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Area activist submits reports from Baghdad

...
Area activist submits reports from Baghdad

<www.santacruzsentinel.com/archive/2003/March/25/local/stories/01local.htm>

March 25, 2003
By DAN WHITE
Sentinel staff writer

A Boulder Creek peace activist now in Baghdad says he’s determined to send back accounts of damage, civilian casualties and any “war crimes” he witnesses.
For now, Wade Hudson, 58, is staying in the Andalus Hotel, across the street from the Palestine Hotel, frequented by Western journalists. Hudson, who arrived in Baghdad March 13, is part of the group Voices in the Wilderness, which opposes the economic sanctions imposed on Iraq following the Gulf War in 1991.
The international group has sent about 50 delegates to Iraq since 1996. Members say the sanctions have contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children, who have perished because of a lack of food, clean water and access to health care and medical supplies.
The group members are hailed as heroes by peace activists, while those who support the war characterize them as naive pawns of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. The U.S. State Department has criticized human shields, and has said that all other civilian observers should have heeded the U.S. government’s blanket warning about travel in Iraq.
Hudson is single, has no children and has a job lined up for him when he returns. Hudson, who moved to a cabin in the San Lorenzo Valley in 2000, supports himself by driving a taxi part time in San Francisco and spends the rest of his time as a writer and antipoverty worker.
The Arkansas native has served on the San Francisco Mental Health Advisory Board. A longtime activist in the Civil Rights and antiwar movements, Hudson posts his Iraq writings online every day at inlet.org/wade.
He describes flying from Chicago to Amman, Jordan, then waiting for days, “stuck in limbo,” before being allowed to travel to Baghdad. While there are extreme restrictions on travel to Iraq, the group was able to secure visas for the delegation, and arrived in the Middle East before Bush’s “48 hours” speech.
Hudson is not delivering food and medicine on his journey and says he has no intention of being a “human shield.” He said, in Internet postings, he is there to take part in vigils and demonstrations protesting the war, support the Iraqis, “witness, listen, observe and report back.”
Friends say they are glad he’s staying close to so many reporters.
His present lodging “gives me comfort because if the Pentagon hit that building, it would be a major public relations disaster,” said Hudson’s friend, Steven Shults, a Seattle-based activist who last spoke with Hudson around 3 a.m. Sunday.
Shults, however, is unnerved about the prospect of block-by-block fire fights in Baghdad.
Hudson hasn’t mentioned any close calls, but he’s posted descriptions of devastation left behind by the bombing runs, and described what it’s like to be in a trembling building as bombs burst in the distance. One friend, Bob Fitch of the Santa Cruz-based Resource Center for Nonviolence, said he worries every day about Hudson, who he describes as a “gentle bear of a man.”
Hudson writes of visiting sites of recent devastation under the watchful eye of a “government minder” who shadows him and restricts his access. He describes driving through a residential neighborhood, past “an 8- to 12- foot-deep bomb crater in the middle of a wide ... street. We saw many smaller homes in the neighborhood that had all their front windows blown out, presumably from the blast that created the crater.”
In one posting he depicts a visit to the Amiriyah bomb shelter, blown to bits by two “smart bombs” during the Gulf War a decade ago, killing hundreds of Iraqi civilians.
He also describes rubbing elbows with former CNN reporter Peter Arnett, now with National Geographic and NBC, who Hudson says was patient and affable, talking with Hudson as bombs exploded in the distance.
“(Arnett) says all four quadrants of the city have been hit,” Hudson wrote on Saturday. “He estimates that since the U.S. troops must cross the Euphrates River, it will probably be at least a few days before they get to Baghdad. As they approach, he anticipates the bombing will be closer in, more concentrated, more intense. He also expects extensive urban warfare.”
His journals emphasize he is not there to support Saddam but show solidarity with Iraqis.
In the same breath, he had harsh criticism for the Bush administration. In one posting, Hudson said he had to travel to Iraq, because, “with my tax dollars, my government is preparing to inflict untold death and suffering on Iraqi civilians even though most of the world opposes this war.”
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Contact Dan White at dwhite (at) santa-cruz.com

 
 


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