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[casi] davey garland <>: [DUInformation List] Letter From Baghdad - Joanne baker

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Subject: [DU Information List] Letter From Baghdad - Joanne baker
Date: Fri, 4 Jul 2003 20:23:26 +0100 (BST)

Letter from Baghdad

Why is Baghdad suffering? This question is on
everybody’s lips. Electricity, we have heard, has been
restored in all other towns. Only Baghdad is being
denied this basic life support.  As the heat
increases, so does the desperation and bitterness of
the people.    There is a total incomprehension that
America, the world’s greatest superpower cannot
provide in three months even  basic services that the
government under Saddam was able to restore within one
month. This is worsened by the fact that expectations
have been so much greater. People believed that, with
the fall of the regime, the life-numbing deprivation
of previous years would be over. Instead they have
never had it so bad.  As one taxi-driver asked of us,
“What have the Americans come here for? There is no
electricity, no water, no petrol, the roads are
blocked, there is no security anymore. Why have they

I am asked how I now find Baghdad. How has it changed?
It is perhaps best described as a city in trauma.
Still reeling from the appalling bombardment, it is
now experiencing the shock of occupation and anarchy.
There is no law and order. No one is in charge. People
are crying out for help with their personal tragedies
but there is nowhere to turn. An elderly banker told
me yesterday that he had approached the Americans for
compensation for the bombing of his house and car, the
death of his son and his daughter-in-law's
miscarriage. He showed us his meticulously presented
evidence, in the form of photographs, a CD and written
documentation. He was told by the Americans that they
had already received two million such claims and they
assured him that every single one was relegated to the
rubbish bin. Despite this, in his humbling generosity,
he welcomed us to Iraq and invited us to his home. In
this one aspect it seems that the people of Iraq have
not changed. Their warmth and generosity of spirit is
apparently indemonstrable.

During the day convoys of American tanks patrol the
streets, manned by what can only be described as
scared children. “Pathetic!" my friend exclaims. They
would be if they were not so extremely dangerous. If
they believe that they are winning the hearts and
minds of the people, they could not be further from
the truth. Now even those Iraqis, who initially
welcomed them, are saying that if things continue as
they are they will not hesitate to take up a gun and
fight back. They are giving them another few weeks or
months and then they assure us there will be organized

The nights are filled with sporadic gunfire. The
Americans has imposed a curfew which starts at 11pm.
The people however have their own self-imposed curfew.
No one leaves their house after dark. From 8pm the
streets are already beginning to clear. People are
hurrying home whether on foot or by car. When I was in
Baghdad a year ago, this was the time when families
would be spilling out on to the streets to make the
most of the cooler evening air, to shop, to eat and to
socialize. Now there is only terror. Everyone is
buying a gun for self protection. A Kalathnicosh was
recently selling for as little as one dollar! No one
really seems to know who the looters and muggers are.
Myths abound. Many speak of the thousands of criminals
and psychopaths released from the prisons by Saddam
Hussein. Others blame the recent open selling of
alcohol and drugs on the streets -  something,
previously unheard of in a Muslim country. Some of the
killings are undoubtedly the result of old feuds and
quarrels. Whatever the truth, the greatest cry is for
someone to take control.

To compound the sense of insecurity is the complete
lack of communications in Baghdad. The destruction of
the civilian telecommunication system is undoubtedly a
denial of human rights. In my own case if I wish to
contact anybody at all, I have to take a taxi to their
home or workplace and hope that they will be there. It
is too dangerous to travel anywhere on one's own,
especially as a woman, so someone else has to
accompany me. If the person I wish to see is not
there, a whole new arrangement has to be made. It is
easier and quicker to communicate with people abroad,
than with those living within Baghdad. The taxi
journeys themselves are exhausting. Many roads are
blocked by the US troops and in the absence of any
working traffic lights areas become completely jammed.
For the first time in Baghdad, I have seen long queues
at petrol stations. This is again because there is a
lack of electricity to pump the petrol. Drivers are
miraculously managing - creating a strange kind of
order in chaos - and despite the extreme heat inside
the cars, I have yet to see any sign of punch ups or
angry words.

As temperatures reach the mid 40s centigrade, they
greatest hardship is water shortage due to the minimal
power generation. People arrive at work in the
mornings saying “We are so tired. We haven’t slept.
The nights are so hot and our children have been
crying from the pain of thirst. Is this the human
rights Britain and America are promising us?” It is
this perhaps more than anything that is confusing and
angering the people of Baghdad. It is unspeakable that
they are being left in this condition. It is to their
extraordinary credit that people turn up to work at
all. There is very little absenteeism. Rubbish is
being collected, deliveries are being made, teachers
and doctors are carrying on their work. This  despite
absolutely no guarantee of salary.

There is no doubt that most people are glad to be rid
of the terrors associated with the previous regime.
But what they have now is different form of terror and
human rights abuse. The message has sunk in that the
US has no interest in their welfare and that this is a
blatant occupation. Rumour has it that the US troops
have written on their tanks, “Our soldiers lives
versus water and electricity!”  Whether this is true
or not many believe that this denial of the most
essential services is a form of punishment exacted by
Bremmer – or, as he is now called, Bremmer Hussein!
No Iraqi I have met will accept this and if Britain
and the US do not understand the implications of their
current policy there will be extraordinarily difficult
times ahead

Joanne Baker
Pandora DU Research Project
Baghdad June 30, 2003

--------- End forwarded message ----------

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