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Wednesday, August 17, 2005

On the ground

Robert Fisk is still in Baghdad and writing some wonderfully evocative pieces. First up, a comment on the Iraqi constitution:

"The reality, of course, is that while Western governments have been watching the process of constitution writing with academic interest, most Iraqis have been regarding the whole thing as a distraction from the daily grind of killings, robbery, energy shortages and corruption. The world of political structures and "democracy" here are thus separated from the world of political action and armed insurgency by walls - real and symbolic - and the West largely, and through a process of imagination, lives within those same walls. Iraq exists outside."

Fisk discusses the lack of security, "the world’s first all-meat vegetarian pizza" and the increasing Islamicisation of the country:

"So there was much wolfing of food and demands for the bill. Fifty degrees of heat met us in the car park and Mohamed knelt below our car to see if he could check for those horrible wires for which every wise motorist searches before driving home. There were none, of course, just the searing heat and a breathtaking journey back along the Tigris to the hotel. The 15-minute meal had become the 45-minute meal. But we had done it. We had lunched out in Baghdad, discovered the Islamicisation of my favourite restaurant and eaten the world’s first all-meat vegetarian pizza. I’m sure Mr Bush and Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara would claim this as proof of another victory for the "new" Iraq."

Finally, Fisk visits the Baghdad mortuary and discovers the figures the "Coalition" tries to keep secret: the number of Iraqi dead:

"We are not supposed to know that the Iraqi capital’s death toll last month was only 700 short of the total American fatalities in Iraq since April of 2003. Of the dead, 963 were men - many with their hands bound, their eyes taped and bullets in their heads - and 137 women. The statistics are as shameful as they are horrifying. For these are the men and women we supposedly came to "liberate" - and about whose fate we do not care.

"It is clear that death squads are roaming the streets of a city which is supposed to be under the control of the US military and the American-supported, elected government of Ibrahim al-Jaafari. Never in recent history has such anarchy been let loose on the civilians of this city - yet the Western and Iraqi authorities show no interest in disclosing the details. The writing of the new constitution - or the failure to complete it - now occupies the time of Western diplomats and journalists. The dead, it seems, do not count."


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