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Interview with a Human Shield

BAGHDAD

Mr. Martin Shield, 43, born in Seattle, Washington, is an Episcopalian and pacifist.

During the last decade Mr. Shield has repeatedly placed himself in harms way to bring injustices to the attention of the world.

He has paid a steep price for his interference.

Mr. Shield lost three toes in Tiananmen Square, the rest of the foot in Kosovo, and last week in Iraq, his entire leg and the toenails of the remaining foot.

He has one eye that functions in bright daylight; the other is covered with clean white gauze. The pacifist must rely on heavy-duty hearing aids since both of his ear drums were damaged beyond repair by high explosives.

Mr. Shield is without a right arm and his left hand has only two functional fingers. Still, this is enough for him to pass out oversized business cards that proclaim:  “Evil wins if good men remain silent.”

He is down to three teeth, the result of concussion grenades when, from a rubber dingy, he led an assault against a Japanese whaling ship in the Arctic.

I found him at a ragged little tea house on a side street near the Tigris River.

Mr. Shield is a tall man, well over six feet, but weighs less than ninety pounds due to the loss of so many body parts.

He sipped his tea and attempted to smile. A difficult task for he has no lower lip — the consequence of a beating in Moscow when he leapt to the aid of gay couple whom thugs had fallen upon.

I sat while a waiter on crutches hobbled forward with mint tea. “Mr. Shield, isn’t it ironic that a man such as you, who deliberately places himself in harms way, is named Shield?” I asked.

“Shield is family name. Try to live up to it. Great-great grandfather temporarily interrupted a lynching…Georgia, hundred years ago. First human shield in America.”

“Was he successful?” I asked.

“Hard to say, hanged with five blacks. Authorities investigated. We Shields never give up.”

“You certainly don’t,” I said. “You must have been tortured and wounded a dozen times by oppressive regimes.”

“For the record…twenty-two times. Nine encounters here in the last three weeks.”

BANG! At that instant a U.S. precision Patriot missile blew up a TV station. The ground shook around us.

“This is a bloody dangerous place to be,” I said.

“Yes. America has the most lethal weapons in the world,” said Mr. Shield. The pacifist brushed debris from his shirt. “Not much left of me to hit, huh? Suppose the good Lord intervenes or lucky.”

“Lucky?” I exclaimed. “You just said you’ve been wounded nine times by the American invasion of Iraq.”

He blew the dust off his tea and swallowed the rest of it. “Never said that. None of my recent injuries are the result of America weaponry.”

“How did you lose your leg and toenails?”

“Placed self between Saddam’s torture chambers and local peasants.”

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