Sunday, April 20
The power of pride is now emerging in Iraq. Can we empathize or must we see this as a threat? Warmongers like Fox News' Bill O'Reilly call it ingratitude, but for Iraqis it is patriotism, pure and simple.
A dangerous groundswell of resentment is building up on the streets of Baghdad
Fergal Keane, The Independent, April 19, 2003
Someone in the van had the idea that we should go and attend the Friday prayers at one of the big Shia mosques. Maybe the imam would be talking about the Americans or the fall of Saddam.
We never got to the Shia district. Even from the small window at the back of the vehicle, I could see the crowds gathering outside Abu Hanif mosque. This is a place of worship for the city's Sunni population, and our attention was drawn to the men standing on the wall carrying Islamic banners. Looking closer I saw they bore slogans: "Occupiers Go Home", "No US and UK in Iraq". So, a small demo at a mosque. The initial reaction is, no big deal. I've been attending such protests for the past six weeks in the Arab world.
And then you remember that you are standing in Baghdad, where nobody has held a free demonstration in more than 25 years. Then you hear a loud noise. It grows as you walk closer to the mosque. By the time you reach the main gate it is a deafening roar. They are shouting slogans forbidden under the secular rule of Saddam, slogans which, if George Bush could hear them, would surely cause him to revolve with anxiety: "With our blood and our souls we will defend Islam."
The same slogans rattled the walls of the Shah's palaces in Iran a quarter of a century ago. I had not expected to hear them in Iraq. At the end of prayers, the crowd poured into the streets. It was a big crowd. Thousands. I couldn't tell how many but at least as many as 10,000. An imam came and asked to be interviewed. "The Americans are here in our country for one thing. They want the oil. They want to defend Israel. If they don't leave soon there will queues of mujahedin lining up to drive them out." Again it was rhetoric familiar from the streets of Cairo and Beirut. But this was Baghdad, and there were American troops just up the road. The American "enemy" wasn't a distant entity – it was carrying M16 rifles a few blocks away.
Then came one of those moments that you live through with every nerve of your body vibrating. I saw young men breaking away from the main crowd and running toward a street corner. There was some shouting. Then I spotted American helmets bobbing above the crowd. "Look, buddy, I've got the gun – now back off," a voice shouted. An Iraqi man was confronting an American soldier. "Go ahead and shoot me. Go ahead," the man said. A woman shouted into my face: "It's about our pride. Its just about our pride." [...]
Our last occupation
Jonathan Glancey, The Guardian, April 19, 2003
No one, least of all the British, should be surprised at the state of anarchy in Iraq. We have been here before. We know the territory, its long and miasmic history, the all-but-impossible diplomatic balance to be struck between the cultures and ambitions of Arabs, Kurds, Shia and Sunni, of Assyrians, Turks, Americans, French, Russians and of our own desire to keep an economic and strategic presence there.
Laid waste, a chaotic post-invasion Iraq may now well be policed by old and new imperial masters promising liberty, democracy and unwanted exiled leaders, in return for oil, trade and submission. Only the last of these promises is certain. The peoples of Iraq, even those who have cheered passing troops, have every reason to mistrust foreign invaders. They have been lied to far too often, bombed and slaughtered promiscuously.
Iraq is the product of a lying empire. The British carved it duplicitously from ancient history, thwarted Arab hopes, Ottoman loss, the dunes of Mesopotamia and the mountains of Kurdistan at the end of the first world war. Unsurprisingly, anarchy and insurrection were there from the start. [...]
Shiite demonstration heralds challenge to US authority
Peter Ford, Christian Science Monitor, April 18, 2003
Protected by hundreds of militiamen toting assault rifles, tens of thousands of Shiite Muslims poured into Baghdad Friday to celebrate their new religious liberty. The massive but orderly display of independence also heralds a challenge to US authority in Iraq.
Laying prayer mats along three blocks of an avenue cleared of trash for the occasion, the 30,000 Shiite men who knelt at noon prayers constituted the largest such gathering in Iraq since 1999, when Saddam Hussein's security forces brutally put down a Shiite revolt.
"The last time this number of people were here we were killed in this street. This is freedom", said Hussein Ali, a mosque security official, as he surveyed the crowd filling the dusty thoroughfare outside the Hekmar mosque in Saddam City. Some locals have started renaming teeming slum Sadr City, after a prominent Shiite cleric, Mohammed Sadeq Sadr. His assassination – allegedly by Saddam Hussein's security police – in February 1999 sparked major unrest among Shiites and scores of demonstrators were reported killed in Saddam City.
But this is not necessarily the kind of freedom that US officials who promised to liberate Iraq had in mind. The imam who preached to the massed ranks of worshippers said the time had now come to ban singing and dancing in Iraq and to oblige women to cover their heads. [...]
Troops find Baghdad stash: $650 million
Little-noticed cottages hold boxes of cash
David Zucchino, Los Angeles Times, April 19, 2003
Baghdad -- Two Army sergeants went searching for saws Friday to clear away branches that were scraping their humvees. But they stumbled across a sealed-up cottage that aroused their curiosity -- and ultimately led to the discovery of an estimated $650 million in American cash.
The sergeants tore down a cinder-block and concrete barricade blocking the cottage door and found 40 sealed, galvanized aluminum boxes lined up neatly on the stone floor. Breaking open one box, they were stunned to discover 40 sealed stacks of uncirculated $100 bills -- $100,000 per stack, or $4 million in the box. In all, the 40 boxes were assumed to contained $160 million.
But there was more.
In a neighboring cottage in an exclusive Tigris River neighborhood where senior Baath Party and Republican Guard officials had lived, the sergeants found another 40 aluminum boxes assumed to contain another $160 million in currency. In a matter of minutes, they had uncovered $320 million in cash.
"I need to call my wife and tell her we were multimillionaires for about three seconds," Staff Sgt. Kenneth Buff said as he stood next to a box stuffed with sealed bundles of currency. [...]