The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Baghdad - First They Cheered And Then They …

Of course, as sincere and true Christians, Blair and Bush know that the fewer innocents that are killed the better for them in terms of public relations. But Blair isn't balking at indeterminate numbers of innocents being killed, be it a hundred or ten thousand. This is the man who stood on the streets of Omagh in August 1998, after the Real IRA bombing, and declared that no cause is worth shedding one drop of innocent blood.
- Danny Morrison

Anthony McIntyre • 10.04.03

21 days after the invasion of Iraq commenced US troops have entered the capital city Baghdad. It might not have been with the speed initially anticipated but neither did it arrive at the tail end of months of prolonged fighting coupled with a heavy US casualty rate. Coalition fears - and others’ hopes - that stiff resistance would have made the penetration of the city unprofitable have proved groundless. Vincent Browne’s apprehensions of 1000 US and British military fatalities seem a long way off. And the ‘neo cons’ who appear to be at the helm of US foreign policy are not yet ready to receive their comeuppance from those who predicted the demise of their careers as Shock and Awe seemed to become sand and dust, grinding to a halt in the Iraqi desert.

Civilian casualties while both horrendous and high have been considerably fewer than in other wars throughout the past hundred years. This is more tactical than ethical. The ‘whatever it takes’ philosophy of George W Bush always meant that, ultimately, high civilian fatalities would act as no deterrent to the US achieving its objectives. A week prior to the ground assault on Baghdad, Red Cross doctors in southern Iraq spoke of "incredible" levels of civilian casualties. The organisation’s Roland Huguenin said doctors were horrified by the casualties they found in a hospital in Hilla, south of Baghdad: ‘there has been an incredible number of casualties with very, very serious wounds in the region of Hilla.’ Many casualties in this war have been sustained by what the journalist Lara Marlowe described as ‘the poorest of the poor.’ Further indications that even more misery was being heaped onto their already blighted lives came from Fadela Chaib, of the World Health Organisation who complained of an acute shortage of health and sanitation facilities.

Us Brigadier General Vincent Brooks sounded blasé, bored almost, with questions from reporters about civilian casualties. ‘While we regret the loss of civilian lives, they remain unavoidable as they have been throughout history.’ But they were entirely avoidable. In these matters it serves us well to remember the words of former US secretary James Baker: ‘this is a war of choice, not a war of necessity.’ The Coalition decided to invade. It could have decided otherwise.

At present our TV screens are awash with cheering Iraqi civilians. There is no doubt that many are happy. It would stir amazement if they were to be anything else. They were subjected to the rule of the B’aath Party for decades. At the same time we should remain mindful of how such images can be manufactured. Tony Blair’s 1997 election victory as British Prime Minister saw a ‘spontaneous’ crowd swamp Downing Street. It was later revealed that the crowd were made up of Labour Party members and their families. The spontaneity was a charade meant to deceive the public - a clear declaration of intent by the incoming PM that his would be a government of spin and deceit. This does not mean that the joyous scenes in Iraq can be dismissed as some bourgeois fantasy making in which all the actors are puppets. It just means that we should never assimilate images uncritically. Some Sky News coverage of the scenes in Baghdad yesterday would inspire caution in even the most docile of viewers - one embedded reporter made little attempt to hide his glee at the sight of US troops. The latter to their credit seemed much less gung ho than he.

And we who have inhabited our own little conflict region for so long know that the initial greeting of flowers and tea can quickly turn to stones and bullets. Just over a decade ago Colin Powell made the following observations:

Saddam Hussein is a terrible person, he is a threat to his own people. I think his people would be better off with a different leader, but there is this sort of romantic notion that if Saddam Hussein got hit by a bus tomorrow, some Jeffersonian democrat is waiting in the wings to hold popular elections … You're going to get - guess what - probably another Saddam Hussein. It will take a little while for them to paint the pictures all over the walls again … but there should be no illusions about the nature of that country or its society. And the American people and all of the people who second-guess us now would have been outraged if we had gone on to Baghdad and we found ourselves in Baghdad with American soldiers patrolling the streets two years later still looking for Jefferson.

Has anything substantively changed which would support an opinion contrary to that offered by Colin Powell?

For the time being the media seem content to convey an image that the worst problem plaguing daily life in cities like Baghdad and Basra is the widespread looting which is taking place in the vacuum of lawlessness created by the withdrawal of the Saddam regime from the cities. But is the real looting just about to begin? Uri Avnery rummaging through Ambrose Bierce‘s The Devil's Dictionary found that "coalition" is defined as the cooperation between two thieves who have their hands so deep in each others pockets that they cannot rob a third person separately.

The Coalition forces may find themselves having to dig deep. Phase two of Invasion Iraq will certainly not be over in 21 days.


Index: Current Articles + Latest News and Views + Book Reviews + Letters + Archives

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



Follow the path of the unsafe, independent thinker. Expose your ideas to the dangers of controversy. Speak your mind and fear less the label of 'crackpot' than the stigma of conformity. And on issues that seem important to you, stand up and be counted at any cost.
- Thomas J. Watson

Index: Current Articles

11 April 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


Critique of the Anti War Movement

Liam O'Ruairc


A Diversion from the Task
Eoin O'Broin


Bush and Blair Summon the Irish Contras...
Anthony McIntyre


Not Firm Ground But Wet Sand: Prevaricating for Peace

Paul Fitzsimmons


Irish Leaders Miss Chance to Speak Out Against War
Eamon Lynch


London Update


Baghdad: First They Cheered and Then They...
Anthony McIntyre


America's Dual Mission

M. Shahid Alam


War: It Already Started
Paul de Rooij


Lacking Credibility
Bert Ward


7 April 2003


Adams Will Tell Bush He's Anti-War
Eoin O'Broin


Stand Firm
Davy Carlin


Anti-War Human Rights Activists on Trial


First We Take Basra, And Then We Take ...Basra Again
Anthony McIntyre


Belfast - Building an Anti-War Movement

Davy Carlin




The Blanket



Latest News & Views
Index: Current Articles
Book Reviews
The Blanket Magazine Winter 2002
Republican Voices

To contact the Blanket project with a comment, to contribute an article, or to make a donation, write to: