Friday, July 04, 2003

Personal insecurity and lawlessness in Iraq:

  1. Electricity continues to be one of the main issues, especially in Baghdad. Due to looting and possibly sabotage, electricity and water supplies to Baghdad have fallen by 40 percent over past week. Power outages have blacked out large parts of the city for days, and the temperature is approaching 50 degrees Celsius. A U. S. official said:

    "Power is the central issue. Without it, you don't have security. You don't have an economy. You don't have trust in what we're doing. What you do have is more anger, more frustration, more violence. We're not going to solve anything here until we first find a way to get more electricity to the people."

    Of course, the electricity problem is basically a security problem, and goes back to the failure of the American forces to even attempt to stop the looting. Now, Baghdad has fallen into a vicious cycle, where the lack of electricity leads to lawlessness, and the lawlessness makes it impossible to fix the electricity system. The Americans are also clearly unwilling to spend any money on Iraq, as the whole point of the attack on Iraq was to steal money from the Iraqi people, not give them money.

  2. International aid groups are still unable to do their work properly due to the general lawlessness and insecurity in Iraq. Because of the attack on Iraq, the percentage of the population dependent on food aid has risen from 60 percent to 100 percent. Some of the food aid is being illegally sold. A UNICEF survey in Baghdad found 7.7 per cent of children under the age of 5 were suffering acute malnutrition, up from 4 per cent before the attack. Children are suffering from increased rates of gastroenteritis and 'black fever', a disease spread by the flies which have been multiplying in the uncollected garbage in Baghdad. The insecurity on the streets and roads means that it is increasingly difficult for parents to bring their sick children to the hospital. Marwa Hamid, a 15-year-old high school student and burn victim, asked:

    "What's changing in Iraq? What's come of all this? Fifty-two days ago, President Bush promised things to Iraqis. Instead, only looting and violence have replaced Saddam. What good is freedom if you cannot live?"

    The lawlessness is also directly dangerous to children, as are the environmental dangers caused by unexploded munitions and depleted uranium.

  3. The general lawlessness continues. People are afraid to leave their homes, and suffer in the unairconditioned darkness. Carjackings and robberies are a common occurrence. Dr. Bahir Sabah, a surgeon at al-Kindi Hospital in Baghdad, said:

    "Before the war, we got very few robbery victims. Now, after the Americans gave people time to get more and more weapons, it's all we see."

    Adel Hameed Raheem, a teacher of English literature in Basra, said:

    "In my college parents are mostly keeping their daughters at home because they are terrified of them being kidnapped."

    The American soldiers have only disdain for the Iraqi police, the police hate the American soldiers, and very little real policing gets done. The complete insecurity is even affecting the American reconstruction as it makes it impossible for the Americans to know what is actually going on. The International Crisis Group, referring to the U. S. officials, said:

    "Concerned about their personal safety, permitted to move about the city only with a military escort, preoccupied with turf battles, and largely unknowing of Iraq and Iraqis they venture from the grounds of the former Saddam Hussein palace that is their headquarters only infrequently and have minimal interaction with the population."

  4. We keep hearing about how well things are going in Basra. Margaret Hitchcock, the only permanent British resident of Basra prior to the attack said:

    "It breaks my heart to say this, but the British are losing the battle here. I can see the people turning against them. Unless Tony Blair sends the tanks back, and triples soldiers on the ground, he'll have a disaster on his hands. Dozens of those poor British boys who are working so hard here could lose their lives. They'll be the ones who'll get the backlash, not Blair."


    "OK, main streets where patrols go during the day are safe. But they never go into the back streets where it's completely different. How can they? They don't have the manpower for anything. They admit it. The back streets are where this city is really being run now."

    Like Baghdad, Basra is often without electricity. The streets are ruled by armed gangs. Fanatical Shi'ite Muslims are roaming the streets beating up Iraqi women in western dress and enforcing (or here) bans on what they consider to be sinful conduct (selling alcohol, showing movies, uncovered hair for women). On May 15, Bremer of Baghdad pronounced Basra's water quality as good - "Better than it has been in years." Actually it is terrible, and is the cause of the outbreaks of diarrhea and cholera.

We can see how the looting and insecurity, which the Americans allowed to happen and people like Rumsfeld actually made light of (the neo-cons saw soul mates in the looting thugs, having a great love for those who take from others by force), has continued to plague the reconstruction. The looting put guns on the streets, easily and cheaply available to the criminals, and stripped much of the country's assets for sale by organized criminals. Looting and lawlessness continue to make repair of the electricity system impossible, and the failure of electricity leads to additional unrest and lawlessness, and health problems caused by the collapse of the water and sanitation systems. The utter American failure at reconstruction is actually caused by a lot of small mistakes, starting with the tolerance of the initial looting. Amongst all the other sins we can attribute to the neo-cons, the most obvious is sheer stupidity.