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Conflict with Iraq

Battle Lines
Tom Brown
Tom Brown
Battle Lines is an ongoing Web log (blog) dedicated to providing a broad perspective on the latest news and developments from the war in Iraq. Response and suggestions are welcomed.

Tom Brown has been an editor, reporter and software analyst for The Seattle Times for 20 years.

April 03, 2003

The head of the new Iraqi government has arrived

Almost unnoticed in all the gunfire, at least one of the Americans who are supposed to run Iraq after the war arrived at the southern port city of Umm Qasr.

The interim U.S. government, which is to hand the country over to Iraqis after 90 days, will be headed by retired Gen. Jay Garner, a veteran of the Gulf War.

In what appears to have been his first decision, Garner untangled a feud between U.S. and British forces over how to distribute water to thirsty and largely destitute area residents.

The bickering between Defense and State about who should man the 23 ministries foreseen for the U.S. occupation government continues inside the beltway.

“Thank you, this is beautiful!"

Soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division compared it to the Macy’s parade in New York or the Liberation of Paris in World War II. Exaggerations, no doubt, but the day's events cheered them.

The occasion was their entry into Najaf, a city southeast of Baghdad, where residents flocked into the streets to welcome them. The question now is whether order can be maintained and relief supplies delivered in time to capitalize on the good will.

Here are stories from the Washington Post and the New York Times.

Once more: where’s Saddam?

Ever since U.S. bombs slammed a compound where Saddam was thought to be meeting with advisers, including his two sons, there has been speculation about whether he’s dead or seriously hurt.

Several hours after that bombing, Saddam – at least U.S. analysts thought it was Saddam, not one of his doubles – appeared on Iraqi TV and delivered a rambling, nearly incoherent statement. Since then, we’ve seen nor heard anything from Saddam that prove he’s alive.

Speculation about his whereabouts deepened Wednesday, when it was announced that Saddam was going to appear on Iraqi TV. He didn’t. Instead a statement said to have been written by him was read.

The statement claimed “victory is at hand.” By evening, his information minister had ordered correspondents for Al Jazeera, the Qatar-based TV station accused by the Bush administration of having a pro-Iraq bias, out of the country. You’d think he’d want them there if a victory celebration is at hand.

Also, Gregg Easterbrook of The New Republic Online had this item:

SADDAM NOTE: Anne Garrells of NPR, one of the two remaining American reporters in Baghdad, noted this morning that Iraqi officials at press events have abandoned the formalistic obsequiousness with which they refer to Saddam. Till this weekend, every other Iraqi comment was Saddam this, our great leader that. Garrells just attended an Iraqi government press conference at which Saddam was never mentioned. To Best-Laid Plans it feels ever more significant that it's been twelve days since the "decapitation" attack and there has been no public image of Saddam speaking about any fact that has become known since then.

If Saddam is dead, it might lead to quicker disintegration of the Iraqi regime when coalition forces tighten their grip on Baghdad. It’s fair to suspect that at least some high-level people in the Iraqi government may want to try to cut deals to save their own hides.

On the other hand, Saddam may just be lying low. As many have noted, he is nothing of not a survivor. And did we really kill all those Republican Guard troops, or did many of them withdraw into Baghdad to prepare for the big battle?

Al Jazeera note: These guys are nothing if not feisty. Fed up with hacker attacks that have frequently overwhelmed their Arabic and English web sites, the station has announced it’ll start a text service that can be received by cell phones.

Syria’s terrorist highway

The U.S. has been leaning heavily on Syria to stop helping Saddam. The language used by Secretary of State Powell and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld is, in diplomatic terms, one step away from war.

The U.S. has accused Syria of allowing night-vision goggles and Russian-made Kornet anti-tank missiles – both prohibited under U.N. sanctions – to pass through it’s territory to Iraq.

Now British commandos have arrested four busloads of suspected suicide bombers and would-be fighters in western Iraq and is holding them as POWs. Though they came from many nations, all were carrying Syrian passports.

One more reason the peace may be hard to manage

After all the attention we’ve focused on Iraq recently, you’d think the U.S. would know quite a bit about what makes the place tick. Not so, this Boston Globe piece says.

One thing we do know, though, is that it’s main enforcement tool is terror. Here’s a first-hand account of a visit to an Iraqi “police station” from the anti-war London Mirror.

Some alternative news sources

If you’re tired of the war news you’re getting from mainstream media, you might want to check out some of these links. Most, but not all, are anti-war. In the days ahead, I'll provide lists of other sites with other perspectives. (news and analysis)

Common Dreams

Democracy Now

The Nation

Snow Coalition

Indymedia Network

FAIR (analysis of network coverage)

Ha’aretz (a leading Israeli newspaper)

Arab News(English-language news from Saudi Arabia)

Al Jazeera (Qatar-based TV whose site is often disabled by hacker attacks)

Links to alternative news sites and anti-war sites

Z Magazine (commentary)

Inter Press Service News Agency (specializes in global issues)

WebActive (hosts Radio Nation, Pacifica Network News, Democracy NOW!, Hightower Radio, CounterSpin and others) (launched by veteran antiwar campaigners Voices in the Wilderness the Electronic Intifada)

IRAQWAR.RU (analytical center created recently by journalists and military experts from Russia)

Swiss war coverage (Select from among (English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, Arabic, or Chinese) and click on "International."

AlterNet (often provides an independent point of view)

News about the Human Shield program

War Watch (daily update of news, original commentary, and interactive maps on the war in Iraq, focusing on underrepresented and foreign news sources)'sIndependent Media News Portal

Posted by tbrown at April 3, 2003 08:25 AM

Tom Brown Katherine Long, research editor at the Seattle Times and 18-year editor and reporter, substituted for Tom Brown the week of April 14.

April 2003
March 2003

Signing off
The Saddam Files
Demonstrations in Karbala
Building a government from scratch
Smoking gun?
The irony of freedom
Where are the weapons?
Cultural advisors quit over antiquities issue
Baghdad reality check


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