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IRAQ: U.S. soldiers invade CPT apartment and then stay for a visit

CPTnet

IRAQ: U.S. soldiers invade CPT apartment and then stay for a visit
On December 10, 2004, CPTer Tom Fox was on the roof of Christian Peacemaker Team's Baghdad apartment, enjoying the warm, sunny weather when he saw four humvees parked in the street below. About ten neighborhood kids were hanging out with the soldiers. When they looked up and saw Fox waving, the soldiers waved back. Fox then took several pictures. A soldier in one of the vehicles yelled, "Hey, you can't take pictures of our humvees!" Several soldiers started moving towards the building.

Cliff Kindy and Sheila Provencher had just entered the building after returning from a meeting. Five soldiers followed them to the door and demanded entry. As Kindy went to open it, one soldier shouted angrily, "Open the door! Open the door!" Kindy did so, and the soldier said, "Did you take a picture? Give me the camera!"

Fox reached the door and said, "I've got it; it's upstairs. I'll get it for you." The soldiers yelled that they would get it themselves. As they tried to push inside, Provencher said, "Please stay here. We don't need guns in the house." The soldiers were insistent, so Fox and Maxine Nash went upstairs with them.

Kindy and Provencher stayed with the soldier at the door, whose unit leader ordered him, "Don't let them lock the door behind us." The soldier said his name Billy Smith; he was from Arkansas and had three children under the age of ten. He told Kindy and Provencher that he hoped to return home in the first quarter of 2005, but that these days soldiers do not know whether they will be allowed to go home on schedule. He said he was a bit ashamed at his unit's barging into the building, and thought the other soldiers had overreacted.

Upstairs, Jeff (the unit leader) asked Fox for his I.D. After they had talked for awhile, Jeff asked, "Why did you take pictures of us?" Fox said, "I saw you down there playing with the kids and I thought it would be a good thing to communicate that you do other things besides shoot people." Jeff nodded, but noted, "We don't allow anybody to take pictures of our humvees." Fox deleted the photos.

Jeff was surprised at CPT's presence. Fox said, "We keep a low profile." Jeff, who said members of his unit were reservists with the 1st Airborne, noted that Fox's comment was certainly true because he had no idea U.S. citizens lived in the neighborhood. Nash briefly explained CPT's work, especially in the area of human rights and Jeff said, "They sure need that kind of work here."

The soldiers waiting outside radioed to Jeff that a political organization with an office in the neighborhood had asked the soldiers to move on. The soldiers declined an invitation from CPTers to stay for snacks and further conversation, but they did take a CPT brochure with them.

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