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Michael Franti Report from the Middle East Trip


Read the daily reports

from the trip to middle east

by Michael Franti.

Descending order.

Begin from the start


heading home

Posted by - michael franti 10:19:49 06/15/2004

The purpose of my trip to the middle east was to listen. in my postings i only was able to put out a fraction of what i experienced over here. i saw great acts of human kindness, endurance and beauty and I saw the worst forms of violence, oppression and ugliness. i have learned that all of us have the power within ourselves to achieve both.

i have so much to ponder as i leave and find i have more questions now, then i did when i came. no doubt the middle east is a painful and troubled place for some and a beautiful home for others.

i hope that my postings have and will continue to bring about a much needed dialog about the region and the world.

there will be more writings as i process my notebooks thoughts and pictures into words on the screen. i wish you all the best in your individual journeys as truthseekers.

power to the peaceful, michael franti


The USA funds Apartheid wall in Israel

Posted by - Michael Franti 01:00:47 06/11/2004

Yesterday we travelled to the old city of jerusalem. we saw the place where Jesus wasmarched wearing the cross and jailed. we saw the wailing wall wear jews right prayers and place them in the wall erected during the time of king solomon. we saw the mosque of al-aqsa, a giant gold domemosque also in the center of jerusalem, which has been bombed many times.

the startling thing for me was to see how many israelis there were with weapons. at the wailing wall there were hundreds of 19 and 20 year old young men with M-16s. there were israeli tour guides with 9mm hand gunswhich they carried with their finger on the trigger. no palestinians carried weapons because they are not allowed to anywhere in the nation.

israel is a militarily controlled apartheid state. everywhere you travelon the roads there are checkpoints. some which are permanent military bunkers, someare called flying checkpoints, just a random spot where soldiers waveyou over and you must stop. old people who are itred wait for hours. students trying to get to school must wait for hours. trucks loaded with fruit must wait for hours only to be told that they must snd for another truck to come from the other side of the checkpoint and they must off load the fruit crates one by one, and carry the fruitacross the checkpoint to the truck waiting on the other side.

there are two different license plates given in Israel. jews are given one plate while palestinians another. the jewish plates are waved through the checkpoints while the palestinian plates are pulled over and have to wait, show their id cards and sometimes just sit and get questioned for hours, only to be told they cannot pass. 75 palestinian women have had babies at checkpoints, two thirds of them have died.

in addition there are some roads designated for only israeli drivers while palestinians must take roads filled with checkpoints and soldiers. Palestians are not allowed to ride in taxis and must take privately owned mini buses in order to get around. palestinians do not have the right to free travel in the country without a permit. they must go to the ministry of the interior office in jerusalem waiting outside in the hot sun with hundreds of other people hoping to get inside to receive a permit to travel to another town which may be 30 minutes away, to attend a wedding or a funeral. hundreds often camping out overnight in front of the office, but only 30 or so are seen each day. anyone caught travelling out of their designated zone without a permit can be jailed immediately. Palestinians can be jailed for up to 6 months without any charges being given.

does any of this sound familiar?

wait it gets better. there is now a wall which is being built across the country. some of it will surround palestinain villages and cities, effectively making them giant prisons with israeli check points controlling who and when people go in and out. in rural areas the wall will be an electrified fence dividing vast quantities of land between towns in other places it will be a 29 foot concrete wall with gun towers every few hundred meters to surround and divide palestinian neighborhoods. to build the wall, soldiers simply come into a home of palestinans, tell them you have ten minutes to leave and then bulldoze their homes into rubble while the families stand by screaming.

wait it gets better. in addition to taking the homes to build walls, the israelis are destroying homes and orchards which have been in the hands of palestiinans for generations forcibly seizing the land and with it all the water of the most fertile regions. then snaking the wall around the newly claimed land. palestinian families are forced by necessity to build water tanks on the roofs of their homes, so that in times of 24 hour curfew(read my piece about the children of Hebron to hear more about the curfews) they can have water to drink. after having paid for the water which costs four times the price for Palestinian families as it does for israelis, soldiers come and shoot holes in the tanks for fun.

and hereis the kicker. the apartheid wall which is being built stretches for over 470 kilometers and is being paid for by guess who? the good people of the united states of america. that's right US tax money is given to Isael to fund the Apartheid wall, the checkpoints, the soldiers and their weapons.

what's goin on? it is time the world wakes up the Apartheid existing in this beautiful nation in the same way we did to the Apartheid of South Africa.

peace, michael

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Israeli soldiers fire guns athebron children

Posted by - michael franti 08:37:47 06/09/2004

Okay, here goes...

we woke up this morning and headed out for the occupied palestinian city of Hebron. On the way there we stopped to buy glassware from a beautiful palestinian owned glass shop whose business has been in the family for 400 years but is now dying today because road blocks of israeli soldiers prevent any traffic from getting to his store.

afterwards we we left for the old city of hebron. Our guide Hashem lead us through an open market where people were selling fruit. i carried my guitar and along the way a crowd of about 20 young children began to walk with me as i sang and strummed my guitar. at one point i was invited over to a shoe stand in the market and i played as a larger crowd of folks turned up. eventually the crowd became a little to big so i stopped playing and continued to walk as the group of children all took turns strumming my guitar and laughing hysterically. we came to an intersection on this crowded street that was
so wall to wall with people that no vehicle could get through it.

Hesham told us that beyond this street a curfew had been imposed by israeli soldiers. all the shops on the street were closed and there were only two or three people on the street. curfews here are not like in america, where they say everyone in their house by 10 o'clock. they are imposed at any time for indiscriminate reasons and last 24 hours a day. people can be shot at for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. there are no signs or warnings given that an area is under curfew. people know it is because soldiers start firing shots. being internationals we are allowed to walk on the streets during curfew, it is only a curfew for palestinian people. we were about towalk into the curfewed street but the children shouted for another song. i started playing and they clapped and sang. ilooked over my shoulder and saw a group of soldiers coming toward i looked away and crossed the street walking slowly as i crossed the labne gunfire broke out behind me and i heard children and adults yelling and running as the soldiers ran into the intersection and the market which was filled with well over 1000 people all scurried. the soldiers levelled their m-16s and shouted in hebrew as we all took cover in an alley. our guide hashem who has lived in the neighborhood his whole life was completely unphased as this type of opression has been an everyday occurence his entire 36 years.

we waited in a tunnel for about 20 minutes talking about what had happened and bought some mish mish(apricots) from an elderly vender. eventually we thought it best to move on. we still heard gunfire in the streets nearby. we turned the corner and ran directly into a patrol of 6 israeli soldiers who were full of adrenalin, rifles raised slamming doors of homes with their gun butts and shouting for everyone to get inside.

as theyapproached us our guide told us to keep walking slowly as though we were doing nothing. we were still in the tunnel and the sun was in their eyes. i could see the leadr staring into the tunnel trying to see what was in my hands, so i took my hands off my guitar and showed them to him so he would not confuse it for a rifle. he kept staring at me and we walked right past each of the six as they continued to shout at elderly people. i turned around at this pointo see them raise there guns directly into the faces of children 6 or 7 years old. I was horrified as the children ran behind doors.

we wnt to a christian relief center and sat for 30 minutes drinking water andl istening to the gunfire continuing as curfew was imposed. i have not heard that anyone was hit it. this was just more of the same for palestinain people. these were all civilians fired upon without warning, comlpetely unprovoked.

i have to leave now to go do a show at a peace center in bethlehem which is also a palestinian city...

god bless you all...michael franti

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Entering Dahaisha refugee camp

Posted by - michael franti 03:02:06 06/08/2004

Today has been day of checkpoints, soldiers with guns, passports, dogs, bag searches, pat downs, and answering questions.

we left our hotel for baghdd international at 9 am. on the way to the airport we passed along the same road where we had seen the car explosion minutes after we arrived in iraq on saturday. I can't begin to describe what driving is like in bahdad. it once was a city which was easy to get around in. however since the war, many roads have been blocked for security purposes, destroyed by bombs or or taken for use by the occupation forces. in addition many thousands of people have bought cars since the war began and all of these things combined have created anarchy on the roads. every possible space to steer a car into has been taken and people drive incredibly fast inshort bursts and stop and go is the norm at any time of the day. on the freeway around bghdad people routinely drive well over 100 miles per hour as the freeway is wide open for ambush. sitting in traffic in baghdad is not just boring like in america. it is dangerous. you have nowhere to go if a fire fight breaks out, and i heard small wepons fire everyday i was there.

the u.s. soldiers drive huge Hum Vees around with gun nests on the top. they always drive in threes in the city. one hummer leads with the gunner on top facing front. the one in the middle checks the sides, and the gunnewr in the rear takes the back. if they see you pointing a camera at them they will open fire on your vehicle so as we were driving around baghdad we always had to be aware not to point our cameras near any soldiers. if they come under attack they will blast every car or person on the street around them indiscriminately. every civilian in baghdad is afraid of just being tin the wrong place at te wrong time so they try not to be on the roads at all. on the road to the airport all the trees have been cut down or burned by the u/s/ military in order to prevent attackers from hiding in them. iraq is rife with fear paranoia and violence. everyone is affected, iraquis and troops alike.

when we got to the airport we had to wait in line for a while which was scary because we felt like sitting ducks. lots of soldiers were around and the first one to speak to us looked underage.

i am so tired i will go to bed right now and tell you about crossing into israel...the israeli border is just like the maximum security prisons i have entered many times except for the fact that it takes way longer and they question you at great length. all arabs are taken into one line and questioned and detained while jews walk freely through the other. i will go into more later but just want to let you know that we had to sneek into te refugee camp because soldiers at the main gate to Bethlehem refused to allow are car to enter the city .

drifting asleep, michael franti

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My last morning in Baghdad

Posted by - michael franti 10:22:35 06/07/2004

I am checking out of our hotel. we will go to the airport and fly to jordan in a couple of hours and i am very tired. but electric from our trip. this delegation has been so amazing we have people from. Ireland, new zealand, australia, cnada and america with us. film makers, activists, human rights lawyers, one former army officer, one 63 year old refugee worker, a band manager and one musician. this group of people is very special to me and each of them has brought so much love and energy to this journey already.

the most difficult part for me thus far and the scariest was facing the troops and singing for them. i had know idea what to say and i am rarely ata a loss for words. before the gathering i sat down and meditated, asking god to guide me in my words and intentions. so many of my songs oppose the war that i did not know how to express this without starting a fight. before i left, i aksed barbera the elder of the group what i should say. she told me to tell them that i just wanted to be with them in this crazy place tonight.

i adressed the troops and told them i knew things were tough for them, that i knew they were facing a long haul ahead of them and that i wished them all safety in their journey. i told a few funny stories to break the ice about my time breaking down on the side of the road in the hot summer sun of italy. after that i spoke about the wari told them that it was difficult and confusing to understand how this whole occupation will end. that we were told it was about WMD's and sadaams links to terrorism, and these turned out to be untrue. i said you all have offered up your lives for your country and the least the rest of us could do in return was to not ask you to kill or be killed in a war that is under questionable circumstances. then i sang the song bomb the world...

...they cheered and afterward i hugged each of them and spent many more hours talking to them all about their time ther, where they were from and what they though tof the war, some thought it was their duty to follow their commander in chief no matter what. others thought they were fighting a loosing battle to win the hearts and trust of the iraqui people (this is an understatement) others thought the war was ill conceived to begin with and they felt like they were the pawns in a big game of chess. every soldier i spoke to wanted to come home right now.

i gave the book i had been reading "house of bush, house of saud" to the sargent in charge of the soldiers we were with. he was very, i emphasise very interested in reading about bush's family business connections to the saudi royal family and especially interested in why bush allowed the Bin Laden family to fly out of america fter 911 without being questioned while all other planes were grounded.

i must go now...thanks for the support, michael franti

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My Last night in Baghdad...until i return again

Posted by - Michael Franti 01:35:20 06/07/2004

This morning i visited another pediatric hospital in baghdad. this one was not controlled by the CPA (U.S./coalition occupying forces) and so we were able to bring our video cameras in this time. the hospital we visited yesterday would not allow cameras, because it is the main hospital in Baghdad and a lot of media go in there and shoot pictures of kids who are dying and blown up and this is bad for the public image of the war. they rely on the CPA for a limited amoun tof supplies, but even that small amount they cannot afford to go without so they cooperate with whatever CPA says. the hospital we went to today let us in and we took photos and video of lots and lots of children who were missing limbs from land mines, mortar fire and all kinds of different explosives. some of them were injured from bombs that on impact throw out little colored plastic balls which are mistaken as toys by children, when children pick them up they explode. there was a room in the hospital with several of these victims. one little boy had both legs blown off at the knees. another man i spoke with had seriously fracture his leg in so many places from shrapnell, that infection had set in badly and the leg was going to be removed in the next couple of days. i sat with him as he clutched a copy of the koran and prayed continuously that the removal of his leg was all that would happen and that he
would survive the surgery.

i played music to each of the people i met as i walked from bed to bed and heard story after story of what the war has done to the bodies and minds of these civilian victims. this hospital was incredibly underfunded, however they were allowing everyone to go there for free because it was the hospital for all the worst pediatric cases. it was not available to people with serious injuris or sickness that were not immediately life threatening. i saw people in the lobby with broken limbs and their heads wrapped in blood and gauze.

seeing people on the street with limbs, eyes, teeth, or fingers missing is so common you begin not to notice it after a while.

I have written a little song in arabic which has only one word. It is called "habibi" which means "sweetheart "or "my love" everyone uses this word in the arabic world and everywhere i go i cjust have pick up my guitar strike a few chords and sing the melody of "Habibi" over and over and the people love it. they dance and sing along to it. the song is a magic door opener for me and our delegation and we get access to places we never imagined just by me singing a few bars. it is an all purpose word which men and women both use with each other. men kiss men three times and say Habibi, when they greet. if they like something alot it is Habibi, when they say goodbye they say habibi. it is on the lips of people constantly kind of like some americans might say "homey" or "baby" but it is more than that it is also "aloha" and "i love you". it is deep deep affection and everyone young and old uses it to expresses their kindness and generosity towards one another.

after the hospital which included performing for about forty five minutes in the parking lot while men with semi automatic weapons stood by, we went across town to an artists cafe. one of the only places in baghdad which existed during the time of sadaam. poets writers songmakers and painters all frequent this spot and i sat and listened to several of the top poets and writers in Iraqui literature tell me of their experiences of imprisonment and torture for writing things that sadaam did not like. one even had his thumbs broken, one so badly it was amputated. another had been tortured with electricity. we shared words poems and songs together.

later in the evening i was met back at the hotel by the iraqui national television who ran into me in the hospital. they were there doing a routine casualty update and could not believe that i had come all the way from america without government sponsorship or with a human rights organization just to listen to people and play music for them on the street in a restaurant or in the hospital, so they wanted to interview me, and so i did a long interview and sang "lifesaver" and "bomb the world" on iraqui TV.

still later i did interviews with democracy now and kpfa's hard knock radio. while on the way to eat dinner at the home of a beautiful iraqui family who lived in a very comfortable home. so far everyone we had met had been extremely poor but this family was very well educated and we listened carefully as each of them spoke with eloquence and passion about freedom for Iraq...freedom from the killings by sadaam, and freedom from the killings by U.S. occupation forces. we had a beautiful dinner and on the way there we caught a glimpse of Abu Gharib prison. it was freaky to drive past. we could not see anything becasue it is surrounded by walls, but on this 100 plus degree day it seemed especially creepy to imagine what still may be going on in there.

tomorrow is our last morning in baghdad and i am incredibly tired. i have only been sleeping 3 or 4 hours a night (last night 2) so i am hitting it early because tomorrow we go to jordan and then into israel which i hear has an incredibly difficult border crossing. i am surrounding myself with loving light for this next day.

baghdad has been more enlightening than i can put into email each night, but we have shot tons of footage for our documentary and thousands of photos, some of which will go up on the site when i can get to a high speed line. we will begin editing the documentary for the trip as soon as we get back state side so eventuallly you all can experienc some of what i am unable to put into words.

I must admit i have shared everyones concern about our groups safety on this trip and have even lost many nights sleep questioning whether going over was the righ thing or not. i know now as i knew deep in my heart then, that it was. I am glad that we have been safe thanks to the diligence of our drivers Isaam and Mahar, they have done amazing things to asure we got from place to to place safely. i wish the same safety for everyone over here, u.s. soldiers and iraqui people alike.

WORLD PEACE AND SAFETY...i mean it, please...michael franti

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Baghdad today

Posted by - michael franti 11:32:07 06/06/2004

Gotta keep this one brief. yesterday we went to the Baghdad children's hospital and sat with kids and their mother's who are fighting cancer with chemo therapy. as a result of depleted uranium weapons being used in desert Storm and this war, the rate of cancer has increased at an alarming rate. hospitals have extremely limited supplies, are understaffed and literally falling apart. the bathroom was leaking raw sewage into one hallway. most iraquis can never think to go to the hospital for treatment because there is no more national healthcare here since 1999. so if you are poor you die. luckily today cancer patients under 12 can come free, however there is a huge wait. for other deadly illnesses and injuries there is no free service and many children and adults simply die without care.

i will speak more about this and civilian casualties later.

we also went to visit a heavy metal band, black scorpions. they rehearese in an underground bassment of a large building it is completely black and they have to run a gas generator in the room with them to have light and power because the electricity in baghdad rarely works.

there is also a tattoo parlour there, the first ever in baghdad. it was illegal under sadaam. Tom from our travel delegation got a tattoo.

last night we spoke to some US soldiers and while we were talking a mortar fire was heard near by. it was the first time i have ever heard a bomb and it put the fear of god in me. sirens went off near the military post and the soldiers went into high readiness. later last night we heard two more mortar rounds or bombs of some type. and last night we heard lots of small weapons fire.

later we met with off duty soldiers and i went and did a small show for about 20 of them in the building where they are staying. i spoke with them intimately about their concerns thoughts and feelings about the occupation. i will tell more later. suffice to say, there was a wide variety of opinion, but everyone of them said they wanted to go home asap. we stayed up till 4am talking with the troops, and a party broke out at the place we were (Radio 104.1) with iraqui people and US troops dancing singing and having a beer together. I never thought i would see this, but when the soldiers hit the street it is back to us against them.

i spoke to many iraquis who say they want me to tell soldiers that if they would respect and create relationships with the iraqui people they would be welcomed like the spanish soldiers were before they pulled out, however this is not the policy or the attitude of the US army from the top down. so the GI's walking the streets are put into more and more harms way because they are the liasons of US policy.

nightime here is crazy. so much violence, everyone is allowed to have a gun and no one has a job water or electricity so some people do whatever they can do get anything for themselves or family. this makes baghdad totally unsafe.

this morning we woke up and heard lots of small weapons fire somewhere. with alt this happening, life in the street continues to go on. people go to work to school etc... but no one stays in the streets any longer than they need to when the sun goes down.

gotta go...one love

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The role of women in Iraq...one males perspective...

Posted by - Michael Franti 12:05:07 06/06/2004

From what I have seen in the Middle east life is different for women in every country. I am a man so i can onbly relate my experience as a man observing the way women respond to me. I will not even pretend to know what is going on with them inside. that being said when i was in Turkey last year i saw many women who were very western in their dress and were approachable or who would walk directly up to me and ask me who i was or where i was from. they were not afrid to make eye contact. I also saw women who were shrouded head to toe in black and i would say 70 percent of them covered their hair and skin.

In Jordan almost every woman i saw (and there were very few on the street coverd their har and skin) many covered there faces as well. The few women I did meet I shook hands with, all the men i met i kissed on the cheek two times. when i met our drivers wife i leaned in to kiss her and she pulled back and laughed and said in arabic "no we don't do that" she did not seem sad or unhappy about it. she just laughed aat my cultural faux pas. i saw many men on the street walking arm and arm, i saw many men holding hands and often kissing on the lips. these men were not gay, which is decidedly not okay. I saw groups of men hanging out together and groups of women hanging out together. the only time i saw men and women socializing together was when they were in families.

In iraq i have seen most most women on the street not wearing headware. In fact some of the women in our group who were covering their heads were asked why? On the street all of the women I met said hello and all of them reached out to me hugged and kissed me on the cheek. the grandmother i met kissed me on the lips three times and hugged me. many of the women wore short sleeved shirts

Sadaam was not a fundamentalist muslim and did not lead a theocracy.

i will ask some of the women in our travel party to write their own experiences of being a woman here and what they have experienced.

we are about to leave the hotel now and visit a pediatric hospital...one love, michael

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I f i was in Baghdad then i would rock iraq

Posted by - michael franti 11:44:53 06/05/2004

one of the first things you notice in Baghdad is the sound. it roars with engine noise and exhaust. the reason for this is that every bulding has a diesel generator in front of it because no one has electricity. or water for that matter since the bombing began.

we went out to lunch at a traditional iraqui restaurant. we had been warned by our handlers that Baghdad is a place of absolute lawlesness. everyone carries a gun. civilian and soldiers a like. you see them everywhere. on hip holsters, tucked into pants, slung over the shoulder. some are held together with duct tape, some are shiny and new. security is the word on everyones lips. people cannot walk the street or go out at night without fear of being robbed and shot or raped or some other horrible thing.

people here say that before the war they lived in fear of sadaam but there was no crime. today they say there is crime everywhere and they are tired of the abuse and killing by the occupying forces. most people i spoke to said they want them to leave and deal with the problems of their nation by themselves.

we told our handlers that i wanted to meet musicians and everyday people. they said it would be difficult. we went into a neighborhood where the driver was from and had a beautiful iraqui meal. afterward i offered the owner of the restaurat one of my songs. he agreed and we fetched my guitar. i started to sing for him and soon the doorway of the restaurant was filled up with onlookers from the neighborhhod who looked on with curiosity. our handlers had warned us in advance that many people do not know how to relate to foreigners and may be threatened by them and shoot them. luckily the crowd liked the song and had never related to foreigners in anyway before and were happy at them. they clpped to the beat and in the end we were invited tto the hopuse
of some people down the block. the man who invited us was a christian living in a formerly jewish owned building, in a muslim nneighborhood.

we talked about the war and he told me about how he huddled with his family in his basement (which was dank dark and small) as pieces of a blown up bridge nearby fell on the roof of his home from blocks away. he told me about the pain and frustration of unemployment in Baghdad. the house had filled with many other families from his building and in the end i gave him a cd, and he gave me a framed photo of the virgin mary.

on the way back to the hotel i saw so much more bombing and so many more barricades and soldiers in tanks. i sat and watched two men play backgammon for a while before someone tapped me on the shoulder and asked if i had a real guitar. he just happened to be from HOT FM baghdad. the first independent radio station in iraq, their slogan "irock- iraq". i went to the station and they played bomb the world. we dont.dtop, rock the nation and two new songs never playe don the radio any where before. i know i'm not alone and yell fire.

one of the guys from the station played guita and we had a killer jamsession together.

i burned my foot bad yesterday at the dead seaso by the time 10 o'clok rolled arounf i had no more enrgy, but on the walk home h stopped to talk to about to about ten G.I's at a check point. and made tentative plans to do an impromptu, performance for them tomorrow.

i'm fallin asleep....michael

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We arrived in Baghdad today

Posted by - michael franti 04:52:31 06/05/2004

We arrived in Baghdad this morning after the most amazing flight of my life. we were on an airplane that held about 16 people and flew us from jordan over the desert to Baghdad. from the air we could see red sand for as far as the eye could view. at one point a sand storm occurred and we started to breathe sand and dust inside the plane at 23 000 feet in the air. we could see the iraq Jordan border drawn in the sand from the sky. a perfectly straight line in the middle of the desert.

we saw bunkers and as we got closer to baghdad we passed over the city of falujah. It is a really small city and even from the air i could see whole neighborhoods that had been flattened by bombing.

we were instructed at the beginning of the flight that we would stay high, 23,000 feet until we got directly over the airport, at this time we would go into a fast dive over the airport and continued corkscrewing down at 45 degrees until we landed righ on top of the airport. the pilot told us that this was the safest way to avoid surface to air missiles and small arms fire. there was no bathroom on the plane so some of us ended up peeing in Nalgene bottles in the back of the plane.

the flight staff allowed me to take my guitar on board and we sang a song before entering the final stages of our flight. when we went into the descent it was like being on a roller coaster the fastest scariest roller coaster of my life.

entering the airport there was hardly anyone there. only a few customs people who seemed very happy to see us. they hardly check you at all and you don't need any visas to come into the country. on the flight we were all a having a jovial time and even in the airport we laughed and were playful with the staff.

when we got outside the airport it was a different story. there were very intense private contractor(mercenary) soldiers with machine guns. you cannot have a taxi pick you up at the airport. there is a bus that drives you out to a checkpoint and there you meet the driver you have arranged. on the way we passed by many places where cars had gone off the road and saw the first devastation of bombing. an airport hangar with half of it blown away, the rest hanging in shards.

when we got into the cars with our drivers, we passed US tanks. i asked our driver if we could do some video taping, he said yes you may, but if you see tanks or soldiers put it down immediately, otherwise they may fire directly into the car as they may think it is a weapon. no sooner had he said that then we saw 2 cars exploded and on fire going the opposite direction on the road into the airport. all the traffic was backed up behind it and soldiers and a fire crew were surrounding the vehicles. this was incredibly sobering after all the laughter on the flight. from this point on all of us were very quiet just watching life on the streets of Baghdad seeing troops in tanks ready with machine guns pointed at all times fearing for their own safety while intimidating iraqui civilians.

Baghdad is not safe right now for anyone and we spent two hours talking with our "handlers" about where and how to set up meetings with people here.

when we got online at our hotel we found that the bombing on the road to the airport had happened within minutes of our landing and that it killed 2 civilians and one american soldier. the story was already on the internet.

we are about to go out to eat now...one love, michael

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We are getting on the plane from Amman to Baghdad right now

Posted by - michael franti 09:18:53 06/04/2004

This morning (Saturday) I greet you all with love in my heart. We leave Amman Jordan where we have been for the past two and a half days and fly into Baghdad. while in Jordan we visited the ancient city of Petra and made a journey to mount Nebo, the final resting place of Moses and then on to the Dead Sea. On the way to the Dead sea we were stopped by soldiers at two checkpoints and two of our travelling party(an iraqui musician and a Paletinian girl) were almost arrested. After much talking by Kian a very brave seventeen year old girl from Ibdaa and a rendition of "Feelin Free" that I played on my guitar accompanied by all the others, the soldiers finally let us all go.

We ended the night staying up late in Amman eating with a Jordanian family by moonlight and sharing songs with all the children and adults in the park. I sang Bomb the world and everyone deserves music to a group of ten Jordanian men and afterwards we had a discussion translated into arabic with the help of my friend Whaleed who is an iraqui man in a heavy metal band from Baghdad called Black Scorpion. he is currently seeking safety in Jordan but we will see his band mates tonight in Baghdad.

everyone we have met so far has extended love, food welcoming and a generous gratitude for our presence here. there is a kindness that exists here that does not come close to anything i have experienced in America. even though people live a difficult economic life and live under a monarchy that makes most of the decisions, there is a sense of community i have never experienced before.

the group we are travelling with has come closer and closer together as each hour has passed.

I am about to go get on the flight...I love you all, shine on!!! Michael Franti

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  Last Update: 2020-10-24 16:06


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