Tuesday, May 06, 2003

One of the oddest things about the coverage of the attack on Iraq is the huge disconnect between the mass American media's view of the situation, which is all sweetness and light, and what is actually going on in Iraq, with Baghdad resembling scenes out of a 'Mad Max' movie:

  1. The violent gangs that rule much of the city have started to make armed raids on private houses, appropriating them for gang members. The Iraqi police, who have again been activated with much fanfare, are too afraid to challenge the better-armed gangs, and thus are doing nothing to help (in fact, some looters are the new Iraqi policemen!). One of the most striking things is that some of the main culprits in this house stealing are the thugs working for the U.S.-backed Iraqi National Congress, the group of Ahmad Chalabi, the man the Pentagon wants to run Iraq.

  2. Hospital records show that the battle for Baghdad, a city which was taken with very little challenge due to the probable deal with the Republican Guard, cost (or here) the lives of at least 1,101 Iraqi civilians (the toll is still rising every day), and an additional 1,255 dead who were probably civilians (since people were fighting to defend their homes, the distinction between civilians and non-civilians is largely meaningless anyway). More than 6,800 civilians were wounded. These are just the civilians treated or seen by hospitals, so the total of killed and wounded is likely to be significantly higher, especially as the hospitals have been largely out of operation. There are also, of course, many civilian casualties outside of Baghdad.

  3. On May 1, at least six Iraqis were killed in a fire at a gas station in Baghdad. Some witnesses said was the fire was ignited by American firing.

  4. The brand-new police chief of Baghdad has resigned, only ten days into his job. Why did he resign? He did not want to implement the procedures forced on him by the Pentagon, including enforcing American laws. The state of policing is still close to anarchy, with problems in organization, problems in the police being unwilling to follow orders from Baathist functionaries, and problems with the police being significantly less well armed than the ubiquitous looters.

  5. It was only about three weeks ago that the Museum of Antiquities was looted, and the National Library burned down. This destruction took place with the Americans well warned of the dangers, including both long-term warnings, and specific warnings at the time of the attacks. Rather than do anything, the American troops spent their time guarding the Ministry of Oil, doing their own looting, and chipping away at an insulting picture of the President's father. Despite all that has happened, and the apparently false contrition of the American forces, the Beit al-Hikma or House of Wisdom, the academy of Baghdad, has now been looted in broad daylight under the noses of the American forces. Last Tuesday, members of Beit al-Hikma met with several senior U.S. officials in Baghdad, including Jay Garner, and told them of the importance of the building, receiving a promise that security would be provided within 24 hours. The building was completely looted last Friday. American troops scattered the first round of looters, but then left and never returned, and more looters appeared to finish the job. Shakir Al-Serrif, an engineering professor, asked:

    "You Americans haven't declared martial law. You haven't declared a curfew. You are the only power in Baghdad, yet you refuse to use that power. Why? Why?"

    Another man stated:

    "We feel like the Americans have a plan to leave a civil war in Iraq."

    It is completely obvious that one of the unstated goals of the American conquerers is to destroy all remnants of Iraqi culture and society. The intentional (for all the evidence shows that it has to be intentional) failure to protect sites of cultural significance, together with the toleration of the looting which is destroying the Baghdad middle classes, must be part of a plan.

  6. There have been American media attempts to downplay the significance of the looting of the Museum of Antiquities. Since the records of the collection were also stolen or destroyed, it is difficult to see how anyone could determine at this point just how serious the problem is. The American forces are accusing the officials at the Museum of being uncooperative in listing the looted material, but I don't know how helpful they can be if the records are missing.

  7. The commander of ground forces in Iraq, Lt. Gen. David McKiernan, who would, were he doing anything, be in charge of stopping the looting (which is still going on), has kept such a low profile as to be almost invisible. He issued a proclamation (or here) forbidding looting, reprisals and criminal activity, but few people even know about it.

  8. As much as 75 percent of the Iraqi work force made a living from either the government or the military, and are now not being paid anything. They have started to protest in Baghdad. How do the Americans plan to employ all these people? Are they just going to let them starve to death?