'They Did The Destroying. So Why Can't They Get Everything Working Again?'
Saturday 19 April 2003
BAGHDAD - As the stifling heat of the summer begins to bite in Baghdad and the rare trickle from the tap turns a sludge brown, the people of Baghdad are still waiting for the Americans to restore electricity and water.
The most senior US military officer in the Iraqi capital, Major-General James Mattis, had pledged that power would be back by yesterday. "Getting the water, the power, the trash back up, that's absolutely critical," he said.
Instead, parts of the city which had some supplies over the past few days found even they had been cut off. The Palestine Hotel, where the international media and US Marines are based, was without water and, after midday, electricity.
Baghdad, whose public services were once of First World standard, has slipped back 100 years. As well as the lack of power, the telephone system has not worked for more than two weeks since the Americans bombed the exchanges.
Eleven days after US forces occupied the city and four days after their engineers were supposed to have begun working around the clock at the power plants, the lack of amenities is fuelling the anti-American feeling in the streets. "They did the destroying, why can't they repair them?" is the most common question.
Thirty-five Baghdad hospitals are closed because of looting and arson. The three still functioning are reporting water-borne diseases. And this is in a country where, Unicef reports show, the destruction of the previous war brought typhoid, dysentery, hepatitis, cholera and polio. The diseases had already reached endemic proportions and were the prime killer of children under five.
Recently declassified documents of the American Defence Intelligence Agency show the Allies deliberately targeted Iraq's water supply during the previous conflict. Twelve years on, half the country's water treatment plants are still out of action.
The US and Britain are blocking 14 deals valued at $22m ( 14m) for water and sewage treatment under the UN oil-for food deal because the material involved is deemed to have military as well as civilian use.
There is no evidence of such targeted destruction by the Americans and the British this time. But gas pipelines and diesel stocks were bombed, crippling the power stations.
General Mattis had said the US military is helping the Iraqis with technical expertise and material. But at the Durah plant, which once supplied 30 per cent of electricity for Baghdad, the American airborne regiments were there only to guard the premises.
Janan Matti, the director of the plant, said: "I had asked the Americans if they could spare us some diesel, but they said they did not have any. As far as the work is concerned, we are doing it ourselves.
"The main problem is that we need compressed gas to start the turbines. The pipelines have been damaged by bombing and we are now repairing them. The gas comes from Kirkuk and we need to talk to people there about supplies. But because the telephone system was destroyed we cannot communicate. We had kept the system going until 5 April by people staying here and working in shifts. But then the pipeline was bombed and we had to shut down all the units.
"Before the war, 600 people worked at Durah. About half of them have returned. That is not an immediate problem. I can provide power with what I have got. But what we need is the compressed gas.
"I am surprised the Americans think power can be restored now when we have not got that. I think it will probably be next week before we can restore power."
The Saba Nissan water treatment project, north of Baghdad, was kept operational during the bombing by staff who stayed behind. A fierce battle between US and Iraqi forces behind the plant left the area strewn with destroyed tanks and armoured cars and spent shells.
"We had bombs and shells going off right next to here, but fortunately the plant itself was not hit," Hashim Hassan, the general manager, said. "Three of our 12 diesel generators are out of order because of lack of spare parts. Our engineers are trying to repair them, but I do not know how much longer they are going to be." US soldiers are also guarding this plant. They arrived after Mr Hassan and 12 of his staff, along with seven human shields had fought off gangs of armed looters for three days and nights.
"We were expecting the violence, so along with our equipment and food we had also kept some weapons here," Mr Hassan said. "One of the human shields, an American, was a former soldier and he took one of our guns, an AK-47, and kept guard. The looters were shooting at us and we were shooting back at them."
Mr Hassan, 43, stayed at the plant with his workers, going home for short visits to check on his wife, Hana, and six-month-old daughter, Gid. "Of course all our families were worried," he said. "But what we were doing was essential work and they understood that."
Dikra Mohammed, 33, the operations manager, went home at night. "I suppose it is because I am a woman. My parents insisted that I go home," she said. "It is odd that everyone went through such a lot to keep this place going and now, with the Americans in charge, with all their resources, there is such difficulty with electricity and water. It is strange."
Iraqis Protest U.S. Occupation
By Hassan Hafidh
Saturday 19 April 2003
BAGHDAD - Tens of thousands of protesters demanded on Friday that the United States get out of Iraq while leaders of the Arab nation's neighbors meeting in Saudi Arabia also called for U.S. forces to leave quickly and warned Washington against trying to exploit Iraq's oil wealth.
In the biggest protest since U.S. forces toppled Saddam Hussein's iron-fisted, 24-year-long rule nine days ago, Muslims poured out of mosques and into the streets of Baghdad, calling for an Islamic state to be established.
Carrying Korans, prayer mats and banners, tens of thousands of people marched in a protest that organizers said represented both Iraq's majority Shi'ite Muslims and powerful Sunnis.
"Leave our country, we want peace," read one banner. "No Bush, No Saddam, Yes Yes to Islam," read another.
Meanwhile, while the United States pressed ahead with its plans for a post-war Iraq, foreign ministers of the country's neighbors meeting in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, called on the United Nations to take a central role in rebuilding the country.
U.S. officials told Reuters in Kuwait the United Nations must lift sanctions within weeks to help the country recover, but Washington faces an uphill battle to get them dropped quickly as the issue raises questions over who controls Iraq's oil and thus who in effect runs the country.
"In order for U.S. forces to withdraw as soon as possible, we call on the occupying authority to set up a transitional government quickly and make all efforts to set up a broad-based constitutional Iraqi government," said an opening statement read at the meeting.
After the meeting, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal told reporters that the U.S.-led forces who invaded Iraq had no legitimate right to exploit its oil and U.N. sanctions should end only when Iraq has a legitimate government.
"Now Iraq is under an occupying power and any request for lifting sanctions must come when there is a legitimate government which represents the people... and which can comply with its duties toward lifting sanctions," Faisal said.
"(The ministers) affirmed that the Iraqi people should administer and govern their country by themselves, and any exploitation of their natural resources should be in conformity with the will of the legitimate Iraqi government and its people," Faisal said.
FRIENDS OF THE U.S.
Barring Syria and Iran, all participants at the talks are key U.S. allies that offered some form of support for the invasion. But they all fear the United States will install a puppet regime in Iraq which would ally itself with Israel.
The U.S. Central Command in Qatar said Iraqi Kurds had captured and handed over Samir Abul Aziz al-Najim, a senior Baghdad official of Saddam's Baath Party, near Mosul in northern Iraq.
He was on a U.S. list of 55 most-wanted Iraqis. U.S. Brigadier General Vincent Brooks told a news briefing Najim may have been posted to northern Iraq to take command of some military operations there.
Later U.S. officials in Washington said that an Iraqi official who had been involved in the country's suspected nerve gas program had surrendered to U.S. forces and was being interrogated.
Imad Husayn Abdallah al-Ani, who was not on the U.S. military's list of 55 most-wanted Iraqi officials, recently turned himself in to U.S. forces in Iraq but is denying that the country was developing weapons of mass destruction, a U.S. official said.
He was involved in Iraq's suspected program to produce the VX nerve agent about a decade ago, but it was unclear what his most recent involvement might have been, the official said.
Asked how big a fish he was, the official replied: "He is not a minnow and he is not a whale."
So far, four of the top 55 most-wanted officials have either been captured or surrendered. Besides a-Najim, the three other leading Iraqis held by U.S. forces are Saddam's half-brothers Barzan and Watban Ibrahim Hasan al-Tikriti, and top scientific adviser Amer Hammoudi al-Saadi.
Abu Dhabi television, meanwhile, aired footage it said showed Saddam and his son Qusay addressing a crowd in Baghdad from the top of a car on April 9 -- the day the city fell.
The state-run channel also played an audio tape which it said was the last radio speech broadcast by Saddam, but it was not clear when the speech was thought to have been recorded.
Abu Dhabi TV said the pictures were shot in the northern Aadhamiya district and that the video tape had been obtained by its Baghdad correspondent from undisclosed sources.
A U.S. intelligence official said the United States would review it to determine whether Saddam, target of at least two bombing raids aimed directly at him, had indeed survived.
In the audio tape, the voice said to be that of Saddam called on Iraqis to make sacrifices "to protect our land and our rights."
It added, "Regardless of the time needed to achieve victory and regardless of the forms of the struggle that might be needed, regardless of the length of the occupation, the freedom of the people is the most important."
Abu Dhabi TV said the pictures were taken on the same day U.S. tanks drove into central Baghdad and Iraqis toppled a massive statue of Saddam.
Organizers of Friday's mass demonstration in Baghdad called themselves the Iraqi National United Movement. The protest served notice of the hostility that the United States, which has appointed a retired American general to lead an interim administration in Iraq, is likely to face from sectors of the influential Muslim clergy.
The United States is now turning its focus to kick-starting Iraq's shattered economy, hit by three wars in 23 years and economic sanctions since 1990.
U.S. officials, briefing Reuters on condition of anonymity, said the U.N. must lift sanctions within weeks to help Iraq recover and added the United States would open Iraq's borders to tariff-free trade for 90 days once the U.N. embargo was lifted.
They also forecast Iraq could not rely on using its oil revenues for about a year until it sorted out its debt, estimated at more than $100 billion, and war reparation claims.
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