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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 17, 2003

Baghdad reality check

(posted by Katherine Long)

Reporters on Baghdad streets are sizing up the city's condition a week after it fell to coalition forces, and painting a grim picture.

"There is a bitterness and tension between citizens and occupiers," a reporter with The Guardian in London reports. "There is a growing feeling that the occupiers are obsessed with protecting themselves, to the exclusion of taking risks in protecting civilians.

"Most troublingly, there is a sense that US efforts to restore essential services are more about self-boosting short-term fixes, and not about helping skilled Iraqis put the city back on its feet."

From the Boston Globe: "More than a week after the US military entered Baghdad, residents are still without electric power. Phones don't work. Many streets are still impassable, blocked by burnt cars, bombing wreckage, or other debris." But most worrisome to Baghdad residents is the lack of police protection on the streets. "Until Baghdadis feel safe in the streets, it is unlikely that commerce will return or that the crowds of unemployed men who cluster around American tanks begging for jobs will disperse."

A former Iraqi police lieutenant tells the Globe, "As people become more desperate, the crime rate will go higher and higher, even with new police patrols. The future is very dangerous, for the Americans and for us."

USAToday says conditions are bad at Baghdad's hospitals; health workers say the city is facing a medical disaster. The hospitals were all looted -- most don't have enough electricity or clean water.

"The only authority in Baghdad -- the U.S. military -- says it is neither equipped nor authorized to run city services, including hospitals," USAToday reports. "That may be the most difficult problem to overcome, say aid workers here. The few doctors and nurses who can get to work or are willing to brave the dangers of the streets are struggling just to treat patients. They say they do not have time to do the vital administrative work that would get hospitals back up and running."

Things may be better in the south. A warmer picture of Iraq-American relations emerges from a Christian Science Monitor reporter in Nasiriyah.

"Electricity still remains out in much of the city and medicine is in short supply. But the marines put in a purification system on the Euphrates River to provide potable water. Navy Seabees are starting to make temporary fixes to plumbing, wiring, and buildings around the city. And the visibility of US forces has secured the city enough to allow the first humanitarian groups to return."

The antiquities mafia

It's been widely reported today that looters who carted away treasures at the Iraqi Museum in Baghdad knew what they were doing. The BBC calls them "organised gangs of international art traffickers," which makes us think of Indiana Jones turned evil.

Here's an account of the looting from The Art Newspaper.

Today, 30 experts on Iraqi antiquities were meeting at the headquarters of the U.N. Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization in Paris, France. They're hoping to make an inventory of the lost artifacts, then come up with a strategy to recover them.

The president of the Archaeological Institute of America said the Pentagon had been warned that looting would occur. "I really think this was a preventable occurrence," Jane Waldbaum told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The Inquirer reports that "scholars at the University of Chicago are putting together a database of photographs of the looted works for law-enforcement agencies. Scrupulous dealers have put out the word that they will not buy the Iraqi material. But no one is optimistic that the pieces will be recovered."

Posted by Katherine Long at April 17, 2003 11:30 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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