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A U.S. Antiwar Voice in Iraq

Americans who went to Baghdad say they are not human shields, but want to 'be with the victims.'

March 21, 2003|Steve Hymon | Times Staff Writer

April Hurley, a physician from Santa Rosa, has slept the last two nights in a Baghdad hotel with a rescue whistle and a flashlight around her neck. Her room is just across the Tigris River from a compound she expects to be a target of bombs from U.S. forces.

Hurley welcomes the exposure. "I take the same view as the Iraqi people," she said in a telephone interview this morning in Baghdad. "It's Russian roulette whether we get hit or not.

"The whistle doesn't really matter. There's no earth-moving equipment in the streets and there's not going to be if something happens."

Hurley, 48, is one of four Californians sent to Baghdad by a Chicago-based group called Voices in the Wilderness.

She and her colleagues are quick to note that they are not in Baghdad to act as human shields. Rather, they say they felt compelled to protest the war by being with the people they feel will be its victims.

"I want to be with the victims of what is being done with my tax money," said Wade Hudson, 58, another of the four. Hudson is a part-time San Francisco cabdriver who lives in a home amid the redwoods in the Santa Cruz Mountains in the town of Boulder Creek.

Their ability to travel around the city is limited. Iraqi officials helped them obtain visas, and they must be accompanied by an Iraqi government official wherever they go.

Hurley, who has been in Iraq since March 13, has been spending much of her time at a hospital for children with cancer. Earlier this week, she said, all but one of the 14 patients were sent home.

"They went home with their families to die," Hurley said. "The chemotherapy isn't adequate anyway, so it's very hard to treat the kids, except to hope that half of the chemo works."

Hudson sat out the bombing Thursday in a Baghdad cafe.

"It was filled with a large extended family of Iraqis playing chess," Hudson said. "I was playing against a journalist from Montreal. The bombs were going off in the distance and everyone was pretty much oblivious. It was quite remarkable."

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