Go to previous post:
Theorem: Kieran Healy

Go to Electrolite's front page.

Go to next post:
The various winners

Our Admirable Sponsors

April 12, 2003

With victories like these. More from our “widening hold” on Baghdad.
The man had been dumped near the rubbish bins at the back, blood spreading across his chequered shirt. An orderly, who had been burying bloated corpses in a mass grave in the hospital grounds, recited the Muslim last rites. “Dead, dead, he’s died, what can we do?” and returned to his shovel. But the man was breathing, in slow laborious gurgles, and his flesh was warm.

Forty-eight hours after Baghdad was liberated—as President George Bush would call it—by American forces, the city yesterday was in the throes of chaos. Men with Kalashnikovs dragged drivers from their cars at gunpoint, babies were killed by cluster bombs, and hospitals that had carried on right through the bombing were transformed into visions of hell.

Floors were coated with stale blood, and wards stank of gangrene. The wounded lay on soiled sheets in hospital lobbies, screaming with pain, or begging for tranquillizers. Orderlies in blue surgical gowns shouldered Kalashnikovs to guard against marauders. Ambulance drivers staged counter-raids on looters to reclaim captured medicines and surgical supplies.

Amid such scenes of anarchy, it was not always clear who was responsible: US soldiers, unnerved by a spate of suicide bombings, who continued yesterday to open fire on civilian cars; the pockets of resistance by the die-hard supporters of the regime; the scores of armed Iraqis rampaging through Baghdad; or the unexploded ordnance strewn about the city. But Iraqis had a ready culprit: they blame America for toppling the regime of Saddam Hussein before it was prepared to deliver order to Baghdad.

At Yarmouk hospital, once the city’s main casualty centre, the unclaimed corpses were so badly rotted that volunteers wearing chemical warfare masks buried them in mass graves. Sixteen stinking corpses were heaved into the ground yesterday and 20 on Thursday, after collection from the local mosques. […] A sedan with two flat tyres pulled up, with an entire wounded family, and the corpse of a baby girl. Her name was Rawand, and she was nine months old.

When her family returned to their home for the first time since the war yesterday, she crawled over to a small dark oval—a cluster bomblet—which detonated, killing her outright, and injuring her mother, and two of her boy cousins.

Not to worry, though.
Donald Rumsfeld, the US Defence Secretary, dismissed the chaos as a “transitional” phase, born of “pent-up frustration” after 24 years of oppression. He accused newspapers of exaggerating the unrest and said television stations were showing the same footage over and over again “of some person walking out of a building with a vase.”
Concluding our previous report:
Only one doctor was on duty at Yarmouk yesterday—it shut down at the beginning of the week—and he left the grave diggers and went to try to save the family. Rawand’s father, Mohammed Suleiman, was inconsolable. “I am going to kill America—not today, after 10 years,” he swore.
[12:57 AM]
Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on With victories like these.:

Tom Scudder ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2003, 04:05 AM:

It occurs to me that someone with Lexis-Nexis access and some time to kill could play "compare and contrast" with quotes from, say, the Cincinatti riots of a few years ago, and from the Baghdad riots today.

Weird to hear liberals calling for law and order while the conservatives say it's just a bunch of oppressed victims blowing off steam.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2003, 09:54 AM:

I'm a big believer in law and order. Actual law and actual order, as opposed to the slogan.

In political discourse in my lifetime, the cant phrase "law and order" has been generally understood to mean "more power for police and prosecutors, at the expense of the rest of society." Which is something very different from the actual concepts of "order" and "law." Liberals need to understand this. The modern power-worshippers who falsely claim to be "conservatives" need to understand it even more.

Tom T. ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2003, 03:29 PM:

"Floors were coated with stale blood, and wards stank of gangrene. The wounded lay on soiled sheets in hospital lobbies, screaming with pain, or begging for tranquillizers."

Situations like these didn't bother the Guardian or the rest of the peace camp when Saddam was in power. Why are they only being noticed now?

Chuck Nolan ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2003, 03:30 PM:

Tom, because all of the propaganda from Bush and Co was that we were going over there to free them from things like this.

Means about as much as any other propaganda, I guess. I used to think the USA was better than that. But Bush isn't.

Laurie Mann ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2003, 03:34 PM:

I can understand the Coalition forces ignoring
looting of government offices or government palaces.
But letting the hospitals go from bad to worse is
sheer incompetence. I don't suppose anyone will
take responsibility for that...

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2003, 03:56 PM:

"Situations like these didn't bother the Guardian or the rest of the peace camp when Saddam was in power. Why are they only being noticed now?"

Well, human rights groups like Amnesty International were doggedly exposing the brutality of Saddam Hussein's regime all the way back in the 1970s and 1980s, nor did they stop when he ceased to be the US's proxy dictator.

You have to look a long time before finding a defender of Hussein or Baathism among antiwar Westerners. But it's a standard technique of the pro-war agitators to impute that we're apologists for and defenders of Saddam. Standard-issue lie, not even original. Jeez, fella, show some flair.

Oh, and by the way, the slam on the Guardian is easily repudiated by a few minutes in their archives. Check out, for instance, this profile of Saddam Hussein and his regime, from August 3, 1990: A ruthless and brutal operator. Of course, the Guardian is a favorite target of people who get all their news from warblogs.

Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2003, 05:21 PM:

Just spinning a comment off a single line: "...when [Saddam] ceased to be the US's proxy dictator."

I was shocked all over again when I realized earlier this week that Saddam was still the US's proxy dictator after the Kuwait War. The US stood by and watched Hussein slaughter, and then destroy the homeland of, the Arabs of the Iraqi marshlands after the Kuwait War because they were too strongly associated with Iran.

George Bush the Elder was a brutal thug. His son is a disimprovement.

Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2003, 06:33 PM:

The persistent rumours that Saddam was an American agent would be very difficult things to refute.

Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2003, 06:35 PM:

Well, first off Tom/Tom, because we have an internationally recognized legal responsiblity to take care of those hospitals. I suggest you review the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (1950) as well as the other Geneva Conventions (see the UN web site or just google it). Even better, check out the official US Army statement on the laws of war, FM 27-10 The Law of Land Warfare I would point you to Chap. 6 (Occupation) Sec. II:

363. Duty to Restore and Maintain Public Order
The authority of the legitimate power having in fact passed into the hands of the occupant, the latter shall take all the measures in his power to restore, and ensure, as far as possible, public order and safety, while respecting, unless absolutely prevented, the laws in force in the country.

and from Sec. III:
385. Hygiene and Public Health
To the fullest extent of the means available to it, the Occupying Power has the duty of ensuring and maintaining, with the cooperation of national and local authorities, the medical and hospital establishments and services, public health and hygiene in the occupied territory, with particular reference to the adoption and application of the prophylactic and preventive measures necessary to combat the spread of contagious diseases and epidemics. Medical personnel of all categories shall be allowed to carry out their duties.

While clearly these are limited by the practical situation on the ground, our responsibility is clear, especially in any area which we putatively control. And this is the kind of international law that there is enforcement for, both under US federal law and by military courts-martial.

Did we alone create this situation? Of course not -- the greater part of the moral responsibility may lie with the former regime. But having occupied these areas it is now our clear legal responsiblity though, and we better get cracking.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2003, 07:43 PM:

What most people in this discussion fail to realize is that none of these fine points of law or (please!) moral obligation are the point.

The point is to shout down inquiry and dissent. Thus the recent prepoccupation of some warbloggers with monitoring and tracking various antiwar webloggers' comments during the last several days of military success (such as it is). Evidently, failure to cheer our War On Statues hard enough is now prima facie evidence that antiwar webloggers really support tyranny.

The above post from "Tom T" is part of that program. Expect to see more of it.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2003, 07:47 PM:

Tom T. has only shown up once. He might be better than that post suggests.

QrazyQat ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2003, 10:17 PM:

Even the local Seattle newscasters mentioned that Rumsfeld went a little bonkers with his "it's just the media, not reality" rant. I'm not sure they recognise that it's nothing new, but it's a start.

Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2003, 11:18 PM:

I've have been happy if the US military had spent a little less time tearing down Saddam's statues and a little more time guarding the museums.

Check this out:


I usually hate the "Why were you doing this when you could have been doing that?" argument, but honestly, the populace in Mosul were more than able to dismantle their own tacky Saddam statue without US help, I'm wondering why we had to send one in Baghdad to take one down there instead of using the tank to guard the museum or one of the looted hospitals.

It's especially dispiriting since it's obvious that the US was careful not to bomb the museum, and even Saddam's forces didn't hide out there.

Hopefully the collection can be regathered from the black market and wasn't too damaged by the actual looting.

Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2003, 12:59 AM:

Patrick notes:
"The above post from "Tom T" is part of that program."

I've been wondering whether posters of Tom T.'s ilk are lurkers goaded into action, or the result of some sort of hit list.

In either case, it's fun to watch them in action. The subtle ones only bring up their spin on the issue being discussed. The amusing ones do a full-blown ideology dump, filling up a screen with talking points and shibboleths (Paula Poundstone and Berkeley, CA).

It's possible to fight back against these blowhards. Just know a bit more than they do.

A few years back, an earnest party-line Young Republican of online acquaintance made much of the Clinton adminstration's dealings with Indonesia, what with their occupation of East Timor.

His self-righteous spin had the feel of a talking point. I explained to him that Indonesia's invasion of the place took place in the 70s. Why hadn't Reagan done anything about it? Why not Bush the Elder?

He was actually amazed that I knew *anything* about East Timor. Liberals were supposed to be ignorant.

That felt . . . good.

Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2003, 01:35 AM:

Just finished my evening browsing of The Agonist.

Ethnic riots in Mosul have reportedly resulted in the hospital being torched, and when Marines in Bagdhad reopened two bridges, looters raced across to scour "fresh" parts of the city.

I'm feeling really f'king depressed about this, but I suppose it's my own fault for not getting my news from Fox.

yehudit ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2003, 02:04 AM:

"the recent prepoccupation of some warbloggers with monitoring and tracking various antiwar webloggers' comments during the last several days of military success (such as it is). Evidently, failure to cheer our War On Statues hard enough is now prima facie evidence that antiwar webloggers really support tyranny. "

I have been reading pro and antiwar blogs for a year now. I have not noticed any such preoccupation. Both sides have been "fisking" each other frequently for months - so what else is new? Care to elaborate a bit?

Staff Sergeant B ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2003, 02:20 PM:

So, the forces which went into Baghdad were supposed to carry large, fragile hospital equipment with them? While they were still under fire? What good would surgical equipment be if it arrived at Yarmouk shot?
In 10 days when the equipment is there, trained personnel are in place, and every Iraqi (not just those favored by the Baath party) is receiving medical treatment y'all will probably have moved on to the hundreds of thousands of Syrians being killed by sanctions.

Adam ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2003, 07:17 PM:

Hmmm, is y'all a variant form of you folks or you people?

Staff Sergeant B is promising that every Iraqi will be receiving medical treatment in 10 days time... Is every Iraqi going to need treatment by then? Is a "secret" plan being revealed here?

What sort of treatment will every Iraqi require, I wonder, treatment for burns, blunt force trauma, sucking chest wounds, lacerations? All of the above? Radiation burns? Propaganda-induced coma?