Finally, Iraqis are free

sateesh narahari sati_home at
Fri Apr 11 12:56:55 PDT 2003

Is this freedom, ask Iraqis as chaos reigns
By David Fox 

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The Iraqi capital sank into
anarchy on Friday as residents went on a looting spree
in full view of U.S. forces. 

As troops still battled to contain pockets of Iraqi
fighters scattered around the city, thousands of
ordinary citizens helped themselves to anything they
could lay their hands on in shops, factories, schools,
hospitals and government buildings. 

Young and old, men and women rifled through
bomb-damaged buildings as well as areas unaffected by

"Is this your liberation?" one frustrated shopkeeper
screamed at the crew of a U.S. tank as a gang of
youths helped themselves to everything in his small
hardware store and carted booty off in the
wheelbarrows that had also been on sale. 

"Hell, it ain't my job to stop them," drawled one
young marine, lighting a cigarette as he looked on.
"Goddamn Iraqis will steal anything if you let them.
Look at them." 

But for those not helping themselves to their
new-found freedom, mounting anger was being directed
at the U.S. forces for doing nothing to stop the

"For God's sake, how can they just let them do this?
This is my life," one old man cried as a gang used
crowbars to remove the security mesh from the Anwar
electrical repair shop in the centre and began carting
off dozens of air conditioners. 


To Iraqis, the United States appears not to have given
any thought to the power vacuum created by removing
Saddam Hussein. 

The Iraqi president's trickledown system of patronage
meant that anyone in any position of authority -- from
traffic police to government functionaries -- has been
tainted by association and has melted into the

Some have taken to looting themselves, knowing where
the best stuff is. 

"She worked here, she can't have it, she worked
here..." shouted one woman as she wrestled another
woman for material in a government supply office. 

Well-to-do Baghdadis said they feared the onset of the
night, convinced that thieves would flood their
streets from Saddam City, the slum suburb in
north-eastern Baghdad. 

"We just want peace and security. We don't feel safe,
we don't sleep at night," said Abdul Hattan, an
entomologist, begging a patrolling unit of U.S Marines
to stay in the area during darkness. 

Marines have tried to restore confidence by traversing
some districts on foot, seizing weapons caches and
investigating local claims of torture centres. But
they are too few, too thinly-spread and restricted by
fears for their safety. 

"They want protection at night but there is not much
we can do," said Marine Lieutenant Brian Von Kraus.
"There is not much we can tell them. We can't act as
policemen all the time." 

In some neighbourhoods residents erected makeshift
roadblocks and formed local watch groups to stop

But some looters told U.S. troops the roadblocks had
been erected by militiamen, prompting tanks to crash
through them and sometimes opening fire on houses
where neighbourhood watch groups were gathered. 


The city's hospitals were overflowing with civilians
injured by what they said was U.S. shelling or firing
and at one, the dead were being buried in the garden. 

Dozens of corpses lay rotting by roadsides or in cars
blown up by U.S. forces as they captured Baghdad. 

Near the airport, volunteers wearing face masks and
rubber gloves used shovels to scrape human remains
from the burnt-out wrecks of cars, trucks and buses,
just metres away from U.S. forces and their tanks. 

With no possibility of identification, corpses were
being buried in shallow graves on the roadside. 

"This is going to cause a major problem for sanitation
and the water system," a U.S. army engineer officer
told Reuters. 

Nearby, the corpse of an airport worker rolled around
in the current of a pool created when a U.S. bomb
struck a water mains. 

"That's 'bubbling Bob'," said one soldier. "Been there
a while. I ain't gonna fish him out. Let the Iraqis do

-- Additional reporting by Sean Maguire 

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