Sunday, May 18, 2003

Iraq:

  1. In Baghdad, banks have been looted of at least $500 million, importers are afraid to bring goods into Iraq as they are ambushed on the highway from Amman to Baghdad, and the electrical system can't be repaired as the looting is taking away the equipment needed for repairs. The complete lack of security has prevented most commercial activity. Othman, a taxi driver, said:

    "Under Saddam we lived in fear, now we live in terror from crime and we live in poverty."

    Retired Christian teacher Sabah Yusef said:

    "If this anarchy and unemployment continues for another month, people will rise against the Americans and bring about a more chaotic situation."

    Sa'ad Kathem, who is unemployed, said:

    "I don't allow my sisters outside the house. When I leave home, I'm worried the criminals will come for my sisters, and when I'm at home I'm worried they will steal my car, it's impossible to live like this."

    242 people have died in Baghdad in just over three weeks, almost all from bullet wounds. In the past 10 days there have been 124 violent deaths, almost all gunshot homicides. The American solution to this is to shoot looters on sight, or perhaps not shoot looters on sight, depending who you listen to (see also here).

  2. The weapons of mass destruction excuse didn't pan out, and the Iraqis obviously didn't care to be 'liberated', and the lack of response from the Iraqi army shows how weak it actually was and disproves the allegation that Iraq posed a threat to its neighbors or even (!) the United States itself. So you might think that at least one benefit of the attack on Iraq might be the Americans giving the Iraqis the benefits of government by and for the people, free speech, and a right to defend themselves. Er, no:

    • The United States and Britain have indefinitely (or here) postponed allowing Iraqi opposition forces to form a national assembly and an interim government by the end of the month. The British and Americans will remain in charge for an indefinite period.

    • The new U.S.-sponsored Iraqi television news station was censored (or here, slightly different) by the Americans before it went on the air. It has postponed plans to air a live news program because of disputes over editorial control. The Americans wanted the content of the show to be reviewed by the wife of a Kurdish leader before being broadcast. Weeks earlier, in Mosul, the U.S. Army issued orders for troops to seize (or perhaps not 'seize', but something like it) the only television station, an order disobeyed by a true hero of free speech, Maj. Charmaine Means, who was relieved of duty (and who should receive some sort of award for her devotion to free speech as she disobeyed because she felt that the presence of American soldiers would intimidate the station's Arab employees into airing only programming acceptable to the American military).

    • That Second Amendment thing the Americans keep talking about obviously only applies to Americans, as the U. S. military is now telling Iraqis that it is illegal to own or sell guns, leaving many people with nothing to defend themselves with against the looters.



  3. The looting of the Tuwaitha nuclear complex, which the Americans allowed to happen, resulted in the theft of radioactive material. Melissa Fleming of the International Atomic Energy Agency said:

    "The radioactive sources, some very potent ones, could get on to the black market and into the hands of terrorists planning dirty-bomb attacks."

    I thought that the Americans were really concerned about dirty bombs - remember the story of Jose Padilla, still rotting in jail for allegedly planning dirty bomb attacks? - but I guess that was just part of the effort to scare Americans half to death to allow for the continued domestic political oppression and international adventures.

  4. The first rule of international politics is, whatever else happens, the Palestinians get screwed. Saddam had taken up the policy of housing Palestinian refugees in houses in Baghdad, some of which he had obtained by taking them from his political enemies, or forcing such enemies to rent them at an extremely low rent. Now, the gangs of house-jackers are starting to dispossess these Palestinians from their homes in Baghdad, and kicking them out on the street. Many of the Palestinian refugees have lived in Iraq since 1948 (I wonder what happened in 1948 to make them want to leave their homeland in the Palestine?). It is quite possible that many of these people will need to be housed somewhere else, but leaving them homeless and at the mercy of the street justice of the house-jackers can hardly be the right answer. Iranian refugees living in Iraq may also have been the victims of being forced from their refugee camps.

  5. There are allegations which are being investigated by Amnesty International that British and American troops tortured (or here) prisoners of war in Iraq with night-long beatings and, in at least one case, electric shocks. Investigators received "full cooperation" from the British, but, perhaps needless to say, not from the Americans, who were "denying access to PoWs to determine their treatment."


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