AMMAN, Jordan – Five volunteers who went to Iraq to serve as "human shields," including two Americans, were forced out of the country because they were critical of the government's choice of sites to protect, the head of the group said Wednesday.
They had chosen locations "essential to the civilian population," such as food storage warehouses and water and electricity facilities, said Ken O'Keefe, of Haleiwa, Hawaii.
But the Iraqi government wanted the shields in more sensitive locations, he said. He did not elaborate, but some earlier activists have also left Iraq, reportedly after being told they would be posted at potentially strategic targets, such as oil refineries and power plants.
"They removed us from the sites we had chosen because we were critical of the integrity and the autonomy of the Iraqi authorities," said O'Keefe, 33. "I was escorted by Iraqi intelligence officers to the border, because I say what I believe and the Iraqi government wants submissive easy robots."
The other four deported with O'Keefe were American John Ross, Eva Mern from Slovenia, Gordan Sloan from Australia, and Tolga Temugi from Turkey.
"The Iraqi government was acting absolutely very stupid," O'Keefe said, dressed in a long Arabic dishdasha robes while talking to The Associated Press at a small hotel in downtown Amman. "If they had only cooperated and let us do part of what we wanted to do, we could have worked with them also to protect these sites and we would have brought in more people to stay."
"I certainly have no great admiration for Saddam Hussein, I was only going to help the people," he said, blaming the plight of the Iraqis on the previous American governments that supported Saddam.
Over 100 people from around the world have gone to Iraq as human shields and the Iraqi government has made visa issuance and extensions more convenient to accommodate them.
Seven more peace activists -- from the Iraq Peace Team, a project of the activist group Voices in the Wilderness -- are set to leave Amman for Baghdad on Thursday to join other IPT members.
"This delegation may be the last IPT team to get into Baghdad prior to full-scale war," said the head of the delegation, Shane Claiborne, 27, from Philadelphia.
About 17 Egyptian doctors, pharmacists and lawyers who arrived in Amman on Wednesday will be leaving in few days to Baghdad to serve as human shields, visit hospitals to assess their medicine storage and offer other support.
A group of 14 Jordanian unionists of different professions will also join the mission.