Wednesday, April 9, 2003

On Basra

A more detailed account of how it fell and the tensions between Baath party operatives and the Iraqi army

the "rough" justice of looting, beatings and lynchings that is emerging there.

What is most interesting to me is that two days ago, the Brits announced that they were working with a local "sheik" (now identified as a "local cleric") to bring leadership and order to the city, but he was not named then, and still has not been named.

More from CNN here which describes a situation in which looting is no longer an oppressed people "letting off steam" against government buildings and Baath party offices, but involves guys with AK-47's robbing stores, getting away with it because there's no law enforcement, and looters moving on to the factories and business that we would assume would be needed for the city to get back on its feeet.

And still more

THEY lay in ambush all along the road to Basra, waiting every few yards: children, old men and youths with angry stares, cupping hands to their mouths, begging for water. If you slowed down or stopped, you risked the attention of snipers who were waiting yesterday amid the rubble of bombed-out buildings on all the main approaches to the city. Every few minutes a shot rang out, scattering those begging for water and sending cars careering off in all directions. If the snipers missed, those congregating on the roadside waiting for water took a pot shot at you with a rock. The passing column of British armoured vehicles was given the same treatment as they charged back into Basra, too busy to stop to dole out food or water, so they, too, were met with a fusillade of stones and abuse from the thirsty bystanders.


In a first step towards order, the Brits have started a gun amnesty program

But it is the high number of guns known to be in circulation that is now causing concern.An "amnesty pit" has been created close to one British compound in the city in the hope residents will dump their guns.

Captain Cliff Dare, of 3 Commando Brigade Engineer Group, said: "An amnesty is essential."Iraq has a culture of weapons. There are a lot of them around, most held quite legally."If we want to give the new Iraq a chance these weapons have to be taken out of circulation."