This Girl's Voice

Thursday, April 10, 2003  

••the day after the day after••

What a difference a day makes.

Only yesterday, symbols of Saddam Hussein's tyranny being bulldozered and dragged through Baghdad's Fardus Square were broadcast live around the world. Images of American troops inside Baghdad were prevalent, yet in a city of 5 million, only a few dozen citizens gathered on the streets of Baghdad.

People are still nervous. 30 yrs. of oppression has a way of doing that.

Today, there was good reason to see why confidence and exuberance were still being held in check; down in Najaf, one of the Pentagon hopefuls - an Iraqi point man and leading Shi'ite cleric Abdul majid al-Khoei was shot and hacked to death at a mosque -- one of Shiite Islam's holiest shrines in southern Iraq.

Apparently, U.S. forces had given him the authority to administer Najaf — a sore point for other Iraqi Shiite groups eager to assert their authority; subsequently, al-Khoei, had just been flown into Iraq from Great Britain where he had been expected -- together with Haider al-Kadar -- to urge the crowd who had gathered at the shrine, to cooperate with and support the U.S. troops.

However, the shrine had been under the control of the widely disliked Haider al-Kadar, who happened to be a Saddam loyalist connected to his Ministry of Religion, and there's no stopping a mob the day after 30 yrs. of oppression is announced to be "officially over" by one of your liberators' spokespersons, U.S. Sec. of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld.

*[UPDATE - April 12/03: The Washinton Post reports that al-Khoei's killers had " killed a total of six people and taken control of the holy city of Najaf ". Residents of Najaf said that U.S. forces stationed nearby were doing nothing to restore order.]

Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance

There was also reason for concern about the safety and security of the humanitarian aid workers and their subsequent ability to be able to provide relief and care and prevent a humanitarian disaster.

One hopes that the Pentagon's ex-military man retired Gen. Jay Garner** who heads up the DoD's Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance has planned and prepared for the transition from war fighting, and into the complex and anything-but-ephemeral job of nation building.

Amidst the news of the suicide bombing in the Saddam City neighbourhood of downtown Baghdad near the Palestine Hotel where most journalists are staying, the attack resulted in the injury of 4 Marines and put the military on notice that they were still in the process of prosecuting a war.

Meanwhile, CNN's Christiane Amanpour, having just arrived in Baghdad hours earlier, reported that "looting was spreading across Baghdad" and the lawlessness and disorderly conduct of the looters was taxing the efforts and objectives of the troops. Subsequently, U.S. troops are now also faced with the additional tough task of restoring law and order while Baghdad residents looted government buildings and hospitals.

When she asked a military spokesman in Baghdad today whether the troops were going to stop the looters, he told her that "troops are stretched" and said they don't have "that ability to police". She reported that "troops admit they are already stressed and exhausted". Apparently, so were the looters: Amanpour noted that the looting was so prevalent that some people in Baghdad seem to be suffering from "looters' fatigue" and had simply plopped themselves and their stolen goods on the side of the road and were sitting there motionless for hours on end, unable to muster the energy or will to drag their loot any further.

Humanitarian agencies and health organizations report that the potential for a humanitarian disaster is looming: there is a big security vaccum and no presence of policing which has subsequently resulted in lawlessness;

War is hell, but peace is tougher

UNICEF relief workers said that a residue of "fear and chaos" had significantly hampered early attempts to reach Iraqi women and children.

Red Cross spokesperson Roland Huguenin-Benjamin said that he was "distressed and puzzled" by the "widespread attacks and looting going on" in the city.
The hospitals themselves have come under attack for the purpose of looting. There are lots of people carrying weapons and they make it very difficult for civilians in need of medical care to actually reach the hospitals.

OXFAM spokesperson Alex Renton said that OXFAM can't yet get into Iraq because they have yet to see "a serious effort to bring law and order under control".

World Food Program spokesperson Antonia Paradela said in an interview today from Kuwait city with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, that her relief group says "chaos is hampering aid efforts" and that aid workers are reporting that "water and medical supplies are low".

The World Health Organization reported that Baghdad lacks a ready supply of clean, safe water, making surgery "more of a threat than a solution." They said that electricity supplies in Baghdad were erratic and standby generators were overworked to the point of collapse.

CNN's Walter Rodgers confirmed today that there were no phones or electricity and that the infrastructure in Baghdad is collapsing.

Barbara Al Badri, water and sanitation coordinator for the aid group CARE said that a neglected sewer system and Iraq's 4-year-old drought have led to the poor quality of water throughout the country, and that "when the power goes out, the water pumps stop, obviously -- everything stops".

In a live interview today on CNN with Judy Woodruff, CARE representative Aly-Khan Rajani stationed in Baghdad, confirmed that raw sewage was flowing into water sources... there were the serious concerns about the potential for cholera and dysentry... food sources were low and in the form of dried food rations which of course, required water... and that children are most affected by bad water... he added that relief supplies are "extremely limited from all over the country".

What's that saying?

War is hell, but peace is tougher.

**[More to come on Jay Garner in an upcoming post.]

posted by voxpopgirl | 4/10/2003