CPT Iraq Team Report, June 17, 2003

The CPT delegation arrived back in Baghdad after spending 2 days in Basrah, southern Iraq. Team members who had been in Basrah before the recent war were shocked by the extent of the damage caused by U.S./UK bombing of the city.

Many commercial buildings, hotels, and residential areas had been heavily hit. However, they also noted that there were far fewer troops on the streets than in Baghdad and that the soldiers and civilians were more relaxed. On the way back to Baghdad, the delegation attempted to visit Ur, the birthplace of Abraham. However they were denied entry as the site has now been taken over for a U.S. military base. They could see that the famous ziggurat at the site has been defaced. The delegation also stopped at the place on the highway where CPTer George Weber was killed in a road accident on Jan. 6, 2003. Team members Anne Montgomery and Peggy Gish, and Iraqi drivers Sattar and Ismail, who had been with George at the time of the accident, led in a joint service of remembrance.

Back in Baghdad, the delegation came upon a peaceful demonstration of 300 Iraqis in Paradise Square calling for a united Muslim government. A U.S. tank lowered its gun barrel and repeatedly swept it over the crowd. Anne Montgomery intervened with the tank crew and they stopped.[Maureen Jack: I hear some shooting in the distance.]

Maureen Jack and Cor Keijzer visited a new Palestinian refugee camp at the Haifa Sports Club in Baghdad. The refugees had been displaced from their subsidized housing when Saddam's government fell. This group was now living in 250 tents on an open soccer field. Conditions are miserable as temperatures are well above 40 degC. There are no showers, little electricity, and only 8 exposed squat toilets and 2 water taps for over 1,000 people.

Elsewhere in Baghdad, some streets have normal pedestrian and commercial traffic but other streets close up by 4 pm because of the fear of looting. Electricity supply is still very episodic, although line-ups for gasoline are a bit shorter. [Maureen: There is more shooting again.]

CPT Iraq Team Report, June 13, 2003

The delegation met with Chaldean Bishop Warduni. He insisted that the problem of Saddam Hussein could have been resolved without war because Saddam was already in decline. Now the war has brought other problems, "It is like breaking a dam and now you have a flood. Freedom without justice is no freedom. We have the same Bible as Bush and we must all use it for peace. The Americans must have wanted us to suffer more or else they would have come prepared to begin the rebuilding immediately." He said that churches and mosques are cooperating in relief efforts, but "This is not the time for evangelism. We have to live out our faith, not speak it."

The delegation came across two demonstrations. One was by a group of physically disabled people who are now involved in clearing landmines.

They had laid out a simulated minefield with a large pile of shoes from the limbs they had lost, and called for more attention to the problem of unexploded ordnance. Another angry but nonviolent protest demonstration accused U.S. soldiers of breaking into a mosque and stealing money. They said that Saddam had never defiled mosques in such a way.

At the Maternity Hospital, Sr. Bushra told the delegation said that women patients cannot afford the fees for the hospital's services. However, the hospital does not turn anyone away. Women are often anaemic and malnourished which endangers them and their babies. She said it was good that Saddam was gone, but that conditions in the country were now worse than ever.

The delegation also visited with a group of Dominican Brothers. They too talked about how conditions had worsened. They were angry that U.S. forces had preserved the Oil Ministry but had bombed all the other government ministries and communication facilities.