Thursday, May 15, 2003

More on the lawlessness and anarchy in Iraq:

  1. Some quotes from Baghdad:

    • from Carol Morello of the Washington Post:

      ". . . this city looks very much like a city of men. You rarely see women around. When you talk with women, when you can track them down in their houses, they'll tell you they're scared out of their wits by the lawlessness.

      There is a growing sense here that the lawlessness has been increasing. The looters had started out against the government ministries, then they started doing carjackings, and now many people are saying that there are reports of criminals going into peoples' homes and committing murders and carjackings and theft. So, people are very afraid. Also, there is still no electricity here."


      ". . . it seems to be getting worse. You hear more gunfire at night than you did even a few days ago.

      And so, there are supposed to be some more police on the streets. But you can drive around the city, the size of Los Angeles or Chicago, you can spend a whole day driving around the city without seeing a single police officer."

    • from Anne Morris, a senior CARE staff member, after an office and warehouse belonging to CARE were attacked Sunday night, and two CARE vehicles were seized by armed men over the weekend:

      "The violence is escalating. We have restricted staff movement for their own safety. What does it say about the situation when criminals can move freely about the city and humanitarian aid workers cannot?"

    • from Dr. Raghad Sursan, a psychiatrist at the now largely wrecked Al Rashad state psychiatric hospital, after the looting of the hospital:

      "I am disappointed. I am mad, and if there is a word that is bigger than mad, I am that, because the marines were there and could have done something to stop it."

    • from Karim Salih, whose family (five brothers, his father, and a sister) were slaughtered by looters in the middle of the night:

      "I want to know who did this. Why did they kill them? They could have taken what they wanted and gone. What is happening with the world when people cannot sleep safely in their beds? We live in the jungle here. No one is safe."

  2. The World Health Organization has confirmed that there has been an outbreak of cholera in Basra caused by lack of access to clean water. Spokeswoman Fadela Chaib said:

    "In the past, the Basra department of preventative medicine was running a very efficient cholera control program, including quality control of hospital laboratories, screening of food handlers and food items, routine control of quality of water, and screening of contacts. Today, the situation is different. There is no longer a functioning surveillance system to centralize the information, investigate the causes and monitor the situation."

    The WHO claims that Basra's central laboratory, which had been totally ransacked, has to be rebuilt, or cholera and other contagious diseases could spread unchecked.

  3. There is a report (or here) by Walter Sommerfeld, a Professor of Oriental Philology in Marburg, that the Americans actually participated in and encouraged the looting of the Museum of Antiquities:

    "A high-ranking museum official reports that . . . two tanks rolled up, and American soldiers broke open the doors of the main building and spent around two hours unobserved in the display galleries. Afterward, they removed certain objects and transported them away. Which objects these were, could not be identified by him or other observers. What is certain is only that most of the large and conspicuous exhibits were still present, due to their difficulty of transportation, and that only the smaller exhibits had been removed from their display cases to storerooms.

    A resident reports how US soldiers commanded chance Iraqi bystanders on the museum grounds, to go into the museum and help themselves: 'This is your treasure, get in!' For three days the plunderers worked unhindered and carried away their booty in front of running cameras.  The few museum employees who had returned to work tried desperately to get American troops to protect the museum. A few soldiers turned up for a short while, looked at what was going on and disappeared again with the remark: 'This is not our order.'"


    "Stolen antiquities were particularly sought-after by journalists, so that armed gangs specialized in robbing them along the 500-kilometre long highway from Baghdad to the Jordanian border. One of those robbed reported that after he was robbed of his car, the first thing the bandits wanted to know was: 'Where are the antiquities?' In one journalist's car, twelve boxes of antiquities were turned up."

    The fighting, which the Americans used as one of the excuses for their inaction, was over before the looting started. The Americans actually facilitated looting by opening doors and then encouraging the looting. The Americans forced open the Technical University, opened computers and removed their hard drives, and then allowed looters in. All but one of the 15 universities of Iraq have been totally looted and burned.

  4. There is a report that many of the books in the National Library were saved by Iraqis who removed them once it became clear that the Americans were going to provide no protection. Here is an interesting quote from the article (my emphasis added):

    "Librarians say that as American troops pressed into Baghdad April 9, they pleaded with soldiers to protect the site from looters and Kuwaiti arsonists. They said the Kuwaitis were bent on revenge for the 1990-91 invasion and war."

    Robert Fisk reported seeing the arsonists arrive in identically colored buses. Is it possible that there was an organized Kuwaiti arson squad which had been allowed in to Baghdad by the Americans with the intention of getting revenge for the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait?

  5. There is a water crisis in Nassiriyah, as reported by Chris Stuart, Public Health Promoter with Oxfam in Iraq:

    "The water quality is very poor and smelly and after the intense bombing of this town, many homes have no water. Every civic building has been destroyed. . . . . it is a town of rubble and despair. . . to access water . . . breaking into the pipes is the only option, but this leads to the risk of disease and contamination."


    "Some mothers were telling me that they could only afford enough fuel to boil the water for their children, but this is the exception and not the rule. The overriding main issue for everybody is water and the urgent need to have clean drinking water. Mothers are the ones I feel for most, and they have absolutely no means to protect their children from getting sick from water related sicknesses. The number of admissions for diarrhoeal diseases in the hospitals has increased and these are mainly children. Up to a couple of days ago, there were hardly any drugs available to treat these children."

  6. Now the Americans are claiming that money found by U. S. troops in Baghdad may be the money allegedly stolen by Qusay Hussein from the Iraqi central bank. There are still many problems in this story, but at least this version avoids the need for four tractor-trailers. It is entertaining to watch the American military lies evolve.

  7. You might have thought with all the professed worry of American officials over nuclear programs and 'dirty bombs' that the Americans might have seen fit to secure the Iraqi nuclear facilities. Well, they didn't, the Iraqis went in and looted radioactive material, and many residents in villages close to the Tuwaitha Nuclear Facility are showing signs of radiation sickness. When International Atomic Energy Agency officials made their last visit to Tuwaitha in January, they found nearly two tons of partially enriched uranium, along with significant quantities of highly radioactive medical and industrial isotopes. When American soldiers arrived, Iraqi armed guards were holding off looters. What did the soldiers do? They disarmed the guards, and thus ensured that the looting would occur! Mohammed Zaidan, the former chief agricultural engineer at Tuwaitha, said:

    "The soldiers had promised us they would secure the site but they did not and we wonder why. Perhaps it was because they always knew there were no real weapons there, despite all their claims. But, nevertheless, these materials represent a major health hazard and before long we may start to see people developing cancer and deformed babies because they did not stop the looting."