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News, 01-08/05/03 (4) STATE OF THE NATION * 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 STATE OF THE NATION http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2003/636/sc2.htm * ALL THE KING'S HORSES 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?" http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/story.jsp?story=402310 * CHILDREN OF SADR CITY BEAR BRUNT OF CRISIS MADE WORSE BY WAR 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 purer. "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." http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/05/02/1051382098175.html * UN OFFICIALS BACK IN BAGHDAD TO MANAGE AID EFFORT 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 operation." http://news.scotsman.com/international.cfm?id=510492003 * ANARCHY IN IRAQ - A SMALL PRICE FOR ENDING CRUEL TYRANNY 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 ready. 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 round. 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 sanitation. 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 people. 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 army. 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 people." "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 off. 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 Ba'athists. 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 http://coxnews.com/cox/news/International/story/2684 * OBSCURE SECT HOPES FOR GREATER FREEDOM IN NEW IRAQ 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 invented. 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 patterns. "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 Jews." 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 beliefs." http://www.dawn.com/2003/05/05/int1.htm * ITS A HUMANITARIAN DISASTER: UN ENVOY 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 disaster. 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. [.....] NO URL * BIRTH PANGS: AS A NEW ERA DAWNS IN BAGHDAD, LIFE GOES ON -- SOMETIMES, JUST BARELY 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 jaundiced. 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 ampere. 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 leaders. "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. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1101030512-449440,00.html * CIVILIAN DEATHS: THE BOMBS THAT KEEP ON KILLING 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 volley. 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. http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/world/middle_east/3008035.stm * CHOLERA OUTBREAK FEARED IN IRAQ 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 war. 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. _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email firstname.lastname@example.org All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk