's heart is in matters like that, but I said I would try, although in reality I think I have zero percent chance.
Have met some of the human shields people. I think the pressure of all living together on the same bus and in the same hotel together is possibly taking it's toll and I have been told there are problems in the group. Don't know what though.
Hope to get out of Baghdad tomorrow, possibly sharing a car with others to go south to Basra, a city on the coast. I think that's the area of the Shi'ite Moslems and it will be good to meet them and find out their conditions and attitudes.
Is there any positive news on the impending war? We hear nothing here.
All the best to everyone. Please pass this on if possible to anyone interested.
(Received Feb 26, 2003)
Hope things are going well at home.
An interesting couple of days. Last night we had a meeting with Dr Zouba, which might have been a farewell dinner in some ways. We discussed setting up an international students and youth group to focus on getting peace in any future conflict.
This morning went to the ministry of information to get a permit to allow me to go to the Al Amiriya Serum and Vaccine Institute, hopefully tomorrow, to let me go through it and take some film. When Colin Powell presented his "evidence" to the UN security council on 5th Feb he showed a satellite pictured of this facility as proof (of something). If I can go through it, it might disprove some of his allegations. I hope so, but a visit is yet to be approved. I also have the Foreign Ministry working on a visit for me.
Today after the ministry of information visit, George and I went to see the Archbishop of Baghdad for the Eastern Church, and he took us to the Minister of Religion to discuss some of our ideas. This gentleman is one of the top ones, so we might know in the next day or so what we can do with the cooperation of the government here. Maybe something, maybe nothing.
Mahmoud, got the message that you had called last night. Thanks. Sorry I missed you. This afternoon I went to have lunch with your lovely family here. What a pleasure it was for me. They were very kind to me and it was lovely to meet them. I have a photo and some video of them all for you, a small present and a couple of letters. They were all very happy to meet me, and it was great.
Found I still had $200 of Australian money I had saved for the trip home, so if I can change this I will just have enough to last frugally until Friday morning when I leave. How lucky that was. So I am still on the same phone number and fax number until Thursday night.
Love to everyone. Take care.
(Received Feb 27l, 2003)
Hope all is going well in Australia.
Our idea to get prominent people here should have an answer by tomorrow afternoon. Unfortunately I will not be here as I leave early Friday morning, but perhaps I can help from home if it is approved and we have to get rolling.
Have not heard from any of the federal politicians I invited to consider coming here.
If anyone has sent me emails, I have not received them, other than the ones I have acknowledged. Thanks for those. From now on please send any email@example.com and I will get them when I arrive in Jordan on Friday.
Tomorrow am going to Basrah, the port city down south. Have a guide from the ministry of Information. Will visit the university to talk to people and also the children's cancer ward of the hospital. Will also try to find out how the people in the south think about the war etc.
I need your help with something. There are two medical cases, both of which are pretty sad and both of which could benefit by getting people out of Iraq and to Australia for treatment. It might be a great thing for peace if we could swing it.
1. A little girl about 7-9 years old in Baghdad childrens hospital has acute leukemia. She is given only two months to live. They can't get the correct drugs to treat her and fix her because of the blockades. Can we help?
2. A baby was almost born with a brain tumour. Now about 2 and a half years old. I have seen a medical report saying he needed medical treatment overseas as soon as possible. Dr Zouba, our good Iraqi friend and a very good man gave me this baby's file and personally asked if I could do anything. It would be great to help this man who is trying so hard to work for peace, both here and in the wider world, and who has helped us in any way possible.
Does anyone have any good medical contacts, particularly in the tumour and leukemia areas? In East Timor when the relief supplies were being dropped in you might remember one crate landed on a little boy's leg and he had to have it amputated. His name was Nelson. Channel 7 and Dr John D'Arcy combined to get him to Australia for medical treatment and had him fitted for an artificial leg. I helped them by carrying new legs in to Timor after Nelson had grown a bit. Laurie, if you would like to, perhaps through Paul you might be able to contact John D'Arcy and ask whether he would be prepared to help in this case. He would have no doubt been through the immigration type procedures etc when Nelson came into the country.
Any contacts anyone has would be most beneficial and could hopefully influence a peaceful solution. Other possible areas might be the Ronald MacDonald House people who might have some ideas. Martha, perhaps someone in the group might be able to help in some way. How wonderful it would be if we could get the government to help in some way.
I hope to be back in Australia within a week or so, but I believe the flights are chockers because of the end of the Hajj, with pilgrims returning to Indonesia and possibly Australia, so I can't be sure. At the latest, my normal flight will get me back there on 8th March and I am keen to hit the ground running. I have lots of video, of which some will be good I hope, and hope to make it into a short CD playable on any computer, amongst other things. Also keen to talk to any groups if anyone has any contacts.
Am holding a trivia night at Tennis Cove Club at Roseville on either the first or second Saturday on April and if we can get anything going we can perhaps raise some funds to help either of these children if we can get them to Australia. If you are interested, write to me firstname.lastname@example.org and I will let you know the arrangements when I get back.
If I can't get straight back to Australia I will probably head for Palestine to see how things are there and give some help to people who need it there, but will definitely be back by March 8th.
Have now moved to a cheaper hotel - Andalus Apartments 964 1 7192303
All the best
I am writing this from Amman in Jordan on Friday Feb 28th. Here the keyboards have visible characters on them, but they stick, so I will still probably have many typos. Sorry about that.
I have at last been able to get all my emails directed to this address email@example.com but I only got about 4 at the palestine.uruklink address.
Thanks Martha, and Ben and Matthew for your emails.
They were great. Sounds as if you have been very busy and successful.
Yesterday I went to Basrah, a city of 1.2 million people about 1 hours flight south, and only 25 kms from the Kuwait border. It is a noticeably poorer district than Baghdad. I went to the cancer ward of the local hospital and also to the university to talk to people.
In the 1991 war the Americans used depleted uranium weapons and have contaminated a wide area around here by about 70 times the natural level of radiation. The rate of cancers and leukemia has spiralled here, going from almost no deaths in 1988 to over 700 in 2002.
Children are getting cancers that usually only old people get and birth deformities are really gross -children born without heads etc. The cancer doctor at the local hospital gave an excellent presentation on computer. I captured most of it on video, but computer screens don't video well so it might be difficult to watch. The doctor also emphasised the effect of the sanctions saying that a cocktail of medicines are necessary to successfully treat leukemia, but there are often holdups in the UN providing some, meaning that the treatments cannot be completed.
At the university I spoke to professors, graduates and undergraduates, explaining that the people of the world are against the war, but our governments need education. They queried what sort of a democracy we have and insisted that their government is much closer to the people. I have some of their remarks on video to show you when I get back.
The one difficult part about Iraq is the customs people at the airport. They don't make it easy either coming in, or going out, although I am sure a little cash would oil the wheels. I finished up with only $8 coming out of Iraq, so I wasn't in a position to oil the wheels.
I'd like to get home early to start work on stopping the war starting, but flights are full because of the end of the Hajj, so I expect I will not be able to get back early. In that case I will go back to Palestine for a few days and check on things there.
If anyone has any questions or suggestions I would be pleased to hear from you firstname.lastname@example.org. I will try to give any answers possible.
Best wishes. See you soon.
1 March 2003
Thanks for all your efforts. As you know ABC got through to me once. At the moment I am trying to look for ways to get home sooner than Saturday morning so I don't know how long I will be staying in Jordan.
Hopefully only one more day at most. I am in the same hotel as the Human Shields people who are very nice.
They expect to have 22 more going into Iraq tomorrow (Sunday). There will be over 200 internationals inthere by then I believe, from many countries, so I hope that will have some effect.
Am trying to think of options to have peace, yet not make Bush look like he is losing and at the same time not make Saddam look like he is losing.
If I can't get a quick flight out I will probably go to Palestine tomorrow.
4 March 2003
Hope everything is going well at home.
Yesterday I left Jordan at about 11:00 am to be taken to the King Hussein bridge to go to Israel. A very pleasant trip to the border, but then got held up for two hours getting through customs and immigration.
They asked many questions and then disappeared with my papers for quite some time. I thought that the Iraqi stamp in my passport might mean that I could not get into Israel. One can appreciate their need for security, but as soon as you are in Israel you are very conscious that you are in a police state. Lots of people walking around with automatic rifles and lots of uniformed people.
However, got through eventually and got a taxi along with 6 others to Jerusalem. Booked into as hotel and went to the shop of my friend David. David is the one who took me into Jenin last year a few days after the bulldozers were there breaking down houses with people in them, and we have formed a good bond together. Also met Noaman whose family I have helped a bit from Australia and Ibrahim, who was with us in Jenin last year. It was great to see everyone again. I had not told them I was coming, so it was a surprise and there were hugs all around.
Noaman invited me to his house in Abudees for dinner.
Last year when I went there to see them there was a curfew situation and to get out we had to walk through fields at night in order to avoid some of the military checkpoints. I probably would have been OK with them, but my Palestinian friends could have had problems, depending on the mood of the soldiers.
This year the curfew is not operating at the moment, but the Israeli military has put up a concrete barrier (similar to the concrete median strips we have in some of our major roads, but here about 5 feet high) right through the middle of the village. It is about 100 metres long and stops people getting from the lower part of the village to Jerusalem, where many of them might go to work, and completely stops cars getting through. There is a small part of the fence which has been broken down to about 3 feet height and there are piles of rubble each side which people use as steps to climb over the barricade at this point when there is no military presence there. It is difficult and dangerous for women in their long clothes, particularly if they are carrying anything, and almost impossible for older people. After a pleasant dinner at Noamans we went to meet Mohammad (who I also send help to) and his family. They were thrilled to see me agin, which was great. Met his new bride Sannah, who is lovely, and may go back there on Wednesday night for dinner.
People I speak to here want peace in this area. There is some criticism of the governments of all the Arab countries and people would like to see a democracy introduced peacefully and the phasing out of some less than democratic regimes (including that in Iraq). It is hard to tell how typical these opinions are of the wider community.
Everyone seems to be against the war and I am asked (as in Iraq) what kind of a democracy do we have if our leaders do not follow the wishes of the people.
People throughout the Arab countries are aware of, and grateful for, the large peace demonstrations we have had in our countries.
Tonight David has said he will take me to Jericho for dinner. He has family there, and that will be interesting. Everyone is very hospitable and welcoming. Tomorrow I will try to get to Tel Aviv to meet up with some folks from Gush Shalom, the peace group.
Jerusalem is pretty much closed early in the morning. The almost absolute lack of tourists means that many of the shops do not open until late morning and close about 4-5pm. What is the point of opening if there are no buyers. It is a great place and this would be absolutely the best time to visit if anyone would like to. No crowds and no real danger, and your visit would really help the local economy.
Back on the weekend if all goes according to plan.
Look forward to seeing you all.
5 EMAILS FROM IRAQ:
FROM ROSEMARIE GILLESPIE WARATAH, SLIGHTLY EDITED
AND SUBTITLED BY MAX WATTS
Nr. 1/ 3 March
Dear B... and all
The United States appears to have started its psychological warfare campaign, and fired its opening shots.
When I arrived at Basra in Southern Iraq, I was told that American warplanes had bombed the outskirts of Basra the previous night. The bombing had started at about 2.20 in the morning, about 10 to 20 bombs. They went off with loud explosions, startling the townspeople. After the first few explosions, the bombings took place at increasingly long intervals, first a gap of five minutes before the next bomb was dropped, then a gap of about ten minutes, then a gap of between ten and twenty minutes, and so on, until there was silence. One of the witnesses who told me about the bombing considered that it was part of a campaign to intimidate the people, a form of psychological warfare.
It appears that both a power station and a communications centre was hit.I spent two nights in Basra, the people were wonderful there, so generous and helpful. I met with the Archbishop of Basra, the Most Reverend Gabriel Kassab. He was the first to tell me about the bombings. His church is close to a mosque. He told me that there is no religious discrimination here. Many Iraqis have been proud to point out this fact. Christians, Muslims and people of other beliefs are respected equally. Muslims and Cristians visit each other's shrines, and are made to feel welcome.
I visited the Sindbad Clinic and was referred to the Red Crescent Society. I gave the money to the Basra Red Crescent Society ($200 Australian converted to $109 US) on the recommendation of Dr Adel Ali of the Clinic. When I apologized that it was such a small amount, Mr Foad Al-Saadoon graciously said,"Well you are here, and that is more important to us."The effects of the sanctions have caused great suffering here. Malnutrition is common among young children, and the Red Crescent Society has programs to assist with providing nourishing food, with the help of Caritas, to children suffering from malnutrition. I saw many small thin malnourished children and mothers with very sad faces at the Red Crescent Society, waiting for assistance. There is no waiting room, no chairs, the women have to sit on the steps or in the passageway while they are waiting to be given the rations for their children. The Society also has health education programs, a program to create community awareness about the danger of land mines, and a Community based First Aid training programme.
Iraq is the most ancient civilization to practice irrigation (also known as Mesopotamia). Perhaps some of the old fellas here could have a word of advice for the Aussie farmers who are worried about the salination problems from irrigation projects down under.
I also wonder how Iraq, whose economy and people are carrying the burdens of the effects of 13 years of sanctions, can afford to provide free university education while the Howard government cannot or will not.Perhaps the Iraqis have never heard of "economic rationalism", or if they have, perhaps they think there are better ways to run a country.
Would a "regime change" get a government in Iraq which is more compatible with America's economic and foreign policy objectives, one which would reorganize the economy for the benefit of the big companies and corporate elites, with their multilillion dollar paypackets, while students struggle to pay their fees or sink under the burden of HECS debts?
Today a large number of Human Shield people went out to try to protect some humanitarian sites around Baghdad, a food storage site, a water treatment plant, a power station and a petrol refinery. Ruth from South Australia did a great interview with channel 9 at the media coference held at the Andalus Apartments ..... Try and watch it if you can. A letter to Bush, sent from the group, was also read out.In the meantime I have been working with a number of other Australians on a project which might just head off the war. We think it has about one chance in three of succeeding. We should know in a few days, I will keep you posted.
Nr 2/4 March
IRAQ- after the bombing of Basra last night
Tue, 4 Mar 2003
Dear B, Friends, Comrades and all:
Dateline 4 March 2003
US planes started bombing Basra in earnest last night. It seems that nothing will stop those maniacs in the White House - or his parrots like the Prime Miniature of Australia. Were any of Australia's warplanes involved in the bombing of Basra last night?
This time the American Leaders did not try to cloak their naked aggression with excuses such as "no fly zones". The purpose of the bombing was to clear the way for American, British and Australian ground forces, in preparation for the ground war, the invasion of Iraq, which could begin any time after March 7th. The bombing, which killed six civilians and injured many others, was a clear violation of international law. In fact it was a war crime. No wonder successive United States administrations did not want the International Criminal Court! Bush prefers to place his trust in the power of the gun, and the guns are smoking. This is just a prelude to what is to come.
The streets of Baghdad are quieter today, because we know that Baghdad is likely to be hit soon. Large stocks of bottled water are being bought and sold. This is a necessary preparation for the impending invasion by the US and its "allies". Last time, when the "allies", spearheaded by the US, bombed Baghdad, they destroyed the power stations. The power was off for months, causing great suffering to the people. The power was needed to operate the water treatment plants and pump fresh water into the water supply system. All this failed when the power stations were bombed, and thousands of civilians, men women and children, who had survived the bombings, died from gastrointestinal diseases when the only water available was unsafe to drink. Young children, with their tiny bodies, are most vulnerable.
This time, the US bombers are most likely to destroy communication systems and power stations first. They will do this again, just as they did in 1991, even though the American administration is fully aware of the humanitarian disaster it will cause. For every power station bombed, thousands of children will die. This must be stopped. Think of the children.
Think of what the world would be like if Bush and his mob were able to get away with their criminal acts, and plunder and pillage the planet at will. This war is being fought for oil - Iraq has the world's second largest proven oil reserves - just as the war on Bougainville was fought for the copper and gold that lies beneath the surface of that beautiful island.Just as the British Mining company, Rio Tinto, was the driving force behind the military blockade and war fought against the Bougainvilleans, this time it is the big oil companies, such as Standard Oil of California (SOCAL), Standard Oil of New Jersey (EXXON - Esso in Australia), American Oil Company (AMOCO), Texaco (Caltex in Australia, in conjunction with SOCAL), Shell, British Petroleum, that are the driving force behind the planned invasion of Iraq.
That is why Bush, Blair and Howard are increasingly acting like dictators. They are being dictated to by the oil companies, from whom they get their marching orders. They will not pay attention to the pleas, petitions, letters, or even "demonstrations" by their people. The only thing that will make these governments pull back from bombing any country which gets in the way of US economic and foreign policy objectives is ACTION, such as civil disobedience, industrial action, etc. which will block the progress of the war machine. Both rolling strikes and rolling acts of civil disobedience have been suggested. If enough people are willing to do it, it will work. Bye for now,
Waratah (Rosemarie Gillespie)
INTERNATIONAL DAY OF PEACE
Wed, 5 Mar 2003
Dear B.., H. and all, Dateline 5 March 2003
Please can you pass this (untitled) poem on to whoever you think might be interested. Maybe you can think of a good title for it. (suggested title: mw)
How long will it be ?
WARHEADS IN THE WHITE HOUSE(later title by Waratah RG)
Today is a day of international peace, but is anyone in the White House listening? The sounds of many people praying -
Carried on the wind The heartfelt hopes and dreams, Deep yearnings
For a world at peace Where flowers can grow And little children thrive.
The bombed out craters Crushed buildings, crushed lives
All the world waits with baited breath -
Not again!we cry,
As the scourge of war hangs over us Threatening to strike once more.
War is about power and unbridled greed, Great violence used to gain control
To grind people into submissionBy terror, destruction and death.
'We are like a condemmed manwaiting to have his hand cut off.
America is so powerful' said one, Heavy bags under his eyes, Smoking, coughing, and smoking again.
We are being dragged backwards Back to the barbaric law of the jungle. Whatever happened to civilized democracy?
And still the people keep praying
Little currents eddying Grow to giant waves of hope and despair Spreading in ever wider circles.
Still the warheads of the White House are not listening As if we were dealing with china dolls Or puppets on a string,
Minds fixed on bombing, from Basrah to Baghdad. Leaving a legacy of blood and tears
The bombing has started It's time to get up off our knees To stop this new holocaust before it's too late!
It is better to die on your feet Than submit to the rule of the gun, Those who invade, conquer and destroy....
How long will it be - Before those who turn their guns on Iraq - Will turn on you?
This morning (5 March) I met a delegation of Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT). Since I have mislaid my Travelling Minute, could you, B, ask S if she would mind emailing a copy to the teams' head office in Chicago? The email address email@example.com The minute can then be forwarded to the CPT delegation in Baghdad.
INTERNATIONAL WOMENS DAY The Federation of Iraqi Women is organizing celebrations for International Womens Day, March 8, in Baghdad.Please pass this on to sisters and comrades in Australia, US and UK so they can show their solidarity with the women of Iraq. Love and best wishes.
Waratah (Rosemarie Gillespie)
Nr 4 6 March
HUMAN SHIELDS - Ruth Russell
Ruth Russell has gone to the Taije Food Silo, Taile Area, Baghdad. ....
I have now found a title for my latest poem: WARHEADS IN THE WHITE HOUSE (see above)
(Written on the International Day of Peace, March 5, 2003)
INTERNATIONAL WOMENS DAY The Federation of Iraqi Women is organizing celebrations for International Womens Day, March 8, in Baghdad.
Please pass this on to sisters and comrades in Australia, US and UK so they can show their solidarity with the women of Iraq. Waratah (Rosemarie Gillespie)
Nr 5 Friday, 7 Mar 200d
WOMEN IN IRAQ
Dear B: Below is a report on women in Iraq which may be useful for International Women's Day. ....
this will be the last email I can afford to send you.
After sending this email I will only have the equivalent of 75 cents (Australian) left. This will enable me to buy just a little bit of food and that's all. I have been stretching my food out as best as I can. I never thought I could feel so hungry that bread would taste like cake! .............
WOMEN IN IRAQ Some years ago, a friend of mine, Maree Fisher, told me about a visit she made to Iraq with a group of women in 1990. Maree told me that, contrary to the common stereotypes about Arab countries, women in Iraq have a considerable degree of movement, are not required to cover their hair, and that many women hold professional or administrative positions.
On the streets of Baghdad and Basra, women can be seen moving around, going about their business. Some of them, particularly the younger women, prefer the freedom of movement afforded by wearing lighter clothes and no headscarf or "hijab" (a small garment which covers the hair and neck but not the face). The hijab is mostly worn by older women. Many other young women wear a headscarf, while wearing clothes somewhat similar to those many women wear in Australia, such as jeans and skirts - except no miniskirts and no plunging necklines, at least not out in the street. What women wear in their own homes is another thing!
Asmaais a young woman who gained her degree in computer science at the Al-Mustanseria University in Iraq. She did it by studying at night school: "Many men and women study at night school", Asmaa told me. "Their numbers are increasing, both young and old, men and women." Asmaa and her husband Zaid, who has a diploma in computer science from the Al-Russafa Administration Institute, are both well educated and fluent in English.
Tertiary education is free in Iraq(despite the sanctions). While there are also some private educational institutions which do charge fees, the fees charged are not high, because Iraqi students can choose to study at those universities and colleges. Education is free and of a high standard.
Asmaa and Zaid had planned to set up a small business providing computer services, such as setting up websites, etc. "The two of us, we hoped to set up our own business in the computer field. We spent years studying to develop our computer skills and to set up a joint business," Asmaa said. "But because of the sanctions, the economy was depressed, so we could not do it." As a result, Zaid has to work long hours driving taxis. It's a hard way to earn a living, I know, and much more difficult in Baghdad because there are so many cabdrivers on the road,all desperately trying to earn a living. Asmaa and Zaid have two small children, Meriam, a little girl three years old, and Omar, their four moths old baby son. Zaid's mother, Jihan, and his two sisters, Noor and Zainab, also live with the family. Neither Asmaa, Noor of Zainab wear a hijab.
(A photograph of Noor is included in the package I gave to G G when he left Iraq last Tuesday. He will probably contact you soon and arrange to give it to you. He lives in Bundeena, between Sydney and Wollongong).
"We are young girls", said Asmaa. "We don't wear it (the hijab), we don't like it." "We love to wear jeans", Asmaa added. Only Jihan, Zaid's mother, who is now a grandmother, wears a hijab. She wears it to market and to the mosque. "Women wear the hijab as a matter of choice, or in observance of religious belief", Asmaa continued. "The government does not force us to wear it.
The government of Iran does force women to wear it, but Iran is not an Arab country." Asmaa explained that in most Arab countries, such as Jordan, Syria, Bahrain, Egypt, whether a woman wears a hijab or other head covering is a matter of choice, custom or religious belief. It is required in Saudi Arabia.
On the streets of Baghdad and Basrah, I had seen many women wearing a black over-garment, similar to the black nun's habit worn by some religious orders in Australia. It is called an "abaya", and covers the hair but not the face. The Iraqi name for the garment which covers everything, including the face, is "poshi". Very few women in Iraq wear them. So far I have net seen any worn in Iraq (but I did see a few in Jordan and Bahrain). In Bahrain, where fewer women go out with their heads uncovered, the younger women often found creative variations of the conventional garb of long black dresses with a headscarf or hijab - like on young woman who substituted black lace for black cloth in part of her ankle length skirt. No doubt that would be considered quite daring!
It is the middle of the afternoon, Noor is still at work. She does secretarial work (word processing, etc.) "People are free to have any religion thay like here", Zaid told me. "There is no racism here, people from many countries live here, for example, from Sudan. Racism is against our religion, it is against the teachings of the Qu'ran (Koran). Our religion teaches us that everyone is a human being; it teaches us to love everybody." This confirms what Dr. Zoba (pronounced "Zorba") and others, such as the Archbishop of Basrah had told me.
There is no discrimination on grounds of religious belief. Peoples of different religions are free to engage in religious observance according to their beliefs, including Christians (followers of Jesus), the followers of John the Baptist, sun-worshippers and Muslims, who are in the majority in Iraq. Muslims come to Christian shrines and churches; Christians are free to attend mosques and are made to feel welcome there. Jihan sometimes goes to church and lights a candle to Holy Mary. "I called my daughter Meriam after Mary" Asmaa said. Meriam is the Arabic word tor Mary. My hour is up now and I must close, Waratah (Rosemarie)
END OF THESE FIVE EMS FROM IRAQ, DELAYS IN TRANSMISSION... MORE WE HOPE SOON !