- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 23, 2003

AMMAN, Jordan A group of American anti-war demonstrators, part of a Japanese human-shield delegation, returned from Iraq yesterday with 14 hours of uncensored video, all shot without Iraqi government minders present, with Iraqis eager to tell of their welcome for American troops.
The Rev. Kenneth Joseph, a young American pastor of the Assyrian Church of the East, said the trip to Iraq "had shocked me back to reality."
Some of the Iraqis he interviewed on camera, he said, "told me they would commit suicide if American bombing didn't start. They were willing to see their homes demolished to gain their freedom from Saddam [Hussein]'s bloody tyranny."
Mr. Joseph said the Iraqis convinced him that Saddam is "a monster the likes of which the world had not seen since Stalin and Hitler. He and his sons are sick sadists.
"Their tales of slow torture and killing made me ill, such as people put in a huge shredder for plastic products, feet first so the [torture masters] could hear their screams as bodies got chewed up from foot to head."
The pastor and others making it across the border into Jordan tell harrowing stories about their journey. The only gasoline station between Baghdad and the border, a distance of 400 miles, was blown up by U.S. fighter-bombers. The station, in the one-camel village of Ramadi, had the only telephone booth on the road across the desert and a Jordanian, who had stopped to call his parents in Amman to let them know he was on his way home, was killed in the explosion.
The few taxi drivers in Baghdad willing to drive to the Jordanian border are charging $1,500 per passenger. Very few Iraqis can afford the fare, and only about 300 "third-country nationals," mostly Sudanese and Egyptians, have reached the border post since the "shock and awe" campaign began. Travelers have to struggle with their luggage across the last two miles on foot to Al Karama, the first Jordanian outpost. From there, they are taken by bus to a tent city at the Ruwaished refugee camp, 36 miles inside Jordan.
The Baghdad-Jordan highway was busy with commercial traffic before the beginning of the war, with some 700 tanker-trucks shuttling daily with part of the 12,000 tons of oil consumed by Jordan every day. All of it comes from Iraq at discounted prices under the U.N. oil-for-food program. Some 2,600 Jordanian and 1,500 Iraqi tankers have been involved in the overland oil traffic. Movement was down to 140 tankers the day before the bombing started. It stopped abruptly two days ago.
Jordan had made plans for a quick switch to tankers anchored off Aqaba. Qatar had pledged to replace whatever shortfall Jordan experienced.
Jordanians see one favorable omen. Every day, almost a thousand white storks arrive at a supermarket parking lot on one of Amman's seven hills, a pit stop on their way from Africa to their East European breeding grounds. About 100,000 storks are expected to stop here over the next month, numbers not seen in 10 years. Jordanians take this as a sign of ample rain and a good harvest ahead.
The difference between official and private views of some ranking Jordanian officials may be an omen, too. Officially, they condemn the war and say they are "deeply troubled" by the prospect of repercussions of the war on the region, and describe the situation as "critical."
Privately, they say, the war is developing a new opportunity for peace in the Middle East. Says one former prime minister: "If the U.S. can get a new Iraq to recognize Israel as a quid pro quo for a final Palestinian settlement, others will fall into place Syria, Saudi Arabia, and the other Gulf states. Iran would then have to pull back its military support for Hezbollah."
Arnaud de Borchgrave is editor at large of The Washington Times and of United Press International. This dispatch was distributed by UPI.

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