U.S. hostages in Iraq get Thanksgiving turkey dinner

November 23, 1990|By New York Times News Service

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- The Americans trapped here sat down yesterday evening for a festive Thanksgiving dinner, complete with turkey and most of the trimmings, and said a small prayer that, at least for today, they might forget the nightmare of their captivity.

In a gathering as emotional as it was sometimes surreal, several of the so-called human shields, the Western hostages who are being held at Iraqi military sites to protect the installations from attack, were brought to Baghdad for a feast to celebrate the American day of thanks.

"It's Thanksgiving in every sense of the word," said John Stevenson, a 44-year-old computer specialist from Panama Beach, Fla., who was working in Kuwait when it was overrun by Iraqi forces and is now being held at a strategic site north of Baghdad.

"We're all in very good health," he said. "And we are so happy to be here tonight."

Another hostage, Bill F. Rodebush, 53, of McAlester, Okla., offered no similar cheer when he met an American reporter downstairs in the lobby of plush Al Mansour Melia Hotel. "You're the first American face I've seen in eight weeks," the oil worker said. "You should know I have very serious health problems, problems with my back, and the treatment I'm receiving is a joke."

In Kuwait, the staff of the besieged U.S. Embassy had to make do.

Barred by Iraqi forces from leaving the embassy compound, the handful of Amerian diplomats ate tuna from tins found in the embassy larder and washed down their holiday meal with boiled water from the embassy's swimming pool.

At the residence of the U.S. ambassador in Baghdad, which is now serving as home to nearly 20 Americans who have been refused permission to leave the country, Roland Bergheer volunteered to deliver the Thanksgiving toast.

His remarks were defiant -- a salute to President Bush and the 230,000 American troops massing south of here.

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