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Dear List, I read about the trshing of the airport with overwhelming sadness. There seems to be no effort to understand anything about that which Iraqis hold dear - from the antiquities which are all our heritage to the airport of which they were so proud, Here is what I wrote for Middle East International in November 2000. If this is a repeat posting, apologies. It seemed relevant. The Captain who took the troops to task and had the courage to speak out deserves a medal. Decency has not entirely died in those of the backbone of the USA. Best, felicity a. Letter from Saddam International Airport. For ten years the people of Iraq have been deprived of the most basic essentials to sustain life and policies of a United Nations - established to protect succeeding generations ....¹ - have culled an average of 6,000 children a month. Yet the Iraq I have just returned from is an Iraq I did not recognise - an Iraq with hope. The opening of Baghdad International Airport in August and incoming flights, are effectively eroding the embargo from within. There are tears in our eyes every time a flight lands¹ remarked a friend. Isolation has been as grinding as deprivation. There were tears in the eyes of the passengers on Olympic Airways flight 3598 from Athens to Baghdad too as the Captain touched down, welcoming us to Baghdad. It had been organised by Greek NGO¹s, the former first lady of Greece, Margarita Papandreou, with the backing of the Greek Government. M.P. George Galloway¹s spectacular flight to Baghdad, which arrived two days earlier, had anything but the backing of the British government. Two previous flights in which he was involved having been blocked, Galloway borrowed the peronal just of the President of Bulgaria and flew from London Manston airport with a group including Lord Rea and Father Michael Barry, informing the Foreign Office that they were going on a pilgrimage to Sophia. In the event, they touched down in Bulgaria only to refuel and headed on. One can only speculate on Peter Hain¹s reaction when Galloway rang him in the early hours and said: Good Morning from Baghdad, Minister of State...¹ Baghdad¹s airport is vast, marbled, efficient and very much open for business. The fortuitous hijacking of a Saudi flight (during Iraq Tourism Week) was a public relations coup for Iraq and disaster for Britain¹s Foreign Secretary Robin Cook who declined to thank Iraq for its hospitality, a diplomatic gaffe which reverberated around the world. What is your most memorable moment of your ordeal in Iraq?¹ asked a journalist of one of passengers. The tears in our eyes when we left¹ was the reply. Rumours are rife in Baghdad that the hijackers responsible for this favourable limelight - who applied for political asylum - are living in considerable comfort. The increasingly isolationist rhetoric of Britain and America no longer count on the Baghdad street. Shop windows gleam, shutters are repainted, merchants rise at dawn to wash and sweep. Travel agents are reopened after ten years and Royal Jordanian and Aeroflot airlines are importing computers, polishing, and preparing for regular flights. As always it is a looking glass world. Few can either afford purchases or travel, but hope is back and in the Iraqi Airways office in the Palestine Hotel is a triumphant timetable for flights to Mosul and Basra - defying British and American planes routinely bombing the safe havens¹ in which the two cities lie. Beneath the surface tragedy is unabated. We shall visit another sadderly place¹ said the Director of Baghdad¹s Childrens Hospital, excellent english suddenly ambushed by emotion. Chronic shortage of diagnostic equipment, anaesthetics, blood, drips, pain relief, antibiotics meant that five day old Omar, with an internal obstruction was set to become another fledgling victim of embargo. Another sadderly¹ place is Basra Maternity Hospital, where birth abnormalities are recorded, exhibiting further horrors in a new generation of new born, linked it is thought to depleted uranium weapons used in the Gulf war. A tiny body with neither arms, legs, or head. A part formed face with one cyclopian eye and a nose at the hairline. I want the world to hear my voice, to know what has happed here¹ says paediatrician, Dr Jenan Hussein. The great ziggurat at Ur, believed birthplace of Abraham is damaged from the missiles which fell nearby in 1991, 1998 and 1999 when US or UK planes bombed, in a policy upheld by their Christian leaders. In Basra, children in a school next to a barracks did not even look up or break from their playground games as the sirens warned of a further attack. I joined the soldiers who pointed up to the returning planes, pinpricks in the stratosphere. They did not even cast a glance at their 1950¹s anti aircraft guns, there was no contest. Another soldier who had earlier offered to show us the road to Ur pointed out damage from both the Gulf war and subsequent bombings. The vast power station which had supplied the region had remained off line since being damaged in 1991 he said as we passed it. What was clearly bomb damage was visible over vast tracts, mile after mile. A member of the Sheffield delegation handed him a statement in Arabic, explaining the reason for their visit - solidarity with the people of Iraq. He read it slowly and carefully. Then he said: It is traditional in the south to offer travellers hospitalty. My home is very simple, but I have five chickens, you will eat well...¹ It was just days before Ramadan, which when ended, the chickens would have undoubtedly been part of the traditional celbratory feast. He was prepared though, to offer them to strangers from a land who had wrought such devastation on his country. We pleaded pressure of time and declined, moved beyond words. In Mosul, we visited Deir Matti - St Matthew¹s Monastry - perched high on Mount Maqloub, the Lourdes of the Middle East, where the sick are bought to what is reputed to be the Saint¹s buriel place, to benefit from his powers of healing. On the event of the 1999 eclipse scientists and astonomers from throughout the Middle East gathered on Mount Maqloub, the highest point in the region, to watch. They were rewarded with the Monastry being shaken to its foundations as the village below was bombed by patrolling UK or US flights. The area is also a favourite for bombings of flocks of sheep and their child shepherds. The priests are witness to the ongoing grief. Please tell Tony Blair that he is a very, very bad man¹ said the aged priest in charge solemnly.Half an hour after we left, there were reports of another bombing. The help Iraq¹s people deserve is incalculable, but the airport is a beacon of hope and a there is a new phrase on the street: for us the embargo is over¹. There is though an outstanding question. Satellite surveillance of Iraq is such that the State Department boasted that a coca cola can in a trash bin¹ could be picked up. How come the building of a vast international airport was such a surprise? _______________________________________________ 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 firstname.lastname@example.org All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk