I Saw Interview By Journalist With Some

*I saw an interview by a journalist with some Kurds in the North of Iraq who were complaining about the US invasion of Iraq and bombardment of Baghdad. They said Bush had not gotten UN backing for the war, and so it was illegitimate. They also said they did not like seeing Muslims die at the hands of foreigners. Now, these Kurds were the victims of a virtual genocide in the late 1980s and again in 1991 by Saddam. They only have what freedom and prosperity they have because of the US no-fly zone. Yet, even they are finding this war hard to stomach. Their mention of the UN is remarkable. President Bush and his coterie, who despise the United Nations, have no idea what political legitimacy consists of, and are unable to imagine how much they lost in not working harder at diplomacy with the Security Council members.

*It is amazing how little of the war one can see on the US networks and cable news. The US public is being carefully sheltered from the more gruesome scenes of civilian dead that are splashed all over the Arab media. While I don’t urge it for its own sake, an adult acknowledgment that these bombs are killing someone and blowing the tops of heads off would just be fair journalism. I watch a lot of the cable news, and it is antiseptic. This outcome is ironic because Fox Cable News in particular is always huffing and puffing and warmongering, but when it comes to actually covering war they give us safe retired colonels pointing at maps. The difference in the images being shown the audiences is widening the gap in perceptions of the war. The US audience thinks it is pretty fireworks on Saddam’s palaces. The Arabs think it is about little boys lacking the back of their heads.

*Reuters says that as of early morning 3/25 the port of Umm Qasr is still not secure. There are lots of Iraqi soldiers running about in guerrilla fashion shooting at the British troops there. One report I saw seemed to say that only 100 Iraqi troops were holding down the British force allotted to Umm Qasr. This ratio does not sound promising to me, since Iraq still probably has 3000 such groups of 100. The way in which Iraqi forces are employing guerrilla tactics is unexpected, at least to me–one always thought of them as a Russian-style tank army with little battlefield flexibility. I have to say that I am a little surprised that no Shiite units have come over to the US side to fight the Republican Guard. Apparently the Shiite conscripts are just going home and changing into civilian clothes, in some numbers.

*The water situation in Basra is becoming dire. Shelling has knocked out its electricity and thus its water treatment plants. (The Pentagon said they were going to avoid doing this to the urban population this time.) We could see outbreaks of cholera there if the people don’t get access to clean water soon. British troops are said to have withdrawn from Basra altogether, “to regroup.” They had at one point surrounded the city, but were pushed away by mortar fire and fire from soldiers in civilian dress. The Iraqi soldiers have moved their artillery batteries and tanks into residential districts, using innocent Iraqi civilians as shields. The British have been astonished at the fight the people of Basra have put up against them. To be fair, it is not clear that it is the people of Basra who are fighting so much as the Republican Guards stationed there. People in Safwan near the Kuwaiti border are saying that the British decision not to enter the town has left them at risk for reprisals from Saddam’s agents inside it. At Zubayr, as well, there was rocket fire. And al-Nasiriya has not been cleared of snipers. Some reports coming from the ranks suggest that British and American casualties at al-Nasiriya are higher than the 10 admitted.

*What is to stop the Republican Guard at Baghdad from using the same tactics that have proved so successful in Basra? If they did that, the US would face the choice of inflicting very heavy civilian casualties or of backing off.