The Road Home to Baghdad. (Iraq Diary)

By Douglass, Jim; Havard, Deacon Dave et al. | National Catholic Reporter, April 4, 2003 | Go to article overview

The Road Home to Baghdad. (Iraq Diary)


Douglass, Jim, Havard, Deacon Dave, Levin, Jerry, Levin, Sis, Nisly, Weldon, O'Sullivan, Sean, Speltz, Kara, Wilson-Hartgrove, Jonathan, Wilson-Hartgrove, Leah, National Catholic Reporter


Tuesday, March 25, 2003 Nightfall in Baghdad

I'm writing this as our Christian Peacemakers Team is in its 13-hour drive across the desert, now about an hour and a half short of Baghdad. Leah, Jonathan, Weldon and I are in the second van, together with our driver, Mohammed. Just ahead of us are Sis, Jerry, Kara, Sean and Dave, driven by Mohammed's brother. We've been piercing a sandstorm for several hours.

As we encountered a bombed out bridge, we went around through a town where American forces were reportedly fighting Iraqis. They weren't there. The customs building had been recently bombed. When we returned to the highway to Baghdad, we saw the burnt skeletons of trucks and a bus beside the road. We paused for a couple of minutes at a cratered rest stop, hit by U.S. missiles three days ago. Then came our first encounter with U.S. troops.

Just past a burning car on the highway, they were on a desert hill about 40 yards to our right. Some of the soldiers were aiming their guns at surrendering Iraqi troops; others were training their weapons on us. Four armored personnel carriers turned their barrels toward us. Our two vans came to a halt. Mohammed's brother stopped slightly ahead of the hill, Mohammed directly opposite it. We had used duct tape to make black and white crosses on the doors and tops of the vehicles. Our Muslim brothers who are driving agreed readily to our putting the crosses on the cars.

The crosses may have saved our lives. The U.S. soldiers kept us in their sights as we waved white towels in our windows.

The Iraqi soldiers with their hands in the air began running toward our van. The U.S. troops motioned us forward, as the Iraqi soldiers neared us. Mohammed drove a few feet and stopped again. If the Iraqis made it to our van, the U.S. forces were likely to fire.

Leah, Jonathan, Weldon and I urged Mohammed, "Go on! Don't stop! Don't stop!" He drove ahead, as did his brother, and the Iraqi soldiers fell behind us, back into the hands of the U.S. troops. It was a terrible scene.

Now minutes later, we've just hit an Iraqi soldiers' checkpoint. We stop. Mohammed and his brother show the soldiers our CPT description, translated into Arabic.

The Iraqis also allow us to proceed.

We have been driving between the lines of battle. As Yahweh told us through the psalm we sang together at Sunday's Mass in Amman:

   Have no fear for I am with you
   I will be your shield. … 

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