Sep 12, 2005
With good reason, a National Guardsman just returned from the war called New Orleans "Iraq with a flood."
From the very first days following the invasion of Iraq, it became obvious that the U.S. and British governments had made no plans whatsoever to restore a semblance of "normal" life for the population. Nothing was done to repair the damage caused by the western bombings to the most vital parts of the social infrastructure.
Nor had the U.S.-British strategists made plans for the predictable breakdown of law and order which followed the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime. Organized gangs were allowed to loot everything they could lay their hands on, including basic supplies in hospitals and power stations, without the occupying troops doing anything about it. The only exceptions were, predictably, the oil installations, which were protected right from the beginning. After all, the invasion was designed, among other things, to benefit the western oil companies!
After the invasion Bush talked about plans for "reconstructing" Iraq. Enormous funds were pledged to finance this reconstruction. To date, less than 10% of these funds have actually been disbursed, and most of that has gone straight into the pockets of western companies – mainly security and oil companies – or for construction of military facilities.
After two and a half years of occupation, essential services such as water, electricity and transport are still completely unreliable, when available at all. There are chronic shortages of just about everything, including petroleum products – which are produced in Iraq, but for export. Hospitals lack the most basic medical equipment and medicines. Despite the explosion of diseases, many qualified nurses and doctors are still not put to work because they might have had ties with the Baath party. For the occupation authorities, the health of the population is, obviously, of secondary importance.
The criminal disregard of the western powers for the welfare of the Iraqi population was illustrated once again on August 31st, with the stampede which claimed more than a thousand lives during a pilgrimage in Baghdad.
According to news reports, the tension was high among the crowd of Shiite pilgrims after they had been targeted by a mortar attack in the morning. When rumors that a suicide bomber was hidden among the marchers began to circulate, there was a movement of panic on a bridge across the river Tigris. Many people were trampled to death while others were pushed over the bridge railings and drowned in the river.
Most U.S. newspapers "forgot" to mention the fact that the end of this bridge had been blocked by a checkpoint run by U.S. and Iraqi troops to search everyone. The pilgrims knew nothing about the barrier so marchers kept piling up on the bridge to the point where it became virtually impossible to move. When the crowd could move neither forward nor backward, the panic broke out, leading to the huge number of casualties.
In fact, as was pointed out later, U.S. and Iraqi authorities took no measures to avoid incidents during a march which was expected to attract several hundred thousand pilgrims. No provisions had been made to ensure that emergency services would be on stand-by for the occasion, with additional staff and resources. No attempt had been made to design the route of the march so as to minimize the number of bottlenecks. For the top dogs of the military bureaucracy, it was business as usual.
This produced the catastrophic bottleneck on the Tigris bridge. The absence of emergency services to take care of the injured seems to have increased the casualties by a significant number. And the U.S. military did not mobilize ambulance services or send speedboats up the river to help the injured and those who were drowning.
Due to U.S. contempt for the Iraqi population, a simple movement of panic was enough to cause the worst bloodbath seen in Iraq since the U.S. attack on Fallujah!
Both the war in Iraq and the situation along the Gulf Coast are the products of a system which cares nothing for populations in general and the poor in particular. It is a system whose only purpose is to protect the parasitism of a tiny layer of very rich capitalists who own and control everything.