2003 April 27 Sunday
John Burns Says Iraqis Want Order, Order, Order

Writing for The New York Times John Burns reports that the people in Iraq want order first and foremost.

Many of these Iraqis have no wider ambitions for the moment than to get back, at least, to some semblance of the order they had under Mr. Hussein. They want to return to their jobs. They want their neighborhood schools and banks and groceries and cafes reopened. They want hospitals and clinics to operate normally again. They want effective police patrols back on their streets, and gunmen disarmed or behind bars. They want electrical power running to their wall plugs again, and water flowing from their taps.

Ask them their priorities, and the answer is invariably: order, order, order.

Imagine that. The people in Iraq want police protection. Why are there too few US soldiers in Baghdad to provide order? Could it be that Donald Rumsfeld just doesn't care? Is this neglect a result of the attitude in the US military that they don't do peacekeeping because peacekeeping is for sissies? Or is the US military's logistic capacity so limited that it can not support the presence of a few divisions of soldiers in Baghdad? I do not see a plausible explanation other than "we just do not care all that much".

People are dying because hospitals do not have a reliable source of electricity.

Under different circumstances, the victim, identified later as Kamal Sultan, might have had a chance. Here, the doctors flailed about with outdated equipment plugged in to dead sockets. They massaged Mr. Sultan's chest, and his heart murmured and skipped. They soaked up his blood with bandages and napkins, but it kept spilling onto the floor.

I think the United States government is being monumentally stupid in its handling of post-war Iraq. A single truck could haul up a generator big enough to supply electricity to a hospital. Enough generators to run all the hospitals in Baghdad probably would weigh about the same weight as a couple of M1 Abrams tanks. It is hard to argue that the United States lacks the logistical capacity to fix rather quickly some things about life in Iraq that are very visibly broken.

If the United States did not bring enough trucks to Kuwait to move supplies up more quickly then why not? If it had no plan for a rapid supply for the hospitals of Baghdad then why not? The United States could have bought precious good will fairly cheaply. Electric generators, a lot of cheap generic drugs, and guards to protect all the hospitals (the guards even could have been recruited in advance from friendly Arab nations such as Morocco and Jordan), and a few other things done to facilitate the provision of basic health care would have generated a great deal needed good will.

Baghdad lacks order.

Outside the partly burned-out police station, a man holding a piece of gauze to his bloodied nose and mouth got out of a car to report to some of Mr. Razzaq's colleagues that he had just been shot at and assaulted. The police officers, dressed in olive-green uniforms and lounging in the shade, explained that there was nothing they could do.

"Where is the security that the Americans promised to provide the Iraqis?" the man said angrily before storming back to his car.

We need the trust of the Iraqi people. We need years to work toward building the kind of civil society that will support a democracy in Iraq. The place is split by sectarian and ethnic divisions. Some Mullahs are calling for an Islamic theocracy. The people are suffering the effects of extended totalitarian rule. Governments of some neighboring countries are trying to destabilize the place and make US rule difficult. In the face of all these problems the negligent US approach to post-war Iraq is eating away at the good will generated by the overthrow of Saddam.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 April 27 11:37 AM  Mideast Iraq Decay


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