Iraq: Children's Hospital Bombed
- Dear Friends,
Since the last update, several of our people have left Iraq, most of
them ordered out of the country by Iraqi officials. Many if them
were in Iraq as volunteers for the Chicago based Christian Peacemaker
Teams. An Associated Press report of the expulsion and team's
eventful journey to Jordan follows.
We have had almost no contact with our team in Baghdad over the last
few days. However, an email from Kathy Kelly managed to find its way
to our inbox this morning:
"Cathy Breen and I visited Amal at the home of her friends, having
heard that her home had been further destroyed by ongoing bombing.
She then took us to her house which faces the river, graced by a
garden where flowers are blossoming. Picking our way through broken
glass at the entrance, we entered what was once one of the most well
appointed homes in Baghdad. The rooms are in disarray. Several
walls are cracked, the windows are all shattered, and a thick layer
of dust and grime covers the exposed furniture, books, carpets and
"'It was my silly feeling,' Amal said matter-of-factly, 'that this
will not happen. I did not move anything.' She emphasized several
times that neighbors could have removed everything, in the past two
days. 'The house is open. The whole area knows about it. But nobody
moved anything.' Amal wasnt in her home when the windows shattered
and the doors were blown out. 'By chance, that night, I forgot my key
and for that reason I stayed with my friends.' Ten minutes after we
arrived at her home, the US began bombing. 'They are starting it
again," sighed Amal. "We should go very quickly.'
"We rejoined Amals friends, two sisters who, like Amal, are elderly,
scholarly, staunch, and furious. I first met them in the summer of
2002, when they invited me to tell a gathering of two dozen or so
Iraqi friends about my experiences, in April 2001, inside the Jenin
Camp, in the West Bank, just after Israeli troops had destroyed
hundreds of homes in a civilian neighborhood, using overwhelming
military force. Amal and her friends were deeply angered when I
showed them enlarged pictures of homes in the Jenin Camp that were
reduced to rubble. They said they've always felt intense grief for
the Palestinians whove suffered under occupation. It was
unthinkable, then, that Amal herself would become homeless and face
life under occupation less than a year later.
"'It is so unfair,' said Amal. 'From the simplest people to the
highest people, all have suffered.' Later that night, we learned
that Voice of America radio had confirmed that an Iraqi military
officer approached a US military checkpoint in Iraq appearing to be a
cab driver wishing to surrender. The driver detonated a load of
explosives inside the cab, killing himself and four US soldiers.
"Amal has paid a high price for guessing wrongly about whether or not
the US would wage a massive attack against Iraq. She didnt bother to
safeguard her impressive collection of valuable artwork, books, and
other belongings. She and her friends arent guessing now. They are
positive that US warmakers will pay a lethal and grisly price for any
attempts to overtake and occupy Iraq. 'We will lose the battle, but
the US is not the winner,' she vowed. 'The children talk about the
monster coming. We will push back the monster, with our hands.'"
We will continue you send you updates on our teams staus and
experience inside Iraq.
All my best,
Jeff Guntzel, for Voices in the Wilderness
Peace activists confirm Iraqi hospital bombed
Charles J. Hanley, AP Special Correspondent, Associated Press
30 March 2003
AMMAN, Jordan (AP) - Bruised and bleeding, in need of medical care,
the Americans stranded in Iraq's western desert approached the mud-
brick town and found the hospital destroyed by bombs.
"Why? Why?" a doctor demanded of them. "Why did you Americans bomb
our children's hospital?" Scores of Iraqi townspeople crowded around.
The American peace activists' account was the first confirmation of a
report last week that a hospital in Rutbah was bombed Wednesday, with
dead and injured. The travelers said they saw no significant Iraqi
military presence near the hospital or elsewhere in Rutbah. The
doctor did not discuss casualties, the Americans said.
U.S. Central Command said Sunday it had no knowledge of a hospital
bombing in Rutbah. The U.S. military has said it is doing its best to
avoid civilian casualties in its campaign to oust Iraqi leader Saddam
For the battered band of peace activists, recounting their nerve-
jarring exit from Iraq on Sunday, it was one of the worst moments in
10 days of war.
That exit had begun at 9:15 a.m. Saturday, when a dozen foreigners -
eight American and one Irish member of the Iraq Peace Team, and three
unaffiliated Japanese and South Korean activists - set out from
Baghdad on the 300-mile trek to the western border with Jordan,
through a nation at war.
Members of the antiwar group have shuttled in and out of the Iraqi
capital for months to take part in vigils, small demonstrations and
other activities to protest U.S. war plans. Since March 20, they have
borne witness and compiled reports on the U.S. bombing of Baghdad.
Some who left Saturday had been ordered out by jittery Iraqi
bureaucrats for a minor infraction - taking snapshots in Baghdad
without an official escort. Others said they left to get out the
story of the Baghdad bombing.
The journey was a straight shot through the gritty western desert,
the Badiyat ash-Sham, over a divided superhighway eerily empty of
traffic. American special forces and warplanes have been staging
raids and air attacks on isolated targets across the west.
"I'd say we passed up to 20 bombed-out, burned-out vehicles along the
way," said Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, 22, a student from Devon, Pa.
Four were Iraqi tanks and other military vehicles, he said, but the
others appeared to be civilian, including a bus and an ambulance.
"We had to detour around a bombed-out bridge, dodge lightpoles down
across the road," said Shane Claiborne, 27, a community organizer from
Three times the group - in a big white GMC Suburban and two yellow
taxis - spotted bomb explosions nearby. The last, in early afternoon,
occurred near the far-western town of Rutbah. Their Iraqi drivers'
nerves were fraying as they sped toward Jordan at 80 mph.
"He kept going faster, faster," Betty Scholten, 69, of Mount Rainier,
Md., said of her driver.
Suddenly the lagging taxi, pushing to catch up, blew a tire. It
careened, spun out of control and plunged down a ditch, landing on
its side. "It was a heavy hit," Claiborne said. All five men inside
were hurt. "We pulled each other up through the side doors."
A passing car eventually braked to a halt. The Iraqis inside got out,
helped the injured into their vehicle and drove back toward Rutbah
and a hospital. Along the way, Claiborne said, he spotted the
contrails of a jet streaking toward the car. The Iraqis frantically
waved a white sheet out a window, and the plane veered off, he said.
In poor, remote Rutbah, a burned-out oil tanker truck sat in the
road, and the customs building and communications center had been
wrecked by bombing. When they reached the hospital, they saw it, too,
had been bombed, its roof caved in.
Claiborne said an English-speaking Iraqi doctor took them to a small
nearby clinic, and 100 or so townspeople then gathered around the
building. The men were worried, but the doctor told them, "We'll take
care of you. Muslim, Christian, whatever, we are all brothers and
sisters,'" Claiborne recalled.
The staff tended to them, stitching up a scalp laceration for group
leader Cliff Kindy, 53, of North Manchester, Ind., and doing their
best for the worst hurt, Weldon Nisly, 57, of Seattle, who suffered
cracked ribs and similar injuries.
The two other carloads, missing the third, eventually doubled back and
found the men in Rutbah. All then ventured onward the final 80 miles
to the Jordan border, and then Amman, where Nisly was admitted to a
hospital early Sunday.
As they left Rutbah, said Wilson-Hartgrove's wife, Leah, 22, the
villagers "said to us, 'Please tell them about the hospital.'"