Hope in times of despair

  • I often post updates from the CPTnet, but this one is probably one of the most moving I have read. Please read it. It speaks volumes about the kind love of the civilian population of Iraq and horrible attrocity of the US/UK war against that people…

      Welcome at Rutba

      Mar. 30 2003

      by Doug Hostetter

      (The author of this piece is a 15 year adviser and friend of CPT who is currently supporting peace work in Amman, Jordan. He is Peace Pastor, Evanston Mennonite Church (Evanston IL), and Senior Middle East Correspondent for American Friends Service Committee.)

      Amman Jordan – A three vehicles convoy started out early Saturday morning (3/29/03) heading for the Amman Jordan on the road that runs through the Western Iraqi desert from Baghdad to the Jordanian border. The group included Iraqi drivers for each vehicle, 8 Americans and an Irishman from

      Christian Peacemakers Teams and Voices in the Wilderness, two Japanese reporters and a Korean peace activist. As the group headed west in the early morning light, there was ample evidence of the effects of US/British bombing. There were the downed bridges, the destroyed gas stations, and the blackened shells of destroyed military and civilian vehicles by the side of the road. US and British planes could be seen in the skies, and were actively engaged in bombing near the road so the drivers decided spread their vehicles apart and travel at maximum speed so as to minimize the likelihood of their becoming “collateral damage” in this war. The last of the vehicles carried three Christian Peacemaker Team Members: Weldon Nisly, Seattle Washington, Kara Speltz, Oakland, CA and, Cliff Kindy of CPT staff in Ohio, along with Shane Claiborne, Philadelphia, PA who was in Iraq

      with the Voices in the Wilderness Iraqi Peace Team. They were a few hours from the Jordanian border traveling at about 80 miles per hour when a tire blew, causing the diver to lose control. The vehicle left the road and landed on its side at the bottom of a 10 foot ditch. The driver thought

      that the wheel had been shot by a nearby Allied plane, but the team thinks it was just as likely that the tire was destroyed by shrapnel or debris on the road from earlier Allied strikes.

      They were able to open the doors on the top side of the vehicle and eventually were able to pull everyone out. Everyone was bruised, badly shaken, but all were conscious though it was clear that Weldon was badly injured, and Cliff was bleeding badly from a large gash in his head. The car was totaled, and the other two cars in the convoy were well out of sight down the road toward the Jordanian border and no one in the delegation had a satellite phone. Because of to the intensive US/British bombing, with very good reason, there were very few vehicles on the road between Baghdad and the Jordanian. The group was just beginning to panic, when an Iraqi civilian car approached, pulled over and asked if he could help. Without a second thought, the driver packed the 5 additional

      passengers into his car and drove to the closest Iraqi town, Rutba, about 6 km from the site of the accident. Rutba is a city of about 20,000 people located 140 km east of the Jordanian Border. The group was astounded to see that this civilian town, with no apparent military structures had been

      devastated by US/British bombing three days earlier. Much of the town was destroyed including the children’s hospital in which two children were killed in the bombing. The group was taken to the only remaining functioning medical facility in town, a 20-foot X 20-foot four-bed clinic. The people of the town quickly gathered to inspect their uninvited foreign guests. The group hastily offered everyone a copy the CPT hand-out, a description of the Christian Peacemakers Team’s mission and work in Iraq, with English on one side of the page and Arabic on the other. Introduction in hand, the people of Rutba warmly welcomed the wounded stranded American refugees, just three days after their town had been destroyed by American/British Aircraft. The next morning, Shane asked, “How do you think Americans would respond to Iraqi civilians accidentally stranded in their community three days after Iraqi aircraft had destroyed their town?”

      When the doctor arrived, the group was in for an even bigger surprise. In this town of 20,000 in the middle of the Iraqi desert, the doctor who would treat them spoke perfect English, and without delay, he started his examinations. Everyone in the vehicle was badly bruised, but Weldon Nisly

      had a broken thumb, several broken ribs and other possible fractures, while Ciff Kindy had a very bad gash in his head. The doctor was professionally embarrassed. Because of the embargo, and the Allied attack on their primary hospital three days earlier, many medications were unavailable. Some painkillers were on hand, but Cliff Kindy would have to get the 10 stitches he needed to close the gash in his head without anesthesia. Under normal circumstances, the doctor explained, they would

      gladly have offered to take the wounded of group by ambulance to Jordan. But, he could not make that offer in the current situation. As was obvious from the bombed out ambulance not far down the road, it appears that even ambulances are at times considered legitimate targets of American/British bombing. By the time everyone in the group had been treated, about two hours after they had arrived, the two other cars in the convoy had returned and found them. The group warmly thanked the people of Rutba for their hospitality, and tried unsuccessfully to pay the clinic and doctor for their services. “We treat everyone in our clinic: Muslim, Christian, Iraqi or American. We all are part of the same family you know,” the doctor said.

      Christian Peacemakers Team

      Weldon Nisly, Mennonite Pastor from Seattle, WA

      Jonathan & Leah Wilson-Hartgrone, Philadelphia, PA

      Kara Speltz of Oakland, CA

      Betty Scholten, Mt. Rainier, MD

      Peggy Gish, Athens, OH CPT staff

      Cliff Kindy, Indiana CPT staff

      Voices in the Wilderness Iraq Peace Team

      Michael Birmingham, Ireland

      Shane Claiborne, Philadelphia

      Christian Peacemaker Teams is a program of Brethren, Quaker and Mennonite Churches.

      CPT P. O. Box 6508 Chicago, IL 60680 tel. 773-277-0253; Fax: 773-277-0291, E-Mail cpt@igc.org WEB www.prairienet.org/cpt