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Inside the deluded world of the 'human shields'
The Sunday Telegraph ^ | March 2, 2003 | Charlotte Edwards

Posted on 03/01/2003 4:33:01 PM PST by MadIvan

'I am ashamed to be leaving you at this time of need, but I'm going out of pure, cold fear," Godfrey Meynell, 68, told the two Iraqi factory workers standing before him. His white hair was, as always, unbrushed; his navy windcheater zipped up to the chin. "This power plant is next to a bridge, surrounded by Republican Guard," he continued. "It's obviously a prime target." The men, who understood this fear too well, returned his handshake and thanked him warmly.

As he heaved his rucksack into the taxi, Mr Meynell, a former Colonial Office civil servant, was tearful. He was not, however, the only "human shield" fleeing Baghdad yesterday in a state of high emotion. Nine of the 11 British shields on the pioneering wave of red double-deckers left this weekend. At the Andalus hotel five kilometres away, Dr Abdul Hashimi, the official overseeing their mission in Iraq, had issued the shocked group with an ultimatum: deploy to the "strategic sites" hand-picked by the government or leave immediately.

It was a chilling twist in the saga of the human shields' mission to stop a war in Iraq. It was also inevitable. I accompanied the first wave of shields throughout their 3,500 mile, three-week journey aboard three double-decker buses from Europe to Baghdad and remained with them while they battled unsuccessfully with Iraqi officials to be allowed access to the civilians most thought they had come to protect.

The eccentric, eclectic group, none of whom fitted the "peacenik" stereotype, may have been drawn from all ages, backgrounds and experience, but they all shared one trait: naivety. Beset by problems on the road, lack of sufficient funds or a clear, universally-shared agenda, most had been tested beyond their limits before they even arrived in Iraq.

Among the catalogue of dramas they experienced en route were numerous breakdowns of the creaking 1967 Routemasters, bickering over the preferred route and acrimonious departures and illness.

During one cold, rainy night in Milan, we were left without our sleeping bags after an Italian went AWOL with the support bus. Later, a £500 donation from a well-wisher in Istanbul was squandered on boxes of Prozac in a misguided attempt to cheer up the war-weary Iraqi civilians.

Conspiracy theories spread like a contagion through the ranks. Whenever a puncture occurred it would be blamed on the CIA. "It's sabotage," Peter Van Dyke, 36, had whispered to a bemused mechanic as he removed a thick screw from a flat tyre in a garage outside Naples.

Sue Darling, 60, a former diplomat from Surrey, had been eager to demonstrate her civil service credentials: most importantly, she confided in one shield, she knew how to recognise a spy. Her first suspect turned out to be The Telegraph's photographer.

Little surprise then that so few were alert to the real nature of the regime that welcomed them to the Iraqi capital two weeks ago. After a propaganda lecture from Dr Hashimi, one young American told me: "It's so interesting to hear what is really going on in this country." He scoffed at any suggestion that their good intentions might be misused by Saddam's regime: "All we have seen here is continuous kindness and hospitality."

Bruce, a 24-year-old Canadian wearing a T-shirt saying "I don't want to die", was one of a group of tanned young men who were drafted into protect a grain store. Initially, he, like others, had concerns about the sites, which included an oil refinery, a water purification plant and electricity stations. He was won over when the Iraqis provided televisions, VCRs, telephones and a Play Station.

"Dr Hashimi has explained that we help the population more by staying in the 'strategic sites'," he explained. His friend added: "We play football in the afternoons and the Iraqis bring us cartons of cigarettes. It's just like summer camp."

Not all the sites were as welcoming. Daniel Pepper, a 22-year-old student from Pennsylvania, was not fooled by the oil refinery, despite the comfortable beds with parcels of goodies laid out on the pillows. "The people staying there sleep 50 yards from stacks billowing black smoke." he said. "And it's sinister: 20 minders are there for eight shields. There are three security gates, including one manned by plain-clothed guards carrying AK47s. Most shields want to get out of there and go to the granary.

"We need to negotiate with Dr Hashimi about this." Any negotiations with the Iraqi official, however, would undoubtedly be met with a frosty reception.

The Iraqi government has invested an estimated £10,000 to provide free food and hotel accommodation to the 200 shields and have lost patience with their dithering. It could be argued that this confusion is as much the fault of their leaders as the Iraqi government. On the bus, Sue Darling, who was in touch with Dr Hashimi, had told the shields they would stay with families or in schools, hospitals and orphanges.

"As a former diplomat, I should deal with the Iraqi officials. I speak their language," she said. Once in Baghdad, Ms Darling, who had traded her red puffa-jacket and walking boots for smart suits and Jackie O glasses, quickly acquiesced to the demands of the regime and moved into the granary.

Kevin and Helen Williams, a soft-spoken couple from Wales, were baffled by this volte-face: "We always understood that human shield meant a shield of humans and that we would be allowed to work with Iraqi civilians. Why it is being interpreted differently now?"

Others acted on their suspicions and left without a word. Adele Peers, a 23-year-old special needs teacher from Liverpool, and Peter Van Dyke, a therapist from Portsmouth, left for Jordan three days ago after the Iraqis reneged on a promise to allow them to work with children.

Not everyone was upset by the latest turn in events. Ken O'Keefe, 33, the founder of the human shields movement who served as a US marine during the Gulf war, had always planned to protect Iraqi "installations" should bombs rain down on the capital.

During the journey, the heavily-tattooed O'Keefe, who earned the title "black Ken" on account of his penchant for the colour and outlook on life, had alienated his companions who felt he had developed both a death wish and a messiah complex. Prone to tantrums and mood swings, his credibility had not been helped by the fact that he had, for much of the journey, been accompanied by his mother, Pat.

In Baghdad, Ken came into his own. Dressed in a thick, grey dishdash, he took to ambushing me in the Andalus corridors to brief me on his latest soundbites. "Dark forces have worked against me," he said, "but I have survived. My mission is hard core, in-your-face activism."

O'Keefe's nemesis was Joe Letts, 52, a former television cameraman from Dorset and the owner of the two red buses. Dressed in his fawn duffle coat and a ragged, bright jersey, the Glastonbury Festival regular devoted his unswaying optimism to propelling the convoy to Baghdad regardless of O'Keefe's absence.

"We will stop the war," he would tell me cheerfully everyday. "If that doesn't happen, I'm taking my buses back to London - with a detour via the vineyards of Lebanon."

It was precisely this attitude that enraged the militant O'Keefe, who yesterday waved aside any talk of the exodus affecting his mission. "They have a soft, fluffy attitude to activism," he muttered. "We are better off without them."

While the group visibly "radicalised" once in Iraq, Godfrey remained charming and affable. One afternoon, Sue Darling posted an angry message on the Andalus hotel noticeboard: "Can whoever stole my bag of nuts, sultanas and dried bananas, please return them. They are my emergency rations". Godfrey scrawled below: "Sue, I can let you have some of my prunes. If it would help."

Back at the Andalus hotel yesterday, the British contingent who arrived on the red double-decker buses were packing up to leave, their faces chalk-white with exhaustion.

Closeby Erdogan Erikci, a 25-year-old who had never before left his village in Turkey, was telling Turkish CNN that he planned to stay: "I have a message for my mum," he told the camera, "You should be proud of me, I am a human shield. "


TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Foreign Affairs; Front Page News; Government; News/Current Events; US: District of Columbia; United Kingdom
KEYWORDS: delusionsofshieldom; deployorleave; fools; humanshields; idiots; iraq; losers; peacelemmings; playstation; primetargets; saddam; saddamszeros; silly; summercamp; targets; tvvcrphone
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What a gaggle of fools.

Regards, Ivan


1 posted on 03/01/2003 4:33:01 PM PST by MadIvan
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To: Kip Lange; dixiechick2000; UofORepublican; kayak; LET LOOSE THE DOGS OF WAR; keats5; ...
Bump!
2 posted on 03/01/2003 4:33:12 PM PST by MadIvan
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To: MadIvan
Obviously a group who consider you're never too old to join the Children's Crusade
3 posted on 03/01/2003 4:44:24 PM PST by Oztrich Boy
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To: MadIvan
To paraphrase Bugs Bunny, "What a bunch of maroons." So all is not wine and roses in beautiful downtown Baghdad. Too bad, so sad!
4 posted on 03/01/2003 4:45:09 PM PST by NonValueAdded ("Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists." GWB 9/20/01)
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To: MadIvan
At the Andalus hotel five kilometres away, Dr Abdul Hashimi, the official overseeing their mission in Iraq, had issued the shocked group with an ultimatum: deploy to the "strategic sites" hand-picked by the government or leave immediately.

And so they left - except for O'Keefe and his significant mother, I suppose. After the war, we'll probably have to pay reparations for those anachronisms..

5 posted on 03/01/2003 4:45:32 PM PST by xJones
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To: MadIvan
"We always understood that human shield meant a shield of humans and that we would be allowed to work with Iraqi civilians. Why it is being interpreted differently now?"

It's not being interpreted differently. "Human shield" refers to a shield MADE of humans, and it always has. You guys are the ones who decided it meant something else. Suckers.

6 posted on 03/01/2003 4:47:00 PM PST by hellinahandcart
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To: MadIvan
"...but they all shared one trait: naivety..."

Actually, that's STUPIDITY.

7 posted on 03/01/2003 4:47:54 PM PST by anniegetyourgun
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To: MadIvan
....just like summer camp.

I'm speechless. I Just...I don't know where to begin.
8 posted on 03/01/2003 4:49:42 PM PST by hippy hate me (Peace had 18 chances)
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To: MadIvan
Ken O'Keefe's insane ranting on Fox News was particularly entertaining. Anyone who saw him should have no doubt about the "messiah complex" the author described.
9 posted on 03/01/2003 4:50:13 PM PST by smokeyjon
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To: MadIvan
Man, this is great... 20 Iraqi Oil Refinery guards for every 8 'human shields'-I wonder what that means!! (besides the fact that there is plenty of food and water right next to the refinery)
10 posted on 03/01/2003 4:50:16 PM PST by ewing
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To: MadIvan
what a well written commedy! I laughed my ass off .... £500 spent on prozac - I have to go pick up my ass off of the floor because I laughed so hard it just fell off!

Sounds like this is a script for a made-for-TV movie - I'd watch it and I'd laugh my ass off again!

Thanks for the laugh

11 posted on 03/01/2003 4:51:22 PM PST by rface (Ashland, Missouri to Wash. D.C. March 1, 2003 "Supporting our Troops")
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To: xJones
I still think O'Keefe ha a deal to decamp at the last minute, leaving his mum behind.

I wonder what the terms of her will are.

12 posted on 03/01/2003 4:51:31 PM PST by Miss Marple
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To: hellinahandcart; MadIvan
This is to much...

Not all the sites were as welcoming. Daniel Pepper, a 22-year-old student from Pennsylvania, was not fooled by the oil refinery, despite the comfortable beds with parcels of goodies laid out on the pillows. "The people staying there sleep 50 yards from stacks billowing black smoke." he said. "And it's sinister: 20 minders are there for eight shields. There are three security gates, including one manned by plain-clothed guards carrying AK47s. Most shields want to get out of there and go to the granary.

LOLOLOL!!!!

13 posted on 03/01/2003 4:51:40 PM PST by Dog (Who has the rusty tools...???)
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To: MadIvan
a £500 donation from a well-wisher in Istanbul was squandered on boxes of Prozac in a misguided attempt to cheer up the war-weary Iraqi civilians.

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!! What a waste! Couldn't they find any good hash?

14 posted on 03/01/2003 4:52:18 PM PST by Alouette
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To: hippy hate me
This article is great entertainment!
15 posted on 03/01/2003 4:53:09 PM PST by JeepInMazar (www.answering-islam.org)
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To: MadIvan
Useful idiots that Sodom has no use for.
16 posted on 03/01/2003 4:53:31 PM PST by SMEDLEYBUTLER
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To: hippy hate me
Truly candidates all for the yearly Darwin Awards. The gene pool really needs some serious flushing.
17 posted on 03/01/2003 4:53:37 PM PST by Dazedcat
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To: MadIvan; harpseal; Travis McGee; Squantos; sneakypete; Chapita
boxes of Prozac in a misguided attempt to cheer up the war-weary Iraqi civilians

Prozac will get you through times of war better than war through times of no prozac.

18 posted on 03/01/2003 4:55:15 PM PST by razorback-bert
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To: smokeyjon
What was he saying?
19 posted on 03/01/2003 4:56:02 PM PST by Hazzardgate
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To: JeepInMazar
hey buddy - I remember that you wrote a letter to the Columbia Missouri Tribune - good to see you around.
20 posted on 03/01/2003 4:57:36 PM PST by rface (Ashland, Missouri to Wash. D.C. March 1, 2003 "Supporting our Troops")
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To: Guenevere
Ping!
21 posted on 03/01/2003 4:58:17 PM PST by Dog (Who has the rusty tools...???)
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To: Dog
They are just figuring out now that the 20 Iraqi guards guarding the peaceful 'human shields' are sinister?
22 posted on 03/01/2003 4:58:25 PM PST by ewing
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To: xJones
And so they left - except for O'Keefe and his significant mother, I suppose. After the war, we'll probably have to pay reparations for those anachronisms..

O'keefe was arrested in Turkey for traveling on a forged passport. He never even made it into Iraq, at least that was the last I heard.

23 posted on 03/01/2003 4:59:54 PM PST by JavaTheHutt
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To: Alouette
a £500 donation from a well-wisher in Istanbul was squandered on boxes of Prozac in a misguided attempt to cheer up the war-weary Iraqi civilians.

This is like a SNL skit!

24 posted on 03/01/2003 5:00:35 PM PST by Hildy
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To: mhking
A Hold muh Granola alert...

Later, a £500 donation from a well-wisher in Istanbul was squandered on boxes of Prozac in a misguided attempt to cheer up the war-weary Iraqi civilians.

Conspiracy theories spread like a contagion through the ranks. Whenever a puncture occurred it would be blamed on the CIA. "It's sabotage," Peter Van Dyke, 36, had whispered to a bemused mechanic as he removed a thick screw from a flat tyre in a garage outside Naples.

25 posted on 03/01/2003 5:00:43 PM PST by stands2reason
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To: rface
Yes, it was this letter that was published.
26 posted on 03/01/2003 5:03:00 PM PST by JeepInMazar (www.answering-islam.org)
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To: MadIvan
The eccentric, eclectic group, none of whom fitted the "peacenik" stereotype, may have been drawn from all ages, backgrounds and experience, but they all shared one trait: naivety.

If that doesn't say it all, I don't know what does.

27 posted on 03/01/2003 5:05:24 PM PST by Steel Wolf
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To: MadIvan
Either it's April Fools Day or this article is from the Onion. No way anything real could be that funny!
28 posted on 03/01/2003 5:07:03 PM PST by GnL
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To: MadIvan
"Sue, I can let you have some of my prunes. If it would help."

ROTFLOL!!!

29 posted on 03/01/2003 5:08:07 PM PST by Jemian
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To: JeepInMazar
wow! a year and a half ago. i am in your neck of the woods tonight but will bead back to Missouri tomorrow. I am in Springfield Virginia.
30 posted on 03/01/2003 5:08:43 PM PST by rface (Ashland, Missouri to Wash. D.C. March 1, 2003 "Supporting our Troops")
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To: MadIvan
"they all shared one trait: naivety"

I sounds a lot more like: stupidity.

31 posted on 03/01/2003 5:12:31 PM PST by Savage Beast
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To: JavaTheHutt
O'Keefe was arrrested and deported from Turkey for trying to get in under some BS passport, the news only reported that he finally did get into Iraq. I don't think they reported his alternate method after he left Turkey.
32 posted on 03/01/2003 5:15:34 PM PST by Hillarys Gate Cult ("Read Hillary's hips. I never had sex with that woman.")
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To: MadIvan
I live for these updates. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

33 posted on 03/01/2003 5:16:26 PM PST by AnnaZ
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To: MadIvan
*snort* bump!
34 posted on 03/01/2003 5:17:16 PM PST by dixiechick2000 (I heart "New" Europe!)
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To: IncPen
Ping...

BTW, does naivety = naivete ??

Or is that the anglicized version ???
35 posted on 03/01/2003 5:20:25 PM PST by BartMan1
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To: MadIvan
One afternoon, Sue Darling posted an angry message on the Andalus hotel noticeboard: "Can whoever stole my bag of nuts, sultanas and dried bananas, please return them. They are my emergency rations". Godfrey scrawled below: "Sue, I can let you have some of my prunes. If it would help."

Sounds like Godfrey has a smidgin of a sense of humor.

36 posted on 03/01/2003 5:20:39 PM PST by Budge (God Bless FReepers!)
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To: MadIvan
Any news about Miss Germany? Was she successful in talking some sense into Saddam? LOL
37 posted on 03/01/2003 5:25:44 PM PST by randita
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To: MadIvan
No guts, no glory
38 posted on 03/01/2003 5:26:29 PM PST by fortcollins
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To: Miss Marple
The terms of "Keefe's mum should be interesting. Who gets the 1968 VW van, the Y2K supplies, and who can tell if she's really dead since she always looks like that. It's amazing her son can move around without the life support equipment trailing him.

For some odd reason, O'Keefe & mumsey remind me of the movie, "It's a mad, mad, mad, mad world", where poor Milton Berle is being nagged constantly by his backseat driver, Ethel Merman.

.

39 posted on 03/01/2003 5:26:37 PM PST by xJones
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To: xJones
Whoops, that should be in #39: "The terms of O'Keefe's mother's will..."
40 posted on 03/01/2003 5:28:25 PM PST by xJones
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To: MadIvan
PROZAC?! They bought Prozac for the Iraqis? I have not laughed this hard for a long time- Thanks Ivan!
41 posted on 03/01/2003 5:30:30 PM PST by ThinkingMan (Maybe someday I can ride in one of those black helicopters!)
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To: JavaTheHutt
O'keefe was arrested in Turkey for traveling on a forged passport. He never even made it into Iraq, at least that was the las I heard.

Regretfully for the Baghdaddies, O'Keefe arrived. Dear diary.

42 posted on 03/01/2003 5:33:55 PM PST by xJones
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To: Hazzardgate
He was ranting like a crazy man. If anyone even slightly disagreed with them, he just started yelling and threatening to stop the interview.
43 posted on 03/01/2003 5:39:33 PM PST by smokeyjon
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To: Hillarys Gate Cult
If I'm not mistaken, he was carrying a "passport" that declared him a "Citizen of the Planet Earth".
44 posted on 03/01/2003 5:40:07 PM PST by smokeyjon
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To: hellinahandcart
We always understood that human shield meant a shield of humans

It's the old To serve Man mistake

45 posted on 03/01/2003 5:46:18 PM PST by Oztrich Boy
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To: MadIvan
guess they shoulda read Colin Powells rules to live by before they left....#5 clearly states....Be careful what you choose, you may get it!...You wanted to be human shield...Now ya are 'em!....( and I hate to say it but...*LMAO*... WE TOLD YOU SO!)
46 posted on 03/01/2003 5:48:23 PM PST by M-cubed
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To: ewing
Man, this is great... 20 Iraqi Oil Refinery guards for every 8 'human shields'-I wonder what that means!!

Do the math. If 1 in 10 of the recent protesters can be persuaded to become human shields, the entire Iraqi milatary will be escorting them, leaving it open for a troop of Girl Scouts to capture Saddam.

47 posted on 03/01/2003 5:51:32 PM PST by Oztrich Boy
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To: MadIvan
This reporter has done a really good job. Does anyone have her email address? I suggest people contact her and let her know how great these articles documenting the human shields' activities have been.
48 posted on 03/01/2003 5:53:35 PM PST by laurav
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To: Oztrich Boy
you're never too old to join the Children's Crusade.

That ... says ... it ... all!

49 posted on 03/01/2003 5:58:56 PM PST by jennyp (http://crevo.bestmessageboard.com)
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To: MadIvan
Later, a £500 donation from a well-wisher in Istanbul was squandered on boxes of Prozac in a misguided attempt to cheer up the war-weary Iraqi civilians.

Shaking head here. Unbelievable.

MM

50 posted on 03/01/2003 5:59:10 PM PST by MississippiMan
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