Saturday, April 12, 2003

The Americans and the British are the occupying powers in Iraq and have a legal and moral obligation to stop the looting and destruction of essential public services. You can't go into a country, destroy its police forces and infrastructure, and then ignore the damage that occurs as a result of your actions. United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan stated that the Hague Regulation and the Geneva Conventions on the duties of occupying powers apply to this conflict (see articles 55, 56, 59, 60 and 63 of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, and article 43 of the Hague Regulations of 1907). The United Nations Office of the Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq (UNOHCI), UNICEF, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and the World Health Organization have all voiced complaints about the failure of the 'coalition' to restrain the looting and lawlessness. UNOHCI stated:

"This inaction by the occupying powers is in violation of the Geneva conventions, which explicitly state that medical establishments must be protected, that the wounded and sick must be the object of particular protection and respect, and that hospital personnel must be protected and must be free to carry on their duties."

The general lawlessness has caused great problems with the distribution of aid. Both the International Committee of the Red Cross and Médecins sans Frontières have suspended their operations in Baghdad as they can't ensure the safety of their workers. Just considering Baghdad (leaving Basra, Kirkuk, Mosul, Najaf, Nasiriya, Umm Qasr, etc., for later):

  1. Baghdad is now a city of looting - government offices, embassies, the offices of UNICEF, and private businesses.

  2. Looters have ransacked the al-Kindi hospital and that hospital is now closed, and another hospital, Medical City, was surrounded by armed men and was running low on water and medical supplies. Many smaller hospitals have closed for fear of being looted. Medical staff and civilian volunteers are defending some of Baghdad's hospitals with guns. The looting is mostly just useless violence, with much of the looted medical equipment having no value to the looters.

  3. The International Committee of the Red Cross has said that the medical system in Baghdad has collapsed due to the lawlessness, and that there were risks of epidemics because the city was also without clean water and electricity.

  4. Tens of thousands of people are engaged in the looting, with absolutely no effort by the American troops to stop them. The looters are setting public buildings on fire.

  5. Shopkeepers are trying to defend their shops with guns. In one case the looters told the American troops that an armed shopkeeper was a member of Saddam Hussein's Fedayeen paramilitary force, so the Americans shot and killed him.

  6. Here is the story of Yarmouk hospital, including that of a nine-month old baby girl named Rawand, who, when her family returned to their home for the first time since the war, crawled over to a cluster bomb, and was killed.

  7. In another ridiculous attempt to find Saddam, and in a more official form of lawlessness, the Americans bombed the Imam al-Adham mosque in the Adhamiya neighborhood

  8. Continuing attacks on American soldiers in the supposedly liberated Baghdad have led to panicked troops firing on and killing unarmed civilians. "The marines shot anything that they considered remotely a threat." From Robert Fisk:

    "After a gun battle in the Adamiya area during the morning, an American Marine sniper sitting atop the palace gate wounded three civilians, including a little girl, in a car that failed to halt - then shot and killed a man who had walked on to his balcony to discover the source of the firing. Within minutes, the sniper also shot dead the driver of another car and wounded two more passengers in that vehicle, including a young woman."

British Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon (and shouldn't 'hoon' be a term to describe a particularly loathsome individual? - it already means, amongst other things, a despicable person, or a hooligan, or a lout, or a pimp, in slang) said, referring to the looting in response to a question in the British Parliament:

"The hon. Gentleman referred to looting, and I know that right hon. and hon. Members will be concerned about that issue; indeed, I have sought to identify the extent of it. Fortunately, it appears so far to be confined to Iraqi citizens - shall I use the word - 'liberating' those items that are in the charge of the regime by entering its former facilities and the secret organisations, and redistributing that wealth among the Iraqi people. I regard such behaviour as good practice, perhaps, but that is not to say that we should not guard against more widespread civil disturbances."

Iraqis are cowering in their homes afraid that they will be murdered for what few things they own, but Hoon, in perhaps a tribute to 'Old Labour', seems to think it is just a good form of redistribution of wealth!