The world press on the war

"It was insane ... I don't care if they nuke that bloody city": A harrowing report on the messy streetfighting in Nasiriya.


Compiled by Laura McClure
April 2, 2003 1:19AM (UTC)

United Kingdom, Mark Franchetti in the Times, reprinted in Counterpunch

The light was a strange yellowy grey and the wind was coming up, the beginnings of a sandstorm. The silence felt almost eerie after a night of shooting so intense it hurt the eardrums and shattered the nerves. My footsteps felt heavy on the hot, dusty asphalt as I walked slowly towards the bridge at Nasiriya. A horrific scene lay ahead.

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Some 15 vehicles, including a minivan and a couple of trucks, blocked the road.

They were riddled with bullet holes. Some had caught fire and turned into piles of black twisted metal. Others were still burning.

Amid the wreckage I counted 12 dead civilians, lying in the road or in nearby ditches. All had been trying to leave this southern town overnight, probably for fear of being killed by US helicopter attacks and heavy artillery.

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Their mistake had been to flee over a bridge that is crucial to the coalition's supply lines and to run into a group of shell-shocked young American marines with orders to shoot anything that moved.

One man's body was still in flames. It gave out a hissing sound. Tucked away in his breast pocket, thick wads of banknotes were turning to ashes.

His savings, perhaps.

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Down the road, a little girl, no older than five and dressed in a pretty orange and gold dress, lay dead in a ditch next to the body of a man who may have been her father. Half his head was missing.

Nearby, in a battered old Volga, peppered with ammunition holes, an Iraqi woman -- perhaps the girl's mother -- was dead, slumped in the back seat. A US Abrams tank nicknamed Ghetto Fabulous drove past the bodies.

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This was not the only family who had taken what they thought was a last chance for safety. A father, baby girl and boy lay in a shallow grave. On the bridge itself a dead Iraqi civilian lay next to the carcass of a donkey.

As I walked away, Lieutenant Matt Martin, whose third child, Isabella, was born while he was on board ship en route to the Gulf, appeared beside me.

"Did you see all that?" he asked, his eyes filled with tears. "Did you see that little baby girl? I carried her body and buried it as best I could but I had no time. It really gets to me to see children being killed like this, but we had no choice."

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Martin's distress was in contrast to the bitter satisfaction of some of his fellow marines as they surveyed the scene. "The Iraqis are sick people and we are the chemotherapy," said Corporal Ryan Dupre. "I am starting to hate this country. Wait till I get hold of a friggin' Iraqi. No, I won't get hold of one. I'll just kill him."

Only a few days earlier these had still been the bright-eyed small-town boys with whom I crossed the border at the start of the operation. They had rolled towards Nasiriya, a strategic city beside the Euphrates, on a mission to secure a safe supply route for troops on the way to Baghdad.

They had expected a welcome, or at least a swift surrender. Instead they had found themselves lured into a bloody battle, culminating in the worst coalition losses of the war -- 16 dead, 12 wounded and two missing marines as well as five dead and 12 missing servicemen from an army convoy -- and the humiliation of having prisoners paraded on Iraqi television ...

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United Kingdom, Cahal Milmo in the Independent

An American missile, identified from the remains of its serial number, was pinpointed yesterday as the cause of the explosion at a Baghdad market on Friday night that killed at least 62 Iraqis.

The codes on the foot-long shrapnel shard, seen by the Independent correspondent Robert Fisk at the scene of the bombing in the Shu'ale district, came from a weapon manufactured in Texas by Raytheon, the world's biggest producer of "smart" armaments.

The identification of the missile as American is an embarrassing blow to Washington and London as they try to match their promises of minimal civilian casualties with the reality of precision bombing.

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Both governments have suggested the Shu'ale bombing and the explosion at another Baghdad market that killed at least 14 people last Wednesday were caused by ageing Iraqi anti-aircraft missiles. Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, said yesterday it was "increasingly probable" the first explosion was down to the Iraqis and Peter Hain, the Welsh Secretary, suggested on BBC's Newsnight last night that President Saddam sacked his head of air defences because they were not working properly.

But investigations by The Independent show that the missile thought to be either a Harm (High Speed Anti-Radiation Missile) device, or a Paveway laser-guided bomb was sold by Raytheon to the procurement arm of the US Navy. The American military has confirmed that a navy EA-6B "Prowler" jet, based on the USS Kittyhawk, was in action over the Iraqi capital on Friday and fired at least one Harm missile to protect two American fighters from a surface-to-air missile battery.

The Pentagon and Raytheon, which last year had sales of $16.8bn (#10.6bn), declined to comment on the serial number evidence last night. A US Defence Department spokeswoman said: "Our investigations are continuing. We cannot comment on serial numbers which may or may not have been found at the scene" ...

Raytheon, which also produces the Patriot anti-missile system and the Tomahawk cruise missile, lists its Harms and its latest Paveway III laser-guided bombs, marketed with the slogan "One bomb, one target", as among its most accurate weaponry.

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The company's sales description for its anti-radar missile says: "Harm was designed with performance and quality in mind. In actual field usage, Harm now demonstrates reliability four times better than specification. No modern weapons arsenal is complete without Harm in its inventory."

Faced with apparent proof that one of its missiles had been less accurate than specification, Raytheon was more coy on the capabilities of its products. A spokeswoman at the company's headquarters in Tucson, Arizona, said: "All questions relating to the use of our products in the field are to be handled by the appropriate military authority" ...

Saudi Arabia, Mohammed Alkhereiji in the Arab News

There are over 40,000 Iraqi exiles already in Jordan, but since the start of the war it has become obvious that predictions of thousands more arriving as refugees were Iraqi gross miscalculations.

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What in fact appears to be happening is the opposite. Huge numbers of the Iraqi exiles who initially left Iraq because of political reasons have decided to return to participate and fight side by side with their Iraqi brothers.

According to the Iraqi Embassy in Amman, 5,700 Iraqis have left Jordan to go and fight what they believe is an invasion and potential occupation of their home country.

"We have catered to these 5,700 Iraqis to get their documents in order," said Jawad Al-Ali, the Iraqi Embassy's press attache, in an interview with Arab News. "Some have lost their passports or their papers have simply expired," Al-Ali added. "On the first day of the war, we processed the papers of 2,500 Iraqis, and they are still coming."

Large groups are taking buses from midtown Amman for $17 per person in order to make their way back to Baghdad ...

Also, the first free bus to Baghdad left here yesterday, courtesy of one of Saddam Hussein's sons, with 50 Iraqi men on board.

"It was too expensive for me to leave before, but now the trip is free and I'm going back to fight for my country," said Samir, a 35-year-old construction worker ...

Also yesterday, dozens of "volunteers" left Beirut to take up arms in Iraq, proclaiming they were ready to embrace death to expel US and British forces from Arab land, witnesses said.

The mostly Lebanese young men, enraged by gruesome television images showing Iraqi civilian casualties of the 12-day-old war, left by land via Syria to join the fight. Witnesses saw 36 volunteers cross the Lebanese border into Syria in a bus. They said they were on their way to Iraq.

And some 15 young Algerians gathered yesterday outside the Iraq Embassy in Algiers, proclaiming themselves ready to die as martyrs to defend the "honor and dignity of Arabs and Muslims" as the "enemies of humanity" wage war on Iraq.

"I don't know the first thing about using weapons, but I learn quickly," said Ali, who, judging by his peace-fuzz beard, couldn't be a day over 20.

Lebanon, Patrick Seale in Al-Hayat

Whatever the military outcome of the 'battle for Baghdad', politically and morally the United States and Britain have already lost the war ...

The vision of the main Washington war-mongers, such as Paul Wolfowitz, US deputy defense secretary, and Richard Perle, chairman of the Defense Policy Board, with their cohorts in Zionist and right-wing think-tanks, has proved a self-serving mirage ...

A defeated and grateful Iraq will not embrace American-style 'democracy' or readily sign a peace treaty with Israel. Instead, by inciting the United States to engage in a criminal adventure, these men have stirred up boundless hatred, which will plague the United States and its citizens for years to come. A day will come when a Congressional committee investigates how and by whom the ill-fated decision to go to war against Iraq was taken.

Long despised and dismissed as irrelevant, the Arab 'street' has awakened and, in increasingly violent demonstrations, is expressing its utter revulsion at American bullying. Iraqi resistance has in fact empowered the Arab masses in a way not seen since the passions stirred by the Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser in the nineteen fifties and sixties ...

The rift is dangerously wide between the governments of American client states in the Gulf, most notably Kuwait, and the broad current of Islamist and Arab nationalist opinion throughout the region ... If the war ends inconclusively, or subsides into guerrilla skirmishes, as well it might, the backlash against some of the ruling families in the Gulf could be violent ...

In the general political debacle, the saddest sight of all is Tony Blair, British prime minister, and his foreign secretary Jack Straw, scuttling for cover. Too late, they are beginning to utter distinctly European views, at odds with those of their hard-nosed American allies ...

The big divide between Europe and America has to do with Israel and Palestine. Jack Straw has even made a startling confession ... Britain, he told the BBC, is 'one hundred percent committed' to the establishment of a viable Palestinian state with its capital in Jerusalem, based on Security Council Resolution 242, the 1967 borders, the end of Jewish settlements, and a solution of the refugee problem. These are fine words. But if he and his master Tony Blair are committed to such a two-state solution, why have they allied themselves in war with the American friends of Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon who is totally opposed to such a solution?

Israel, Ze'ev Schiff and Nathan Guttman in Haaretz

Despite American warnings, in the last few days Damascus has expedited the passage of volunteers wishing to join the Iraqis in their war against the Americans. Thousands of volunteers, most of them Syrians, are thronging to the Mosul and Kirkuk regions in north Iraq ...

A few days ago, American Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld accused Damascus of transferring weapons to Iraq, but did not mention the volunteers. On Monday the United States warned Syria and Iran again not to cooperate with terrorism and with Saddam Hussein's regime.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said at the AIPAC convention on Sunday that Syria will have to make a critical choice: "Syria can continue direct support for terrorist groups and the dying regime of Saddam Hussein, or it can embark on a different and more hopeful course. Either way, Syria bears the responsibility for its choices, and for the consequences ..."

In the past, America has taken a lenient view of the Syrian aid to Iraq ...

Washington kept its criticism down because the CIA estimated it was better to receive intelligence from Syria on al-Qaida activities. Apparently this information helped the Americans in the past to crack al-Qaida cells in Germany and Spain. After the war started, the Pentagon became more critical toward Damascus and the displeasure was reflected in Rumsfeld's accusations against Syria. However, it is not clear how the Americans will act and whether they will try to intercept the movement of volunteers from Syria to Iraq.

While criticizing Syria, the United States is continuing to pressure Iran on two levels. It is demanding Iran stop letting the "Bader brigades" into Iraq and to stop Iran's nuclear project. Powell said, "It is now time for the entire international community to step up and insist that Iran end its support for terrorists, including groups violently opposed to Israel and to the Middle East peace process."

France, François de Bernard in Libération

The reality that we are trying to keep at a distance is that the United States has become a theocracy and a pathocracy. It has become a theocracy because nearly all the important decisions of President George W. Bush's administration are taken "in the name of God" -- an angry and vengeful God, not a God of love and compassion -- and because this system is not encountering any serious opposition on the part of the legislative and legal institutions, not to mention the media...

For two years now -- and increasingly since September 11, 2001, there has been a great deal of focus in the discourse on the subject of "good and evil" and the strategy derived from it with respect to the "axis of evil." This has generally been based on the return, in full force, of the primitive moralizing that runs through a large part of the political and intellectual history of the United States. But in fact, it is something of an entirely different nature. It is the brutal transformation of an oligarchic republic tinged with democracy into a republic that is essentially theocratic.

If we realize this, then it is possible to understand that everything becomes possible from the point of view of Bush's administration, from the rejection of the Kyoto treaty to the perpetuation of the death penalty, from the attempt to marginalize the U.N. to the approaching exit from the World Trade Organization, from the war in Afghanistan to the war in Iraq.

But the United States has also become a pathocracy, that is, a regime that is neurotic in essence, the leaders of which are, quite simply, psychopaths. I offer the hypothesis that the American president is personally suffering from a paranoid psychosis and that the quartet he has formed with Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld constitutes a government that is both theocratic and pathocratic...

In order to judge whether this is indeed the case, it is enough to read the full texts of the speeches that are published on the White House Internet site (whitehouse.gov) and the statements by the quartet on the State Department site. A study of the videotapes of the president's appearances is also recommended. These sources set forth a worldview that is intrinsically paranoid, imbued with visions of the most regressive Crusades, drenched in a frightening symbolism that sees any external opposition as evidence of crime and in which every decision and every action bear the seal of a vengeful divinity.

Singapore, Tang Shi Ping in the Straits Times

We are witnessing a profound tragedy unfolding: Just when most of us thought our world had evolved into something more civilised, the leading superpower is no longer interested in abiding by the rules it made but insists that the world obey a "new" set of rules which move us back to a future where might is right.

This development is a challenge to the very foundations of our international system, unseen since the rise of Napoleon and Hitler.

Under these circumstances, France, Germany, Russia and China, as the four countries that can apply any kind of credible restraint to the U.S., must build upon their common stand against the non-U.N. sanctioned, U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. They must form an axis of restraint to counter the axis comprising the U.S., Britain and Australia.

This "axis of restraint" must call for a U.N. debate and vote on the legitimacy of the invasion. It may also want to call for a revision of the U.N. Charter to define the right to self-defence more rigorously.

The axis must also insist that once Mr. Saddam has gone, the transition government in Iraq must be under U.N., not U.S., jurisdiction. It must insist that the U.S. and its allies, being most directly responsible for the destruction, must bear the largest part of the cost of rebuilding Iraq.

Rebuilding contracts must be open to international bids, not awarded automatically to American companies.

Lastly, the U.S. must be warned against expanding its war against the "axis of evil" to Iran and North Korea.

Indeed, to pre-empt a U.S. strike against Iran, the "axis of restraint" must be prepared to offer Iran political, economic and military assistance, so that a hyperpower no longer playing by the rules may not control both sides of the Persian Gulf and Hormuz Strait.

The struggle between the "axis of restraint" and the U.S.-led axis is not a struggle between good and evil, but rather a struggle between the civilised and the uncivilised.

When the younger Bush is replaced by a president who understands that the responsibility of enormous power is to act, not just in America's interest, but in the interest of the world community, the "axis of restraint" should then take a more cooperative approach and work with the U.S. to shape a better world.

The purpose of restraining the U.S. is not to isolate it, but to bring it back in line with the international norms it long cherished.

Jordan, editorial in the Jordan Times

One of the pillars of this badly planned U.S.-British campaign against Iraq is obviously the militarisation of humanitarian aid.

War planners must attach great importance to the fact that aid be delivered by U.S. and British soldiers, if they are willing to openly come to loggerheads with all international relief organisations on this issue.

Well, like most other "plans" of this so-called "coalition" waging war against Iraq, the Pentagon's attempts to militarise humanitarian operations are not going to work.

The first point to be made is that Iraq is a country being invaded.

Both words "country" and "invaded" are to be stressed here.

The state of Iraq hinges on a well-organised, though too centralised, capillary network of local authorities. Since 1996, the Iraqi government has put in place an efficient system strong of 45,000 distribution points, from the largest towns to the tiniest villages, to deliver aid purchased under the oil-for-food programme. No foreign army will ever equal that.

That Iraqis might be more inclined to tolerate the presence of U.S.-British forces on their land once these forces provide them with food, water and medicine, is another illusion. Iraqis know well that, if it weren't for those very U.S.-British forces, they wouldn't be in need and wouldn't find themselves in want of food, water and medicine, in the first place...

As if military hardware were not having enough of a devastating effect on innocent Iraqi civilians, the U.S. is now resorting to a more sophisticated -- and, if possible, more lethal -- weapon: Blackmailing people into accepting food from the hands of invading soldiers, or starving to death.

Japan, editorial in the Japan Times

For all the loose talk of "shock and awe," few peoples have ever faced invasion by a more painfully well-intentioned force than the one fielded by the United States, Britain and Australia. The hitch is that, despite those good intentions, the assurances of the ends justifying the means, and the eloquent sincerity of British Prime Minister Tony Blair and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, you are just not satisfied that the case for this war and its risks was ever persuasively made. That is what keeps you awake at night; that is really what makes the blanket coverage such an ordeal.

It's even the same with reading, or it can be...

Somehow, every book you pick up seems to presuppose an elemental conflict between good and evil -- the very terms in which U.S. President George W. Bush has long cast this strange conflict.

Why is that a problem? Because while there is no doubting the evil of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, it is his foes, Japan's democratic allies, who are doing what evil people do: starting a war, invading another country without provocation, even -- unthinkably -- "reserving the right to exercise the nuclear option." It's the effort to square this intractably round hole that has proved, over the past few months, so exhausting. And it is why this war just will not seem to go away, no matter where one turns.

May it be over soon.


Compiled by Laura McClure

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