Saturday, May 10
Liberation, one month on: Chaos on the streets, cholera in the city and killings in broad daylight
Phil Reeves, The Independent, May 9, 2003
Exactly a month has elapsed since the toppling of the statue of Saddam in the centre of Baghdad confirmed that the capital and the regime had at last fallen. Since then the country has seen an extraordinary redistribution of wealth, in which many thousands of impoverished Iraqis have embarked on a round-the-clock looting spree.
The lawlessness continues. Yesterday an American soldier was shot dead in broad daylight by an Iraqi who approached him with a pistol. US forces exchange fire with armed Iraqis almost daily across the country.
The continued failure to impose law and order on the streets of many towns and cities is drawing harsh criticism. "The last month has been pretty catastrophic in terms of building a new government," said Peter Galbraith, a former US ambassador who has spent the last three weeks in Iraq.
"The authority of the occupying power of the United States was very much diminished by this orgy of looting and destruction," he said.
There are some small successes. Thousands of manu-scripts and hundreds of artifacts missing from the National Museum have been recovered. Among them are a 7,000-year-old clay pot and a cornerstone from King Nebuchadnezzar's palace.
But it is the rapidly deteriorating public health system – as summer temperatures take hold – that is most worrying. After a month of occupation it remains in a state of collapse. Drinking water, from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, contaminated with sewage, has caused outbreaks of cholera and thyphoid among children in Basra. And the World Health Organisation warned yesterday that unless the security situation improves and medical staff can work in safety, the cholera outbreak could become an epidemic. [...]