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[casi] News Supplement, 25/5-1/6/02 (2)

NEWS SUPPLEMENT, 25/5-1/6/02 (2)
Articles by Jon Sawyer on Iraq

Sawyer returned last weekend from a 10-day trip through central and southern
Iraq, the first extended trip in that country by an American newspaper
journalist since before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.

He traveled with two American groups opposed to the United Nations sanctions
against Iraq, the St. Louis-based Veterans for Peace and the Chicago group
Voices in the Wilderness. The two groups permitted Sawyer to accompany them
on trips to hospitals, water treatment plants, schools and markets. Iraqi
government officials were usually present but not always, reflecting an
apparent relaxation in control of foreign journalists.

Sawyer conducted independent interviews in Baghdad, Basra and Fallujah. He
also spent a day observing journalists from the al-Jazeera satellite
network, as they covered a story on demolitions experts collecting cluster
bombs dropped by U.S. and allied warplanes. ]

*  Inside Iraq
*  Stories of privation, signs of improvement [in Baghdad]
*  Inside Iraq: In Basra, effects of Gulf War linger, and U.S. is blamed
*  Sprinkled across Iraqi desert, "bomblets" fuel anti-American sentiment
*  Inside Iraq: Gulf War left water supply compromised
*  Iraqi bureaucrats can be roadblocks - even to those bringing aid
*  Iraq's road to rage [even at the end of his trip Sawyer is still puzzled
as to why there should be such deep rooted anti-American feeling in Iraq.
And though conceding that there may be some grounds for it he seems to
conclude that on the whole its because of relentless propaganda from the
government media].

*  Inside Iraq
by Jon Sawyer
St Louis Post-Dispatch, 26th May

BAGHDAD - To President George W. Bush, Iraq is part of the axis of evil.
He's prepared to go to war, if necessary, to topple its leader.

Iraqis say we're at war already.

U.S. and British warplanes enforce no-fly zones through much of the country,
and United Nations sanctions, now in their twelfth year, extract a cruel
penalty of malnourished children and preventable disease.

Yet a 10-day tour through central and southern Iraq finds a country that is
surprisingly relaxed - hopeful that recent economic gains will continue,
optimistic that a new U.S. invasion can somehow be averted.

In Baghdad, the nation's biggest city, bustling shops and restaurants are
full of customers on weekend nights. An American visitor is greeted warmly
by all, even by those who denounce American policies.

Which is not to suggest that Iraq is a normal place.

It sits on what may be the biggest oil reserves in the world. But the
payment pipeline for all that crude runs through Turtle Bay, New York -
headquarters of the United Nations, instrument for the most stringent
sanctions any country has ever endured.

It is also in most respects a police state, marked by a cult of personality
that is eerily reminiscent of Stalin's Soviet Union or Mao's China. At the
desert border crossing from Jordan, a reporter's satellite phone is promptly
seized, to be recovered only on exit. Cell phones remain taboo, Internet
access restricted mostly to upscale business hotels.

The only currency in circulation is the 250-dinar note, worth 12.5 cents.
The simplest transactions require wads of cash.

Guests at Baghdad's best hotel, the Al-Rasheed, tramp over an entrance
mosaic that portrays a snarling George Bush, the elder, and the slogan "Bush
is criminal." Iraq satellite TV produces an English-language news program
each evening at midnight. The United States is not referred to as the U.S.
or Washington; it's always "the American administration of evil."

Saddam Hussein, the man who has ruled Iraq with an iron hand since 1979, is
almost never seen in public. The risk of assassination is said to be too

He is at the same time ubiquitous. His image is displayed in every office
and in oversized billboards at key intersections that show him both young
and old (he turned 65 this month) and in a variety of poses: a pious Muslim,
a gardener pruning flowers, an earnest young writer taking notes from a
telephone call.

His statue, double life size, stands triumphant at the foot of Saddam Tower,
a 600-foot telecommunications facility with a revolving rooftop restaurant
that replaced a building destroyed by U.S. bombers during the 1991 Gulf War.
The statue portrays Saddam in an open-collared military shirt, pistol at his
side, gesturing triumphantly at the gaudy new tower. At his feet: shards of
American cruise missiles.

In the distance behind are cranes towering over Rahman Mosque, which at
completion is supposed to be the second-largest Islamic worship site in the
world. The largest? Saddam Mosque, also under construction in Baghdad, with
a projected capacity of 40,000.

The message is unmistakable: I'm still here - unvanquished, unrepentant and

Backstage at Iraq's National Theater, the lead actors in the theatrical epic
currently in performance said that as always they sweated over the reviews
on opening night.

"Of course we worried, like any actors," said Karim Muhsin. "Luckily the
reviews were good."

Muhsin had special reason for relief, and no doubt the reviewers did too:
The play in question was "Zabibah and the King," based on a novel by Iraqi
leader Saddam Hussein, and Muhsin was charged with portraying a most
Saddam-like king.

Welcome to Baghdad, a looking-glass city where every encounter - even a
night at the theater - holds the promise of startling revelation.

In the Karata district, between downtown and Baghdad University, you can
find upscale Italian restaurants, the latest fashions from Paris and Milan,
a cornucopia of pirated CDs and DVDs. There's a billboard for Benetton and a
store that calls itself Disney Island, complete with Disney-type logos,
stuffed animals and toys.

On Thursday and Friday nights, weekends in this predominantly Muslim
country, the streets are jammed with automobiles, most of them 1970s- and
1980s-era U.S. makes. It's like downtown Havana, another longtime target of
U.S. sanctions; the main difference is that the cars are a couple of decades

Across the Tigris River at the Saddam Tower, a waiter takes an American
visitor by surprise. "The little Bush wants to destroy everything," he says,
disparaging the policies of George W. Bush.

"Don't worry, we're on your side," a guest dressed in a loose-flowing caftan
confides on the elevator ride down from the restaurant. "I'm from Kuwait,"
he adds with a grin, the country that Iraq invaded in 1990, setting off the
Gulf War and sealing Iraq's pariah status.

Three receptionists at the Iraq Travel and Tourist Office burst into
laughter when a visitor stops to inquire for a city map. "We saw you outside
and we thought, a tourist!" one of the women exclaims. "We don't see many
tourists." (They don't carry maps, either.)

Saddam's regime, by all accounts, is profoundly corrupt. How corrupt? A
disaffected professional relates his purchase of a black-market television
satellite dish, how for a few weeks he relished access to all the world's
channels. Then the police showed up, ripped out the dish and socked him with
a $1,500 fine. What followed was the uniquely Iraqi twist: The arresting
officer split the fine with the store, which took the dish back and sold it

A camera shop worker on Saduun Street, Baghdad's main business drag,
volunteers that a relative lives in California. Does he like it? "Of course,
he loves it - It's America!" he replies. When a visitor says he regrets the
trouble between Iraq and the United States his reply is equally blunt. "The
only trouble," he says, "is our regime."

Another Baghdad resident agrees: "We all want this regime to end." Like all
critics of Saddam, he was willing to express his views only on condition
that his identity be protected.

Saddam, he says, "is a dirty big-mouth dog," prone to empty boasts,
including his oft expressed desire for weapons of mass destruction.
"Everyone here knows he doesn't have them," the man said. "It's just

Another view often encountered in Baghdad, especially among the better
educated and professional classes, is that Saddam is a creation of the
United States itself. For example, the United States backed him during the
1980s war against the Islamic fundamentalists of Iran, and his invasion of
Kuwait, as one critic put it, "gave the pretext for asserting American
control over all the petrol in the Persian Gulf."

At the National Theater, Saddam's vanity production is playing to good
reviews, but poor attendance.

In the play, the noble king struggles to break free from the isolation of
the palace and falls in love with the equally noble Zabibah, a peasant woman
said to represent the soul of Iraq.

Zabibah converts the king to Islam and inspires him to fight for the forces
of good, especially after Zabibah is raped by her evil husband on Jan. 17
(the day that U.S. and allied forces opened war on Saddam in 1991).

The production's choreography is startling - especially a scene that
features a macabre dance of dueling soldiers in gas masks, an unexpected
touch in a play penned by someone accused of gassing his own people in the

The tickets were priced at about a dollar, steep in an economy where many
survive on $10 or $20 a month but within the reach, presumably, of Baathist
party functionaries keen on supporting their leader's artistic endeavors.

If this had been a production favored by Joseph Stalin in the Soviet Union,
the theater would have been standing-room-only every night, with
apparatchiks working double-time to fill every seat.

But in Iraq, Saddam's play looks to be a bust. At a recent performance, a
mere 190 customers were scattered through a theater built for 10 times more.

No matter, says Sami Abdul Hamid, 74, the director who trained at the Royal
Academy in London and holds a doctorate from the University of Oregon.

The author of "Zabibah," he coyly notes, has seen the production - on
videotape. And the reaction?

"I'm told he liked it very much."

by Jon Sawyer
St Louis Post-Dispatch, 26th May

BAGHDAD - Western diplomats and many Iraqis predict that Saddam Hussein will
agree this summer to permit the return of United Nations weapons inspectors,
ending nearly four years of defiance and removing one of the factors
President George W. Bush has cited as grounds for war.

The inspectors would go after Iraq's alleged persistence in attempting to
develop and stockpile nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.
Certification that Iraq had abandoned such programs would permit the end to
U.N. sanctions that were imposed in August 1990, three days after Iraq
invaded Kuwait.

The sanctions were modified in 1997, under an oil-for-food program that let
Iraq sell oil under tight U.N. controls that denied access to goods of
military value and channeled the bulk of proceeds into the purchase of food,
medicine and other goods needed to sustain Iraq's civilian population.

Just this month, the U.N. Security Council modified the sanctions program
again, approving a "goods review list" of items requiring special review and
pledging much faster processing of everything else.

The U.N. officials who administer the program in Baghdad say they would much
prefer to lift the sanctions entirely.

"This program, no matter how much you try to modify it, can never be a
substitute for normal economic life," said Tun Myat, director of the U.N.'s
office for the coordination of humanitarian programs in Iraq.

"If people are looking for real meaningful progress in the overall
humanitarian situation, then of course you will have to allow normal
economic life to return."

Myat explains that every Iraqi citizen receives a ration for food that is
supposed to provide a minimum of 2,215 calories per day. He says the Iraqi
government has been extraordinarily effective in making sure that every
individual receives the allotted ration.

But for many unemployed Iraqis, especially among the poorest third of the
population, the food ration is the only source of household income - and
much of the food gets sold in exchange for clothes and other necessities.

"Some parts of the population have become so poor," Myat said, "that they
cannot afford to eat all of the food that they get for free."

Who pays the price?

The United States and the United Kingdom have dropped thousands of bombs on
Iraq over the past 12 years. But the soldiers who man Iraq's anti-aircraft
batteries and collect deadly cluster bomblets scattered across the desert
aren't the only ones on Iraq's front line.

So is Mohammed Hudaya, the hard-pressed chief engineer at the Al-Ghazaali
sewage treatment plant in the Safaa district of Baghdad. The filters here
are inoperable, and so are three of the five pumps. The machinery was ruined
by the destruction of power plants during the war; replacement parts have
repeatedly been held up, he says, by wrangling over sanctions rules.

This substation runs at only 60 percent of capacity, Hudaya said; overflow
sewage backs up in people's homes or on the streets. In theory, sludge is
separated at this facility and the remaining sewage is cleaned further at a
refining station downstream. But because that station doesn't work at all,
the sewage is simply pumped directly in the Djala River, Hudaya said - like
80 percent of the sewage produced daily in Baghdad.

Also on the front lines: Hadil Mohammed, a dark-haired baby who at seven
months weighs less than 9 pounds, half the normal size. The doctors at
Fallujah General Hospital say she is severely malnourished, to the point
that she no longer has any body fat and is beginning to consume muscle
tissue as well. The cause? Bad water mixed with the infant's formula.
Prognosis? Poor.

Or consider 7-year-old Bilal Kasim, a wide-eyed leukemia patient who spends
his mornings staring out a fourth-floor hallway window at the Al-Mansur
Pediatric Hospital. Shatha Rahim says she is unable to get the chemotherapy
her son needs because of restrictions on radiation-related goods; the
sanctions also prevent her from taking her son to consult with specialists
in Beirut.

In a 1999 report, the U.N. children's agency UNICEF concluded that at least
a million Iraqis, half of them children, had died as an indirect result of
damage caused by U.S. and allied bombing during the Gulf War and in
enforcement of the no-fly zone since.

The mortality rate for children under the age of 5 more than doubled in the
decade after the war, UNICEF concluded, jumping to a rate of 131 per 1,000
in 1999 from 66 per 1,000 a decade earlier.

The principal cause? A surge in preventable waterborne diseases, typhoid,
dysentery and the like, resulting from the war-related destruction of Iraq's
electric power grid, water treatment and sewage systems. U.N. officials note
that Iraq's government bears responsibility as well for the breakdown in
water, sewage and health. Funds distributed through the oil-for-food program
too often have gone to transportation and construction projects instead of
health and education.

Benon Sevan, executive director of the oil-for-food program, notes that in
the past two years, Iraq has failed to use 31 percent of oil revenue that
his office had pegged for water and sanitation programs and 50 percent of
the recommended allocation for health care.

"With the funds available, the government of Iraq is in position to address
the nutrition and health care situation of its people," Sevan says. "They
should make the money available for that purpose."

The Code of Hammurabi was compiled just 50 miles southwest of Baghdad, in
the ancient kingdom of Babylon. Hammurabi said the code was intended to
ensure that "justice prevailed in the country" and that "the strong may not
oppress the weak."

Few Iraqis would challenge the notion that Saddam Hussein's Baathist party
regime has broken that ancient code. Most would say that he's not alone -
that the international campaign against Iraq over the past decade, driven
mostly by the United States, has oppressed the weak as well.

But the stories of privation don't capture, at least not fully, the current
situation in Iraq.

Many major streets in Baghdad are currently ripped open, for example, as the
government races to complete installation of new sewage lines.

The Fallujah General Hospital has drinkable water for the first time in over
a decade, thanks to a chlorination plant installed at the site six months

Medicines previously unavailable are beginning to trickle in, some under
liberalized sanctions rules and some through Iraq's booming parallel market
in smuggled goods from Jordan, Turkey and other neighboring states.

Richard Garfield, a professor at the Columbia University School of Nursing
and a specialist in damage to civilians in Iraq, has visited the country six
times since 1996. He was there earlier this month, surprised by the
unaccustomed signs of progress.

"When you think of how it was, in the worst of times, 1994-96, in almost
every area there's been improvement since," Garfield says. "None of it is as
good as before the war. But there's a world of difference between now and

Garfield cited the sewage work, improvements in the electricity grid, the
greater availability of medicines. The most encouraging sign of all, he
said, was that university students were taking their courses with a renewed
sense of purpose.

"For the first time in years, you see university students milling around,"
he said, "thinking of their future, like normal people."

The real issue now, Garfield said, is what lies ahead:

A gradual further loosening and perhaps even the lifting of sanctions,
paired with a weapons inspections program that ends the country's diplomatic

Or Desert Storm, Round Two?

No one should be under any illusions, Garfield said, as to what such a war
would mean for the people of Iraq. All that's needed is to assess what
happened in 1991.

"If the goal were to destroy Saddam's government, it would require air and
ground troops and widespread attacks on all social infrastructure," Garfield
said. "That's illegal by the international laws of warfare, but it proved
acceptable to the world community. That was the lesson the United States
learned in 1991 - that from an attacking country's point of view, any target
is fair game.

"I think we could expect large-scale attacks on rail, bridges, the water
system and electricity, the same targets hit in 1991," he said. "And once
again, we'd send the country to a pre industrial state."

by Jon Sawyer
St Louis Post-Dispatch, 27th May

BASRA, Iraq - When you fly Iraq Air Lines from Baghdad to Basra, you think
about more than whether you'll arrive on schedule.

Every time one of Iraq Air's green-and-white Boeing 727s heads south, it
defies the no-fly zone imposed on 60 percent of Iraq's territory after the
1991 Gulf War and enforced ever since by warplanes of the United States and
the United Kingdom.

In theory, one of the F-18 Hornets that patrol these skies could swoop in at
any moment and bring your plane down, though they've never attacked
commercial airliners.

If the airline bears an anti-U.S. grudge, it wasn't apparent during a trip
earlier this month to Basra, the country's second-largest city and a major

As travelers, most of them Iraqis, settled into their seats, the plane's
public-address system welcomed them with Peter, Paul and Mary's pop classic,
"Leaving On a Jet Plane."

And that was just a warm-up. Every other selection played during the
hourlong flight celebrated a specific American locale - from "Georgia On My
Mind" to "Kansas City," from "Do You Know the Way to San Jose?" to

Upon landing, passengers were treated to the King himself, Elvis Presley,
belting out "Viva Las Vegas."

You won't find Vegas-style glitter in Basra, a city reeling from two decades
of war, sanctions and the destruction of much of its economic, health and
social-services infrastructure - and wondering when U.S. warplanes might
strike next.

For most Americans, the Gulf War is a fast-receding memory. The sanctions
and no-fly zones, a hard-to-follow piece of arcane foreign policy. Iraq
itself is reduced, for many, to the threatening persona of Saddam Hussein.

What's striking in Basra is the Gulf War's continuing impact on civilians,
more than a decade later, and the fact that so many of them hold the United
States - not Saddam Hussein - responsible.

It was Saddam who in 1980 plunged Iraq into a reckless and bloody war with
Iran, one that ultimately cost the combatants nearly a million lives. His
equally reckless 1990 invasion of Kuwait triggered the Gulf War, and in the
turbulence that followed Iraq's defeat, he brutally suppressed a Shi'ite
rebellion that began in Basra.

Yet when residents of Basra cite their troubles today, it is U.S. actions
they blame most.

Electricity here is routinely off for 10 or more hours a day, thanks to a
power grid crippled by U.S.-led attacks in 1991 that also knocked out water
and sewage treatment plants. Clean water is available by bottle only, not
through local pipes.

Half of the primary health clinics have shut down, according to estimates
from UNICEF, the United Nations children's agency. Hospitals are scrambling
- coping with mortality rates up 80 percent since 1990, an incidence of
congenital birth defects that is 2 1/2 times the prewar rate and doctors
salaries that have shrunk to $10 or less per month.

Before the war, Abbas Wasmy made enough money on his date farm south of
Basra to support three families. Date prices have plummeted since, from $3 a
kilogram in 1990 to 1 cent a kilo. Today all family members work second jobs
off the farm.

In Basra's al-Jumhuriya neighborhood, the drop in status is especially
pronounced for the former middle class. One teacher there recalled for
visitors the old days: a freezer full of meat, an Italian bed, a couple of
television sets, weekly trips to American-style groceries to stock up on

The freezer, furniture and televisions have long since been sold, the
visitors reported. What's left are mats for sitting and sleeping in mostly
bare rooms, six of them for an extended family of 24.

The al-Jumhuriya neighborhood suffered a further blow on Jan. 25, 1999, when
an errant 2,000-pound bomb from a U.S. plane landed, killing 11 and wounding
dozens. The Pentagon said the bomb had been intended for an Iraqi
air-defense system.

Twenty-two other families in Basra, having lost their homes, now live in
buildings owned by the local Catholic church, which also runs two
kindergartens where Muslim students predominate.

"All Iraqi people are war victims," said Archbishop Djibrael Kassab. "So
many of them have no jobs, no food, no medicine. It all comes from the war,
and for 12 years now they have suffered."

Kassab's mother and all of his seven brothers and sisters emigrated to
America in the 1970s; most of them now live in the Detroit area. Although
Kassab visits frequently - he spent a week in St. Louis last year at a
church conference - he has no desire to leave his native land.

"Thank God I'm still Iraqi," he says with a smile.

"Since 9/11, all Americans have trouble," Kassab says. "But the troubles are
small. They have seen a small bit of what we have experienced for more than
20 years."

With President George W. Bush's administration considering military action
against Iraq again today, the issue of what targets are acceptable has more
than academic relevance for people in places like Basra.

Shortly after the Gulf War ended in 1991, a key U.S. policymaker said that
it was "perfectly legitimate" for U.S. warplanes to have targeted facilities
like electric power plants and water treatment facilities that were critical
to civilian life.

The official was Dick Cheney. During the Gulf War he served as defense
secretary under Bush's father, President George Bush.

"If I had to do it over again, I would do exactly the same thing," Cheney
told reporters several months after the war ended.

"There shouldn't be any doubt in anybody's mind that modern warfare is
destructive, that we had a significant impact on Iraqi society that we
wished we had not had to do," Cheney said.

"While you still want to be as discriminating as possible in terms of
avoiding civilian casualties," he added, "your number one obligation is to
accomplish your mission and to do it at the lowest possible cost in terms of
American lives."

On that score, the Gulf War was a spectacular success, producing a rapid
American victory and virtually no casualties. The story was different on the
Iraqi side.

A team from the Harvard School of Public Health visited most of Iraq's 20
electric generating plants a few months after the war ended. It found that
17 had been damaged in allied bombing, with 11 deemed a total loss. Pentagon
officials said they believed 80 percent of the country's overall electrical
capacity had been destroyed.

Targeting the power grid crippled Iraq's command, control and communications
system, no doubt shortening the war. It also assured long-term, adverse
consequences for every Iraqi civilian, in a domino sequence where systemic
power failures fouled machinery and led to the breakdown of sewage, water
treatment and hospital services.

The United Nations sanctions, first imposed in August 1991 and since
modified to permit the importation of humanitarian goods, made the situation
worse, according to senior officials at the United Nations itself. Iraq's
purchase of replacement pumps, generators, chlorinators and other items
essential to reconstruction were blocked for years, almost always by the
United States or the United Kingdom, on the grounds that Iraq might divert
them to military use.

The proscribed items in Basra included even firetrucks and other safety
vehicles, because of the possibility that they might be converted for use as
mobile rocket launchers. The result today: a fleet of just 10 aging fire and
emergency vehicles serving a population of more than 1 million.

Anapuma Rao Singh, regional director for UNICEF, returned to New York last
year after a frustrating two-year tour in Iraq.

Singh recalled holdups in shipments of vaccines, the blocking of essential
components and rules that barred the use of dollars to pay salaries of
health care workers and teachers.

"In many of these sectors, the timely arrival of everything is key," she
said. "You need vaccines, syringes and needles all at the same time. Often
we'd find that where seven contracts were needed, three had been put on hold
- so what you got with the other four couldn't be used."

Questions, too, have been raised about Saddam's use of oil-for-food money to
prop up his regime rather than help his people.

The U.N. Security Council earlier this month liberalized the sanctions,
agreeing to expedite the processing of goods and services for Iraq that are
not considered of military use. Singh said she remains skeptical, noting
that U.S. officials have been quick to cite "dual-use" military potential in
many civilian-sector goods.

"As of April, we had 172 contracts for water and sanitation supplies worth
$730 million that are still on hold," she said. The total includes contracts
worth $30 million where the U.N. sanctions committee is waiting for
technical information from suppliers.

"All the rest," Singh said, "the sanctions committee in its wisdom has
placed on hold because they consider them to be dual-use items."

A U.S. official at the United Nations said the latest modifications in the
oil-for-food sanctions are intended to answer critics who say U.S. policies
have harmed Iraqi civilians. But he said the United States will continue to
take a tough stance when it comes to imports that might aid Iraq's work on
chemical, nuclear or biological weapons.

"We are the ones who hold up the most," this official said. "We make no
bones about it. We would ask other countries to be as aggressive as the
United States and the United Kingdom in making sure that items that could be
used for weapons of mass destruction will not end up in Iraq."

by Jon Sawyer
St Louis Post-Dispatch, 27th May

AL-TUBAA, Iraq - The hostility toward the United States in much of the Arab
world starts in places like this, a desolate stretch of desert southwest of
Basra where a brightly painted yellow canister sparkles in the midday sun.

The canister is no bigger than a soda can, but it packs a fearsome wallop,
courtesy of the U.S. government.

Here to record the story, and broadcast it to the Arab-speaking world, is
Diyar al-Amiri, an Iraqi journalist who works for al-Jazeera, the satellite
television news service based in Qatar that reaches more Muslims than any
other broadcast.

Al-Jazeera was terrorist Osama bin Laden's chosen outlet for videotapes
assailing the West. Its blanket coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
displays a distinct pro-Palestinian bias. In Iraq, its reporting often
focuses on the human cost of sanctions and what are viewed as U.S. military

Which is why, a couple of weeks ago, al-Amiri and his al-Jazeera crew were
in the desert, taking close-ups of Iraqi civil defense bombs expert Qusi
Mutasher as he went about the deadly business of collecting those
harmless-looking soda cans.

Back home it's called a BLU-97B, one of 202 "bomblets" packed inside each of
1,000-pound CBU-87 (for "cluster bomb units"). They're known generically as
CEMs, for "combined effects munitions," because they are designed to kill
people, pierce armored vehicles and set off fires.

During the Gulf War in 1991, U.S. and allied forces showered Kuwait and Iraq
with from 24 million to 30 million of the bomblets, more than was used in
any previous war. The Pentagon confirms that we are dropping them still,
usually on Iraqi air-defense sites to enforce the U.S.-imposed no-fly zone
that covers 60 percent of Iraqi territory.

An estimated 7 percent are duds; they fail to explode on impact but remain
highly dangerous. Human Rights Watch and other international organizations
have called for a freeze on their use, on the grounds the bomblets are
inaccurate when first deployed and remain a menace to civilians for years to

A Human Rights Watch report last year estimated that 1,600 civilians had
been killed and another 2,500 injured in incidents involving the
approximately 1.2 million bomblet duds sprinkled across Iraq and Kuwait.

Just in the region southwest of Basra, officials say, eight people have been
killed and 20 wounded so far this year.

Mutasher's job is to gather the canisters, pile them in shallow holes and
blow them up. He is 29 years old, married with three children, and has
worked at this daily for the past seven years. He says that in the past five
months alone, he has physically handled 3,000 bomblets, often digging them
out of the sand with a screwdriver.

Mutasher goes about the work in an open-collared military uniform and soft
black loafers. He says he has no fear and shows it, flicking a cigarette
casually to the side as he inserts a fuse in the stick of TNT he uses to set
the bomblets off.

"You get used to it," he says, "but I lost my two best friends doing this
kind of operation."

Iraqi civil defense authorities had promised an interview with a victim of
the cluster bomblets to provide evidence of how U.S. policy is still hurting
civilians. It turns out to be an exercise in either inept public relations
or second-rate propaganda.

The victim, Hamza Abbas, 35, lives 30 miles away, on the outskirts of Basra.
He is missing most of his right foot; he says he lost it when he stepped on
a cluster bomblet out near al Tubaa, while tending his sheep. The only
problem with Abbas' account is that the incident he described happened in

The age of the anecdote would discourage Western journalists from making
much of it. But the al-Jazeera crew films away, shrugging off the absence of
a current victim. A "generic" victim suits their story just as well,
especially one with Abbas' sad-faced eloquence.

Back in the desert, al-Amiri, the al-Jazeera reporter, says that in his
opinion, this is a scene that speaks for itself. He goes for understatement
in the intro he records for a piece that millions of Arabs soon will watch.

"Officials here say that U.S. and British warplanes have dropped hundreds
and thousands of bombs," he says, "in this empty place."

by Jon Sawyer
St Louis Post-Dispatch, 28th May

HIBHIB, Iraq - The health of 7,000 people who live in the farming region of
Hibhib, 50 miles north of Baghdad, depends on the one good eye of Abdul
Rahman Hussein.

Several times a day he climbs up the bamboo ladder perched precariously
against one of the rusted storage tanks of the Mansouria al-Shatt water
treatment plant.

If the water pumped in from the tributary of the Tigris River looks
reasonably clear, Hussein says, he pours in a tin bucket full of liquid
chlorine. If it's unusually clouded, he'll goose up the dose with two or
three buckets more.

Hussein has been the custodian here for 25 years. Over the cot in his room
below, you see the electric switch box and the gauges for measuring chlorine
content and other tools of water purification.

The gauges don't work anymore - not since U.S.-led attacks in the 1991 Gulf
War knocked out most of Iraq's electrical grid and with it most of the
motors, gauges and pumps that drove the country's 1,400 water treatment

U.S. insistence on the letter of United Nations sanctions against Iraq have
stymied efforts to rebuild the water treatment plants. Gas chlorinators have
often been banned, for example; they might be diverted to chemical weapons

Earlier this month, thanks to an eclectic group of American military
veterans and like minded supporters, repairs began at the Hibhib plant.

As Hussein climbed atop the tanks and eyeballed the water, he took in as
well an unusual sight: half a dozen Americans shoveling dirt, taking notes
and drawing up a list of parts, everything from filters to pumps,
chlorinators and a new intake line out to the river's main channel.

One of the Americans pitching in to clear a drainage ditch that morning was
Art Dorland, 59, a Vietnam War vet who now works construction in Cleveland.
He was making his second trip in two years to rebuild damaged water
treatment plants in Iraq.

Dorland says that raising questions about U.S. policy toward Iraq at a
moment of unprecedented support for President George W. Bush's war on terror
brings to mind a memory from his days in the Navy - that "in the snappiest,
smartest, most robotic military review, there's always some damn fool out on
the parade ground who just can't make his step follow the drumbeat."

"If the newspapers are telling it right, we are a united country," Dorland
adds. "The American war eagle is high aloft, swooping on prey, scarcely
ruffling a handsome pinion, and we're all loving it."

Except, that is, for Veterans for Peace - Dorland's outfit - which marches
to the beat of a distinctly different drum.

Let others talk of war, Dorland said. "We just want to fix water pipes."

Nearly four out of five Americans support the decisions Bush has so far made
in the campaign against terrorism, according to recent surveys. Those polls
also suggest that 60 percent or more would support deploying military troops
to back up Bush's call for removing Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein from power.

Among the minority of Americans who take a different view, and the even
smaller minority willing to put their views on the line, is Veterans for

The group has its national headquarters in St. Louis, in the World Community
Center building on North Skinker Boulevard that houses a collection of
like-minded activist groups. Its national administrator is St. Louisan Woody
Powell, a Korean War veteran who has accompanied Veterans for Peace
delegations to Colombia, Mexico and North Korea.

"We feel the more people know about the conditions we address with our
projects overseas the less likely they will be able to ignore them," Powell
said. "Perhaps we can help activate the generosity most Americans would like
to think is part of our culture."

The trip this month was the third to Iraq in the past two years, each
focused on rebuilding specific plants. The targets this time were the
treatment plant in Hibhib and another in Fallujah, on the Euphrates River 50
miles west of Baghdad. Total cost to make the two plants fully operable is
estimated at $60,000; the veterans had raised about three-quarters of that
before the trip.

Not your average tour

The half dozen members of the veterans group who crossed the desert from
Jordan into Iraq, traveling in GMC vans, were breaking U.S. law. Travel or
business in Iraq without express prior authorization is banned. (The law
exempts journalists.) Potential penalties run as high as 12 years in jail
and $1 million in fines, although prosecution has been rare.

What sort of people would take such a risk, not to mention the hassles of
low-budget travel through a country with no credit cards, no Pizza Huts and
a leader who is clearly No. 1 on Bush's axis of evil?

Besides Dorland, the other military veteran on this delegation was Trish
Kanous, 44, a former member of the Army National Guard in Idaho. She's a
pharmacist in St. Paul, Minn., recently returned from a year teaching
English in Yemen. She's also a convert to Islam, someone who keeps her head
covered but is pressing to win greater equality for Muslim women.

Co-leader with Dorland was Tom Sager, 59, a retired professor of computer
science at the University of Missouri at Rolla. Sager has been to Iraq twice
in the past two years and has traveled to Cuba to protest the U.S. embargo
there. His work on peace causes goes back more than four decades, he says;
his initiation was marching in ban-the-bomb demonstrations in 1959.

Michael Lessard, 30, joined the group from Quebec City, Canada, where he is
a graduate student in international relations.

Robin Wagar is a real estate broker from Dallas and an active Presbyterian.
She was making her first trip to Iraq but has been to Israel and the West
Bank several times. She showed up for the trip with hand-stenciled T-shirts,
black with bold white letters proclaiming "Stop the occupation - Peace and
Justice for Palestinians."

Dorland has been a wanderer, professionally and intellectually, for most of
his life. He dropped out of college to join the Navy, did a tour in Vietnam,
came home to a variety of jobs - telephone lineman, church custodian and,
for several years in West Virginia, "a groundhog farmer - because that's
about all I grew." He's traveled throughout the former Yugoslavia, to Cuba
and in the Middle East, with previous veterans trips and also with the group
Pastors for Peace.

The group's responses to the contradictory realities of Iraq - part victim,
part police state - varied.

When it was suggested at various meetings that Iraq would be a swell place
if only the United States left it alone, Kanous and Dorland were generally
more skeptical, Sager and Lessard more accepting. On an evening at the
theater, Wagar was the only person in the group - or in the audience - to
give a standing ovation to a play based on Saddam Hussein's novel "Zabibah
and the King."

Also traveling with the group was Amira Matsuda, 44. She lives in Dallas now
but grew up in Hilla, a city southwest of Baghdad adjacent to the ruins of
ancient Babylon. She married a Japanese engineer and took Japanese
citizenship after leaving Iraq in the late 1980s. One of this trip's more
memorable moments was a visit with her family.

The family has suffered much. One son, a soldier fighting in the Iran-Iraq
war, has been missing for 17 years. Hilla was hit hard during the Gulf War
and completely cut off; Matsuda had no word from her family at all until six
months later. She has been unable since to obtain U.S. visas so that her
family might visit Dallas.

Schools and clinics in Hilla were heavily damaged by allied bombing, Matsuda
says, as was the town's power grid. Matsuda rejects Pentagon assertions that
the targets in Hilla had military value. "People from Hilla know that's not
the case," she says.

Yet there's no hint of resentment as Matsuda's family lays out a feast of
homemade buffalo cream cheese, date preserves and tea.

Her mother, Noria Ahmed Arra, 85, sets the tone. The daughter of a Turkish
provincial governor, she came to Hilla in the dying days of the Ottoman
Empire. She is nothing if not a survivor.

Arra casts a teasing glance on Tom Sager, the ex-professor from the
University of Missouri, saying she has her eye on him as a potential spouse.

"The problem is that you've still got your teeth," she laughs. "You might
bite me - and I couldn't bite back."

It was that combination - of suffering, generosity and a willingness to look
beyond the deep divisions between two countries - that left the strongest
impression on members of the veterans delegation.

Art Dorland said he was especially struck by a visit to a water treatment
plant not far from the Mansouria al-Shatt site.

This facility was on a small canal, its shabby tanks set against a lush
backdrop of date palms, figs and pomegranate.

The manager here was Adnan Fadhil Tarhur, who said he also owned the
surrounding farm. He retired from the army three years ago, after 31 years
that included service throughout the Iran-Iraq war and in the 1991 Gulf War
against the United States.

Tarhur said that he was part of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. He still doesn't
understand why it triggered such a fierce response. "Kuwait is part of the
Arab area," he said. "Whether we entered Kuwait or not - that was an Arab
matter. It had nothing to do with America."

The sanctions regime has crippled not just water services but also farming,
Tarhur said. The spare parts he needs to keep his tractor and plow running
are either blocked or overpriced.

Tarhur lives in a one-room mud-brick hut adjacent to the water tanks. The
room is mostly bare: a cot, some pots in the open-fire cooking area, a
couple of magazine photos tacked to the wall. The exception is the
intricately crafted bamboo cage that holds what Tarhur calls a date palm

As the veterans group prepares to leave, Tarhur says he'd like to give them
a small gift. He ducks into the darkened hut and comes back out, clutching
the bird and cage.

Dorland says no, that of course they won't take the bird. But the offer
leaves him deeply moved, he says later - touched by a gesture that he called
characteristic of an Iraqi people that too few Americans have had the chance
to know.

"It's the only thing of value he had," Dorland says. "He offered it to us."

by Jon Sawyer
St Louis Post-Dispatch, 28th May (?)

HIBHIB, Iraq - It's not always easy helping Iraq, even for those willing to
bend over backward to see the Iraqi point of view.

Consider a meeting earlier this month between the Veterans for Peace
delegation and Abdullah Hassan Ali, Iraq's general manager of water

Ali's office is on the fourth floor of the Department of Public Works, a
building that was bombed during the Gulf War and only recently reopened. At
the time of the meeting, the air conditioning still didn't work and neither
did the elevator.

Ali's patience appeared to be running short, too, as he sorted out the
details on two water treatment plants the veterans group is raising nearly
$60,000 to repair.

"But these projects are so small," Ali said, cutting the briefing short.
"What about big projects?"

He cited two big plants, serving 150,000 people. They need at least $250,000
in repairs, now.

Ali's frustration is understandable. He's an engineer who has spent his
entire career, 28 years, in the Iraqi water services sector. In the
beginning, before the Gulf War, this country set the standard in the Middle
East for producing drinkable water. Now this senior bureaucrat in a country
that is unimaginably rich in oil finds himself begging for dollars -
courtesy of the havoc wreaked on Iraqi infrastructure by U.S. warplanes and
by U.N. sanctions.

Throughout the meeting, a television set in the corner had been playing on
mute; then it segued, as if on cue, to an Arab-language version of the show,
"Who wants to be a millionaire?"

Tom Sager, co-leader of the Veterans for Peace delegation, explained to Ali
that this was a small group, volunteers only. Their purpose was not just in
raising funds for immediate repairs, he says, but in telling the story back
home. The idea is to educate other Americans so that they'll demand a change
in U.S. policy.

Ali wasn't biting.

"Over the past 10 or 11 years, many humanitarian groups from all over the
world have come here, for the same purpose," he said, "to try and bring the
true picture of Iraq back to their countries. The problem always remains -
that the media, especially in the United States and the United Kingdom,
tries to block completely the message from here."

This was a point that Sager and others had made themselves, in informal
conversation with the Post-Dispatch reporter they had invited to tag along.

But then Ali shifted from the undeniable to the insupportable: from
detailing the huge continuing costs to Iraq's infrastructure by past U.S.
attacks to asserting, without substantiation, that the U.S. is continuing to
target water treatment plants today.

U.S. warplanes enforcing the no-fly zone in Iraq, Ali insisted, were bombing
such plants "daily - daily! - this year."

Since he had just been poring through a ledger listing every water treatment
plant in the country, and the extent of damages at each, the reporter asked
for a list of the times and places of attacks on water treatment plants this

"I wish we had known of your interest earlier," Ali replied, saying he did
not have such a list ready at hand.

Would it be possible to put together a list before the group left Iraq,
three days later? No again, he replied.

Was he absolutely sure that the United States was attacking water treatment
plants on a "daily" basis? Ali, scanning the ledger again, said he could say
with confidence that there had been "at least 10" attacks on "major"
treatment plants in the past five months.

Would it be possible to get a list of just those 10? No, yet again.

"I think it's hopeless even if I get all the figures," Ali said, smoothly
back on message. "Even if I do the media will block the information."

by Jon Sawyer
St Louis Post-Dispatch, 29th May

FALLUJAH, IRAQ - Distortion, courtesy of the state-run media, is an
ever-present reality: Iraqis get a daily dose of talk about the "American
administration of evil." And the wounds from the Persian Gulf War of a
decade ago are still raw.

In the midday heat of this town on the Euphrates River, 40 miles west of
Baghdad, local boys mug for the camera in front of a bakery shop window that
is decorated with a benign image of terrorist Osama bin Laden.

No one speaks English, but these boys have no trouble understanding "World
Trade Center." The phrase elicits thumbs up and excited talk.

When a visitor mimes what happened on Sept. 11 in New York City, showing
with his hands how two airplanes toppled the twin towers, the boys erupt in

How can they hate us so?

For months the question has troubled Americans -- appalled that people far
away could be so cavalier about the loss of innocent lives, mystified that
so much rage could be focused on Americans.

It turns out that Fallujah is a place that knows something about cavalier
attitudes, distant rage and the cost in innocent lives.

On Feb. 13, 1991, in the fourth week of the U.S.-led air war against Iraq, a
British Tornado warplane dropped a bomb that was intended to take out a key
river bridge at Fallujah. The bomb veered 800 yards off target because of a
faulty directional device, British officials later said, and landed in a
market instead.

The civilian toll in Fallujah was 130 dead, according to Iraqi estimates
later confirmed by human rights organizations and not disputed by British or
U.S. officials.

The damage to civilians got scant coverage outside Iraq, either at the time
or since. So did an even bigger incident that happened the same day - a U.S.
attack on a bomb shelter in the al Amiriya neighborhood of Baghdad that
killed about 400 Iraqi women and children.

Who in America knows about the Fallujah Martyrs' Market? Who remembers the
story of the al-Amiriya bomb shelter?

The boys in Fallujah, those unreflective followers of bin Laden, know the
stories well.

One way to understand Iraqi attitudes is by juxtaposition to what most
Americans hear most of the time about Iraq.

In Berlin last week, President George W. Bush compared Saddam Hussein to
Adolf Hitler - skipping over the fact that one man leads a country we've
handily defeated once already and that the other was one of the great mass
killers of the 20th century.

U.S. officials paint grim scenarios of what Saddam might do with chemical or
biological or nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, what is barely reported in the
United States gets banner play in Iraq: that U.S. warplanes are dropping
bombs over Iraq almost every week.

Pentagon officials stress the warplanes' role in responding to Iraqi
provocation as they enforce the no-fly zone that was imposed on 60 percent
of Iraq to protect Iraq's Kurdish and Shiite populations from government
attacks. Iraqi media point out consequences on the ground - such as the 18
civilians they say were wounded in U.S. attacks on southern Iraq just last

Right or wrong, the policies pursued by the U.S. government over the past
dozen years have left a deep imprint on the views of average Iraqis. So has
what is perceived to be U.S. bias in favor of Israel and against the
Palestinian people.

The tension bubbles up over lemon tea in Fallujah's open-air market.

Mohammed al-Falahi runs a repair shop, specializing in televisions, VCRs and
DVDs. While he chats with a visitor, a television is playing what under the
circumstances is an especially ludicrous selection - "Mr. Bean's Christmas,"
a British spoof film in which the baby Jesus escapes the manger scene by
helicopter to get away from noisy sheep.

Al-Falahi said in this neighborhood there's no division of opinion when it
comes to terrorist Osama bin Laden.

"We all think he is defending our homeland," he said. "He's not looking for
anything other than that."

Al-Falahi says that he believes bin Laden was behind the attacks on the
United States. He questions the choice of a civilian target, not the overall
goal. An agitated friend, Shlash Ahmed, bursts into the shop when he hears
that foreigners are about.

"How can America stand with Israel?" Ahmed demands, the crowd gathering
behind him shouting assent. "How can America stand against the Palestinian

The complicated nuances of U.S. policy toward Israel and the West Bank - a
decade's worth of negotiation with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, Bush's
pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon - simply don't register.

What Iraqis get instead, on state-controlled television and newspapers, is a
daily dose of distortion. It's the "American administration of evil" that
gives Israel its arsenal, newscasters proclaim. America alone is keeping
Iraq from resuming normal relations with the world, they say.

The disinformation is so pervasive, so constant, that it leaves even the
well-informed uncertain what to believe.

A post-graduate professional desperate to leave Iraq is quick to assail the
mess that Saddam's regime has made of a once-prosperous country. University
salaries of as little as $100 a month, denial of travel privileges, the fear
of mandatory military service and bribes paid to escape the draft - his list
of outrages is so long, so heartfelt, that a reporter can barely keep up.

He supports the U.S. war on terror.

"But there is one thing I do not understand," he adds, tentative, almost
apologetic to be bringing the subject up. "I do not understand why so many
Jews who worked in the World Trade Center stayed home from work on Sept.

The young dissident is polite but unpersuaded when told that no shred of
evidence has surfaced to support the claim that Jewish workers stayed home
on the day of the attack. "I'm sorry," he insisted. "This fact has been
reported many times."

Facts are also problematic at the al-Amiriya bomb shelter in western
Baghdad, a place where the Iraqi government takes pains to keep memories raw
of what U.S. warplanes did in 1991.

Intesar Ahmed is the Ministry of Culture guide who shows visitors through a
grisly scene - a cratered roof and floor, twisted bits of
concrete-reinforcing bars, rows of photographs showing the women and
children who came here for shelter and the burned corpses removed after the
U.S. bomb struck.

In previous years, visitors were told that many victims were boiled alive
when a second bomb burst the shelter's water-storage tanks. No longer, Ahmed
says; Iraqi researchers have determined that those reports were false. But
she asserts something equally improbable - that the U.S. bombs targeted on
al-Amiriya were laced with napalm.

No evidence to back such a claim has been produced. To Ahmed, the detail is
beside the point.

"The only documents you need are these photographs of victims," she said.
"It is a crime, whether it was napalm or a cruise missile. It is a crime."

The undisputed facts are bad enough.

The shelter was targeted because U.S. military planners believed it was an
important command-and-control center. When it turned out later to have
housed hundreds of civilians instead, the Pentagon said that they were the
families of Iraq's governing elite.

Interviews suggested that was not the case, that in fact this was simply one
of more than two dozen shelters around the city. The Pentagon then said -
supplying no proof - that Iraq had deliberately placed the civilians there,
to lead the United States into an embarrassing mistake.

Today, the al-Amiriya site has become a national shrine, a place of
pilgrimage where schoolchildren come to reinforce their anti-American views.

This month, the visitors included a class of ninth-graders from the Baghdad
International School. Among the group was Marwan Rokan, 16, the son of a
former Iraqi ambassador to the United Nations.

Rokan lived in Manhattan from 1996 to 2000, attending Robert Wagner Junior
High and the High School of the Humanities. He had been with his parents on
several occasions to Windows on the World, the restaurant at the top of one
of the Trade Center towers.

He liked it very much, he said - and America, too.

So what did he think, back home in Baghdad, as he watched live television
footage of the attacks on New York and Washington?

"I was happy when they hit the Pentagon because that's mainly a military
place," Rokan said. "I wasn't so sure about the Trade Center; that's mostly

But in any case it wasn't Arab Muslims who did the deed, Rokan said. "I
think it was the Jews."

"For nearly a dozen years, ever since its invasion of Kuwait in August 1990,
Iraq has been quarantined, subject to the most comprehensive set of
sanctions the United Nations has ever imposed.

U.S. policy-makers have defended the policy on the grounds that it has
helped to box in Saddam, a clearly dangerous man.

Yet the 23 million people of Iraq have been boxed in, too - denied
participation in normal economic activity, cut off from communication with
the outside world, easy prey to the manipulations of a one-party state.

At the al-Mustan Sariya University in Baghdad, students gathered this month
for the performance of a play, written and performed by students majoring in
English. The play was intended to address the gaps in American-Iraqi

Set in New York City on Sept. 11, the play depicts a group of visiting Arab
students. Posters on the set show the Backstreet Boys and Michael Jackson,
but the talk on stage is all politics: One student denounces U.S. support
for Israel while another says it was wrong for Palestinians to target
innocent Israelis.

There's a rumble then in the distance and cries of alarm. "Oh my God," a
student standing at the window said. "The towers are coming down."

"The Arabs did it," his friend replied.

"Who told you?" the first student shouted. "Let me guess. It came from the
BBC, the Voice of America, CNN. You judge them after 30 seconds, without any
proof or evidence? That's not justice.

"America, stop!" he added, speaking directly to the audience. "There's been
enough injustice already, against all the world."

Zena Raza, the 19-year-old playwright, said afterward that the point of her
play is twofold: to show that not all Arabs or Muslims are terrorists and
that America itself, in her opinion, is most to blame for what happened on
Sept. 11.

"The policy of your government is to be in control of everything," Raza
said. "If Americans were not murderers, making enemies, no one would attack.
But it seems that American governments hate the world."

Khalid Abdullah, the dean of the university's college of liberal arts, said
it was the students' choice to perform Raza's play. Last year's selection?
"Julius Caesar."

Abdullah says that to him the play speaks to mutual misperceptions, the ways
in which Americans, Arabs and Muslims misread each other - and how those
misperceptions have deepened during a decade in which there has been
virtually no contact between the Iraqis and Americans.

"In the 1970s and 1980s thousands of us studied in the United States, in the
United Kingdom, all over Europe," Abdullah said. "Today the answer is always
a big No, because you're an Iraqi. You're crossed out.

"I don't know why (the Americans) hate us so much," he said.

Because of the policies of Iraq's government and its leader, a visitor

"Not all Iraqis are the same person," he replied.

"What about us?"

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