The world press on the war

"If it weren't for the liberal press, we might have taken Baghdad last time," says one U.S sergeant in Iraq. Plus other statements not quoted in American mainstream media.

Published March 25, 2003 5:41PM (EST)

United Kingdom, James Meek in the Guardian

Hopes of a joyful liberation of a grateful Iraq by US and British armies are evaporating fast in the Euphrates valley as a sense of bitterness, germinated from blood spilled and humiliations endured, begins to grow in the hearts of invaded and invader alike.

Attempts by US marines to take bridges over the river Euphrates, which passes through Nassiriya, have become bogged down in casualties and troops taken prisoner. The marines, in turn, have responded harshly.

A surgical assistant at the Saddam hospital in Nassiriya, interviewed at a marine check point outside the city, said that on Sunday, half an hour after two dead marines were brought into the hospital, US aircraft dropped what he described as three or four cluster bombs on civilian areas, killing 10 and wounding 200.

The marines are aggrieved: aggrieved that the Iraqis aren't more grateful, aggrieved that the Iraqis are shooting at them, aggrieved that the US army's spearhead 3rd Infantry Division tore through Nassiriya earlier in the invasion without making it safe.

And the Iraqis are aggrieved at the marines. A 50-year-old businessman and farmer, Said Yahir, was driving up to the main body of the reconnaissance unit, stationed under the bridge. He wanted to know why the marines had come to his house and taken his son Nathen, his Kalashnikov rifle, and his 3m dinars (about #500).

"What did I do?" he said. "This is your freedom that you're talking about? This is my life savings."

In 1991, in the wake of Iraq's defeat in the first Gulf war, Mr Yahir was one of those who joined the rebellion against Saddam Hussein. His house was shelled by the dictator's artillery. The US refused to intervene and the rebellion was crushed.

"Saddam would have fallen if they had supported us," Mr Yahir said. "I've been so humiliated."

Under the bridge, Sergeant Michael Sprague was unrepentant. The money, the marines said, was probably destined for terrorist activities -- buying a suicide bomber, for instance. "The same people we determined were safe yesterday were found with weapons today," he said....

Nathen had been captured the previous day, along with dozens of others, and like them, had been let go, Sgt Sprague said. Then they caught him again with a Kalashnikov in mint condition and 3m dinars.

"So the question I would like to be asked is, if this person already went through EPW [enemy prisoner of war] questioning and was found to be OK, why on earth would he come back? The problem with these people is that you can't believe anything they say."

Could he understand the locals' distrust of the US after what happened in 1991?

"If it weren't for the liberal press, we might have taken Baghdad last time," said the sergeant.

In the end the marines let father and son go on their way with gun and money, accepting that both were for personal use. But Sgt Sprague was none too happy to see them go. The convoys have, after all, come under sporadic mortar attack. "There's a mad mortarman out there," he said.

Pakistan, Pratap Chatterjee in the Daily Times

As the first bombs rain down on Baghdad, thousands of employees of Halliburton, Vice President Dick Cheney's former company, are working alongside US troops in Kuwait and Turkey under a package deal worth close to a billion dollars. According to US Army sources, they are building tent cities and providing logistical support for the war in Iraq in addition to other hot spots in the "war on terrorism" ...

In December 2001, Kellogg, Brown and Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton, secured a 10-year deal known as the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP), from the Pentagon. The contract is a "cost-plus-award-fee, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity service" which basically means that the federal government has an open-ended mandate and budget to send Brown and Root anywhere in the world to run military operations for a profit.

The current contract in Kuwait began in September 2002 when Joyce Taylor of the US Army Materiel Command's Program Management Office, arrived to supervise approximately 1,800 Brown and Root employees to set up tent cities that would provide accommodation for tens of thousands of soldiers and officials. Army officials working with Brown and Root say the collaboration is helping cut costs by hiring local labor at a fraction of regular Army salaries. ...

During the past few weeks, these Brown and Root employees have helped transform Kuwait into an armed camp, to support some 80,000 foreign troops, roughly the equivalent of 10 percent of Kuwait's native-born population.

Most of these troops are now living in the tent cities in the rugged desert north of Kuwait City, poised to invade Iraq. Some of the encampments are named after the states associated with the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 -- Camp New York, Camp Virginia and Camp Pennsylvania. The headquarters for this effort is Camp Arifjan, where civilian and military employees have built a gravel terrace with plastic picnic tables and chairs, surrounded by a gymnasium in a tent, a PX and newly arrived fast food outlets such as Burger King, Subway and Baskin-Robbins, set up in trailers or shipping containers. Basketball hoops and volleyball nets are set up outside the mess hall.

United Kingdom, Subhy Haddad in the BBC World Service

I was taken with several other journalists by the Iraqi Ministry of Information to visit the al-Nouman hospital in northern Baghdad.

A surgeon in the hospital, Issam Jassim Hadi, said 29 people had been injured in a missile or bomb attack on northern Baghdad at noon (0900 GMT). Five of the injured died on the way to hospital, he said.

The surgeon said most of those injured by these attacks, which destroyed at least seven houses, were children and women. Most of them were seriously wounded.

We interviewed some of the injured who were able to speak. One of them, a 12-year-old girl, Shad Khalil, said that all the six members of her family were seriously injured when the missiles fell on the area she lives in.

We asked some of the injured whether there were any military targets in the area.

They all said the only famous building in the area was the Royal Cemetery, where the old kings of Iraq are buried.

Do the people on the streets believe America is trying to avoid civilian casualties? It is hard to see how when they see residential areas being hit.

Turkey, Mehmet Ali Birand in the Turkish Daily News

Frankly, as many other observers I had thought that the Northern Iraqi Kurds would benefit from the new order to be established in postwar Iraq.

The widely-held view was that the Kurdish leaders, namely, Talabani and Barzani, would have increased influence in the post-Saddam period, and that the region would become a "gravity center".

The officials in Ankara subscribe to that idea. In fact, they take this further. They actually take military measures against the possibility of an independent Kurdistan getting established.

Today Kurds are acting as if they have an independent state. They conduct their own policies the way they like.

Under the new system that will not be so easy.

Kurds will constitute part of the Iraqi Federation and the policies to be determined in Baghdad will impose limits on them.

Many people are sorry now that Turkey has not enabled the USA to open up a Northern front, that Turkey has dragged its feet and thus played havoc with the American plans, and that, in return, Turkey has lost the opportunity to enter Northern Iraq at ease as well as the opportunity to have its losses offset. We have played wrongly. We have received bad advice about the tactics to be used. We have scored a goal against our own team. Leave that aside now. Close up the old books. In this or that manner Parliament said "No." There is no sense in wallowing in regret.

Let us focus on what we can do from now on. Let us try to score new goals.

China, Letter in the Globalist

[Editor's note: A Chinese government official in Beijing recently wrote to an old family friend in his home village ... an act of courtesy he has observed for many years. Patrick Smith, our Asia Editor, received a copy of his letter ... and was asked that it be published anonymously.]

Americans now hope for a swift and dramatic victory in Iraq. They view the exercise as a great display of power that will be the beginning of a project to remake the Middle East in their own image.

It is breathtaking in its hubris, but it expresses the essence of the unilateral perspective as the Americans entertain it: To triumph over others ... and then refashion them to conform to the American vision.

It is a view predicated on the supremacy of American power as the defining characteristic of our time.

No one here in Beijing questions the supremacy of American might. But we recognize America's status as a sole superpower as an interim.

It will be followed in the not-distant future by a world in which multilateralism is the basis of order ... and where no one can act alone. That is the lesson the Americans have to learn to their great surprise.

China is not as powerful now as it one day will be. But it is making itself strong. America is now powerful, but it is making itself weak.

It is isolating itself internationally at precisely the moment it should be maturing as a world leader.

There are times when one need do little but watch and wait as those whom one opposes on one matter or another make even bigger mistakes. We Chinese have had many more centuries than the Americans to grasp this truth.

Qatar, Afshin Molavi in Al-Jazeera

In a wide-ranging opinion survey of Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and Saudi Arabia conducted by a prestigious American polling firm, respondents rejected every premise the U.S. President has laid out as justification for war.

John Zogby, whose prestigious polling firm, Zogby International, conducted the poll on behalf of the University of Maryland, said: "The poll results are an indication of how American policy-makers have lost touch with the region. While frustration with US policies was broadly predictable, I was startled by the high numbers."

On the issue of whether war will reduce terrorism, an average of 83 per cent said that war will actually increase the prospect of terrorism, including 97 per cent of Saudis, 87 per cent of Moroccans, 81 per cent of Lebanese, 74 per cent of Egyptians, and 78 per cent of Jordanians.

More than 75 per cent of all those polled feel that war in Iraq will bring worse prospects for Arab-Israeli peace. Again, the Saudis topped the list at 97 per cent, followed by Moroccans (85 per cent), Lebanese (82 per cent), Jordanians (79 per cent), and Egyptians (67 per cent). On the prospect of a new Iraq catalyzing democracy throughout the region, 95 per cent of Saudis, 66 per cent of Moroccans, 60 per cent of Egyptians, 58 per cent of Jordanians, and 74 per cent of Lebanese feel that a war to overthrow Saddam Hussein will bring less regional democracy ...

Interestingly, Zogby notes, in two polls his firm conducted last year, Arabs expressed a more favorable attitude towards the United States in general. This time, in response to the question about how "generally speaking," they feel about the United States, the responses were overwhelmingly unfavorable: 95 per cent of Saudis, 91 per cent of Moroccans, 80 per cent of Jordanians, 79 per cent of Egyptians, and 59 per cent of Lebanese.

"We noted a significant deterioration from our previous polls," Zogby said, which included all of the above countries plus the UAE, Kuwait, and Arabs living within Israel.

Zogby has presented his findings at the State Department, where, according to some diplomats present, there was much head-nodding in the room. "The poll confirms what we already know," one American diplomat said. "The question is: what can we do about it?"

The trouble is, say both Zogby and a whole host of voices in the Arab world, the issue that frustrates Arabs is not American values, but American policies, and no amount of "branding" can change that.

Indonesia, Editorial in the Jakarta Post

This war is rightly seen as an attack against humanity, and therefore against the values of just about all religions that preach peace. You do not have to be a Muslim to feel horrified at the sight of Iraqis living under the terror of constant U.S. bombings, or of Iraqis fleeing the war in fear ...

This war, therefore, should be seen as not solely an attack on Muslims and therefore on Islam, but as an attack against all religions, and the values that they represent ...

Let's also not forget that there is a growing antiwar movement inside the United States with which we can cooperate. If there is still any force that can stop this war -- after the United Nations Security Council failed to do the job -- it is American public opinion.

By Compiled by Laura McClure

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