War: June 2003 Archives

Tell us all once again why we had to bomb Iraq.

Yesterday in a town 150 miles south of Baghdad, even the local American military commander, together with his officers and the soldiers and marines under them, were disappointed with U.S. heavy handedness.

American marines had built makeshift wooden ballot boxes. An Army reserve unit from Green Bay, Wis., had conducted a voter registration drive. And Iraqi political candidates had blanketed the city with colorful fliers outlining their election platforms — restore electricity, rehabilitate the old quarter, repave roads.

But last week, L. Paul Bremer III, the head of the American military occupation in Iraq, unilaterally canceled what American officials here said would have been the first such election in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein. Overruling the local American military commander, Mr. Bremer decreed that conditions in Najaf were not appropriate for an election.

Several days later, American marines stormed the offices of an obscure local political party here, arrested four members and jailed them for four days. The offense, the Americans said, was a violation of a new edict by Mr. Bremer that makes it illegal to incite violence against forces occupying Iraq.

Mohammed Abdul Hadi, an official in the party, the Supreme Council for the Liberation of Iraq, accused the United States of a double standard.

"Why do you apply these constraints on us in Iraq," he said, "and they are not being applied by the American government on Americans?"

The events here exposed an uncomfortable truth of the American occupation. For now, American officials are barring direct elections in Iraq and limiting free speech, two of the very ideals the United States has promised to Iraqis. American officials have said it may take up to two years for an elected Iraqi government to take over the country.

Yea! Anees, our Palestinian friend living in East Jerusalem now has his own blog up and running.

One of his first posts concerns the construction of a totally redundant road to nearby Jewish settlements (on occupied Palestinian land) which Israel is building outside his family's home.

I bet when completed it will be a road suspended high above with side walls that hide 'us' from view, and keep 'us' away. In one such 'Jewish-only' road which hovers high above nearby Bir Nabala, a small Arab village, the high side walls are even painted with scenery, simulating a landscape view free of Arab existence.
Have they no shame?

I don't know how a figure could be strictly defined, even if one could somehow be located on the record, but while a friend who has spent time in Israel and Palestine reported anecdotally that the number of homes which have been destroyed by the Israelis in the Gaza Strip is 80 percent, any percent would be an abomination.

. . . there was no record of the Za'anin family having heard a nearby explosion, in a street controlled by tanks and armored personnel carriers, at around 6 P.M. that day. About 20 minutes later the family, which was sitting in the living room, heard the noise of the churning bulldozers.

"Suddenly we saw Jews in the house," said Amana Za'anin. An officer and soldiers entered through a breach they opened in the wall of the house. They aimed their weapons at the family, and ordered them out. According to the family, they were not allowed to take anything with them. Not even the mother's head covering. The student daughter cried she didn't want to leave without her books and notebooks. Her parents said that they had to drag her away from "under the bulldozer."

[Anees found this]

What does Baghdad look like today?

The strongest account I've read succeeds where even pictures have failed.

An excerpt:

And then you drive back, through the centre, and see what has happened to the ministries and powerhouses that used at least to keep some of the country alive, and realise that they have not merely been looted but invaded, lobotomised, trepanned. The Americans are hardly in evidence, and soon it will be dark again, and the guns will begin again: and you can't help but wonder how, when we managed to get the surgical excision of Saddam so right, we have apparently managed to get everything else so wrong in this country. An old and an interesting country, and one in which everyone has been unfailingly, unaccountably courteous and helpful, apart from the ones who are trying to shoot you. They welcomed me into one mosque for Friday prayers, this know-nothing Westerner whose country had just helped bring their city to a halt, careful as they washed their feet not to use too much water. Prayers were all-male: women have stopped coming out for the moment.

Others offered me their bottled water, as they always offer it to each other. It is sweet to see the way in which old men unembarrassedly hold hands on marches, quick to pull each other out of the way of traffic (or perhaps it's just in case they're hit by one of the cacophony of toots: they laugh, here, about their drivers' propensity for the horn, and call it 'Baghdad music'.) A kindly and spectacularly ravaged people, and I'm not sure quite what's about to happen to them.

. . . .

Baghdad has turned into Afghanistan faster than Afghanistan. As I write this, the UN weapons inspectors are going back in to see whether the looting of the city's main nuclear power station has given Baghdad a radioactive water supply. Could this really imaginably be, in the minds of those who went to war for even the best intentions, the preferred legacy? A land where all the children smell of petrol? A land fit only for flies?

[thanks to Anees]

This page is an archive of entries in the War category from June 2003.

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