The world press on the war

An angry American peace activist has become a legend among U.S. troops stationed in Iraq.


Compiled by Laura McClure
April 18, 2003 12:21AM (UTC)

Hong Kong, Paul Belden in Asia Times

On the first night of bombing in Baghdad, I recall having written about a much-loved young peace activist named Uzma Bashir who had gone to Iraq to serve as a human shield, and whose many friends had gathered in an Amman hotel to hear the latest news from Iraq. They were all very frightened for her safety, I wrote.

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They needn't have bothered. As it turned out, the bombing campaign didn't hurt Uzma one bit. It did, however, really really piss her off.

When the first American tank column arrived in Paradise Park ... on the morning of Wednesday, April 9, they met a young woman who was still pulling on her shoes while running out into the roadway holding up a huge hand-lettered sign that read: "How many children did you kill today?"

Naturally, one of the tank operators lowered his gun barrel so that it pointed directly at Uzma's face. "Bring it on!" she screamed. "You bastards! Murderers! Go ahead and kill me, you pricks!"

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Some liberation. And some Uzma, too.

In the time since, as US forces have methodically consolidated their hold on the city, the legend of Uzma has grown in the telling, until she has become something of a force of nature in her own right. Nothing seems to stop her, and nothing shuts her up. ...

Seemingly every soldier has heard of her. On hearing her name mentioned in passing, one US Marine told me: "Yeah, we drove over to the the hospital in Saddam City to provide security the other day, and she was standing out front yelling, 'What, did you come to finish them off'!?" ...

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So the legend lives on, and grows in the telling, until it's not likely that many soldiers in this town who happened to cross her path will ever forget the name Uzma. Some of them even have listened to a word or two she has to say. "I managed to bring one soldier to tears," she crowed.

Saudi Arabia, Mohammad T. Al-Rashid in the Arab News

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Hunger is the nadir of physical human existence; despair is the psychological one. There are plenty of both in Iraq these days. As for the Arab world, the despair is there in massive doses too. The dictator is gone. That is just about the only bright spot in this entire mad canvas of war and blood.

Iraq is the exposed flesh that everyone can see, but the rest of the Arab body is aching with the same malady. ... The first victims of this war would be the voices of reason and sanity in the region. The fanatic will have his field turned and fertilized and ready to sow with the all the madness that fanaticism is capable of. So what to do? ...

I think it is time to unite. No, I am not talking about the Arab world. I'm talking about Islam and Christianity. The Pope, head of the largest religious community in the world, spoke volumes though his voice was feeble and shaky. He was against the war, as was the majority of Muslims.

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Fundamentalism is not the exclusive domain of the Middle East. The Far Right in America has its agenda and now that they have control of the mighty American war machine, the problem is global. Will Iraq be the first drop of blood on the road to Armageddon? ...

The majority of Christians and Muslims are not the extremists that factions from both sides are. In the absence of a vociferous majority, the small bands of extremists become deafeningly loud. ...

The clash of civilizations is a fiction created by those who have an agenda and a visible objective. Those who profit from war and covet the realms and homes of the other are those in favor of clashes of this sort. It is time, therefore, for the moral authorities to step in with determination and vigor. ... The emir of Qatar's gesture was a step, and it would be better if he invited the Pope to balance the invitation he extended to the invading armies.

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United Kingdom, Robert Fisk in the Independent

Yesterday I found myself at the Ministry of Oil, assiduously guarded by US troops, some of whom were holding clothes over their mouths because of the clouds of smoke swirling down on them from the neighbouring Ministry of Agricultural Irrigation. Hard to believe, isn't it, that they were unaware that someone was setting fire to the next building?

Then I spotted another fire, three kilometres away. I drove to the scene to find flames curling out of all the windows of the Ministry of Higher Education's Department of Computer Science. And right next to it, perched on a wall, was a US Marine, who said he was guarding a neighbouring hospital and didn't know who had lit the next door fire because "you can't look everywhere at once"....

The Americans say they don't have enough troops to control the fires. This is also untrue. If they don't, what are the hundreds of soldiers deployed in the gardens of the old Iran-Iraq war memorial doing all day? Or the hundreds camped in the rose gardens of the President Palace?

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So the people of Baghdad are asking who is behind the destruction of their cultural heritage: the looting of the archaeological treasures from the national museum; the burning of the entire Ottoman, Royal and State archives; the Koranic library; and the vast infrastructure of the nation we claim we are going to create for them.

Why, they ask, do they still have no electricity and no water? In whose interest is it for Iraq to be deconstructed, divided, burnt, de-historied, destroyed? Why are they issued with orders for a curfew by their so-called liberators?

It's easy for a reporter to predict doom, especially after a brutal war that lacked all international legitimacy. But catastrophe usually waits for optimists in the Middle East, especially for false optimists who invade oil-rich nations with ideological excuses and high-flown moral claims and accusations, such as weapons of mass destruction, which are still unproved. So I'll make an awful prediction. That America's war of "liberation" is over. Iraq's war of liberation from the Americans is about to begin. In other words, the real and frightening story starts now.

India, Anthony Shadid in the Indian Express

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In the tumultuous days of Baghdad's new beginning, the country's emboldened Shiite Muslim majority has embraced its freedom with an explosion of public ritual unseen by many in their lifetimes.

Young and old in Kadhimiya, the spiritual centre for Baghdad's Shiites, have flooded the streets in marches that began hours after the government fell. ... "I can't express my feelings. All I feel is joy," said Sami Abbas standing amid crowds of worshippers under the gold-leafed domes of the shrine. "This is the first time I've seen this for 30 years."

Along the street, soaked in sewage and strewn with trash, residents looked on with a mix of devotion and awe -- grief over the ceremony of remembrance and jubilation that it was happening. Some beat their chests to the rhythm of the instruments. "We've been waiting for this moment for a long time," said Sayyid Mohammed Sayyid, clad in black.

Black, green, white and red flags, once a sign of subversion, flutter from the mosque's walls. The dictates of the government hung at the entrance were torn down in favour of the commands of the clergy in holy city of Najaf, the burial place of Ali. "The honoured clergy of Najaf forbid stealing property of the state that belongs to the people," one sign reads. Another forbids the entry of women into the shrine who are wearing makeup and have failed to veil themselves. "Saddam forbade everything. He forced us underground," Abbas said.

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The procession was infused with the sense of a new order, with voices tumbling over each other. Some spoke of revenge. The Americans must bring Saddam to Iraq for a trial, said Md Abdel-Amin, "so that we can punish him." Others apologised for shouting at a visitor. "I can't stop. I'm happy! I'm happy!" said Azz el-Din Hassan, his voice still loud.

Australia, Paul McGeough in the Sydney Morning Herald

Baghdad has become rumour city. Everyone has a view on whether Saddam Hussein is dead or alive, in the country or off and over the border, getting closer by the day to the billions of dollars he is said to have stashed away for a life on the lam.

Back in the late 1950s, Wamid Nadhme, now a professor of political science at Baghdad University, was an exchange student in Cairo. He took the sort of phone call that few young Iraqis abroad would have had the courage to ignore - Saddam was on the run and needed a safe house.

The future dictator slept on Nadhme's floor for three nights before going underground. ...

Nadhme painted a less-flattering image: "If they try to capture him, he'll run and he'll die.

"He's a bully; he's not brave." ...

We were at Nadhme's home on the banks of the Tigris, sitting in his darkened sitting room, when he rounded off the discussion of Saddam with a dramatic flourish: "Saddam is still alive -- I spoke to a person who was with him on [last] Tuesday night."

This is important. On the Monday, March 31, US bombers dropped four bunker-buster bombs on a house in suburban Mansour: well-heeled but home to many Baath Party loyalists, a favoured Baghdad locale for the Hussein family and a preferred presidential bolthole during the 1991 Gulf War. ...

Two buildings away from the target is the house in which Saddam and some of his closest associates, including his younger son Qusay, were hiding out. ...

In the old days none of this could be discussed. But now people fall over themselves to talk to foreign reporters. At the edge of the crater, a voice says: "He got away 10 minutes before the bombing," and heads nod in general agreement. ...

Mohammed Jowad Ali, the captain of an Iraqi supertanker until Baghdad's oil trade ground to a halt late last year, says more than 25 members of the Republican Guard knocked on the door of his home, discarding their uniforms as they arrived and demanding a loan of "pyjamas and slippers".

"One of them was a brigadier who left his pistol and ID papers with me. He came back two days later to collect them.

"We gave them every pair of slippers we had in the house."

Ghana, Haruna Attah in the Accra Mail

Nobody is perfect. I am not.

Saddam Hussein is (was) not. George Bush Jr. is not. Tony Blair is not. Jacque Chirac is not.

My pro-Western sentiments are no secret. Nor do I have any apologies for that. I even happen to enjoy things English. That's also an open secret!

I cried real tears -- to the surprise of my colleagues at ADM -- on September 11 2001. I remember when I was doing my editorial of condemnation, it was through a film of tears.

The tears that have been coming to my eyes these days have been for those Iraqi innocents like little Ali whose arms were blown off by "smart" bombs and had his entire family wiped off.

Without limbs and family, what world is little Ali growing up to meet? If these smart bombs had had the good manners to ask little Ali to choose, he would have said "leave Saddam alone so that I can keep my arms and my parents." ...

Yes, Saddam (and some would include Pinochet; the Palestinians, I'm sure would even put Sharon in that category) had to go, but I can't also help feeling that the price was too high.

Former US President Jimmy Carter felt the war would squander all the sympathy the US had after September 11. I think he stands vindicated even as George Bush celebrates victory. But perhaps it is not sympathy the US is after, but the acknowledgement that it is the unchallenged superpower of human kind ...

Jamaica, Geof Brown in the Jamaica Observer

There is a common notion that to criticise the US-led coalition which has fought the war against Iraq is somehow anti-American or anti-British. That is rather like saying if your spouse is taking a course towards a common enemy of yours, and you object to that course, you are ipso-facto against your spouse. There are those taking the rather simplistic position that Jamaican objection to the Iraq war is an assault on Jamaican/American relationships. Nothing could be further from the truth. ...

Jamaicans have always shown a remarkable ability to separate their likes and dislikes of a person or situation. They love Reggae and Rastafarian Bob Marley, yet they adore jerk pork, forbidden in the Rastafarian religion. In politics, they said that Opposition Leader Edward Seaga was the better man to manage the economy, yet they voted in Prime Minister Patterson to run the country even as the economy was experiencing major difficulty. It is in such a perspective, that we must now judge the state of Jamaican/American relationships, consequent on the majority Jamaican objection to the Iraq war.

Jamaicans may not have admired the war against Iraq but they continue by and large to admire America and things American. But they also accept and largely like Cuba despite American anti-Cuban government policy.

Already, the old European allies of the USA who stood firmly against the war are beginning to mend fences. It is certain that in a very short time the great powers of the US, France, Russia, Germany and China will join hands and resources to help rebuild Iraq. We of the "minnow" countries should avoid any unnecessary divisions internally, reflecting pro-or anti war positions. It is necessary now to move forward, recognising that in the real world, when the bulls fight, the minor insects get trampled. We must act in our best interests while maintaining our integrity as sovereign states respecting the sentiments and preferences of our own peoples. Jamaican/American relationships must be regarded in that light.

United Kingdom, Richard Lloyd Parry in the Times

The rescue of Private Jessica Lynch, which inspired America during one of the most difficult periods of the war, was not the heroic Hollywood story told by the US military, but a staged operation that terrified patients and victimised the doctors who had struggled to save her life, according to Iraqi witnesses.

Doctors at al-Nasiriyah general hospital said that the airborne assault had met no resistance and was carried out a day after all the Iraqi forces and Baath leadership had fled the city. ...

"What the Americans say is like the story of Sinbad the Sailor -- it's a myth," said Harith al-Houssona, who saved Private Lynch's life after she was brought to the hospital by Iraqi military intelligence.

"They said that there was no medical care in Iraq, and that there was a very strong defence of this hospital. But there was no one here apart from doctors and patients, and there was nobody to fire at them." ...

On April 1 the local Baathists fled al-Nasiriyah for Baghdad ...

The American "rescue" operation came on the night of April 2. The hospital was bombarded and soldiers arrived in helicopters and, according to the hospital doctors, in tanks that pulled up outside the hospital. ...

"We heard them firing and shouting: 'Go! Go! Go! Go!'" Dr Harith said. One group of soldiers dug up the graves of dead US soldiers outside the hospital, while another interrogated doctors about Ali Hassan al-Majid, the senior Baath party figure known as Chemical Ali, who had never been seen there. A third group looked for Private Lynch.

US soldiers videotaped the rescue, but among the many scenes not shown to the press at US Central Command in Doha was one of four doctors who were handcuffed and interrogated, along with two civilian patients, one of whom was immobile and connected to a drip. "They were doctors, with stethoscopes round their necks," Dr Harith said.

"Even in war, a doctor should not be treated like that." ...

Today, the hospital struggles on without adequate supplies of drugs and without running water or main electricity.

South Africa, article in the Star

The armless Iraqi orphan whose plight touched hearts around the world has been flown to Kuwait for life-saving treatment.

Ali Ismaeel Abbas (12) lost his arms and received burns over 60% of his body in a US bomb attack on his home which also claimed the lives of his parents and eight other family members.

Last night he was flown from Baghdad to Nasiriyah in southern Iraq, where he was to have a rest before being moved to Kuwait City.

"We have come to take this child to the tender loving care he deserves," said one of the boy's US Marine escorts.

Doctors who had been treating Ali at the dilapidated Saddam City Hospital in Baghdad feared he would die without specialist treatment. They said his wounds had become infected and they did not have the medicines to treat him. ...

A 6-year-old Iraqi child was also expected to arrive in Kuwait last night ahead of Ali for treatment for burns ... joining eight other children who've been flown in since the US-led war on Iraq began.

The image of Ali lying in a grim hospital bed with his arms reduced to bandaged stumps sparked widespread sympathy and fundraising appeals worldwide.

The photograph is being likened to that of Kim Phuc, the naked 9-year-old screaming with agony from burns inflicted by a napalm attack during the Vietnam War.

"Do you think the doctors can get me another pair of hands? If I don't get a pair of hands, I will commit suicide," Ali said as it was being taken, tears spilling down his cheeks and fear and pain in his eyes.

In Britain, the Limbless Association charity had raised funds to airlift Ali out of Iraq, said spokesperson Kiera Roche.

"We did have an air ambulance lined up to airlift him out of Iraq, but today's development will help a lot," Roche said."

What happens to Ali after Kuwait we do not know. If he wants to come to England for further treatment, we will do our best. We have the money for the prosthetics."

Qatar, K S Dakshina Murthy in Al-Jazeera

For close to a month now, U.S.-led forces have been looking for the weapons of mass destruction (WMD) that Iraq's Saddam Hussein government had kept "hidden". Nothing has been found so far, and the search continues.

A key factor in the invasion was the WMD reason, despite the fact that United Nations inspectors had not come up with anything. Failure to find chemical weapons in Iraq has however not come in the way of the US pointing its fingers at Syria. This has triggered off alarm bells in the Arab world.

Arab governments say the US stand on chemical weapons in particular and WMDs in general is hypocritical. For, Washington's closest ally in the region Israel too possesses WMDs, including chemical weapons, and it is not being pressured to dump them. ...

According to a Carnegie analysis, US intelligence believes Syria has a significant stockpile of the nerve agent sarin ...

The Carnegie analysis notes that Israel too possesses advanced chemical weapons capabilities, although the details of what they have is not known. ...

In the absence of information from the Israeli government, non-Israeli publications have made many claims about Israel's chemical weapon capabilities, from the trivial to the most sensationalist. The government of Israel, as part of its traditional deliberate ambiguity policy, has neither confirmed nor denied those reports, Carnegie points out.

Acknowledging the difficulties in assessing Israel's CBW programs and capabilities, the analysis quoting experts states that "a near-consensus exists among experts -- based on anecdotal evidence and intelligence leaks -- that Israel developed, produced, stockpiled, and maybe even deployed chemical weapons at some point in its history."

Quoting other studies, the Carnegie analysis says that Israel had an operational chemical warfare testing facility. The chemical capabilities of Syria, Iraq and Iran are matched by Israel's possession of a wide range of these weapons, it says. ...

The CNS states that Israel has an active weapons programme, but may not have deployed chemical warheads on ballistic missiles. It has the production capability for mustard and nerve agents. ...

The CNS' Amini study says that Syria may have one of the most extensive chemical weapons programmes in the developing world. Its initial chemical warfare program and stockpile of chemical agents were allegedly supplied by Egypt in 1973 prior to the October War with Israel.

Pakistan, editorial in Dawn

One never thought America would turn its attention on its next Arab target so soon. The situation in Iraq is still fluid. But the heat is already being turned on Syria ...

At times, Bush administration officials have denied that they had a list which they would pursue after the Saddam regime was toppled. Secretary of State Colin Powell was among those who recently denied that the US had any such plans. Yet, the recent spate of threats to Damascus suggests that the hawks once again are trying to sideline the moderates led by Powell ...

Is the stage now being set for another drama of death and destruction in another Arab country?

This time the "coalition" could even include Israel, which already is there -- though behind the scenes -- in the Iraqi war. Even those Arab states which cooperated with the US in the Iraqi war will now find it impossible to sit on the sidelines, much less collaborate with the US.


Compiled by Laura McClure

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