Saturday, April 12, 2003

Portraits of looting, said to be overplayed by certain US officials:

The National Museum of Iraq

Officials with crumpled spirits fought back tears and anger at American troops, as they ran down an inventory of the most storied items that they said had been carried away by the thousands of looters who poured into the museum after daybreak on Thursday and remained until dusk on Friday, with only one intervention by American troops, lasting about half an hour, at lunchtime on Thursday.

Nothing remained, museum officials said, at least nothing of real value, from a museum that had been regarded by archaeologists and other specialists as perhaps the richest of all such institutions in the Middle East.

As examples of what was gone, the official cited a harp in solid gold from the Sumerian era, which began about 3360 B.C. and started to crumble about 2000 B.C. Another item on their list of looted antiquities was a sculptured head of a woman from Uruk, one of the great Sumerian cities, dating to about the same era, and a collection of gold necklaces, bracelets and earrings, also from the Sumerian dynasties and also at least 4,000 years old.

From Kirkuk

Following the fall of Kirkuk on Thursday a man staggered from the shattered dispensary of the air base hospital carrying a crate of the malaria drug chloroquin. Asked what he intended to do it with it he replied: "What's malaria?"

hospitals in Baghdad

hospitals in Mosul

...and all over the place. As I wrote in a comment, of course this should be expected - which is why the Coalition forces should have expected it. You won't find any criticism here of Iraqis looting presidential palaces and some government facilities, but this is a terrible problem, not just because so many important facilities are being destroyed and must be rebuilt, but because there's a chance that records are being destroyed in the process, and most importantly, that the situation will careen into violence as a very heavily-armed Iraqi population starts taking matters into its own hands, which then could very well escalate into ethnic and religious violence...

The Coalition has put itself into a very difficult situation here. They don't want to be policemen for many reasons - it deepens the impression that they are occupiers, the means they might have to turn to have the potential of turning portions of the population against them...a sticky wicket, as they say.

But I find it astonishing that no one foresaw this - I mean, the military is famous for its multiplicity of war plans, its efforts to account for every contigency or consequence...right?

And I won't even mention the account I read that indicated that the marines had, straight away, put barbed wire and armed guards around the Oil Ministry, while allowing the other ministries to be looted and burned....

Oops. I guess I already did.