Friday, May 09, 2003

Iraq:

  1. The BBC is reporting that American troops actually encouraged the looters of the Technical Institute in Nasiriya, even after the college asked American troops for help to prevent the looting. It has already been reported by Dagens Nyheter in Sweden that American troops encouraged looting in Baghdad. The war crimes case being prepared by a Belgian lawyer against General Tommy Franks is based partly on the failure of the Americans to stop the looting. The Iraqis were fully aware that the looting would occur, and had taken what steps they could to try to protect themselves against it.

  2. In Baghdad, many Iraqis are stating the obvious fact that life was in some ways better under Saddam than it is under the current American anarchy ("Nothing is better since Saddam has gone."), and hatred of the American occupation, and especially the American toleration of lawlessness, continues to grow. The Americans have appointed a disliked Baathist functionary as the new head of the Health Ministry, and around 200 doctors from 25 hospitals in Baghdad held a protest against the appointment and the deteriorating health system, which is still close to complete collapse.

  3. In Basra, the predicted cholera epidemic is starting, due to the absence of clean water. A 14-year-old by was shot dead by a British soldier, in what is still a mysterious incident (and is being called an 'accident').

  4. In Kirkuk, American troops have managed to break open bank safes of a looted bank in order to obtain the funds to pay oil company employees. Although the Americans may not believe it, this money actually belonged to somebody, and it is not free money available to be looted by the Americans. The bank will presumably not be able to cover the deposits of its customers, who will see their deposits used to extract Iraqi oil for the benefit of the Americans.

  5. The Iraqi National Library appears to have been burned by professional arsonists, possibly using white phosphorus, which is used by military forces disposing of paper documents. It does not sound like the work of poor people from the slums of Baghdad.

  6. The romanticized rescue of Private Lynch appears to be a complete fabrication of Pentagon spinners. The doctors attempted to return her to the American troops, but were met with gunfire and had to return to the hospital. When the Americans arrived, they treated the doctors and nurses badly, and seemed most interested in filming the rescue for propaganda purposes. During the rescue, they managed to damage important hospital equipment. The Americans have consistently described Lynch's injuries as battle-related, but they appear to be consistent with an automobile accident. Private Lynch herself now reports she can remember nothing about the incident, which will leave the Pentagon myth-makers free to create whatever made-for-television version that they like. It is interesting that this lack of memory is expressly not 'amnesia', which is forgetting something you once knew, but some other form of lack of memory. This will presumably allow them to deny anything she might have said when in the Iraqi hospital. It is fairly obvious that the Pentagon is trying to hide something while still playing up the usual American patriotic hokum.

  7. In Nimrud and Nineveh, looting of the archeological sites has begun. The Nimrud guards asked the American troops for help, and the Americans dispatched a patrol. The platoon commander, Capt. Tom Ehrhart, said:

    "We'll stay here awhile and maybe send up some flares at night to scare off the bad guys. But the long-term job of protecting this site lies with the Iraqis."

    The Americans consistently fail to understand their international law obligations, and someone in the Pentagon should make it clear to the commanders what these obligations are.

  8. The American forces have failed to secure the Iraqi nuclear facilities, and looters have made off with a considerable amount of material, some of it dangerously radioactive. Pentagon experts have visited seven nuclear sites, all of which had already been looted. The Tuwaitha Nuclear Research Center is a particular problem, as the Marines broke U.N. seals designed to ensure that the materials did not end up in the wrong hands or be diverted for weapons use, and the looters made off with dangerous material. Breaking the seals is not just stupid - it may have left the soldiers themselves open to health risks. Local people are actually using looted containers which may have contained radioactive material to store food and water. The looting was continuing in full force even after the Americans had finally secured the site.

  9. Umm Qasr, which is now being guarded by Spanish troops, is a serious mess, with shortages of food, water and medical supplies. One Australian said:

    "If the Yanks were serious about changing things and bringing a better life for these people, they should have had trucks with food and water following their tanks straight in here. Instead they have abandoned these poor Iraqis."

    The local people are becoming very angry at the Americans.

  10. Cluster bombs have killed at least 200 Iraqi civilians, with up to a further 172 less firmly linked deaths that also involved other munitions. Out of the total of 372, 147 deaths were due to the explosion of 'duds', i. e.. cluster bombs that landed without immediately exploding. It is likely that these bombs are designed so that a certain percentage land without exploding, forming a carpet of land mines. The Americans have deliberately lied about their use of cluster bombs. Here is a specific account of the cluster bomb attack on Hilla.

  11. For comic relief, here are two pollyannaish articles explaining how well everything is going in Iraq.


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