Mario Galvin / Peace Between People – 2004-04-28 10:55:17
NAJAF (April 28, 2004) — We are well and safe here, despite fighting on the edge of town the night before last. We are taking precautions for our safety, as there is much talk of an immanent attack on the city, but life seems to be going on. I guess this is “normal” for them. Sad, isn’t it.
It occurs to me that we may be, ironically, in one of the safest places in Iraq… because there are no US forces inside the city. The same was true in Kerbala, I realize.
Places like Baghdad and Fallujah are dangerous precisely because the US is there, and the resistance is attacking them. That makes them nervous and trigger-happy, because they know that they are targets.
Here in Najaf, for example, an American convoy was passing on the edge of town (hard to know the exact limits, as our mobility is limited), and one of the vehicles in the convoy got a flat tire. They pulled over, and a taxi following behind went around to pass them. Soldiers ordered them to stop, but for whatever reason… panic, fear, not understanding the commands… they didn’t. The soldiers opened fire, killing one and wounding the other.
Stories of Callous Brutality
We have heard many stories of callous brutality, ignorance or indifference to local customs, and disproportionate use of force. A reporter yesterday told us “They always use cluster bombs” and told stories (he saw this up in north) of US soldiers firing into a hospital through the doors and windows, killing old people and even nurses in uniform.
There is no time to write more now. We are preparing to confront the US military at their nearest base, which is the campus of a local college, which contains a teaching hospital (with 400 of the 900 beds in Najaf). Here, too, a few days ago, a car pulling up to the hospital (not knowing it had been taken over by the military) was fired on, killing the occupants.
On the way here, leaving Kerbala, we passed another military base and saw a sign that said “Guards will fire without warning.” They really mean it.
We Carry a White Flag: We Want No Surprises
We are counting on our obvious non-Arab appearance, with banners and a white flag, and the presence of media crews, to protect us, and keep their fingers off the trigger.
We have called the hospital, and the CPA office in Baghdad, as well as the local people, so that everyone knows what is going on. We want no surprises, and expect that we will not be shot on sight, as is the case with the local people.
I have to go now, for our final planning meeting. We will post a more comprehensive report and press release later today, I trust, but I wanted to send something, however brief.
Thank you all for your prayers and messages of support and encouragement from around the world. We have not been able to answer all of the messages we have received, but will try. Please be patient. Our spirits are strong; we feel your support, and it strengthens us.