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http://www.commondreams.org/headlines03/0322-07.htm Published on Saturday, March 22, 2003 by the Toronto Star Border Town Seethes as Bombs Fall `After tonight, Americans won't be safe anywhere' Amid the rage, amazing hospitality for one Canadian by Mitch Potter ABU KAMAL ON THE IRAQ-SYRIA BORDER—The people on this particular edge of the war in Iraq fumed in silent fury last night as the final prayer of the Muslim holy day was answered with an unprecedented bombardment of their beloved Baghdad. By nightfall, as the ferocity of the air strikes beyond the eastern horizon mounted with each passing minute, residents of this frontier town were glued to televisions and radios, each taking the attack as a personal tragedy. "Why? Why is this happening?" asked Khalil Mohammed, 32, a lawyer, as he sat transfixed with a dozen men watching the devastation on Al-Jazeera TV. Smoke covers the presidential palace compound in Baghdad during a massive US-led air raid on the Iraqi capital. (AFP/Ramzi Haidar) "When the Americans hit Baghdad, they are hitting us. In this part of Syria, we think of ourselves as Iraqis. Because we once were — until the Sykes-Picot Line was drawn on the map, we were Iraq," he said, referring to the 1916 agreement that divided the Middle East into areas of influence for, among others, Britain and France. Mohammed offered a dark prognosis of how the Arab Muslim world is likely to respond. Not as a threat, but a statement of fact: "After tonight, Americans won't be safe anywhere in the world. They won't be able to travel, period." The explosive anti-American sentiment coursing through the Arab world is felt in the fierce, frosty glares of passers-by on the streets of Abu Kamal, a town of 40,000 people fed on the bounty of the rich Euphrates floodplain. There is only one other Westerner on the frontier, a freelance French photographer. For the past two days, a steady stream of residents has approached aggressively, demanding to know whether the outsiders are American. Or British. Or Australian. The safest answer — "Sahaafi Kanadi" (Canadian journalist) — elicits an astonishing response. Not only are the people of Abu Kamal keeping score of the exact complexion of the U.S.-led coalition, they can also quote word for word Prime Minister Jean Chrétien's dénouement of war. "Canada has earned our respect for having the courage to resist the George Bush," said Anwar, 22, an engineering student. "We like Chirac the best, but Chrétien has been good." Amid the rage, paradoxically, a lesson in breathtaking hospitality. The entire town seems now to know the nationalities of the two foreigners in its midst, and refuses to allow them to spend money. Whether for sweet chai tea, thick Arabic coffee or restaurant meals, offers of payment are firmly refused. "You are our guest. We cannot take your money." That hospitality did not fade with last night's salvo over Baghdad, but the mood of the town grew darker still. At a billiard room near Abu Kamal's central souk, the resident shark — Hussam, 19, a leather-jacketed teen with James Dean eyes and Minnesota Fats hands — challenged the outsiders to a mean game of pool. The cues were warped, the table's green felt tattered, but he delivered the opening break with a force that sent three balls flying off the table and across the pool-room floor. "Are you sure you're not American," he said with fire in his eyes, then proceeded to clean the table, ending a perfect game without giving his opponent a single shot. Over cups of tea later in yet another pool room, Hussam and a dozen friends enthused over the small contribution Syria is making to Saddam's war. "At least 100 Syrians have already gone to Baghdad to fight," he said. "People of Hamas, people of Hezbollah. We don't like Saddam, but we are proud of them for helping the Iraqi people. Nobody wants the Americans there." Copyright 1996-2003. Toronto Star Newspapers Limited __________________________________________________ Do you Yahoo!? Yahoo! Platinum - Watch CBS' NCAA March Madness, live on your desktop! http://platinum.yahoo.com _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email email@example.com All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk