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'Human shields' prepare for Iraq

The westerners hope to add their voice to thousands of Iraqis protesting against any war.
The westerners hope to add their voice to thousands of Iraqis protesting against any war.

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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Three double-decker buses and a London taxi are to set out from London for Baghdad on Saturday carrying a number of peace campaigners who say they want to be "human shields."

"Between 50 or 60 will set out. Every one is fully committed," co-ordinator of Human Shield Action to Iraq, Stefan Simanowitz, told CNN.

Among the volunteers listed by the organisers are 60-year-old Sue Darling, a former British diplomat and Gordon Sloan, a contestant on the Australian TV show "Big Brother" who became known to millions of viewers as "Donkey Boy."

The group is being led by Ken Nichols O'Keefe, a former U.S. Marine and Gulf War veteran, who renounced his citizenship in 1999 as a protest against U.S. foreign policy.

The convoy will snake through Europe en route to the Iraqi capital, where it is due to arrive on February 8, picking up volunteers along the way.

They say they will stay in Iraq "until the imminent threat of war has passed."

"I'm sticking my neck out for what I believe is right. I might only live another 10 weeks," Tom Brogan told CNN's "Connie Chung Tonight."

Brogan predicted 200,000 people -- "maybe even more than that" -- will die in any U.S.-led military confrontation.

"We can't let that happen. We're going to go there just to show the whole world how seriously we take this whole war," Brogan told Chung. At the time of the interview, he had yet to inform his mother of his decision.

O'Keefe plans further bus convoys. He says he hopes as many as 10,000 people will join his movement and says he is prepared to give his life for this cause.

"If the United States wants to carry itself this way, then take me out as opposed to the Iraqi people. They really don't deserve it," O'Keefe said.

"This is not the way America should be conducting itself. It's not going to win any points in the rest of the world. It won't make America a safer place. And in fact, it's only going to increase the hatred and bitterness that exists."

O'Keefe says he feels a "massive civilian presence" in Iraq could pressurise western governments into stopping military action.

He called on Americans "to look a little deeper" at U.S. policy and to remember that the people of Iraq "want the same thing that you do."

"They want to be able to put food on the table, they want a roof over their head, and they want to be able to be happy and explore their lives in ways that all of us wish," he said.

He said at the time of the 1991 Gulf War he believed there was some "legitimacy" to the military action because Iraq had invaded Kuwait.

"I believe in the concept of smaller nations being protected against larger nations," O'Keefe said.

"Over the years, I've come to understand that the policies of the United States are actually not only destructive for the rest of the world, but highly destructive for the U.S. as well."

Simanowitz said the group were of no particular political persuasion but comprised like-minded people who felt strongly about the moves to war against Iraq.


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