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I was a Human Shield ^ | 3-25-03 | Daniel Pepper

Posted on 03/25/2003 8:08:27 PM PST by gracie1

I was a human shield by Daniel Pepper • Tuesday March 25, 2003 at 06:19 PM

Why I regret being a human shield.

'I was a fool to be a human shield for Saddam', By Daniel Pepper


I wanted to join the human shields in Baghdad because it was direct action which had a chance of bringing the anti-war movement to the forefront of world attention.

It was inspiring: the human shield volunteers were making a sacrifice for their political views much more of a personal investment than going to a demonstration in Washington or London. It was simple you get on the bus and you represent yourself.

So that is exactly what I did on the morning of Saturday, January 25. I am a 23-year-old Jewish-American photographer living in Islington, north London. I had travelled in the Middle East before: as a student, I went to the Palestinian West Bank during the intifada. I also went to Afghanistan as a photographer for Newsweek.

The human shields appealed to my anti-war stance, but by the time I left Baghdad five weeks later my views had changed drastically. I wouldn't say that I was exactly pro-war no, I am ambivalent but I have a strong desire to see Saddam removed.

We on the bus felt that we were sympathetic to the views of the Iraqi civilians, even though we didn't actually know any. The group was less interested in standing up for their rights than protesting against the US and UK governments. I was shocked when I first met a pro-war Iraqi in Baghdad a taxi driver taking me back to my hotel late at night. I explained that I was American and said, as we shields always did, "Bush bad, war bad, Iraq good." He looked at me with an expression of incredulity.

As he realized I was serious, he slowed down and started to speak in broken English about the evils of Saddam's regime. Until then I had only heard the president spoken of with respect, but now this guy was telling me how all of Iraq's oil money went into Saddam's pocket, and that if you opposed him politically he would kill your whole family.

It scared the hell out of me. First I was thinking that maybe it was the secret police trying to trick me, but later I got the impression that he wanted me to help him escape. I felt so bad. I told him: "Listen, I am just a schmuck from the United States, I am not with the UN, I'm not with the CIA I just can't help you."

Of course I had read reports that Iraqis hated Saddam Hussein, but this was the real thing. Someone had explained it to me face to face. I told a few journalists I knew. They said that this sort of thing often happened spontaneous, emotional, and secretive outbursts imploring visitors to free them from Saddam's tyrannical Iraq.

I BECAME increasingly concerned about the way the Iraqi regime was restricting the movement of the shields, so a few days later I left Baghdad for Jordan by taxi with five others. Once over the border we felt comfortable enough to ask our driver what he felt about the regime and the threat of an aerial bombardment.

"Don't you listen to Powell on Voice of America radio?" he said. "Of course the Americans don't want to bomb civilians. They want to bomb government and Saddam's palaces. We want America to bomb Saddam."

We just sat, listening, our mouths open wide. Jake, one of the others, just kept saying, "Oh my God" as the driver described the horrors of the regime. Jake was so shocked at how naive he had been. We all were. It hadn't occurred to anyone that the Iraqis might actually be pro-war.

Perhaps the most crushing thing we learned was that most ordinary Iraqis thought Saddam had paid us to come to protest in Iraq. Although we explained that this was categorically not the case, I don't think he believed us. Later he asked me: "Really, how much did Saddam pay you to come?"

It hit me on visceral and emotional levels: This was a real portrayal of Iraqi life. After the first conversation I completely rethought my view of the Iraqi situation. My understanding changed on the intellectual, emotional, psychological levels.

I remembered the experience of seeing Saddam's egomaniacal portraits everywhere for two weeks and tried to place myself in the shoes of someone who had been subjected to seeing them every day for the last 20 or so years.

Last Thursday night I went to photograph the anti-war rally in Parliament Square. Thousands of people were shouting "No war," but without thinking about the implications for Iraqis. Some of them were drinking, dancing to Samba music and sparring with the police.

It was as if the protesters were talking about a different country where the ruling government is perfectly acceptable. It really upset me. Anyone with half a brain must see that Saddam has to be taken out. It is extraordinarily ironic that the anti-war protesters are marching to defend a government which stops its people exercising that freedom.

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TOPICS: Editorial; Foreign Affairs; Front Page News; News/Current Events; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: danielpepper; epiphany; humanshields; iraqifreedom; wakeupcall
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I've heard this story on radio today, but I was suprised to find it on indymedia. They did have it in the hidden post section, though. That's where they put posts that have a thread of reality to them. More people should be made aware of how the Iraqi really feel about Sadaam.
1 posted on 03/25/2003 8:08:27 PM PST by gracie1
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To: gracie1; MadIvan
Already posted..and already printed in the London Daily Telegraph two days ago.

2 posted on 03/25/2003 8:10:22 PM PST by Happygal
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To: gracie1
Bill O'Reilly needs to have this guy on his program to tell his story.
3 posted on 03/25/2003 8:12:34 PM PST by Illbay (Don't believe every tagline you read - including this one)
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To: Happygal
. . . but well worth repeating. I missed it the first go-round.
4 posted on 03/25/2003 8:15:11 PM PST by Vigilanteman
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To: gracie1
I once tried a similar posting (i.e., one which buttressed a particular conservative point of view under discussion at the time) from indymedia and FR denied it with a message stating that indymedia was not allowed on this site. I am amazed this post made it through.
5 posted on 03/25/2003 8:17:51 PM PST by beckett
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To: gracie1
And the truth will make you free!
6 posted on 03/25/2003 8:20:02 PM PST by timydnuc (FR)
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To: Vigilanteman
Absolutely well worth's been copied and pasted and forwarded to half the news media across the globe at this stage. No wonder indymedia ended up with it.
7 posted on 03/25/2003 8:21:00 PM PST by Happygal
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To: gracie1
Too bad the guy isn't a doctor.


8 posted on 03/25/2003 8:21:15 PM PST by doug from upland (Protestors file Chapter 7 -- they are morally bankrupt)
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To: Happygal
Do you have a link? Or could someone fix the link to this story in indymedia? The folks at work need to hear this. Badly.
9 posted on 03/25/2003 8:22:10 PM PST by =Intervention= (so freaking sick of the lies...)
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To: gracie1
Jaw-dropping. I went to the Indy Website to see it for myself. I couldn't find it, and the link doesn't work. After some more searching, cutting and pasting of addresses, I found it at:

At the top of the page it says:

The following post has status hidden:

Gee, wonder why???

10 posted on 03/25/2003 8:25:23 PM PST by GLDNGUN
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To: Happygal; general_re; BlueLancer; Thinkin' Gal
What we want is, "I Was a Teenage Human Shield."


11 posted on 03/25/2003 8:27:13 PM PST by dighton
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To: gracie1
And the truth shall set you free...
12 posted on 03/25/2003 8:31:37 PM PST by ApesForEvolution (Yes, let us allow the economies of gerdung, frunk, mexiztlan, chirushcom and canadastan to wither...)
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To: doug from upland
Too bad the guy isn't a doctor.

Or a sergeant.

13 posted on 03/25/2003 8:39:08 PM PST by Grim
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To: beckett
Yeah, I thought about that after I hit the post button, but figured what the heck, it's a story that needs to be heard.
14 posted on 03/25/2003 8:40:03 PM PST by gracie1 (visualize whirled peas)
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To: =Intervention=
15 posted on 03/25/2003 8:42:14 PM PST by The Chief (Heather's Daddy)
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Anarchists don't like rabble rousers from the outside.

Makes perfect sense to me.

16 posted on 03/25/2003 8:43:33 PM PST by JoJo Gunn (Help control the Leftist population. Have them spayed or neutered....)
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To: Illbay; RnMomof7
Didn't O'Reilly describe this a few days back? I heard it somewhere and only watch Fox but I think it was him.

But I think he was talking about another human shield that was saying the same things.

At any rate, I think people should see this. It's just so difficult for most of us to imagine actually living our lives under such a regime. The sad part was how the taxi driver assumed that Saddam was paying a Jew to come protest in Baghdad. How horrible it must be to live under Saddam, always in fear, always expecting something horrible to happen to you.
17 posted on 03/25/2003 8:48:31 PM PST by George W. Bush
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To: gracie1
From the Indymedia site: "The following post has status hidden:"

Does that mean they're actively censoring their boards, or are they just cleaning up duplicate threads?

18 posted on 03/25/2003 8:51:21 PM PST by xm177e2 (Stalinists, Maoists, Ba'athists, Pacifists: Why are they always on the same side?)
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To: xm177e2
It's both. Technically they have hidden posts for duplicates and spam. But more and more posts that attempt to call it like it is have been ending up in hidden posts.
19 posted on 03/25/2003 8:56:27 PM PST by gracie1 (visualize whirled peas)
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To: dighton; Happygal; Thinkin' Gal; aculeus
I was a Human Shield

20 posted on 03/25/2003 9:17:25 PM PST by general_re (Think green...burn only 100% recycled dinosaurs in your car.)
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