|Ken Novak's Weblog
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Sunday, March 23, 2003
NYT John F Burns on the end-game:
"Would Saddam Hussein, his sons and other high-ranking officials make a last stand in one of their many palaces, or in the vast underground network of tunnels and bunkers that German and other Western companies helped them build in the 1980's? And would they order the arrest of Westerners to be deployed as human shields at potential American bombing targets, as Saddam Hussein did with scores of Western businessmen before the Persian Gulf war in 1991, an expedient that the Iraqi leader eventually abandoned before the conflict began? Or would they simply disappear, as Osama bin Laden did in Afghanistan, and become "shadows" eluding their American pursuers, as Tariq Aziz, one of Saddam Hussein's most trusted advisers, predicted in an interview with an American reporter last October?" 11:43:55 PM
NYT, John F Burns in Baghdad:
"Ordinary people here whispered as the week progressed that they were ready for the war, and even welcomed it, as long as it was short, and civilian casualties were limited. Today, as the bombers approached, these whispers became more daring. "What, what, what?" one man said, pointing surreptitiously toward the sky and winking. His meaning, unambiguously, was that he was tired of waiting for Iraq's new era to begin. But these Iraqis, too, continued to be frozen in fear of government retribution." 11:41:42 PM
Basra battles, resentment
: "As the convoy of British tanks and trucks rolled by, the Iraqi boys on the side of the road were all smiles and waves. But once it had passed, leaving a trail of dust and grit in its wake, their smiles turned to scowls. "We don't want them here," said 17-years-old Fouad, looking angrily up at the plumes of gray smoke rising from the embattled southern city of Basra .. Residents fleeing Basra said the Iraqi military had taken the battle into the city. "There is fighting in the center, on the streets. It is terrible," said Hussein, a 24-year-old engineer who works for the state-run southern oil company. Hussein said he escaped from the city on Saturday with his wife and young son. More civilians streamed out of Basra on Sunday, in trucks and battered cars crammed full with household belongings. The sound of machinegun and artillery fire echoed behind them. "We don't want Americans here. This is Iraq," said Hussein." 11:14:29 AM
Basra hit by bombardment, Iran affected: "From the Iranian side of the border some 25 miles from Basra, more than 20 bombs or missiles could be seen hitting the Basra area within 30 minutes. .. At least two bombs or projectiles fell on the Iranian side of the border, with one hitting a petrochemical plant complex at about 10 pm, local residents told the Guardian. It was unclear how much damage was caused to the plant. Another bomb landed behind a hospital in Abadan, about four miles from the Iraqi border. There were no casualties reported. .. In the Iranian town of Arvand Kenar, just across from the Faw peninsula which was captured by Anglo-American forces earlier today, explosions on the Iraqi side of the border shattered windows in homes and offices.
"More and more people are getting ready to leave," said a man who works at a travel agency in Abadan. "About a quarter of the population has already left the town and more will follow." Iranian police units set up road checkpoints on roads leading to the Iraqi border and the military had sent in reinforcements as a precaution. International aid workers said there had been no flood of refugees into Iran thus far but camp sites were being prepared in no man's land." 11:11:23 AM
Nick Cohen in the Guardian:
"There are legitimate complaints that the West has not done enough to rebuild Afghanistan; legitimate, that is, as long as the complainers accept that their grievance is not that the West has been imperialist, but that it has not been imperialist enough." 11:08:21 AM
Nick Cohen: Helping the helpers: "After the Iran-Iraq war, the Kuwait war, ethnic cleansing and sanctions, the condition of the population is pitiful. What was once one of the richest countries in the Middle East has been reduced to a nation of beggars. Sixty per cent of Iraqis depend on supplies from the UN's Oil For Food programme. .. One in every 10 child dies - the majority from preventable illness such as diarrhoea and acute respiratory infections.
The most effective public-health strategy is the removal of Saddam Hussein from power. The liberated zone of Kurdish northern Iraq has to cope with the same economic sanctions as the rest of the country, but it doesn't have Saddam. The mortality rate for under-fives in the North is 72 per 100, as against 135 in the Centre and South. School enrolments are rising in the North and falling in the Centre and South. Saddam's arrest or execution is the prerequisite for rebuilding the country. The problem is how to get from A to B.
[In Afghanistan], the agencies were alarmist while the Government told journalists to stay calm. This time the Government is more alarmed than the agencies. .. 10:58:55 AM
It's easy to toss words like 'tyranny' and 'totalitarian' about, but far harder to understand what they mean in practice. In the case of tyrannical Iraq, totalitarianism means the abolition of independent organisations and initiative. Even abused Afghanistan had an advantage over Iraq. The United Nations and aid agencies could employ local workers inside the country. They retained a substantial degree of autonomy and distributed food through independent networks. Independence isn't tolerated in Iraq. ..