"The power of Shahid’s cartoons are acute. Take a close look if you dare. Instead of euphemisms, find direct statements; instead of evasion, find candor. The skill of illustration is matched by the acuity of vision..."
Norman SolomonREAD MORE
Nov 9, 02:57 PM
First published July 2003
The United States is caught in the middle of a “triangle of lawlessness”. The numbers of U.S. and British killed since May 1st by hostile fire in Iraq are mounting. Joint Chiefs Chairman General Richard Myers blames Saddam loyalists. In response, Paul Bremer announced a US$ 25 million reward for information leading to the capture of Saddam Hussein. Another US official in charge of setting up Iraq`s police revealed a reward scheme for any information concerning the murder of coalition forces. Bernard Kerik, a former New York police chief mentioned that the minimum reward would be set at $2,500 per informant. Twenty-five million dollars is a lot of money. Placed in context, Vancouver`s Eastside Revitalization Agreement in 2002 was a five-year urban development agreement providing US$ 10 million to focus on housing and health services. In Karachi, with the upgradation of the Orangi Slum almost 190,000 running feet of sewerage lines were laid and over 10,000 latrines were installed -all at a cost of US$ 300,000. Re-allocate the bounty; payoffs never work and always backfire. Remember the Afghani mujahideen of the 1980’s and their progeny the Taliban? The problem now is no longer Saddam but is what the Iraqis themselves have identified as the priority. A priority to re-build Iraq on all levels. But with U.S. rulers in Baghdad still banking on military brawn rather than on administrative brain they will maintain a high risk of losing the war after having won the battle.
Let me relate a personal anecdote. Living in Karachi means having daily encounters with the police. These officers compensate their paltry salaries by aggressively demanding money from drivers stopped for fictitious infractions. Driving to work one afternoon, I remember being pulled over by a police van. An officer told me that I had gone through a red light and ordered me to pay a fine. I replied that I had not gone through any red light. Livid at my impudence, he brandished his kalashnikov and told me to get out of the car. At this point I figured if he searched my car and saw the political cartoons that I was taking for publication to the newspaper I would have a lot more to worry about than just a fine. I stuffed the cartoons under the car seat and got out. I said I did not have any money for the “so called” red-light infraction but did have some change that would buy the deputy and his mustachioed troupe a round of tea and samosas. His face lit up, shook my hand, and walked of with 150 rupees (barely four dollars). A sublime ending to a ridiculous encounter. As any citizen I was entitled to a basic level of protection provided by my municipal leaders. These officers should be commensurately paid according to the responsibilities bestowed upon them. There is something very wrong when an individual has to buy a police contingent their afternoon tea.
Unfortunately, the world is more ridiculous than it is sublime and Iraqi’s need a lot more than a few samosas to tide them over. Within Iraq, as in Pakistan and most developing countries apathy is borne from imbalances. With the present occupation, Iraqis are facing a rising civic and social crisis. Coalition forces have barely begun to address the most basic needs in Iraq – food, potable water, interminable power shortages, basic healthcare, and local security. A recording purportedly of Saddam Hussein played by Al-jazeera very cleverly preys on this shortcoming. Saddam says, “We have lived up to our promises to you. We sacrificed what we sacrificed, except the great faith and honor. We sacrificed power but did not renege on our pledge to God and did not stab the people and the nation in the back by surrendering. We thank God for everything.” The Iraqi population has indeed lost faith in the Americans. A scorching summer is the perfect frustration catalyst for the Iraqi population who are still denied many public amenities. The people have no prospects. A soaring unemployed sector conjoined with an influx of men leaving a dispersed Iraqi army are now entering the vacuum of idleness.
Aggravation has taken form in rash attacks on the US military, which is met with officious raids and arrests. Demonstrations are fired upon. Death fans further resentment. American soldiers are also presented with a very different reality than what was envisaged by their armchair strategists on Capital Hill. Theirs is a harsh reality as well, patrolling streets not knowing who will crumple at the next shot. But then again the residents of Baghdad are living without electricity and wallowing in backlogged sewers and fecal matter. Children step on unexploded cluster bombs and women are gang raped. Rents can not be paid and tenants are being evicted. The United States blames Saddam for prompting the snipers and bombers but the reality lingers somewhere between that and the fury of the dispossessed.
I spoke to Robert Fisk in Lebanon just days before his own departure to Baghdad. He mentioned the United States would make a mess of the situation. He was right. The “Rise of the American War Machine” very quickly gained momentum. Untempered it will accelerate and destroy everything in its line of fire. How ironic is it that Arnold Schwarzenegger was sent on a morale-boosting tour of US bases in Iraq. He told applauding troops at a military compound in Baghdad: “Congratulations for saying `hasta la vista baby` to Saddam Hussein. I came here from the United States because I wanted to pump you all up. I play Terminator, but you guys are the true Terminators.” If Mr. Schwarzenegger took some time to flex his brain instead of his gluteus maximus he would realize that terminating Saddam incurred some very real costs. Reconstruction is not a celluloid affair and unless his Republican leaders act quickly thousands more of innocent men, women, and children will lose their lives.
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