Going Home

IRAQ WAR

THE HUMAN FLOW

Iraqis return to fight invaders.

AS BAGHDAD crumbles under the weight of massive US-led air strikes and its residents flee for their lives, something odd is taking place hundreds of kilometres away in the capital of Jordan.

Iraqis who are already out of harm’s way in Amman are returning home to be with their families and to fight the Americans.

Since the war broke out on Thursday, a stream of Iraqis in battered cars and creaky buses have been making the 700-km journey across the open desert to Baghdad and other Iraqi cities.

One of them is 25-year-old taxi driver Ahmed Qessy.

He said that on Wednesday, he pulled out the body of his Jordanian friend from under the rubble of a building in a town near Baghdad.

The friend was also a taxi driver who was plying the lucrative route between Amman and Baghdad.

Mr Qessy buried his friend on Thursday and left a day later for Iraq with three other Iraqis in his Samsung car.

Interviewed at the border crossing, he attacked the United States and Britain for killing his friend.

‘I don’t need chemical weapons,’ he said, seething with rage.

‘I will kill the Americans with my hands. George Bush is killing innocent people and telling lies to the world.’

One of his travelling companions, Mr Mahmood Rezaki, a 48-year-old trader, accused the US of carrying out a propaganda campaign to discredit President Saddam Hussein and Iraq.

He said: ‘Saddam is the symbol of Iraq and we all love him.’

What about reports that the Iraqi leader had sanctioned repression, torture, rape and murder over the last 25 years?

He replied: ‘You are an American lackey. Don’t believe their lies.’

All 10 Iraqis interviewed along the 250-km stretch of road were unanimous in their anti-American feelings.

They said the US had humiliated Palestine by arming Israel, wanted to control Iraq’s oil fields and was guilty of hypocrisy – it had supported Mr Saddam in the 1980s during the war with Iran.

Mr Ali Mehmed, his mother, wife and child were travelling in a beat-up car with several dingy bags tied to the rooftop.

He said: ‘I saw Iraqi TV. It said that the Americans are lying about our soldiers surrendering.

‘They actually used Kuwaiti soldiers in Iraqi uniforms to dupe the whole world. Everything is normal in Iraq.

‘Saddam Hussein is still in control.’

The views of these Iraqis offered a glimpse into the difficulties the United States and other countries will face in cobbling together a new regime if they manage to topple Mr Saddam.

Even Iraqis who want Mr Saddam out are ambivalent about the US setting the agenda for their country.

Truck driver Faqhere Abdallah, taking a break by the side of the road, was making coffee on a camp-fire stove.

He wasted no time in declaring that four of his sons were in the Iraqi army and loyal to their President.

Asked whether they would be able to stand up to the force of American firepower, he pointed to native Bedouins nearby who had their heads covered in dirty rags and said scornfully:

‘Look at these people. Even they can fight the Americans. The Americans are chickens and sissies who won’t stand a chance with Saddam.’

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