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We're human shields in Iraq-- get us out of here
Published March 5, 2003
Finding that exciting and perfect career can be difficult in a tight economy.
Especially if you're looking for that special opportunity, requiring passion and commitment, something with an edge to it, something you can tell your grandkids about, if you live.
Like being human shields in Iraq.
I hear there are many openings in the human shield business these days.
Only a few weeks ago, emboldened by media fanfare, liberal young people and even some geezers (madras shirts, sandals and Neil Young music optional) tromped passionately off to Saddam Hussein's wonderland.
They were determined to use their bodies to protect Iraq against bombs from U.S.-led airstrikes.
And what would protect them from the bombs?
Public relations, naturally.
Organizers hoped that if thousands of Western anti-war activists stood in the path of bombs and were blown to smithereens, it would sure embarrass the heck out of President Bush.
"We'll be everywhere," declared America's Ms. Human Shield, Liev Aleo, on her becomethechange.org Web site. "The news media will, in all cases, be our biggest protection. . . . We're talking about 5,000 people deciding whether tens or hundreds of thousands of people will die.
"We can be assured that the cameras will turn most, if not all, would-be aggressors away from their violence."
We tried to reach Ms. Human Shield Liev Aleo to ask if she really believed this stuff and how she could direct it from an 805 area code in California. But she didn't return calls.
So I scanned her Web site's Frequently Asked Questions section and found Question 19, which asks, quite piercingly:
What if Bush bombs us, anyway?
"He won't," she assured them. "The public relations problems of such a massive attack, by the United States government on its own citizens, are insurmountable."
It all sounds so logical, especially the part about public relations repelling the bombs, sort of like one of those force fields from the "Dune" sci-fi books by Frank Herbert.
Unfortunately, two terrible things happened.
First, thousands of eager human shields never showed up. A few hundred did, though, which was nice.
Then, a few days ago, human shields began bravely deserting their posts even before the bombs began dropping.
So now we'll never know if public relations can really repel smart bombs.
The human shields say they're going home because they're worried about their personal safety, which proves they're not only passionate, but they're also becoming realistic, a sure sign of advancing age.
Another reason they're going home, which wasn't mentioned, is that their parents probably threatened to kill them if they didn't return immediately.
They're also upset that Hussein was rude.
Sure, he put them up in nice hotels and fed them. They got plenty of tasty hummus and other fine delicacies so as to build up their bodies for the shielding.
But he had the audacity to tell the human shields what they could shield.
"Now we are being told we cannot go to certain sites, such as hospitals, so we are reassessing our strategy," one of the organizers, Christiaan Briggs, said on CNN.
Many jumped on buses and drove off in the general direction of Syria, they were so angry. Who could blame them?
The eager human shields were of the opinion that Hussein would let them shame the president by protecting nice safe buildings, like hospitals and schools, which aren't on the target list.
But Hussein was of a different opinion. He had the big idea to really aggravate Bush and have them shield sites that might actually get bombed, including oil refineries and power plants.
Just who does he think he is--some kind of dictator or something?
Shields from Europe and the United States were brought to a Baghdad hotel for a meeting and were allowed to choose between risking their lives for oil refineries or power plants.
Imagine the eager human shields in that meeting, hands on hips, pouting, muttering, "Whatever!" and "Is Saddam on a power trip or what?" and "Oh, great, does he want to us die or something? Now my parents will really get mad," and so on.
Iraqi officials then told the brave human shields that they could leave and yanked them out of the free hotel rooms.
One 22-year-old college student from Pennsylvania complained about his shield site and all those nervously suspicious Iraqi guards pointing automatic rifles.
"The people staying there sleep 50 yards from stacks billowing black smoke," he whined. "And it's sinister. Twenty minders are there for eight shields."
If he thinks that's terrible, it could have been worse. Hussein could have made the former shields stay and become Iraqi citizens.