June 27, 2003

The New Iraq Two unrelated

The New Iraq

Two unrelated stories on happenings in Iraq give us a window into the astounding complexities at play several months into the U.S. led occupation.

First, Max Rodenbeck in the NYRB:

"Firdaus Square, the Baghdad traffic circle made famous by the telegenic toppling of a Saddam statue, has become a shambolic open-air parliament where pamphleteers and soap-box orators compete for attention. Today, the biggest crowd clusters around a stout, bearded fellow who is shouting that the Americans are infidels. They steal the country's oil while leaving Muslim Iraqis to suffer mile-long queues for gasoline. Someone starts a chant, "Sunni and Shiite are brothers, this country is not for sale!" The crowd takes it up with vigor and much punching of fists. Traffic has already slowed when into the jam plows a convoy of Humvees. The soldiers manning turret-mounted machine guns look increasingly nervous as the vehicles find themselves blocked behind a long line of cars. The protesters now have a focus for their anger, and the shouting redoubles. I am beginning to calculate the fastest way to get out of range.

But suddenly there is a sound at a different pitch, a shrill cry from the back of a Humvee. "C'mon guys, let's move it along here!" Heads swivel, and hundreds of eyes seek the source of this recognizably female voice. She is, by some freak of fate, the closest thing in the US Army to Marilyn Monroe, fresh-faced, with blond curls tumbling from an oversized Kevlar helmet. A hush passes through the crowd, followed by a spontaneous, deep-throated roar of approval worthy of the corniest of Italian movies. The soldier, unable to contain a huge and even prettier smile, gives an apologetic wave of her assault rifle, and then the traffic suddenly eases and the convoy speeds off."

And this WaPo article:

"The popular anger and frustration are being exacerbated by rumors sweeping the city that occupation authorities cut off services to punish Iraqis for the recent attacks on U.S. troops.

U.S. officials have repeatedly tried to explain the reasons behind their difficulties restarting power, including decaying facilities and sabotage, but most Iraqis are unaware of their pronouncements. Without electricity, they cannot watch television, and there is no widely circulated Arabic-language newspaper that reflects the U.S. point of view.

"Rumor has become a fifth column for the Americans," said Sabih Azzawi, who led protests against a U.S. decision, later reversed, to disband the Iraqi military. "Rumors are very dangerous when the situation is so unsettled." Azzawi said Hussein's supporters were behind the anti-American rumors."

Later:

Khamer Fakri Qaedhi, a truck driver who described himself as a vociferous critic of Hussein in the days after his fall, said a printed death threat was thrown into his home this week -- one of a number received by city residents.

"The Supreme Council of the Return Party legally will kill you," the note said. "We will chop off your rotten head and put it on the tanks of your American cousins and feed your body to the dogs." The note was signed by "The Supreme Council for the Black Flags Group."

Posted by Gregory at June 27, 2003 08:29 AM
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