Friday, June 13, 2003

Robert Fisk reports from Iraq:

If you were to suggest that it was a resistance movement, harakat muqawama, resistance party in Arabic, that would suggest the people didn't believe they had been liberated, and of course, all good-natured peace loving people have to believe they were liberated by the Americans, not occupied by them. What you're finding for example is a whole series of blunders by Paul Bremer, the American head of the so-called coalition forces, at least coalition authority in Baghdad.

First of all, he dissolved the Iraqi Army. Well, I can't imagine an Army that better deserves to be dissolved. But that means that more than quarter of a million armed men overnight are deprived of their welfare and money. Now if you have quarter of a million armed Iraqis who suddenly don't get paid any more, and they all know each other, what are they going to do? They are going to form some kind of force which is secret, which is covered; then they will be called terrorists, but I guess they know that, and then of course they will be saying to people, why don't you come and join us.

It was very interesting that in Fallujah, the young men came out to see me from a shop just after the American searches there had ended and said some people came from the resistance a few nights ago and asked me to join. I said, what did you say, and he said, I wouldn't do that. But now, he said, I might think differently. I met a Shiite Muslim family in Baghdad who moved into the former home of a Saddam intelligence officer. This family had been visited three nights previously by armed men who said, you better move out of this house. It doesn't belong to you unless you want to join us. The guy in Fallujah said that the men, the armed men who came to invite him to join the resistance had weapons, showed their mukhabarat intelligence identity card and said, we're still being paid and we are proud to hold our I.D. cards for the Ba'ath Party. So, now you have to realize that Fallujah and other towns like it are very unlike Tikrit, are very much pro-Saddam. Fallujah is the site of a great munitions factory, it gave people massive employment. They all loved Saddam in the way Arabs are encouraged to love dictators or go prison to otherwise. But nonetheless, there is an embryo of a serious resistance movement now.

On top of this, you can see the measure of what I think is basically desperation. I've been writing about this in The Independent this morning in London, well, last night for this morning's paper, and Paul Bremer now asked the legal side of the coalition provisional authority to set up the machinery of Iraqi press censorship. In other words, Iraqi newspapers are going to be censored. Controlled I think is the official word they use, but that means censorship.


Now, over and over again we keep seeing things, seeing small incidents occur, soldiers threatening people outside petrol lines because people are trying to jump the line and steal. And it just doesn't make it back into the coalition record of what's actually happening in Iraq. The danger here is not so much that we're not being told about it because we can see and find out for ourselves. The danger is that the United States leadership in Baghdad, and of course, especially back in the White House and Pentagon is also not being told about it. Or if it is, information is only going to certain people who can deal with that information.

It's very easy to say, well Iraq's been a great success we've got rid of a dictatorship, the weapons of mass destruction which didn't exist have now been destroyed or whatever interpretation you want to put on that. Human rights abuses have ended, certainly the Saddam kind. But if you try and if this information goes up the ladder every bit of it to people like Bremer, I'm not sure it all is – I think it should be – then you can see how the coalition doesn't represent the reality.


One of the big problems at the moment is the Americans and, to some extent the British, particularly the Americans in Baghdad. They're all ensconced in this chic gleaming marble palace, largest, most expensive palace. There they sit with their laptops trying to work out with Washington how they're going to bring about this new democracy in Iraq. They rely upon for the most part former Iraqi exiles who never endured Saddam Hussein, who are hovering around making sure that they get the biggest part of the pie if possible. When they leave the palace, when they go into the streets of Baghdad, the dangerous streets of Baghdad, they leave in these armored black Mercedes with gunmen in the front and back, soldiers, plain clothes guys with weapons and sunglasses.