The Guardian April 16, 2003


Death and destruction haunt Iraqi landscape

by Susan Webb

As the US-led assault stormed through Iraq last week, it left a trail of 
death, destruction and chaos  wrecked cities, villages and farms; water 
systems destroyed; families decimated. It also left a trail of bitterness 
among the Iraqi population.

While the US military controls main thoroughfares and key points, the 
majority of the country's population is not under US or British control, 
Middle East expert Stephen Zunes told the People's Weekly World.

Zunes, a professor of politics at the University of San Francisco, said he 
expects the US will be facing "ongoing guerrilla war for a long, long 
time."

"This is a foreign policy disaster", Zunes said. By placing itself as an 
occupying force in the heart of the Mid-East, he said, the US has put 
itself in a "counter-insurgency situation", and could end up alienating the 
majority of the population.

The number of civilians killed now tops 1200, with thousands more horribly 
injured. The latest civilian deaths include several foreign journalists 
killed by US fire.

More than 100 US soldiers have been reported killed, with others wounded 
and missing.

As the US assault ravaged Baghdad, the International Committee of the Red 
Cross reported hundreds of civilian victims arriving at hospitals each day. 
Many are children.

Ali Ismail Abbas, 12, was asleep when a missile destroyed his home and most 
of his family, leaving him orphaned, badly burned, and with both arms blown 
off.

"It was midnight when the missile fell on us. My father, my mother and my 
brother died. My mother was five months pregnant", the sweet-faced, 
traumatised boy told Reuters from his hospital bed.

Safa Karim, 11, was struck in the stomach by an American bomb fragment. 
Near death, bleeding internally, she writhed in pain with a massive bandage 
on her stomach, a tube down her nose and four scarves holding her wrists 
and ankles to the hospital bed. A relative said, "She has been given 10 
bottles of drugs and she has vomited them all up."

Baghdad hospitals are overwhelmed and running out of supplies, and face 
power and water outages.

Basra, Iraq's second largest city with a population of 1.5 million, has an 
acute shortage of drinkable water and signs of dysentery in children.

"This war has further degraded an already precarious situation", said 
Nathaniel Raymond, a spokesperson for Oxfam, an international aid 
organization.

Iraq was in crisis before the war due to 12 years of economic sanctions, he 
told the People's Weekly World. Now, because of the instability 
created by the US-British invasion, Oxfam and other aid workers are sitting 
at border crossings in Syria and Jordan, unable to reach those in need.

They are waiting for security to be re-established under a United Nations 
presence that will enable them to carry out their humanitarian mission.

Ten members of Abid Hassan Hamoodi's family were killed by two US missiles 
that destroyed their house in Basra. Hamoodi, 72, told the Washington Post 
he lost his wife, a daughter, a son and seven grandchildren. He dug out 
three other family members from the collapsed brick with his bare hands.

"What was the purpose of the American invasion of Iraq?" he asked the US 
reporter. "Was it to topple Saddam Hussein, or to kill innocent people? ... 
You came to save us, to protect us. That's what you said. It's now the 
contrary. Innocent people are killed."

Hamoodi, a retired oil company manager and head of a prominent Shiite 
Muslim family, voiced an anger widely expressed by Iraqis. Though they 
welcome the end of the hated Saddam Hussein regime, many are enraged by the 
civilian casualties and humanitarian disaster caused by the US-British 
invasion on top of years of punitive sanctions.

"I won't shed any tears for Saddam Hussein", Hazzim Yousif, an Iraqi-
American from Michigan, told the World. "How come all of a sudden the US 
Government doesn't like him? It's the apex of hypocrisy. His party was put 
in power by the US"

Progressives in Iraq oppose war and dictatorship, Yousif said. They wanted 
the world community to topple Saddam peacefully through the UN. "Now the US 
has stepped into a swamp."

"The Bush administration is already giving contracts to American companies 
[for Iraq] like they own the place", Yousif said, "but they are going to 
find Iraq a very difficult country to rule and exploit.

"The Iraqi people have a great history of resisting foreign invaders. If 
the Americans think they can install a puppet government, the Iraqi people 
are going to reject it."

Stanford University history professor Joel Beinin says the Iraq war "has 
the potential to be a mess on all fronts."

The war is part of a broader Bush administration foreign policy that 
Americans should be concerned about, he told the World. "It's important to 
start talking about American imperialism."

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The author can be reached at suewebb@pww.org People's Weekly World http://www.pww.org

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