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Saturday, March 01, 2003

All Too Human Shields

And though I came to jeer at you
I leave now with regret
And as the gloom begins to fall
I see there is no, only all
Though you came with sword held high
You did not conquer, only die

Perhaps the emotion is regret. I was going to present this article with great glee and scorn, but after reading it through I cannot. It's just too sad. Yes, the glee and scorn's still there, but there's an emotion I can't name mixed with them. Maybe it's regret. Not for me, but for them.

They did not come to conquer, of course, but to "do good". Some of them. Maybe. Maybe some came to be seen doing good. Some of them came to give other people a poke in the eye, and they don't realize that the eyes are far beyond their reach.

Many of the Merry Prankster human shields who set out to stop the war in bright red buses have left for home now. This article is by Charlotte Edwards, a journalist who travelled with them.

Nine of the 11 British shields on the pioneering wave of red double-deckers left this weekend...Dr Abdul Hashimi, the official overseeing their mission in Iraq, had issued the shocked group with an ultimatum: deploy to the "strategic sites" hand-picked by the government or leave immediately.

Edwards says they shared one characteristic: naivete. I think stupidity must have been in good supply as well.

...a £500 donation from a well-wisher in Istanbul was squandered on boxes of Prozac in a misguided attempt to cheer up the war-weary Iraqi civilians.

Conspiracy theories spread like a contagion through the ranks. Whenever a puncture occurred it would be blamed on the CIA.


Sue Darling, 60, a former diplomat from Surrey, had been eager to demonstrate her civil service credentials: most importantly, she confided in one shield, she knew how to recognise a spy. Her first suspect turned out to be The Telegraph's photographer.

Not all of them are babes in the woods:

Initially, [young Bruce, a Canadian] had concerns about the sites, which included an oil refinery, a water purification plant and electricity stations. He was won over when the Iraqis provided televisions, VCRs, telephones and a Play Station.


"It's just like summer camp."

Diplomat Sue Darling was one of the liasons with the Iraqis.

[She] told the shields they would stay with families or in schools, hospitals and orphanges.

"As a former diplomat, I should deal with the Iraqi officials. I speak their language," she said. Once in Baghdad, Ms Darling...quickly acquiesced to the demands of the regime..

Reading back over this, I see that in pulling out the juicy quotes, I've made the article seem more mocking and amusing than it really is. Go and read the whole thing, and be moved to pity, and that emotion I can't define. (Something like world-weariness and deja vu with overtones of anger.)

Ah, but enough of sober emotions! Now here's a fellow I need not waste my pity on. Ken O'Keefe, the founder of the human shields movement does not disappoint in his loopiness. He's the former Marine (has anybody checked on this?) who renounced his American citizenship and carried around a homemade "citizen of the world" passport, which got him booted from several countries. He had no problem with guarding military installations.

O'Keefe...had alienated his companions who felt he had developed both a death wish and a messiah complex...his credibility had not been helped by the fact that he had, for much of the journey, been accompanied by his mother..."Dark forces have worked against me," he said, "but I have survived. My mission is hard core, in-your-face activism."

Even bad-ass hardcore revolutionaries need their mommies!

See also this article.