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[casi] News, 01-08/05/03 (4)

News, 01-08/05/03 (4)


*  All the king's horses
*  Children of Sadr City bear brunt of crisis made worse by war
*  UN officials back in Baghdad to manage aid effort
*  Anarchy in Iraq - a small price for ending cruel tyranny
*  Obscure sect hopes for greater freedom in new Iraq
*  Its a humanitarian disaster: UN envoy
*  Birth Pangs: As a New Era Dawns in Baghdad, Life Goes On -- Sometimes,
Just Barely
*  Civilian Deaths: The Bombs That Keep On Killing
*  Cholera outbreak feared in Iraq


by Nermeen Al-Mufti
Al Ahram (Egypt), c2nd May

Baghdad's Al-Fardos Square assumed a new symbolic identity after the
toppling of former President Saddam Hussein's statue on 9 April.

After three weeks of occupation, the square has taken on another role, as a
platform for free speech -- almost like an Iraqi Hyde Park. Angry groups
gather here on a daily basis, in front of the Palestine Hotel where foreign
journalists and American forces are quartered, and air their opinions on the
changing balance of power in Iraq and the region.

Near the site of Saddam's fallen statue stood Ammar Ahmed, a PhD student of
Baghdad University, in a crowd who were chanting "No to the Americans." When
I told him that many opposition parties and figures had, in fact, asked the
Americans to stay he replied, "they know if the Americans go, nobody will
elect them."

Meanwhile, Suleyman Ali, a Palestinian student at Baghdad University, was
trying, along with dozens of Arab students, to talk with any American
officer they could find. They were desperate for information on whether they
would be able to complete their studies under the scholarships awarded by
the Iraqi government or Ba'ath Party.

Here, in tumultuous post-Saddam Iraq, the erstwhile long-time leader has
assumed almost legendary status and locals speak of him with mixed emotions.
Hana Abid, a professor of economics, was nostalgic for the iron fist of the
old regime. "I had no idea that some Iraqis hate this country so much that
they could even loot the National Museum's library, or the Fine Arts Museum.
Somebody told me that trucks full of people from another Arab state looted
the National Museum."

The question that ripples through the crowds and security forces here is
whether or not Saddam Hussein was betrayed. "We were ready to fight in and
around Saddam Airport," says Captain Najm Ghazi of the elite Republican
Guard. "But all of a sudden we were ordered to withdraw. We were told that
the orders were from the president. The next day we discovered that Baghdad
and Saddam had been betrayed. Why, when and who? Nobody knows."

He added that all members of the two highest echelons in the Republican
Guard were from Tikrit, Hussein's home town, or from among Hussein's son
Qusay's closest associates. "We always used to say that Saddam was good at
creating mercenaries. He paid a lot to those journalists who wrote lies, and
to officers who were no good at conducting wars." According to Ghazi it was
those same mercenaries who betrayed the country saying, "those were the ones
who took a fortune from the Americans to betray him."

"It's so sad," he added. "Thousands of people were killed by American bombs.
If they were going to betray him, why didn't they do it from the first day?
I'll never forget what happened here."

On the much-discussed issue of Hussein's whereabouts, 57-year-old teacher
Sameera Al Jabouri, seems certain. "He will be back -- surely in the coming
weeks," she said. "We are sure that our president will return. He may have
been a dictator; he may have been unjust, but at least he was Iraqi -- not
an agent of America."

"If not Saddam," adds her 30-year- old daughter, Noor, "then somebody must
come to save Iraq from this occupation and the 'opposition', who are all
agents themselves."

Saddam Hussein once said "32 states waged a war against us, but still we did
not evaporate." According to a high- ranking official in the office of the
president, who wished to remain anonymous, "many top officials decided to
try to oust Saddam Hussein in an effort to protect Iraq from occupation," He
added that "the ministers for defence and military industrialisation, Sultan
Hashim Ahmed and Abdul Tawab Mulla Huwaish, spoke to the President and his
son Qusay and tried to persuade them to leave Iraq for Iraq's sake. Hussein
and his son reportedly become livid with anger, and the fate of those two
ministers and forty high- ranking army officers still remains unknown. The
details of this meeting spread like wildfire through the office of the
president, and people started making arrangements for their safe exits,
leaving the country to its fate."

The places I encountered in Abu Ghareeb in the western section of Baghdad
and the suburb near the Al- Kadhimiya district bore witness to real battles
between Iraqi and American forces on 5 and 6 April. An American tank and two
other vehicles were standing beside the Arabic Petroleum Institute, all
three vehicles destroyed. Determined to find an answer to the riddle of the
fall of Baghdad, the deserting Iraqi forces and the delivery of the city to
the coalition forces on a silver platter, I asked some people their opinion.
Ibrahim Hazim, a young captain in the armoured division of the Republican
Guards, simply said, "I still don't know what went on in the minds of the
commanders. They pulled a whole division out of Kirkuk in broad daylight
without providing any air cover, which meant the reinforcements never
reached Baghdad."

"American bombardment of military targets was extremely heavy," commented
Ahmed Hasan, first lieutenant engineer, adding that "entering a war without
air cover is a big mistake." But what about the hundreds of Iraqi officers
who swore allegiance to Saddam Hussein, vowing to protect Iraq and burn the
Americans? Zaid El- Hamdany, an officer, maintains "it was all a publicity
stunt for radio and TV to boost the moral of the Iraqis."

But will the Iraqis keep asking what happened? The road to Baghdad is
littered with burnt out Iraqi tanks, arms and rocket launchers as well as
countless shreds of military uniforms; in the military hospitals that had
been looted and burnt, I saw hundreds of cheap wooden coffins and Iraqi
flags. Ali Hassan, a sergeant in the Rasheed Military hospital said "if the
deposed regime was sure that hundreds of thousands were going to be killed,
then why did Saddam Hussein launch a suicide war?"

While waiting for the answers, the Iraqis try to reconstruct the remnants of
their shattered lives; a task which is far from easy. Nights in the cities
remain unsafe; electricity supplies have been restored to some areas, but
telecommunication facilities remain cut. Former General Garner has asked
Iraqis to resume their work and studies. The answer was a bitter smile.
Where are people supposed to go to after all ministries, offices, schools
and universities have been looted and burnt; and where are the salaries? The
Americans promised $20 to every Iraqi worker, the going rate for $100 being
150 000 ID. Two weeks ago $100 this was 270 000 ID.

As for the future, nobody knows when the interim government will be
established, and for the time being nobody cares about that 60% of the
population whose lives depend on their salaries and the Oil for Food
Programme. And in the words of an Iraqi, "The Americans say they are going
to fix everything, but can they fix our broken hearts?"

by Donald Macintyre in Baghdad
The Independent, 2nd May

It is hardly surprising that listless six-month-old Sajad Abbas has been
suffering from diarrhoea and vomiting for the past 10 days. For an outbreak
of gastroenteritis in Sadr City (formerly Saddam City) - asprawling and
for-decades wilfully neglected Shia suburb to the north-east of Baghdad -
owes almost everything to a chronic shortage of clean water, which has been
suddenly intensified by the war.

And, in Sajad's case, the problem has been made worse as his desperate
parents, like many others with children in the overcrowded and underpowered
Qadisiyah Hospital, have been using the kind of cheap Chinese-made electric
pump you can buy in local markets to suck water from taps that otherwise
would provide little more than a few dismal drops.

But the paediatric house officer Dr Ahmed Abdul Hassan wearily explained
yesterday that the pump also sucks out in concentrated form all the
impurities, including residual sewage, that have contaminated the decrepit
pipes. Others, he said, buy cheap water of dubious quality at 250 Iraqi
dinars a barrel from local entrepreneurs in the belief that it is much

"We are supposed to have a maximum capacity of 80 but we have 100 children
in the wards," he said. "Ninety per cent of the cases are gastroenteritis,
many with complications of dehydration. This is an old problem of quality
and quantity of water, which the war has made worse." The reason, of course,
is the devastating impact of war-caused electricity shortages on water
treatment and supply.

Indeed, the hospital, the biggest in this city within a city, is a microcosm
of the urgent humanitarian tasks.

Carel de Rooy and Ramon de Silva, Unicef's top two representatives for Iraq,
will be discussing the crisis with the US military today. They returned to
Baghdad yesterday for the first time since leaving with the agency's other
international staff as war loomed in mid March.

The gastroenteritis outbreak started at about the same time that much of the
world was celebrating the fall of Baghdad, on 9 April, and when the hospital
was working flat out to cope with civilian injuries inflicted by Allied
cluster bombs.

Nor is that problem over. The Qadisiyah is still admitting between six and
16 cases a day of children injured by unexploded ordnance. And, although it
has its own generating plant, it can no longer carry out surgery because a
part in the generator that served the theatre burnt out a week ago and no
replacement has been found. So the children are given first aid and
transferred by ambulance if one is available and by private car if it isn't.

The hospital also lacksproperly sterilised instruments and other necessary
materials,along with drugs such as injectable antibiotics. "This is a big
risk. You can do more damage than the original injury," said Dr Mohammed
Abdul Rahman. Like all his colleagues Dr.Mohammed takes a fierce pride in
his work - as anyone would have to do who was paid under Saddam a paltry $15
(£9.30) a month and worked, as all the young doctors did, throughout the
war, sleeping in the hospital without time off.

"But this is psychologically traumatic for us. This is a hospital. Our job
is to help people, and if we can't, we suffer too."

The US-led Organisation for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance has
not provided any help, so it is the Islamic scholastic group Hawza that is
paying the doctors, has hired the man at the door with the AK-47 to keep out
looters, and is shipping in from Najaf what little medical supplies it can.
Green and black flags now fluttering above almost every other building in
Sadr City testify to this as a Shia stronghold. Dr Rahman and Dr Hassan
readily praise Hawza for their help but say they yearn for a new and elected
Iraqi government - not run by rich exiles who have not shared their problems
over the past decade. Although he is happy to see the back of Saddam, Dr
Rahman said: "What I don't see is any sign of anything else in our lives
that has been made better by the arrival of the Americans."

Which goes to the heart of the vacuum, humanitarian as well as political, in
the running of Baghdad, let alone of the country as a whole. There is, for
example, no mayoralty.

The Iraqi officer in charge of Unicef, George Hatim - who with 73 local
technical staff has strived to maintain some water supply in the city -
won't be drawn on tensions between the UN and the US impeding progress. But
he said: "What I know is that Iraq's children are in deep crisis. Every day
brings with it an increase in child morbidity and mortality."

by Nadim Ladki in Baghdad
Sydney Morning Herald, 3rd May

The top United Nations humanitarian official for Iraq has arrived back in
Baghdad to establish a permanent presence and begin an assessment of urgent
humanitarian needs.

Ramiro Lopes da Silva, the UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator for Iraq, and 21
senior officials from UN agencies such as the World Food Program and World
Health Organisation made the 950-kilometre journey from Amman in Jordan to
Baghdad in a convoy of eight vehicles.

Their arrival brought to more than 60 the number of UN international staff
in Iraq. Another 650 international staff who withdrew before the war are on
stand-by to redeploy. They will join 3400 Iraqis still employed by the UN
once security allows.

The war disrupted food supplies in Iraq, where 60 per cent of the population
was dependent on the UN's oil-for-food program.

Mr Lopes da Silva and his team have been co-ordinating from Cyprus the
delivery of emergency relief into Iraq by the UN since the war began.

The UN's permanent presence in Baghdad will help oversee a food aid channel
to replenish supplies in Baghdad, which are expected to run low in the
coming weeks.

Fearing for their safety - and insisting on their independence - a handful
of US humanitarian agencies, including Care USA, will refuse US financial
assistance if the Pentagon controls all Iraqi relief efforts.

So far, emergency relief grants potentially worth $95 million have been
awarded to private US agencies combating dire food, water, health and
sanitation problems.

With the Pentagon virtually running the country, some humanitarian groups
fear their work will be perceived by Iraqis as an extension of the American
military presence.

"Although the US Government hates to hear this, Iraq is an occupied country
under military occupation," Kevin Henry of Care USA said.

"It's very important for us to be seen as . . . separate from any military

by Boris Johnson
The Scotsman, 4th May

WE COULD tell something was up as soon as we approached the petrol station.
There was an American tank parked amid a big crowd of jerrycan-toting
Iraqis. Unusually, the soldiers were down and walking around, guns at the

Then I heard shouting and saw the Americans using their carbines like staves
to push back some of the customers, who were evidently trying their luck.
Just then a black sergeant near me started shouting at an Iraqi.

"You, I've told you to get away from there," he said, swinging his gun

The Iraqi appeared to be a phone technician, with pliers and a handset. He
was standing before an open relay box, up to his ears in wire, and trying to
repair some of the damage that has left Baghdad for three weeks without
telephones, electricity, and in some places without running water and

The American repeated his command; and again. Still the Iraqi did not move,
while others vehemently and incomprehensibly tried to explain what he was
doing. Then the American seemed to lose his temper.

"Let me put it this way, buddy," he shouted, lifting the gun to his shoulder
and aiming at the Iraqi's head from a distance of a couple of feet.

"If you don't move, I'm going to shoot you!"

At this point, since it did not appear out of the question that there would
indeed be a tragedy, I am afraid that I intervened.

"I say, cool it," I said, or rather croaked.

Three pairs of US army shades turned on me, and a couple of American guns
waggled discouragingly in my direction.

There is gunfire the whole time in Baghdad. It barks around every street
corner. Every night is enlivened by the rippling and popping, as if someone
were tearing a sheet a few feet away. Within the space of the last
half-hour, I had slunk past a 10-year-old with an AK47 over his shoulder,
chewing the fat with his dad in the door of the shop. Just five minutes ago
I had flinched when another shopkeeper cocked his automatic in my face to
show how he dealt with the plague of thieves.

But in my three days in Baghdad, this was easily the scariest moment, and
the one time I really wished I had bothered with the flak jacket kindly
loaned to me by Fergal Keane of the BBC.

"You!" screamed an American, whose stitched helmet name-tape proclaimed him
to be Kuchma, blood-type A neg.

"Who are you? Go away! No, wait, give me that," he said, shaking with anger
when he saw my camera.

"Give me that or I will detain you."

I refused; but it was only a couple of minutes before Kuchma and I had
calmed each other down. He explained to me the huge pressures his men were
under, trying to keep order in a city with no recognised authority, a gun
under every Iraqi pillow, and with only a fraction of the troops necessary.

I apologised, as we shook hands, for accidentally interfering with his work.
I gabbled some congratulations on the amazing achievement of his men and the
rest of the American forces.

It wasn't just that he had the gun and I didn't. I meant my congratulations,
and I still do. Like everyone in Baghdad, Kuchma asked what the hell I was
doing there. I went partly to satisfy my curiosity, but mainly to clear my
conscience. I wrote, spoke and voted for the war, and was hugely relieved
when we won. But owing, no doubt, to some defect in my character, I found it
very hard to be gung-ho.

It was troubling that we were preparing war against a sovereign country that
had, so far, done us no direct harm. And the longer Blix and Co. fossicked
around in search of weapons of mass destruction, the more cynical I became
about the pretext. If you took it that the WMD business was just a
rigmarole, an abortive attempt to rope in the French and others, there was
only one good argument for violently removing Saddam Hussein from power; and
that was not just that it would be in the interests of world peace and
security, but that it would be pre-eminently in the interests of the Iraqi

It was, therefore, a piece of utilitarian arithmetic. You had to weigh the
disasters of war against the nightmare of life under Saddam. You had to set
the misery of old Iraq against the uncertainties of a free country.

As we drove into Baghdad from Jordan, I saw some sights familiar from
Kosovo, like the way a smart bomb deals with a motorway bridge: the writhing
steel reinforcements twisted like spaghetti; the concrete shaken free as if
it were plaster.

But about 50 miles away from the city, in the neighbourhood of Ramadi, it
became obvious that this was a much, much bigger deal than Kosovo. The tanks
were not just neutralised; they were frazzled and oxidised, and in some
cases they had flipped their lids with the gun turret blown right out like a
biscuit tin. Cars had been crushed like balls of paper, and chucked over the
side of the bridges. In every cock-eyed anti-aircraft gun, in every useless
and deserted gun emplacement, you could read the humiliation of the Iraqi

We drove past the Baghdad Museum, which has still not recovered the Warqa
vase and the 300kg bronze Akkadian king, and which every Iraqi believes was
looted with the collusion of the Americans, or the Kuwaitis, or both.

We went by a shopping centre flattened by bombs, as the vast buttocks of an
American security guard might accidentally squash a cardboard box of
cornflakes on the front seat of his Stingray.

My interpreter pointed out the Ministry of Irrigation. Irrigation is the
word. The thing was fuller of holes than a watering can.

But it is not the Americans who have done the worst damage to Baghdad. Weeks
after the invasion, buildings are still burning, not from missiles but from
the looting. Most of the shops are shut. There is glass everywhere, and
rubbish all over the streets, because there are no municipal services; and
there are no municipal services because civic order has broken down.

Little Japanese pick-ups scoot by, laden with copper wires uprooted from the
streets; and the very same looters shake their fists and complain that there
is no electricity.

With my interpreter, Thomas, I went down to Sadr City, formerly Saddam City,
where 2 million Shi'ites live in scenes of unremitting squalor, with markets
petering out and starting up again on the wide, tank-friendly streets.

"Hello there," I asked Hamad Qasim.

"How is it for you? Are you happy that Saddam has gone?"

The djellaba'd shepherd chopped the air with his hands, as if brushing a fly
off each ear, and said: "We lived for 35 years under oppression and we are
very happy that the Americans are here."

He then tried to sell me one of his malodorous brown ewes for $50 (£30).
Others thought his words needed amplification.

"The Americans have come and purified us [Thomas's translation] from Saddam,
but until now we have seen nothing from the Americans," shouted another man.
"Where is our gas, our electricity? They just make promises!"

And as they grew more emphatic in their views I buttoned up my jacket and we
found ourselves retreating to the car.

A skinny man in a waistcoat stuck his nose through the window.

"I have no job. I have no money. There are gangsters everywhere shooting

"If this goes on," he cried, flapping his waistcoat in ominous
demonstration, "I will make myself a suicide bomber!"

Those are the kind of words that terrify men like Kuchma, the harassed
marine at the petrol pump, and which tempt them to blow away someone who
might be a phone-repair man, but who also might be about to set something

Two and a half weeks after toppling Saddam, the American forces are
pitifully ill-prepared for the task of rebuilding the country they conquered
with such brilliant elan. Behind the scenes, under their breath, Iraqis are
starting to make comparisons with the former regime.

"When the last Gulf war ended," said Thomas, whom I suspect of being a bit
of a Ba'athist, "it took only a week before Saddam restored everything."

Indeed, said someone else, Saddam may have been a thug and a killer, but at
least he had a policy on law and order. Somehow, perhaps because we have so
far failed either to capture him or to produce his moustachioed corpse, the
shadow of the dictator still hangs over this town like a djinn. Where is he?
What happened to him?

Some say he was seen at the Adamiya mosque on the day that American column
sliced through Baghdad's pathetic Maginot Line. Some say he is holed up in
Ramadi, the badlands to the west of town which fought on for six days;
others that he is being ferried between the many households prepared to give
him hospitality.

I'll tell you where he is not. He is not at the bottom of that enormous hole
made by the US air force in the posh district of Al-Mansour, when they had a
tip-off that he was having a working dinner with his henchmen. He may indeed
have been at the Al-Saab restaurant, a fine establishment that gave me a
top-flight Shoarma and chips, but the bomb landed about 100 metres away from
the joint, doing it no damage whatever. There were twisted bedsteads,
snatches of curtain and other remnants of four civilian houses. But there
was no Saddam.

It was theoretically his birthday on Monday (actually, no one knows when he
was born, in the miserable village of Ouja near Tikrit; like everything else
in his life, Saddam swiped his birthday from someone else), and everyone was
gripped by a delicious paranoia that he would pop up, like some awful
Saddamogram, with a special birthday commemoration.

It is obvious why the name Saddam is still potent, and can still,
incredibly, be spoken of in terms of grudging respect; and that is because
no one else has taken power, at least not in the way that Iraqis appreciate.

A charming Foreign Office man briefed the international press on Monday
night, flying in and out on a lightning visit with his minister, Mike
O'Brien. He sat on a desk in his salmon pink tie, blue shirt, chinos, and
twirled the toes of his brown brogues.

Asked about law and order, and the creation of a new government, he said we
were on a "process" or a "journey" in which he hoped the Iraqi police would
shortly start to do the job themselves.

So far the Iraqi police are finding themselves unavailable for work, no
doubt owing to heavy looting commitments. The Americans roll by in their
Humvees, or sit behind their shades and their razor wire. They do not have
the numbers to mount foot patrols; they have abandoned any attempt to
confiscate the guns of the population, since it is a bit like trying to
confiscate all the cannabis in Brixton.

The result is that they do not control the streets. No one does. Iraq in
2003 will be studied for generations by anyone interested in power, and the
emergence of authority in human society. Into the vacuum have flooded
competing hierarchies religious, military, secular and a hilarious range of
political parties, already exhibiting Monty Pythonesque mutual loathing.

Saddam's palaces are now controlled by the Americans, and I was repeatedly
frustrated in my attempts to gain admission. But there are plenty of other
looted palazzos, formerly belonging to Ba'athist kingpins, and all sorts of
people seem to be in charge. A sign outside the home of Saddam's
half-brother, Watban Al-Tikriti, proclaimed that it was now the headquarters
of the Democratic and Liberation party. What were their political aims, I
asked the shuffling men who allowed me in. They grinned. The charter of the
Democratic and Liberation party is to liberate, in the most democratic
fashion possible, the possessions of Watban Al-Tikriti.

On Monday night the coalition convened an extraordinary meeting of all those
who might have a political role in rebuilding Iraq. There were perhaps 250
in all, including 50 sheikhs, tribal leaders in full head-dress; there were
Iraqi intellectuals who had suffered under Saddam, and there were émigrés
who had come back to help.

No one thinks much of Dr Ahmed Chalabi, whose Free Iraqi Fighters are in the
pay of the Americans. For a couple of days Baghdad had a Chalabi-backed
mayor called Zubeidi. Unfortunately, his first act as mayor was to loot
$3m-worth of TV production equipment, and the red-faced Americans put him
under arrest on the charge of "exercising power that wasn't his".

So who does have power? Not Jay Garner.

"Who's Jay Garner?" asked one marine, guarding the building in which I was
told the proconsul resided.

Power is being contested on every corner, between Shia moderates and
extremists. It is being fought for by umpteen Kurdish parties, Assyrian
parties, secular parties. Of course there was something absurd about the
conference organised by the Americans, the endless jabbering of groupuscules
under a mural of a semi-naked Saddam repelling American jet bombers.

There was a priceless moment when Feisal Ishtarabi could not remember
whether his party was called the Iraqi Independent Democratic party or the
Iraqi Democratic Independent party. But does it matter?

There was also something magnificent about the process. It was a bazaar, a
souk, in something the Iraqis have not been able to trade for 30 years. It
was a free market in politicians. In a word, it was democracy.

Sooner or later there will be elections in Iraq; and no, funnily enough,
most people do not think that the Shi'ite extremists will sweep the country,
or that government will be handed over to Tehran. There will be no more
torture victims, like the man who showed me the ivory-white sliced cartilage
of his ear, cut off by Saddam to punish him for deserting from the army, or
the stumbling old man who claimed his three sons had all been killed by the

If there are any weapons of mass destruction, the good news is that they
will not be wielded by Saddam or any group of terrorists. And since it is
time to put the good news into our utilitarian scales, here is a statistic
that you should be aware of, all you Fisks and Pilgers and Robin Cooks, who
prophesied thousands and thousands of deaths. I went to see Qusay Ali
Al-Mafraji, the head of the International Red Crescent in Baghdad. Though
some name tags have been lost, and though some districts have yet to deliver
their final tally, guess how many confirmed Iraqi dead he has listed, both
civilian and military, for the Baghdad area? He told me that it was 150, and
he has no reason to lie.

Of course it is an appalling sacrifice of life. But if you ask me whether it
was a price worth paying to remove Saddam, and a regime that killed and
tortured hundreds of thousands, then I would say yes.

There have been terrible mistakes in this campaign, though those who
followed the cataclysm at the Baghdad Museum may be interested to know that,
when I went there, three big boxes of artefacts were being handed over,
having been recovered from the looters. I suppose that, with 170,000 objects
stolen, there was a slight glut in the market for cuneiform seals, no matter
how old.

As George Bush gave his speech on Tuesday night, I happened to be watching
it with three Iraqis. When he said that "the windows are open in Iraq now",
meaning that people could talk without fear for their lives, they laughed
and banged the table. I can imagine the anti war lot in Britain, with their
low opinion of Bush, also laughing at his folksy rhetoric. But when I asked
the Iraqis what they thought of the speech, I found I had completely
misunderstood their laughter.

"We agree with Bush 100%," said one, and they all passionately agreed.

"Really?" I said.

"Yes," he said. "We are free now."

Iraq has huge problems, including colossal debts. It is barely governable.
It would be unthinkable for America and Britain to pull out. But he says
that his country is now free, and that, to me, is something that was worth
fighting for. Saddam may be a ghost, but that is all.

A version of this article has appeared in The Spectator

by Mike Williams
Cox News Service, 4th May

AIN SIFNE, Iraq -- Their holiest shrine is hidden in a mountain valley
paradise, tucked among olive and rosewood trees by a babbling stream, the
clean white spires of their temples nestled among the greenery and steep
valley walls.

The bearded monks wear all white and go barefoot, lighting wicks dipped in
olive oil and leaving small offerings of eggshells daubed with
brightly-colored mud on round white rocks in a sunlit courtyard.

The Yezidis are an ancient sect with beliefs so old they claim they have no
sacred book because their roots stretch back to the time before writing was

But to the villagers living just outside the Yezidi enclave at the base of
northern Iraq's towering mountains, they are known as devil-worshippers,
followers of God's fallen angel, Lucifer. People whisper fearful things
about them.

"They say we have tails," said Dildar Ahmed, 30, an economics student at a
nearby university who was born into the sect. "You wouldn't believe the
rumors about our religion."

While the group does have a few seemingly strange practices, such as never
wearing blue and never eating lettuce, their most holy shrine is far from a
sinister place.

Other than a black snake carved in relief by the temple's main door, the
retreat is a stunning oasis of peace and tranquility in war-torn Iraq.

Swallows dart about the courtyard, which has a small fountain fed by the
babbling stream where acolytes wash their hands and faces. A trellis
supporting spindly grape vines covers the whitewashed tomb of a holy man set
in the courtyard.

The heavy wooden doors to the main shrine open silently, and the swallows
immediately flit inside, chirping in the cool darkness as if it were a
special home for them, too.

The bodies of several ancient holy men lay entombed within, their marble
coffins draped in colorful banners. The tall white conical spire that is the
centerpiece sweeps dramatically overhead, the walls carved in intricate

"We began worshipping the sun in the days before there were Christians or
Muslims," claims Babashir Kharto Ishmail, a gray-bearded elder priest
dressed in immaculate white who welcomes visitors with tea. "We still pray
to the sun at dawn and dusk each day, but we know the sun is not our God. He
is alone and the source of all, the same God of the Christians, Muslims and

Ishmail said the sect believes not in Lucifer the devil, but that God's
fallen angel returned to power as the Almighty's chief angel. The Yezidis
call him "Malak," and he is represented by a peacock, a pair of which are
carved into the rock lintel over the shrine's doors.

The exact story is lost in the mists of history, although some scholars
trace the Yezidis to a Zoroastrian sect that emerged from Iran. There are
Yezidis scattered around the world, with a large population in India,
although this area of Iraq seems to be their spiritual homeland.

The believers here are mostly ethnic Kurds, and while there was no
discrimination against their religion under Saddam Hussein's secular regime
dominated by Sunni Muslims, many Yezidis were forcibly displaced from their
homes along with other Kurds.

Now the sect's leaders hope that a new, free Iraq will give them the
opportunity to modernize, building a more prosperous life, but one in which
they can hold onto their ancient beliefs.

"We don't want a religious government," Ishmail said. "All are free to
worship as they believe, but the government should be separate from those

Dawn, 5th May

BAGHDAD, May 4 (AFP): Efforts to restore basic services and refashion a
government in Iraq inched forward on Sunday amid warnings by international
groups that the war-battered country was still ripe for a humanitarian

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) renewed its calls to be
granted access to all Iraqi prisoners of war in US-British custody, warning
coalition forces to comply with Geneva war conventions and demanding access
to all Iraqi prisoners of war.

"The ICRC still does not have access to all the prisoners and detainees in
the country," ICRC spokeswoman Nana Doumani said on Sunday. "The parties
must respect the Geneva Convention on prisoners," she said.

US Central Command in Qatar announced Saturday that 342 more PoWs had been
released taking the total number set free to 5,745. Nearly 3,600 Iraqis
prisoners remained in detention.

Much of Baghdad remained without basic services, including all-important
electricity, fuelling local anger and frustration with the US occupation.
Engineers struggling to restore power in the capital were grappling with
unusual layouts of distribution networks and the destruction of the main
distribution plant, said US Captain Travis Morehead.Work is proceeding
slowly because of a bizarre power grid - a Saddam legacy built to light his
golden palaces rather than to efficiently channel kilowatts to the capital,
Morehead said.

In addition to going without power, many in Baghdad are going without food
and water, creating conditions for a possible catastrophe, warned the United
Nations' chief of mission in Baghdad.

"We have not yet got over the hump. The conditions for the development of a
humanitarian disaster still exist," said Ramiro Lopes da Silva.

"It's (already) a humanitarian disaster in the sense basic services have
collapsed or are at the risk of collapsing if we don't put them back into
shape rather quickly," he said. Lopes da Silva, who returned to Baghdad on
Thursday with other UN officials who fled two days before the war began on
March 20, said nearly two-thirds of Iraqis totally depended on food aid.
Malnutrition was rampant. And the director of British charity Oxfam accused
US-led forces of failing to do enough to protect aid workers.

"At the moment it's very high risk for our staff to be in Iraq... that's not
good enough," Barbara Stocking told BBC radio. "The occupying power has to
provide the security and they are not. That's their legal obligation under
the Geneva Conventions," Stocking said.

The chaos still enveloping Iraq was highlighted by a report in the
Washington Post that a radioactive waste dump in the country was so heavily
looted that a Pentagon team could not determine whether dangerous materials
had been removed from the site.



by Richard Leiby
Washington Post, 5th May

BAGHDAD, May 4--What is everyday life like in liberated Iraq? For Maryam
Khaldoon Hakim, born eight days ago into an upper-middle-class family, it
goes like this:

First a cat climbs through a bomb-shattered bedroom window and tries to bite
her. Then the electricity fails for a while, as it so often does. Maryam's
mother, Mona, changes diapers by the flame of a smoky oil lamp.

The baby becomes congested and won't nurse. After seven days she turns
yellow, stricken with jaundice.

The children's hospital in her south Baghdad neighborhood where she was
taken Saturday doesn't have enough of the special lights required to treat
jaundice. It doesn't even have clean water. There is no propane gas with
which to boil it.

Transfusions of blood from an uncle keep Maryam alive. No vitamins or
calcium supplements are available to strengthen her, but she's a plump
child. Alhamdulillah, says her mother. Thanks to God.

Eventually another treatment bulb is found, but not an incubator. So Maryam
lies in a rickety metal crib draped with an old carpet and towels. A few
inches away writhes a scrawny boy, born one month prematurely, also

Throughout the Al-Alwiyah Children's Hospital, a place of dirty tile floors
and concrete walls painted pale green, tiny patients wail, their bellies
distended and hot to the touch. Of the 160 children here, most are suffering
from diarrhea. They drank contaminated water.

Mothers and grandmothers, many in full-length black abayas, crouch over the
children, panicked and praying. They haven't seen a doctor here for several
hours. Some clutch precious stocks of bottled water and canned milk --
enough, perhaps, to keep their babies alive through the night.

Mona, 31, dressed in a flowered housecoat and head scarf, is so distraught
she can barely speak, but repeats something twice: Her baby, Maryam, is
among the lucky ones. "Many other people are worse off."

Nearly a month after the coalition's conquest of Baghdad, Mona and her
extended family are not going hungry and still have some money in reserve.
Her father, Ghanim Khedhr, is a retired Army officer. Her 40-year-old
husband, Khaldoon, is an engineer, a lieutenant colonel who worked on
helicopter projects under Saddam Hussein.

As the sun starts to set, Khaldoon stands weeping outside the entrance to
the hospital. The grandfather, 65-year-old Ghanim, normally a placid man,
flares with anger: "There's no milk, no medicine, no salaries, no safety in
the streets. What kind of freedom are you talking about? Under Saddam it was
better than now!"

He collects himself, seems to regret the outburst and continues. "I don't
know if tomorrow I will find my granddaughter dead."

This Iraqi family of 10 -- Mona and her husband, her parents, her sister and
two brothers, and her three children -- share a Mediterranean-style home
with a palm-shaded courtyard and gated driveway. They have one car, a 1984
Toyota Crown sedan, which they use sparingly. Some lines now snake 500 cars
long at the official gas stations in Baghdad, and in the street-corner
aftermarket, hustlers are demanding more than $1 a gallon -- 20 times the
normal price.

This neighborhood not far from the children's hospital is called Zayuna, but
residents still like to refer to it as "Officers City." An Arlington-style
suburban civility prevails -- though occasionally drivers roar up streets
the wrong way, taking advantage of shortcuts and the lack of traffic cops.

It's populated by white-haired Army and Air Force retirees and their grown
children, many of them engineers, well-educated bureaucrats and members of
the professional class. They proudly tend the gardens and lawns attached to
tan brick or stucco homes with uniform floor plans (1,800 square feet, two
stories, with servants' quarters and balconies).

Gen. Abdel Karim Kassem, who led the overthrow of Iraq's monarchy in 1958
and became Iraq's president, built Officers City in the early 1960s. Saddam
was among the Baath Party hitmen who tried to kill Kassem in 1959; they
succeeded four years later.

Across a major road lies Saddam City, a Shiite slum where many blame the
Iraqi military for their persecution. Officers City residents say they live
in fear of thieves and murderers infiltrating from Saddam City. Citizens
pass along harrowing reports: Did you hear about the man who was
machine-gunned while waiting outside a barber shop the other morning? Or the
woman who was stripped naked in the street and kidnapped when she refused to
give up her car?

Many large shops -- which in peacetime sold groceries, furniture, appliances
and textiles -- remain shuttered, their owners still fearful of looters. The
pharmacies are open, but the owners are wary; one stockpiles medications in
her home for safekeeping -- a trove of antibiotics, insulin and baby
bottles, just in case the looting begins again.

During Saddam's regime, medications were readily available, distributed by
quota at state run neighborhood health centers. Patients, pharmacists and
hospitals last received allotments in March. Everyone is running low. Where
is the United Nations, where are the Americans, people demand to know.

It's coming soon, the officials say, but many Iraqis no longer believe that.
"We hear about the humanitarian aid, but that's only for the TV and the
pictures," says Mohammed Abdul Rahman, pacing the ward in the children's
hospital. His 11-month-old son is severely dehydrated from diarrhea, which
should be easily treated.

"You can see with your own eyes, we are not receiving anything: Nothing from
Bush, nothing from the European leaders, just talk about freedom."

Television also shows smiling Iraqi teachers and children returning to
school, but it's not happening in Officers City. Out of class since March
15, the few students who attempted to return today went home within an hour
after discovering that fans, air conditioners, lights and other materials
had been stolen.

"We'll still afraid that someone may want to kidnap the kids," says Suher
Al-Mullah, a mother of teenagers who won't let them walk to school. A ticket
agent for Iraqi Air (owned by the government, it no longer operates), she
ferried some neighborhood students today, but it turns out that only seven
showed up at the high school and three at grade school.

In a place that suddenly has no government, few police and effectively no
laws, Officers City residents crave stability and many say they wish there
was more -- immediately. They complain about what seems to remain a
halfhearted military occupation.

"You should be our savior," Osama Said Raheem, 35, insists to an American
who approaches one darkened street corner. Volunteers like him congregate to
surveil pitch-black streets for strangers. "No one provides for us."

Can't Iraqis do it themselves? "People here don't know the meaning of
freedom," says Raheem, the son of a retired staff colonel.

Miraculously, despite looters' destruction of Baghdad's modern central
communications exchange, home telephones in this neighborhood still work.
It's a triumph of 1950s technology, but you can only reach other neighbors.
So when shots are heard, men grab their guns while families dial house to
house, awaiting the all-clear.

Daily life during wartime presents a welter of annoyances. You can't buy
more than a pound of meat at a time, because it's likely to spoil in the
fridge after the power shuts down. May Al-Mufti, a mother of three, says it
took 45 minutes of driving to find "good bread" for dinner. Bakers don't
have enough electricity.

At one corner, by the light of a flaming kebab grill and propane lamp,
youths scale a ladder to fish a wire from a flickering streetlight directly
across the road, hoping to appropriate some of its juice. Hey, it's the
Iraqis' electricity, one says: Power to the people.

In Baghdad -- population 5 million, daytime temperature approaching 100
degrees -- electricity is cycled block by block for a few hours at a time.
The electrical grid remains patchy; nobody seems to know why. The coalition
says it wasn't bombed; Iraqis say they didn't monkey-wrench it.

"It's just dark, dark, dark," says Osama Raheem, guarding his corner.

But here comes one solution. It's a local workman driving a blue flatbed
truck loaded with a winch and a large, gas-powered generator.

The driver, Mohammed Ali, says he wants to find a good central location on
the block so people can tap in. He's selling convenience and hope by the

The price: about $1.50 an amp, per month. Four amps is enough to run a
refrigerator, a TV, four fluorescent lights, some fans and other small
appliances -- but not an air conditioner. You can only purchase eight hours
of power a day, but people line up.

As the evening proceeds, the air starts to feel cooler. Just-bloomed
gardenias perfume the streets of Officers City. The military's midnight
curfew is near. The block is still. The feral cats stop yowling. In a few of
these homes, things may soon be getting a bit brighter.

Light Arrives In the hospital on Saturday evening, a cluster of distraught
mothers start shrieking at an American reporter and photographer. They
present their ill children for inspection and beseech us for help -- any
kind of help.

"Why are you here?" one asks angrily. "If you can't help, then leave. We
don't want to be studied like specimens."

That night, still fearing the worst, Mona and Khaldoon stay at the hospital,
tending to baby Maryam. In a nearby crib, a 5-day-old baby dies. In the
morning, a 7-day-old dies too.

It's been that way for more than a month. Doctors report seven to 14 infant
deaths a week in the wards, nearly all from diarrhea.

But by this afternoon, a small measure of relief has arrived: air
conditioning. Somebody rigged a line from the city's emergency grid. And now
medications can be refrigerated.

The hospital pharmacy is rounding up more supplies, some from other
hospitals, some donated by a local mosque. A wealthy Iraqi gave a huge
cache; some looters also are turning in their medical booty to religious

"We've got enough supplies for two or three days," says pharmacist Adnan
Al-Hamza. "Then that will be gone."

Maryam receives calcium supplements. Somewhere a proper incubator, with a
jaundice fighting light, is found for her. Her color looks better. She
begins to take her mother's breast milk.

Thanks to God, the parents say, thanks to God. Their baby, born into
freedom, may live to see it.,9171,1101030512-449440,00.html

by Michael Weisskopf in Karbala
Time Magazine, 12th May

Saturday, May 03, 2003: When the shooting ended in Karbala, a holy city 60
miles southwest of Baghdad, the killing began for the family of Samira
Jabar. Emerging on April 6 from two days of hiding from U.S. bombing, Jabar
took her daughter Duaa Raheem, 6, to fetch water. Duaa happened on a black
plastic object shaped like a C-cell battery attached to a white ribbon.
Curious, she picked it up and brought her discovery home to share with her
two sisters. On the concrete floor of their tiny kitchen, she cradled the
object in her lap and twisted a screw. The explosion it triggered ripped
Duaa's body in half, killed Duha, 3, and severely injured Saja, 8. "We
thought we were safe because the bombs had stopped," says Jabar, 30, a
farmer's wife. "My daughters were stolen from me."

Duaa had no way of knowing her plaything was a live cluster submunition, the
lethal leftover sprinkled by U.S. warplanes and artillery. The Americans
dropped some 1,500 cluster bombs, which are continuing their deadly work
among innocents all over Iraq. Unlike GPS- or laser-guided "smart" bombs
delivered to, say, a tank or other specific target, cluster bombs come
packaged in warheads that split in midair and rain as many as hundreds of
grenade- like bomblets. They are effective against dispersed troops, but the
bomblets generally cannot be targeted individually. And not all the devices
explode on impact. Some remain, like leftover land mines, as a deadly
postwar risk to civilians.

The U.S. military may have downplayed the extent of cluster-bomb use in
Iraq. Amid reports last month of heavy casualties, Air Force General Richard
Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said only 26 cluster bombs had
landed in civilian areas, resulting in one casualty. That estimate is hard
to reconcile with accounts from hospitals, residents and civil-defense
officials in Iraqi cities visited by TIME reporters.

Moreover, Myers was speaking only about bombs dropped from the air. "Myers
hasn't talked at all about the use of cluster munitions from ground
systems‹either artillery or rocket systems," says Steve Goose, executive
director of Human Rights Watch's arms division. An aide to Myers said the
Army and Marines do not chart cluster bombs. According to Goose, the
multiple launch rocket systems that were present in Iraq can fire 12 rockets
at a clip, each of which has 644 submunitions. Assuming the Pentagon's
failure-rate estimate of 16%, that would yield some 1,200 duds in a full

Relief workers say the problem is far worse in Iraq than it was in
Afghanistan because the Iraqis sited military installations‹primary targets
for U.S. bombs‹near civilian centers. Karbala is typical. At al-Hussein
hospital, 35 bodies have been brought in since the city fell April 6, many
dismembered by a cluster-bomblet blast, according to chief surgeon Ali Iziz
Ali. An additional 50 have been treated for fractures and deep, narrow
puncture wounds, typical of the weapons. Karbala civil-defense chief Abdul
Kareem Mussan says his men are harvesting about 1,000 cluster bombs a day in
places Myers said were not targets.

Human rights activists say that until the military clears the air about the
full extent of the bombs' use, it will be that much harder to round them up
and stop the damage.

BBC On-line, 7th May

The World Health Organization (WHO) says it expects a cholera epidemic in
southern Iraq because of problems with poor sanitation.

WHO disease specialist Denis Coulombier estimated that there were 10 times
the number of cholera cases than the 17 registered in Basra since Tuesday.

Another WHO official said the organisation "feared hundreds of cases".

We expect a cholera epidemic in southern Iraq and we fear hundreds of cases
Fadila Shaib WHO Although cholera is always present in Basra, particularly
in the hot months, the number of cases reported in a 24-hour period is
causing alarm, says the BBC's Jane Peel in Basra.

The WHO is meeting British troops who control the region, the Red Cross and
local health officials to step up efforts to improve sanitation in the area
in a bid to avert the epidemic.

Tests on the 17 cases are being carried out in Kuwait and the results will
be known on Thursday, WHO spokeswoman Fadila Shaib said.

Doctors in Basra's main hospital have also reported a significant rise in
the number of cases of diarrhoea, gastro-enteritis and dehydration -
particularly among young children.

The current outbreak is being blamed on disruption and damage to the water
supplies caused by the recent conflict in Iraq.

Many water pipes were broken during the looting that took place after the

Repairing the damage has been slow because of the lack of security on the
streets, our correspondent says.

Hospital workers say sewage is not being disposed of, and rubbish is only
being collected intermittently, which adds to the problem.

People in the region who do not have access to potable water were urged to
boil water before drinking it.

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