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Friday, August 29, 2003

I Saw the Suffering

A retired teacher who served as a human shield during the war recounts her experience in Iraq and braces herself for the fines and jail time she faces now that she is back

By Lynn Waddell

Aug. 27 Faith Fippinger, a 62-year-old retired teacher of the blind, was one of more than 200 international human shields who hunkered down in Iraq early this year in hopes of discouraging a U.S. attack.

Why would a retired woman leave her home in sunny Florida to sleep on a cot in a desert halfway around the world where there was an impending war? Couldn't you have protested the war from America?

It was a humanitarian reason: to serve justice, help the people and instill good will. I follow Gandhi's principle to nonviolent resistance. I wanted to stand beside and protect those who had already suffered. They were caught between their domestic tyrant and United States' ambitions. I went in hopes of stopping what I perceive as an illegal and unnecessary war.


What happened when the bombing started, were you scared?

The first missile didn't go over our house until 5:30 at night [on March 19]. I have never experienced that sound before. Knowing it was so close, my heart definitely pounded harder than it has before. More than feeling fear, I was overwhelmed by sadness that our government would do such a thing. I knew why I went to Iraq, and I was prepared to give my life if need be for those innocent civilians. When all labels and names are taken down, we are all just human beings.

Did you see Iraqis rejoice at Saddam's fall from power?

Yes, people were relieved, but they were also concerned about what's going on now. They worry if worse is coming. Their motto to America is:- Drink your oil, take your oil, bathe in oil, and get out.- I did not see people dancing through the streets.


How did people in the hospital respond to you when you told them you were American, and were you ever hesitant to tell them?

I always said I was American because I wanted the Iraqi people to see that our country has concerned caring people. Usually when I did say that I was from America, they would say, "Thank you for helping us. Why this war?" One time there was a man standing beside his dying wife. Six of their children had been killed in the bombings. With tears streaming down his face, he asked me where I was from. I said America, but it was very difficult to admit.

How long did you volunteer at the hospital, and what other experiences did you have there?

Actually I spent about a week, but to me it seemed like a lifetime. Many of the horrors [I saw] will stay with me the rest of my life. There was this beautiful, young pregnant woman whose right arm had been taken off and her left was badly damaged. They took her baby by Cesarean; fortunately she was almost full term. Then the mother in fact lost her left arm. When I would pass by her room, I could hear her crying. She would say, "I can't hold my baby."'

Another Iraqi woman, Dena, went in for surgery on her leg. Bombing had destroyed her home and her whole block. They had to remove her entire left leg. After her surgery, she looked up at me and said,"And this is liberation?"

I saw doctors sobbing while they worked. One doctor would point bed to bed, telling the names of the children who had died there. There were vans in back of the hospital for the dead bodies. Due to sanctions they had no air conditioning. I witnessed families who had sent their children to relatives thinking they would be safe, try to find their children's bodies there.

The Treasury Department wants to garnish this woman's pension and social security. While Dick Cheney makes millions and the Shia have no protection for their leading clerics. Your tax dollars at work at a billion a day

posted by Steve @ 12:57:00 PM

12:57:00 PM

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