Wednesday | April 09, 2003
Looting breaks out in Baghdad, British control looting in Basra
Saddam regime crumbles in Baghdad
The government of Saddam Hussein appears to be disintegrating in Baghdad, with US troops expanding their control and looting breaking out in the eastern part of the city.
Jubilant Iraqis have greeted arriving marines in the Shia stronghold of Saddam City, the BBC's Andrew Gilligan in Baghdad reports.
United Nations offices have been ransacked and the Olympic Committee building - headquarters of Saddam Hussein's elder son Uday - set on fire.
The collapse of order has made it too dangerous for the International Committee of the Red Cross to work in Baghdad at the moment, a spokeswoman in Geneva told the BBC.
It would be extremely premature to say it's over. There may be many fierce days of fighting ahead
US Navy Captain Frank Thorp
Spokeswoman Nada Doumani said the situation was "chaotic and unpredictable" and movement involved what she called "incalculable risks".
Television pictures showed people kicking images of Saddam Hussein and carrying off everything from elaborate vases to office furniture.
British soldiers are taking the first steps to restore order to the southern Iraqi city of Basra as looting begins to subside.
The move comes as coalition forces said they are planning to hold a regional conference very soon to establish political leadership for the whole of southern Iraq.
British officers have been working with the remnants of Basra's police force and have asked a local cleric to set up a committee to help bring the streets under control as they start to tackle lawlessness.
In one episode British soldiers foiled a raid on a bank vault, military spokesmen said.
It was also reported that one looter had been stoned to death after an angry mob rounded on four men caught stealing from shops.
They're happy today, because the Marines mean Saddam is gone. What happens when those same Marines have to give them orders directed from the new US governor of the province? Will they be happy then?
If this is liberation, why didn't they fight, and why did they loot their own city? No cops, no soldiers, just a power vacuum. What bothers me is what will they do when we try to impose not just basic order, but a military government.
There are so many armed people running around. They didn't surrender, they weren't killed. The US has to do something to get those weapons under control. There are armed fighters from all over the Arab world, armed Saddam loyalists, no chemical weapons found, Shia clerics and a 15,000 man guerrilla army.
Remember, the Catholics were happy to see the British Army in Belfast in 1969. They were there to protect tyhe Catholics from Protestant mobs. It only took weeks before the stones started flying.
As I have said before, beating Saddam is the easy part. Bringing order will not be. The Shia are happy to see Saddam gone. They were also happy to loot their city to the walls. Will they accept the US governor with the same joy? Maybe. But the political manuvering going on indicates that may not be the case. If Sistani and al-Bakir start saying the US needs to leave quickly, the tone may change very fast.
History is not fortune telling. Maybe I'm wrong about the Iraqi character. Maybe they'll accept the US governors with little question. Maybe they need western help. But if they don't, we'll be wishing for the return of order. Maybe not Saddam, but his rule has not been much different than the other people who've run Iraq. Maybe more gaudy, but not radically different.
Saddam was the last spokesman for a discreted theory: Arab Nationalism. It turned from a tool of liberation to a mafia-like scam. The new radicals are Islamic revivalists like Osama Bin Laden. One other point: the neo-con plans expected the Iraqi Army to remain in place. It clearly hasn't. It didn't fight, it didn't desert, it went away, presumably with its weapons intact. The generals went away as well. The soldiers were ordered to disband. They didn't just quit, because people would have been shot for refusing orders.
Maybe they decided not to fight for Saddam, watching their opposition decimated in fierce attacks against the Americans, but keep enough power to make an occupation very uncomfortable. And I'll repeat, Iran and Syria's national survival may depend on creating the most difficult occupation possible.
The organized fighting may well be over, which is good. But just listening to the radio, I think Americans may well be in for a brutal shock in that getting rid of Saddam didn't solve the problem. Americans are not good with subtlities. We expect problems to be solved. Saddam gone. problem solved. Well, no. Saddam gone, different problems erupt.
One other point: the Iraqi government may have toppled, but it did so in the worst, most dangerous, disorganized way possible. There is no one Iraqi who can impose any kind of order and we don't have enough men to do it without relying on what could turn into local warlords. The next few days will be very interesting.
Steve GilliardPosted April 09, 2003 05:30 AM | Comments (299)