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March 24, 2003

Where are the Cheering Crowds?

I am honestly surprised that there are not more Iraqi crowds cheering the entry of the troops, especially into southern Shia areas. My opposition to the war never assumed anything other than that Saddam Hussein was a murderous thug who its population would overwhelmingly be happy to be gone-- just that an invasion was the wrong way to encourage that since it would inspire longer-term resentment in Iraq and around the world.

But here is a report from the Wall Street Journal, hardly an amen corner for the antiwar movement, detailing the surly population opposing US troops even in what was supposed to be the most friendly parts of the country. Also note that Where is Raed is back blogging with comments on the lack of cheering crowds as well:

Wall Street Journal - March 24, 2003

U.S. Troops Aren't Welcomed By Everyone in Southern Iraq
Relief Effort, Aimed at Easing Defiance, Faces Obstacles to Delivering Supplies

By YAROSLAV TROFIMOV and NEIL KING JR.
Staff Reporters of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Far from being hailed immediately as liberators, invading U.S. and
British forces in southern Iraq are facing deep hostility and gunfire
from some residents who are often desperate for food and water and
sometimes furious about the continuing military assault against their
country.

The coalition is now rushing to get relief supplies into the region
through the seized port of Umm Qasr, hoping that food will ease the
bitterness.

Even after supplies enter the country, however, distributing them in
large cities such as Basra could be difficult if many residents
remain hostile to the invasion and fighting persists, which isn't
clear will happen. The military, facing not only Iraqi troops but
also defiant civilian guerrillas, also may have to run separate
supply routes into the south as most coalition forces follow the
latest military planning and move further north toward Baghdad,
bypassing other cities along the way.


In the dusty town of Az Zubayr, just south of Basra, some Iraqis in civilian clothes fired rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns at British and American troops. "The Americans are destroying our country. There will be a fight," said Ismail Hantush, an engineer at the state-run Iraqi oil company. Nearby, a local tailor cradled his baby boy and said with a smile: "We hate you. You are all criminals."

Portraits of Saddam Hussein still lined the streets, and a lone
British unit camped under a red banner: "Every last droplet of blood
we'll give you, O Saddam."

Schoolteacher Majid Kaddoum stood amid a group of farmers as
coalition tanks rumbled past, his voice shaking with anger: "We are
Iraqis, and we will defend our country and defeat the aggressors."
The farmers, in dirty Bedouin dress, nodded in assent as Mr. Kaddoum,
in a tattered leather jacket, added with pride that he belongs to Mr.
Hussein's Baath Party. "Saddam is our leader, and we will fight for
him," he said.

U.S. officials now hope that a massive relief effort will help change
the thinking of local Iraqis, who remain fearful and feel threatened
as long as Mr. Hussein remains in power. One key to doing that is
reopening Umm Qasr, a crucial gateway for supplies, as the U.S. and
other countries race to get food, water and medicine into Iraq. Any
delay will risk deepening the animosity.

President Bush, returning to the White House after a weekend at Camp
David, vowed that "massive amounts of humanitarian aid should be
moving within the next 36 hours, and that's going to be very positive
news for people who have suffered a long time under Saddam Hussein."
The initial relief shipments are expected to follow military convoys
overland from neighboring Kuwait.

All relief work will fall to military forces until areas are secure
enough to permit civilian groups to enter. That could take weeks.

Dashed Expectations

The early indications of hostility to the coalition invasion in
southern Iraq, the heartland of the Shiite community that rose up
against Mr. Hussein's rule in 1991, sharply contrasts with
expectations among some U.S. military commanders of being greeted
there as liberators. Just a few weeks ago, coalition officers in
Kuwait were making plans to fly TV crews to film cheering crowds in
southern Iraq.

Many here remember all too well the harsh reprisals against those who
listened to American promises and took up arms in 1991, only to be
crushed by the Iraqi military.

Further south, residents in the quiet Iraqi town of Safwan, right on
the Kuwaiti border, were scrounging for food and water, with only
little assistance from coalition forces.

On the highway outside Safwan, near burning oil leaking from a
pipeline, U.S. Marine Staff Sgt. Brian Koenig's amphibious vehicle
kept control of an intersection. The crew had brought humanitarian
rations from Kuwait, but these were long gone, and villagers demanded
the Marines' own food. "They just keep coming," Sgt. Koenig said.
"Little kids, moms. ... How can you say no?"

As the Army's own supply lines are stretched, there is only so much
that even the most good-natured soldiers can do. "There is no water,
no food, no electricity, nothing left here. We want the world to help
Iraq," implored Ali al Zubaidi, a jobless 35-year-old in Az Zubayr.

U.S. and British forces seized the port of Umm Qasr after a daylong
firefight Saturday, but U.S. Marines continued to face fierce Iraqi
resistance in pockets of the city Sunday, at one point ordering in
U.S. airstrikes. But even as fighting continued around the city,
British naval units began to sweep the port for mines and to search
for booby traps. They are now racing to reopen the port by midweek
for the delivery of humanitarian supplies.

Massive Dredging

The U.S. Agency for International Development hopes as early as
Monday to award a contract to a company that would administer the
port, which is now under British military command. The agency will
then pick a U.S. contractor to oversee a massive dredging and
rebuilding effort intended to make Umm Qasr ready to handle large
cargo ships bringing in thousands of tons a day of relief supplies.
The port can now handle only smaller ships, and has limited ability
to unload them quickly.

Even before the port is fully operating, humanitarian supplies
stockpiled in Kuwait are slated to be loaded onto a British landing
ship and ferried for unloading nearby. Six merchant vessels that
carried military supplies from Britain are anchored in the southern
Persian Gulf and will be loaded with food and other supplies in Dubai
and other nearby ports for delivery through Umm Qasr, said Rear Adm.
David Snelson, commander of Britain's naval forces in the Gulf.

But it isn't clear whether fresh food and water will be enough to
pacify the local populace.

In Safwan, a border town where Iraq surrendered in 1991 and where the
U.S. provided massive humanitarian assistance during the first
Persian Gulf War, the initial muted welcome is turning to open
hostility as civilian casualties keep rising.

"How can we be happy? They are killing our people here," said farmer
Majid Simsim, pointing to a mosque in the center of town where an
ambulance had just brought the bodies of two other farmers killed by
U.S. aircraft in the fields nearby. "We want our country to be
independent again and the Americans to leave."

On a highway south of Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, Sapper
Robert MacLeod of the British Seventh Air Assault Brigade stood with
his submachine gun at the ready. "These people still have a lot of
guns -- and we don't know whether it's the army or the civilians
picking up guns and firing at us," he said.

In the descending chaos, looters took advantage of the only sketchy
military presence in most populated areas in the south. Motorists
siphoned gasoline from a shabby service station in Safwan, just
across the road from a British outpost.

In Az Zubayr, hungry crowds looted the local food depot, stealing a
supply that would normally last 30 days, said the depot's manager,
Mohsen Galban. "We ask the Army for help, but nobody helps us," he
said.

Some Iraqis react with scorn to the American radio broadcasts
promising a massive rebuilding. "All this talk about bringing us
freedom, it's just talk. All we have seen here so far is
destruction," says Najib al Zubairi, a local government employee.

U.S. military officials said Umm Qasr and its harbor are likely to be
the first Iraqi territory put under military administration.
Authorities in London are bringing in an army unit that normally
handles operations at the massive British military port near
Southhampton, the 17th Port and Maritime Regiment, to help run the
facility until the contracted administrator is prepared to take over.

Back to Work?

U.S. military officials hope that Iraqi port workers will resume
their duties. Harbor pilots will be needed to guide large merchant
ships carrying aid up the Khor abd Allah waterway, which links the
port to the northern Gulf and is difficult for big ships to navigate
due to shoals and sunken vessels from the 1991 Gulf War. And they
will need workers to unload cargo and operate the blue cranes that
stick into the sky around the docks to meet their ambitious
timetables.

The Umm Qasr port complex, with two sets of berths about a mile
apart, has suffered over the past 12 years. Submerged ships hinder
traffic, while much of the port's infrastructure, including the
cranes, have deteriorated during a decade of United Nations
sanctions. The port, at last count, had just one aging dredger, so
that accumulation of silt often forces ships to anchor in deeper
water and have their cargo shuttled in on smaller vessels.

A 2001 U.N. report said that "generally poor port conditions [at Umm
Qasr] continue to contribute to the slow and inefficient offloading
of necessary food."

Two Iraqi boats were found carrying 68 mines over the weekend. Navy
speed boats were operating further up the waterway to intercept
merchant dhows that military officials feared Iraq might use to sneak
more mines down the channel for attacking U.S. vessels.

-- David S. Cloud in Bahrain contributed to this article.


Posted by Nathan at March 24, 2003 09:59 AM

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Comments

Here are the cheering crowds you are looking for:

http://www.msnbc.com/news/1858943.jpg

http://www.foxnews.com/images/87239/14_1_040903_iraq_top16.jpg

http://www.foxnews.com/projects/photo_essay2/iraq_war_day21/photos/4.jpg

http://i.a.cnn.net/cnn/interactive/world/0304/gallery.iraq.war.0409/reaction/reaction.3.pool.jpg

http://i.a.cnn.net/cnn/interactive/world/0304/gallery.iraq.war.0409/reaction/reaction.6.pool.jpg

http://i.a.cnn.net/cnn/interactive/world/0304/gallery.iraq.war.0409/reaction/reaction.5.pool.jpg

Geuss they are actually glag to see us! Now eat s*%t you America hating Commie! And stop with the lies and inflamed rhetoric!

oh.. btw... Two Aljazeera ( which you seem to love and admire so much ) reporters were chased from Basra to the Kuwaiti border by Iraquis who complained their reporting was too biased in Sadam's favor and against the Coalition.

Posted by: CTH at April 10, 2003 01:00 AM

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