Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Iraq:

  1. A set of good questions from Euan Ferguson:

    "How, for instance, can the Americans still be failing, weeks after the fall of Baghdad, to keep any kind of electricity running for more than about an hour at a time, leaving the streets insanely, medievally dark? What are the aid agencies playing at and why, while we're at it, when it's about 40 in the shade, have the mad Koreans just sent a few tons of winter blankets? How hot will it have to get - and it hits 60 and above in July - before, still painfully short of clean water, normal Baghdadis take to the streets and finally do what Saddam wanted - go for the occupying troops with the many thousands of guns now looted from Baathist armouries?

    And didn't anyone realise that, if you can surgically take out almost every ministry (the oil building was left strangely untouched), it might be an idea to have a vague plan to put something in their place?"


  2. Baghdad is still an insecure mess, with the American troops being completely unable or unwilling to stop the mayhem. In the absence of American security, local clerics, who have been helpful in organizing security in neighborhoods, are also starting to cause problems by insisting on the destruction of liquor stores and the veiling of women, giving rise to fears of a fundamentalist theocracy (fundamentalist motivated attacks are even more of a problem in Basra). In places in the city, bodies of the dead from the attack of two months ago are still not buried. Rapes and kidnappings of women are starting to be a problem in the anarchy that is Baghdad. Orphans forced to flee their orphanages now live on the streets.

  3. In Basra and the south, diseases in children caused by the absence of clean water continue to be a major problem, and promise to get worse as the temperature rises. The hospital at Usaybah treats as many as 30 cases of dysentery a day. In an interesting development which may become more important as the resistance increases, saboteurs appear (or here) to be targeting the power grid around Basra in an attempt to stop or hinder operation of the Basra Refinery.

  4. In Falluja, a crowd destroyed (or here) a police station in order to prevent the Americans from using it as an operations center. The American troops continue their violent and insensitive house searches, which seem to be more of an act of revenge than security. Residents said American troops killed an Iraqi gun shop owner after mistaking him for an armed assailant as he repaired a rifle outside his store.

  5. American censorship of the Iraqis is becoming an issue. The Americans are creating a 'code of conduct' for the press, which will supposedly be limited to banning intemperate speech that could incite violence. It looks like this may be extended to include any kind of 'incitement' against the occupation, including protests. If you want to see the kind of media that Americans like, you can now watch State Department propaganda videos showing grateful Iraqis praising their liberators. The real story is more interesting. In Kut, U. S. Marines trying to establish a television station went out to film a looted textile factory, but accidentally ended up in the middle of an American military operation to search for weapons. For four and a half hours the troops searched the site, smashing down doors and breaking equipment, including telephones and calculators, only to find just a few Kalashnikovs owned by the factory guards. Lt. Col. Bob Zangas, a civil affairs officer with the Marines, said:

    "There's no way we can broadcast this. This is systematic damaging of property by the Marines and it's skirting the edge of the law."


  6. American reconstruction officials are going to fire nearly half a million Iraqi military and civilian personnel, about 10% (!) of the Iraqi workforce. Humam Shamaa, senior professor of finance and economics at Baghdad University, said: "It will be catastrophic for the Iraqi economy. There will be a depression. It is a contraction to the reconstruction." Hunger, which was becoming a problem, will be alleviated by the resumption of the food rationing program which existed prior to the attack on Iraq. The food is being provided by the U.N. World Food Program, and the $2 billion cost will be taken out of whatever Iraqi oil revenues the Americans don't liberate.

  7. Radiation contamination in the Al-Wardiyah neighborhood near the looted Tuwaitha nuclear complex is going to cause a health crisis. Dr. Hamed Al-Baheli, the former Chief Researcher of the Iraqi Atomic Energy Organization (AEO), speaking about the radiation danger, said:

    "When we investigated some of the houses [in Al-Wardiyah], we found the stolen tanks, as well as radioactive contamination throughout the homes, in people's clothes, beds, and septic tanks. In one home, the radiation was 30 millirems/hour, which is an extremely dangerous level. I noticed that these tanks were used for storing water, milk, cooking instruments, and some foods. They were using them for cooking! We cleaned the homes, but were unable to investigate the internal damage already caused to the people living there, as that requires an intensive, medical examination . . . I think that there are hundreds of homes suffering from this radiation."

    Dr. Hussein Al-Winda'wy, a former scientist at the AEO, said:

    "The US was looking for weapons of mass destruction, but at the same time the US never offered any protection to this site, which had dangerous materials, such as 'yellow cake.' The remarkable thing is that the site was under the surveillance of the IAEA, and this [the looting] shows the absolute US disregard for international institutions, as well as their disregard for the Iraqi people."

    Abu Ali, a resident of Al-Wardiyah, said:

    "People were using the tanks for house supplies. The commission searched the houses, and asked people to make their children drink milk three times a day [to help absorb the radioactive contamination]. When people stole the tanks, the weather was so windy. So these dangerous materials may have been transmitted to other parts of our country. When Americans entered our country, they protected the Ministry of Oil, and left such dangerous places [as the AEO sites] without protection. They want to hurt people. They came for the sake of oil."



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