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War Stories

Sonomans in Iraq give the unembedded view

Dr. April Hurley, who lives in Santa Rosa, is in Baghdad with the Iraq Peace Team, a group sponsored by Voices in the Wilderness, a joint U.S.-U.K. campaign that has been working to end the sanctions in Iraq since 1996. Another Sonoma County resident, Martin Edwards, is also there with IPT. Dr. Hurley has been sending messages home intermittently to update friends and family about the situation and give assurances of her safety. Here are some excerpts from her e-mails and those of her sister, Andrea Abbott.

March 24: E-mail from Dr. Hurley

If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.

In Bagdhad, at Al Kindi Hospital, Fatima Abdullah is screaming in outrage: “Why do you do this to us?!”

Her eight-year-old, Fatehah, is dead, two other daughters are on stretchers, wounded by a missile that crushed her uncle’s home where they were staying outside Baghdad. An extended farming family, they have suffered with sanctions and economic devastation shrinking their stock of animals to one cow, a donkey, and chickens; they are barely able to feed themselves.

Nada Adnan, 13 years old and a student, states, “I wish that God would take Bush. Why did he do this to us? To me?” She has an open gash on her right cranium with underlying fracture and a large, deep shrapnel gouge cut into her upper-left thigh. She has no narcotic relief and cries out as aides press gauze into her leg wound. Nine-year-old Rana Adnan needs oxygen for a chest laceration and lung contusion with a concussion, head laceration, and shrapnel in her left arm.

And the list keeps going on. A 70-year-old man shopping for food for his family now has a compound fracture of his left upper arm and a chest wound through his lung.

He has rage and opinions, just as the multitude of families do these several days. How can I explain reasons to them? They know that Bush’s administration is interested in oil control and that they have no interest in democracy for these people. Why don’t Americans know this? Why did we elect this man without human feelings, they ask.

It’s not easy being an American in a Baghdad emergency room seeing victims and their families. I wish that George Bush was here with his answers to their outrage.

March 23: E-mail from Andrea

Dear Everyone,

I called the Andalus Apartments this morning at 10:30 (EST) and spoke to Wade Hudson. He said the IPT members have been given permission to begin visiting sites of damage and victims of the bombing attacks. According to Wade, April is a few miles from the apartments, camped out in the “Peace Tent” area; it is believed she will begin treating the injured.

Thank you again for all your support; I know April sends her love.

March 21: E-mail from Andrea


As family members know, April called at 11am (EST) to let me know she would be at the Andalus Apartments if anyone wanted to call her at 12:15pm. I didn’t have any success reaching her at that time; I think international lines were too congested.

March 20: E-mail from Dr. Hurley

Around 4am, on the fourth floor, Zahira Houfani and I were awakened in the Andalus Apartments by earth shaking, and noted explosions in the distance right away. The alarm sounded, and we grabbed our emergency kits and headed for the basement. Martin Edwards reported that he was on the roof when he saw jets in formation with running lights pass over from the south. Explosions were continuous for several hours but did not come close to our hotel, the other Iraq Peace Team hotel next door (Al Fanar), or the large, tall Palestine Hotel south of us where most journalists have moved.

Snipers were recognized in the Palestine Hotel and in the high-rise building north of my room. Photographs from windows of hotels are prohibited, and our hotel manager was forcibly removed this [morning] because some people–journalists for foreign TV or other news people residing at the Andalus, not our team–were seen taking photos or videos from the roof or windows. The Iraqis are always trying to warn us of transgressions that may compromise national security and draw official attention, and assert that this country is committed to our safety as foreign guests (they have selectively given us visas). Each of us working for Iraqi peace worry more about our own forces under the direction of war criminal Rumsfeld and civil-rights violator Ashcroft!

We have heard chanting of the people fired up for resistance in the distance, but our movements are limited and generally we are involved with the maternity hospital, children’s cancer hospital, orphanages, schools and writing/corresponding for Voices in the Wilderness. Iraqis have seen and conversed with us often, and our presence here is consistently appreciated; people have been adamant about that.

We laugh among ourselves that no matter how much Bush intends to “shock and awe” the Iraqis, he has no real knowledge of these people. They are so calm and methodical. Nothing will faze these men and women who have seen so much bombing, social devastation, war, and loss. We have remarked that the only ones shocked and awed are the Iraq Peace Team, journalists, foreigners, and our families back home!

I visited the maternity hospital again yesterday. Women have been pleading for cesarean sections to have their babies early–some too early–before the bombing. Many have miscarried from the stress of war threats of carpet bombing. Doctors have talked of needing to seek safety out of town with their families, leaving one midwife to do deliveries day and night during the siege.

George Bush Sr. did break the back of this country, and bomb and sanction this civilization back to the Stone Age. [They are] wonderful people, warm and generous, suffering in poverty and illness perpetrated by U.S. actions. Bush will never shock and awe an Iraqi!! What does he know?

Love, April

March 17: E-mail from Andrea

April called around 2pm this afternoon. She is well. The children held a candlelight vigil last night on the banks of the Tigris River. She said the people of Baghdad are resigned that war is 24 hours away. They are taping up windows and putting grills on doorways.

April sends her love and said not to worry, she is OK and in a good space with good people. She thinks that right now it is extremely important that we all take time to care for ourselves, as well.

March 17: E-mail from Dr. Hurley

I’m sorry that the news looks so grim after the Azores, my father’s base during WWII. He would be so upset that the islands were used this way. Those people held his heart, and he dreamed of returning before he died.

I went to the Almiriya Shelter, where more than 400 terrorized Iraqis waited out the bombing last time and were struck not once but twice by serial missiles which exploded and incinerated all who weren’t blown out of doorways. It’s no wonder that they don’t choose to go into bomb shelters this time. In fact, some of the 28 on the Iraq Peace Team won’t be staying in our hotel shelters just to honor the experience and fears of our neighbors, the Iraqis staying in their homes. I’m undecided right now, since I believe we will have locals in my hotel shelter, and those conditions may be more difficult. As a doctor, I need to be where the people and medical supplies are.

I believe that the Iraqis will try to defend Baghdad, and construction suggests some efforts. The troops patrol with machine guns and are friendly/appreciative of our presence. Young, earnest faces, efforts to speak to me in scant English words. I can’t stand the horrible view of our country.

The kids are dying of cancer in incredible numbers, much induced by our depleted uranium weapons radiation, our toxic exposure through starting refinery fires (our Special Forces soldiers have admitted to doing this assignment). There are few professional nurses, the mothers learn to administer platelets, intravenous drugs, and fluids.

What a forgiving people! Amazingly accepting and warm toward me, an American. I feel responsible for all the devastation that I allowed without civil disobedience sooner. I’m sorry for the risks that I didn’t take before.

The world is watching, and no one will tolerate what we plan to do. And on that note, my time is up here at the Internet cafe at the Hotel Palestine here in Baghdad, a block from my hotel, the Andalus Apartments.

Love, April

From the March 27-April 2, 2003 issue of the North Bay Bohemian.

© Metro Publishing Inc.

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