Humanitarian And Security Crises

*The humanitarian and security crises continue to grow in American-occupied Iraq. Electricity has been returned to only 9 of 21 major cities, and much of the capital still lacks it. Lack of electricity generally equates to lack of pure water. Cholera has broken out in Basra and many Iraqi children in particular are at risk of dying from dehydration caused by diarrhea from dirty water. In many places garbage continues to pile up, which is also a threat to hygiene. The British have given Basra some security by patrolling with a reconstituted Iraqi police force, which they armed. The Marines started to do this in Baghdad, but then were ordered out of the city and the army took over. Loathe as I am (from an army family) to admit the Marines did it better, alas, they did. The US army has disarmed its own Iraqi police force. So the police stay determinedly in the police station and don’t patrol, because everyone else has Kalshnikov machine guns and they would just get shot down. The US troops are too thin to patrol much of the city very regularly. So, the crime wave continues, a lot of shops won’t open, people are insecure in their homes, and hospitals remain under threat of having their medicines stolen by gunmen. Uh, guys: arm your local police, at least with pistols, for heaven’s sake.

The US television news departments are determinedly refusing to broadcast the truth of how bad things are, lest their advertising revenues plummet when patriotic US viewers desert them. Not one scene of garbage piling up. They did report the cholera outbreak, but very briefly and episodically. One over-voice said the problem could be combated by teaching mothers to boil water for their children. Right. Without electricity or fuel, how do you accomplish that in cities, pray tell. Call in the X-Men’s Cyclops to boil the water with his eye-rays? This sort of supercilious comment is a way of blaming the victim. Iraqi children are dying of diarrhea because Iraqi mothers are ignorant, it is is being alleged, not because the Rumsfeld/Wolfowitz team was in such a hurry to conquer Iraq that they made no preparations for what to do after the regime fell. I know for a fact that the brass in the Pentagon did give thought to this problem and recognized it would be a problem; but there was no follow-through, most likely because the civilians at the top of the Defense Department did not authorize it. One functional expert I talked to last fall, who had seen events in Bosnia and Kosovo said that you would need a mobile gendarmerie, but worried that the US military lacked that capacity. Too right.

Meanwhile, one can only imagine what brave Iraqis who stayed in Iraq and defied Saddam, such as members of the Shiite Sadr movement and the al-Da`wa Party, think about being excluded from Jay Garner’s interim government, while an organization representing former Baathist officers has a seat at the table! This is obscene, and guanteed to cause trouble.

Upshot: Bush administration good at fighting, bad at organizing things.

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