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Messages from Iraq: 2 January 2003
The situation remains good though there has been some increase in tension. We have been warned by our hosts to be more careful as we go around. The general news we receive over the internet sounds very much as before, except that North Korea has taken the Iraq place as 'most evil axis' ... But we saw that President Bush still talks of the 'fear that an Iraqi attack on the US would be calamitous.' (the irrelevance is as great as the weapons of mass destruction, but it gets front page news and presumably lots of people are duped.)
We have had two vigils, one on New Years Eve [photo] and one on the following morning. Both were outside the UN headquarters. The evening one was a candlelight vigil, but we were also celebrating the fact that the inspection so far has not been the cause of war and that the worldwide protests against war are growing. In the photo, you can see the UN building in the background and in the foreground is an Iraqi wedding band which played music for us. There was good press coverage and we had speeches. On the following morning we held a vigil which was from the time the inspectors first came in to work till they left on their inspection tour. It was good to see their faces and see how they welcomed our support. They have a pretty thankless task. They are damned if they do find WMD and damned if they donít. (We have just had feedback from the US that the vigil was reported as the main ABC channel story.)
I am still waiting to get to visit other psychiatrists, but the signs are that that will happen in a couple of days. It will give me a much better opportunity to see the effects of the sanctions. There is a degree of show casing and visits to other settings I find difficult as it is hard to know what questions to ask. The answers all tend to come from senior officials which makes it hard to judge.
I have been lucky so far to avoid the 'flu which everyone else seems to have got. And so far no gastroenteritis or cholera. We eat simply but well and we have the freedom to go to any restaurant we choose. Last night I went to a little fish place along the river and watched as the fish was swimming in the pool and later roasted up against a wood fire - about one hour to cook. No ill effects so far.
Visas are only for a week or so and then extended. Some in the team are trying to stay on through the hostilities. But even they are subject to the same restrictions. Charlie, a Vietnam war veteran, says he feels he has been on the side of the victimiser for so long, he now feels he must stay with the victims.
And so the wait continues. It must be pretty unbearable for the families here.