Waratah reporting from Iraq
by Waratah (Rosemarie Gillespie)
Date: Mon, 3 Mar 2003 17:47:15 +0300
The United States appears to have started its psychological warfare campaign, and fired its opening shots.
When I arrived at Basra in Southern Iraq, I was told that American warplanes had bombed the outskirts of Basra the previous night. The bombing had started at about 2.20 in the morning, about 10 to 20 bombs. They went off with loud explosions, startling the townspeople. After the first few explosions, the bombings took place at increasingly long intervals, first a gap of five minutes before the next bomb was dropped, then a gap of about ten minutes, then a gap of between ten and twenty minutes, and so on, until there was silence.
One of the witnesses who told me about the bombing considered that it was part of a campaign to intimidate the people, a form of psychological warfare. It appears that both a power station and a communications centre was hit.
I spent two nights in Basra, the people were wonderful there, so generous and helpful. I met with the Archbishop of Basra, the Most Reverend Gabriel Kassab. He was the first to tell me about the bombings. His church is close to a mosque. He told me that there is no religious discrimination here. Many Iraqis have been proud to point out this fact. Christians, Muslims and people of other beliefs are respected equally. Muslims and Cristians visit each other’s shrines, and are made to feel welcome.
I visited the Sindbad Clinic and was referred to the Red Crescent Society. I gave the money to the Basra Red Crescent Society ($200 Australian converted to $109 US) on the recommendation of Dr Adel Ali of the Clinic. When I apologized that it was such a small amount, Mr Foad Al-Saadoon graciously said,”Well you are here, and that is more important to us.”
The effects of the sanctions have caused great suffering here. Malnutrition is common among young children, and the Red Crescent Society has programs to assist with providing nourishing food, with the help of Caritas, to children suffering from malnutrition. I saw many small thin malnourished children and mothers with very sad faces at the Red Crescent Society, waiting for assistance. There is no waiting room, no chairs, the women have to sit on the steps or in the passageway while they are waiting to be given the rations for their children. The Society also has health education programs, a program to create community awareness about the danger of land mines, and a Community based First Aid training programme.
Iraq is the most ancient civilization to practice irrigation (also known as Mesopotamia). Perhaps some of the old fellas here could have a word of advice for the Aussie farmers who are worried about the salination problems from irrigation projects down under.
I also wonder how Iraq, whose economy and people are carrying the burdens of the effects of 13 years of sanctions, can afford to provide free university education while the Howard government cannot or will not. Perhaps the Iraqis have never heard of “economic rationalism”, or if they have, perhaps they think there are better ways to run a country.
Would a “regime change” get a government in Iraq which is more compatible with America’s economic and foreign policy objectives, one which would reorganize the economy for the benefit of the big companies and corporate elites, with their multilillion dollar paypackets, while students struggle to pay their fees or sink under the burden of HECS debts?
Today a large number of Human Shield people went out to try to protect some humanitarian sites around Baghdad, a food storage site, a water treatment plant, a power station and a petrol refinery. Ruth from South Australia did a great interview with channel 9 at the media coference held at the Andalus Apartments where I am staying (telephone/fax 964-1-719-2303 or 718-4290). Try and watch it if you can.
A letter to Bush, sent from the group,
was also read out. In the meantime I have been working with a number of
other Australians on a project which might just head off the war.
We think it has about one chance in three of succeeding. We should
know in a few days, I will keep you posted.