"Is This the Day the Bombing Will Start?" --A Report from Iraq

Cynthia Banas

Bagdad, October 29. We arrived in Amman, Jordan on Wednesday, October 23 after a smooth 11-hour non-stop flight. Next day we visited Mt. Nebo, the traditional site of Moses' death and burial. Here the prophet looked over the Dead Sea to the promised land. On a clear day (very rare) one can see across the Jordan Valley to the rooftops of Jerusalem and Bethlehem. An uncommercial, quiet spiritual place.

On Saturday we did a leafletting walk in Amman in honor of United Nations Day (October 24) and the October 26 anti-war demonstrations worldwide. We all wore our "War Is Not the Answer" t-shirts and Christian Peacemaker Team caps. We gave out about 1,000 flyers with an explanation of Voices in the Wilderness on one side and an Arabic translation on the reverse. People received them enthusiastically and thanked us for being here. After Iraq and Kuwait, Jordan was the hardest hit economically and socially by the 1990-91 Gulf War. No one here wants war.

Our trek across the desert began on Sunday. We journeyed by bus for 15 hours to Baghdad. We were warmly welcomed by the El Fanar Hotel staff and by Christian Peace Team and Iraq Peace Team members who have been in Baghdad for some time.

The next day, after orientation, some of our group visited a hospital where they learned that there are only seven MRI machines for 23 million people and only one radiation unit for the entire country. Youngsters die because medicines are "n/a"_not available due to UN/US sanctions restrictions. Under these rules, any Security Council permanent member can veto any order of equipment _ supplies supposedly available through the Oil for Food program. (See Joyce Gordon's article, "The Cool War," in this November's Harper's Magazine for an excellent analysis of the 12-year economic sanctions against Iraq.)

Others of us vigiled at the UN complex in the very hot sun. Our banners: No US War, No Attack On Iraq, No Blank Check for Bush.We vigil again tomorrow when the UN may vote on the resolution. We also walked to the French embassy to deliver a letter encouraging them to be courageous in voting. We'll deliver similar letters to the Chinese and Russian embassies.

My strongest impression so far: sadness and sorrow overcame me while at the border crossing when the young Iraqi border guard came on to the bus to return our passports. He had the most beautiful smile. It was hard to comprehend that our government intends to slaughter thousands, and hundreds of thousands of young soldiers, among them our own, and Iraqi old people, youngsters, teenagers. Look at your loved ones now. How would you feel knowing the bombing could start any day? One Iraqi father told us his eight-year old son asks every day, "Daddy, is this the day the bombing will start?"

Cynthia, a retired librarian from Vernon, NY, is in Iraq as a member of the Iraq Peace Team, a project of Voices in the Wilderness. She has visited Iraq twice before.