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April 10, 2003

You know, I haven’t really wanted to play “gotcha” games with the ongoing events in Baghdad. I’m on record as doubting the wisdom of this war. As I’ve also said before, I’d like to be wrong. I’d love a short war with a happy ending for everyone. I’d also like a pony.

But, darn, this really doesn’t look good:

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) says two key Baghdad hospitals, and many other smaller ones, have been ransacked, as looting spreads across the capital.

ICRC spokeswoman Nada Doumani told BBC News Online that armed looters had stripped the al-Kindi, a key hospital in north-eastern Baghdad, of everything, including beds, electrical fittings and medical equipment.

She said another major hospital, the 650-bed Medical City, was also surrounded by armed men and was running low of water and medical supplies.

Baghdad’s hospitals have already been under severe strain in recent days as they try to cope with the casualties caused by the coalition’s aerial bombardments of the capital, as well as fighting on the ground.

As far as I can tell, most Americans are currently convinced that Baghdad is an ongoing street festival of star-spangled liberation. “OVER,” proclaims the front page of today’s New York Daily News. “Baghdad Falls; Scenes of Joy,” says the Post. It’s a happy rerun of Eastern Europe at the end of the Cold War.

But when the Berlin Wall came down, they didn’t loot the hospitals.

This isn’t victory and it isn’t freedom. Not yet. Let’s hope it’s a blip, not a harbinger.

(Just to be clear, I don’t really want a pony. But a new computer monitor would be nice.) [03:08 PM]

Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on You know,:

Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2003, 03:29 PM:

Sorry. The pony is on his way. His name is Clip-clop.

Start laying out slushpile pages.

* * *

Um, yeah. This is one of those times when you really, really despair of the way the mainstream media is covering things.

No shitting:

This morning, after letting us know about happy Baghdaddies tearing that Saddam statue (in case you missed it), and of happy Kirkukites tearing down Saddam statues, and oh yes there are still skermishes 'round Baghdad and that looting, the NBC news did a piece about . . .

. . . a tank gunner chewing bubble gum.

More or less exact paraphrase: "But first, a picture that gives us hope that maybe things are starting to get better!" (Shot of U.S. soldier on a tank, blowing bubbles.)

Then they interviewed the gum-chewers parents.

I'm glad this guy's alive and well. I'm glad he has enough slack time to chew gum. I'm glad he has gum to chew. I'm glad his parents know he's alive and well.

But jeez . . . maybe a little something about Rumsfeld losing it and threatening Syria and Iran, and the fact that the Liberated Iraqis want nothing to do with the carpetbaggers we're sending in to run the place?

Barry ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2003, 03:45 PM:

I've also heard mentions in the blogosphere that Baghad isn't exactly liberated, that only pieces are.

Anybody know what's going on?

Barry

Madeleine Reardon Dimond ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2003, 04:01 PM:

I had a bad, bad feeling when the Red Cross pulled out yesterday. That meant they could not protect their folks. One volunteer died in cross-fire (while driving a large white van with big red crosses on it) and I believe several are missing. Fast forward to today: the happy liberated Iraqis are dancing in the streets. Huh? But they can't get to the hospitals. Yes, perhaps we are not seeing the whole story.

Peace (I really want to believe),

Ray Ciscon ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2003, 04:17 PM:

While the Baathist regime has fallen in Baghdad, the war is far from over. President Bush himself has been saying this.

While Saddam is most probably taking a dirt nap (or would you call it a 60ft crater nap) and his Baathist cronies have abandoned ship, danger still exists in Baghdad and other cities, particularly Tikrut.

Patrick, as I've heard on the radio, the coalition cannot yet take responsibility for guarding anything in Baghdad but their own camps and installations. Why? Because a large number of fedayeen, mostly non-Iraqi's, are still at large and armed with explosives, RPG's, etc.

I can't really believe that you would compare the liberation of Iraq with the fall of the Berlin wall... that would be an 'apples to oranges' false comparison of gargantuan scale.

The fact is that the Iraqi people now feel free to strike out in frustration and revenge against both Baath party members and their facilities. It's not pretty, but it must be recognized as human nature.

Perhaps this is an opening for the UN to re-enter the picture and provide civilian policing until democratic rule can be established. They can keep the civilian peace while the coalition forces go after the active combatants.

Cheers,

Ray

David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2003, 04:30 PM:

Don't blame Patrick for the Berlin Wall comparison. Donald Rumsfeld was using it yesterday.

Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2003, 05:01 PM:

"Perhaps this is an opening for the UN to re-enter the picture and provide civilian policing until democratic rule can be established."

Better yet, how about members of the mighty Coalition of the Willing? It's about time Lesser !Yrbtrm, Hectografistan, and Feemur pulled their weight.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2003, 05:03 PM:

Of course, nobody wants to fight near Hectografistani troops, because you get all covered with purple.

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2003, 06:04 PM:

NPR was running a report on the looting today. Complete with retired general explaining why the so-called coalition couldn't be bothered to actually institute and keep order. I would have pounded my head against the steering wheel except I was driving at the time.

Patrick: What kind of monitor do you want? (I swear we have the repair bits for the printer. They're in a box labeled Nielsen Hayden on the mantelpiece. I've been trying to remember to mail it, but at this point it may be as quick and easy to bring it to Minicon. See you next Thursday.)

MKK

Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2003, 06:21 PM:

The police to populace ratio in the UK, around 1970, was 500 to 1.

This is low, startling, impressively low; say you need twice that to properly police an occupied country, distinct from the air mobile troops you use against well armed bandit gangs.

That's 250 to 1. 23 million Iraqis, give or take.

92,000 active police.

If it's 100:1 (a more realistic number), you need 230,000 police, in place, with accepted authority and the ability to speak the twenty three local languages.

There is blessed little sign of planning for this; there is quite a lot of sign of the US having got itself into a position where it can't do this, without confirming its intentions to be colonial conquest.

Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2003, 07:15 PM:

I'm sure there's a faith-based small-government free-market solution to this lack of police problem.

Maybe something along the lines of Halliburton hiring mercenaries to guard the oil facilities and letting everything else go to hell.

Chuck Nolan ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2003, 07:17 PM:

Aside from the revenge being taken on the Baathists, there's a large number of folks settling old scores in general. I understand this is a long-standing tradition in the Middle East, where the holding of grudges and settling of vendettas has reached an art form.

Anybody in DC plan for this? I thought not.

Jordin Kare ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2003, 08:23 PM:

>Of course, nobody wants to fight near Hectografistani troops, because you get all covered with purple.

Besides, ever since the ABDickation of King Stencil, the Hectografistanis have been busy protecting their capital, Corflu, from the insurgent Dittoheads and their leader, Rush Printjob.

tomtom ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2003, 08:42 PM:

The problem with the Berlin Wall analogy is that the Germans worked for their own freedom and tore down the wall themselves. Not the case in Iraq.

Avram ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2003, 09:22 PM:

The police to populace ratio in the UK, around 1970, was 500 to 1.

Um, I'm pretty sure that's the populace-to-police ratio, right?

Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2003, 09:25 PM:

Quite correct.

Packing makes me stupid.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

pi ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2003, 11:47 PM:

Anybody in DC plan for the holding of grudges and settling of vendettas?

Only their own, I fear.

Andrew Brown ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2003, 03:39 AM:

I can't say I'm very surprised or shocked by the looting. If there is a German analogy, it's with 1945, when I bet there was a lot of looting in the first weeks after the Allied armies rolled in, though there was a lot less then left to loot. The analogy isn't exact. But this is what happens when civil authorities are overthrown by wars.

But who does the policing once the US Marines have stopped fighting? That's when the colonialist's problem starts. The native police -- if there were any purely criminal police -- were the intruments of control for this tyranny so dreadful it had to be overthrown. So they can't be put back in, or not without purging.

The only people who can maintain order are in the occupying army. But getting them to police things is exactly what the neocons have been struggling against. The really revolutionary part of Rumsfeld's approach to warfare is the assumption that we don't have to run the states we have occupied, and that the troops can be withdrawn to huge fortified bases where they will exert an influence without getting involved in politics: call it White Man's Burden lite. It hasn't worked in Afghanistan; why should it work in Iraq? It might work there, if only because there is no tradition of anarchy and "warlordism". But if it doesn't, then the troops are going to have to be deployed to keep the mobs down, just as they were in Belfast, in 1969. Look where that little job of overthrowing an incompetent and brutal client government ended up.

Marna ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2003, 05:06 AM:

By the way, since I'm not hugely up on the ettiquette of blogosity, if a person is planning on sticking around, do they introduce themselves or something? Or is this one of those parties where you just wander in and find yourself a drink and a piece of wall and a conversation?

Somebody asked about British coverage and lo and behold while I was looking for the piece I meant to post there was this, which I though worth tossing into the mix:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/antiwar/story/0,12809,934510,00.html

But what I was looking for was this, for Andrew:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,932679,00.html

I was especially struck by this:

"So the president seizes on the welcome US and British troops are now receiving in Iraq, as if that augurs an amicable, long-term relationship. His in-flight briefing material should have told him that Northern Ireland's Catholics welcomed British troops, too, back in 1969 - and look where that led. "

Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2003, 05:22 AM:

Hi, wandering in and grabbing a piece of the wall...

Talking about the Berlin Wall, one of the major reasons for Germany's economic problems, is the burden of trying to sort out Eastern Germany. The rise of neo-Nazism in Eastern Germany has been partly blamed on resentment felt by the young at the slow spread of prosperity.

Tom Womack ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2003, 05:39 AM:

There have been fairly firm plans for an invasion of Iraq knocking about for at least six months in the public domain. That there might be military action against an Arabic-speaking nation has been pretty clear since the axis-of-evil speech, fifteen months back - and, of course, there were some troops on the ground in Afghanistan before that.

So how come none of the squad commanders at the checkpoints in Baghdad appears to know how to yell "stop the car and come out slowly" in Arabic through a megaphone? There's not much information content in a warning shot.

Barry ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2003, 08:48 AM:

"The really revolutionary part of Rumsfeld's approach to warfare is the assumption that we don't have to run the states we have occupied, and that the troops can be withdrawn to huge fortified bases where they will exert an influence without getting involved in politics: call it White Man's Burden lite. It hasn't worked in Afghanistan; why should it work in Iraq? "

The problem is that, from the administration's perspective, it did work. There was a victory to crow about, and then it nicely dropped off of the front pages.

Barry

Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2003, 09:40 AM:

Shock and Awe the American voter.

Stephanie Zvan ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2003, 11:16 AM:

Further sad proof that "them people over there" just aren't as civilized as us lofty Americans. I mean, it's free and all, but anyone really discerning would be holding out for Apple's 23" cinema HD display.

Chuck Nolan ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2003, 12:35 PM:

""So the president seizes on the welcome US and British troops are now receiving in Iraq, as if that augurs an amicable, long-term relationship. His in-flight briefing material should have told him that Northern Ireland's Catholics welcomed British troops, too, back in 1969 - and look where that led. ""

This assumes he actually READ his in-flight briefing material. Or at least had somebody read it to him. Is there a GameBoy on that airplane?

Edward Liu ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2003, 01:20 PM:

Howdy,

If you want to get even more violently depressed, go read today's (Apr 11) editorial by Nicholas Kristof in the NY Times (at http://www.nytimes.com/2003/04/11/opinion/11KRIS.html), which begins as follows:

[ ahem ]
A large, angry mob was squaring off in the center of Basra against tense British troops backed by tanks and heavy machine guns, so I asked the Iraqis what they were doing.

"We're here to rob the banks," one man explained cheerfully.
[ /ahem ]

The editorial continues to state that the aforementioned angry mob was getting very upset at the British troops who were not allowing anybody to rob the banks.

Unfortunately, I think the memo this unit received didn't flow down to all the field units yet, since someone else is quoted further down as saying that he asked the British to help prevent armed robbery of people's HOUSES, and was told that the British forces "are not a police force."

The irony in all this is killing me, but not as much as it's killing Iraqis.

-- Ed

Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2003, 03:35 PM:

There aren't enough of them to prevent looting of houses, and, fundamentally, it's better for the houses to be looted than to have 120mm HESH rounds slammed into them as part of suppressive fire, cause the first way at least the house is still there and not a shattered burning pile of useless rubble.

Empty banks is a big barrier to reconstruction, recovery, whatever you want to call it; no functional banking system, no commercial anything. And there are enough troops to cover the major banks, which are likely already geographically concentrated.

So I think whoever wrote that memo did good, given the choice space those troops can actually reach.

But yeah, not a good sign; if all institutions are the enemy, peace will be a long time in coming.

Barbara ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2003, 08:24 PM:

What size monitor do you need. I have a spare Apple monitor. Let me know.

CHip ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2003, 11:26 PM:

And now, just to top off his arrogance, Rummy is whining about the media covering the looting instead of sticking to the happy-news photo ops.

Funny, I didn't think he was Greek-American -- but he's certainly acting like Spiro Agnew, serving as the attack dog when the media act like media instead of flacks. At least he isn't stupid enough to have payoffs delivered to his current office (as far as we know).

Scott B ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2003, 12:39 AM:

I think the current administration was really hoping that the retribution thing would just take care of itself and leave the whole place deserted.

Quite frankly, I think the only plans the hawks can develop are ten words or less. Funny, but I think there may be convergence between American foreign policy and move pitches. I can imagine "It's like the first Persian Gulf with the messianic overtones of the End Times! I've already focus grouped it, and it tested really well with our 45-65 year old male top wage earners!"

Argh.

archtop ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2003, 11:56 AM:

gee whiz, who needs computer equipment when there's flats of eighteen eggs?