Wednesday, April 9, 2003

Trying to bring order to Basra

For instance, in their first official act to try to establish order, British offficials said they had been in contact with a local sheikh, whom they would not name, to help form a council to begin to administer the city.But in interviews across the city, people said today that that would be a disaster.

"All the sheikhs in Basra were friends with Saddam," said Dr. Riva Kasim, a general practitioner in Basra General Hospital. "All the time Saddam gave money to them, and they watched as he would cut someone's ear who did not join the military or cut off someone's tongue who spoke out against the military."Although he did not know what sheikh the British had in mind, he said it did not matter. "All the sheikhs and tribal leaders are bad," he said.As he spoke alongside the Shatt al-Arab waterway that cuts through Basra, a crowd of about two dozen men quickly formed. They all agreed with the doctor."First, we want to thank the British and American army for giving us our freedom," said Abdul Aziz al-Salami. "But, if they put these people in power, there will be a revolt."