Christiaan Briggs Reports On Iraq
By Christiaan Briggs
I must admit, of all the scenarios, being asked to leave [Iraq] wasn’t the one I expected. I am sitting in a room in South London somewhere. On Friday night I was escorted from Baghdad to a hotel in Amman, Jordan by Iraqi officials along with other Human Shield volunteers who had been made to leave Iraq by our host Friendship Peace and Solidarity president, Dr. Hashimi (adviser to Saddam Hussein in the last Gulf War) because of disputes over autonomy of the group. Essentially he was telling us they were doing the organising now, including where we were deployed, not us.
There was some confusion over whether I was one of the people being made to leave. I was on the list, off the list then back on the list. In the end I took the decision to leave anyway, partly in protest, but mainly because I think the decision of Dr. Hashimi played into the hands of those who have tried their damndest to make us out as being under the control of the Iraqi government from day one. Essentially I couldn’t argue that we were not under the control of the government anymore. I’ve always said I was prepared to stay, and even die, but only if I knew I could affect change.
It’s impossible to know if the reasons for Hashimi’s decision were sinister or if it was simply a culture clash, and naivety on his part. Evidence points both ways. They’re certainly not used to bolshie’s like us.
There are still Human Shield volunteers in Iraq. I hope I’m wrong and I hope they’re effective in protecting life. They are aware of the risks, they are there of their own free will, and at this stage they are still stationed at sites that have been unofficially Okayed by UN staff as sites of critical humanitarian concern.
I looked at getting back into Iraq as a relief worker but this felt too much like defeat. Instead I came to London to put together a book of all the pictures I have taken. I want to show the world just what will be destroyed if this crime goes ahead. Mainly they’re pictures of children. 50% of Iraq’s population is under 16.
I don’t know that I’ve made the right decision, I may have been able to stay without any problems. I’m just pissed off I let it come to this. I’m happy to be alive but dismayed that we may have failed. I feel a kind of quietness but at the same time I feel rage welling up inside me that I’ve never felt before.
As of writing this, the US is making noises about go ahead even with no UN mandate. As you read this it may already be happening. Those cowards may already be flying over Iraq pushing their buttons and dropping their bombs. Some of the children I have met may already have had their bodies ripped apart by bomb blasts. Not to worry of course, it's collateral damage.
If the US goes ahead with this not only
will thousands of ordinary people like you and me be killed
but everything the world has learnt since WWII will be cast
aside. That’s a world every person on this planet should
fear deeply, right or left of the political spectrum.