The pre-war situation in Iraq, as PRAVDA.Ru reporter saw it
Baghdad is a big city, it has both daytime and nighttime living. People wake up early and go to bed late in the East, that is why foreign guests that visit Baghdad have to adjust to the eastern mode of life. Morning prayers are heard all over Baghdad already at seven o’clock. The city is full of energy from the very beginning of ever day: they build something there, dig something, there are a lot of cars there in the streets of the city, the variety of vehicles is really surprising. There are Porsches, Russian cars, Volkswagens there, pickup cars do not hesitate to break traffic rules. Iraqi drivers do not observe traffic rules at all, although I have not seen any serious car accidents. On the other hand, I have seen a lot of damaged cars, which means that there are a lot of accidents happen on the streets of Baghdad.
Expensive fancy stores are built next to little delis or second hand shops. There are a lot of coffee and pizza shops there. When the evening falls on Baghdad, the city is all illuminated with street lights. The daytime living of the city changes at night. A lot of Iraqi people like to spend evening time in coffee shops, watching football games and latest news there. It should be said here that there is no criminality or drug business in Baghdad. It is absolutely not dangerous to walk around the streets of Baghdad at night. Local residents, both children and elderly people, are very polite to everyone that they meet. I often heard strangers saying ‘salam’ to me. All I had to do was to smile back and pronounce the only Arab word that I knew – ‘shukran,’ which means ‘thank you.’
The war in the Persian Gulf in the beginning of 1991 resulted in the following losses for the anti-Iraqi coalition allies: 145 people were killed (including 95 Americans), 58 American military men died beyond battle areas, although during the war time. By the way, the USA lost 57685 military men during the Vietnamese war. England lost only 25 soldiers, twelve British soldiers were missing. Iraq’s losses were a lot more serious. Former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark made a report about war crimes of the American army in Iraq. As the document said, the US Army destroyed between 150-300 thousand people in Iraq during the War in the Gulf. The authors of the report wrote that the American army command did not even try to separate Iraqi civilians and soldiers.
This time the White House has prepared a lot better for the new war on Iraq, both from the military and from the informational point of view. Reporters’ action in the war will be regulated with the rules that the Pentagon is going to determine. Those rules are rather complicated, although they are detailed. For example, military men’s family members are not supposed to learn of their relatives’ wounding or death from reporters. Television will not be entitled to broadcast such things. The main goal of those rules is to keep the operation as secret as possible. This is not going to be easy, taking into consideration up-to-date electronic facilities of media outlets. The goal is clear – to conceal the facts of numerous casualties.
Washington’s bellicose statements do not leave any shots for Iraqi people (the residents of large cities, first and foremost) to survive. America promised to bomb the country for several weeks in a row. Iraqi men are bad soldiers, history has proved it several times already. There is no such notion as joint command in the country. The military chain end at the level of officers. If the Iraqi defense minister gives an order, it might reach a major, this is the maximum. This is it, basically. The lower part of the military chain will stop working, and no orders will be fulfilled at that level.
There is absolutely no point to compare the military and the technical development of the United States and Iraq – the answer is evident. Iraq has old tanks and outdated anti-missile defense systems. Americans will win the war very quickly, when they destroy the top military structure of the Iraqi army. It will not be hard for them to do, this is an unfortunate fact. However, it does not mean that Saddam and his milieu will refuse to fight Americans back. Saddam’s latest statement prove the opposite, actually. The question is, which methods of struggle he is going to prefer. One thing is clear at present: there will be a lot of casualties either way.
Legendary Russian commander Alexander Suvorov used to say: “A bullet is a fool, a bayonet is a good guy.” It was the 18th century, though, when he said that. Foolish missiles (smart weapons in the American interpretation) hit wrong targets rather often. Afghanistan is acquainted with those smart missiles very well. So is Iraq.
I had a chance to visit former air-raid shelter Amiriya in Baghdad. Now this place is not a shelter, but a memorial complex. Amiriya is the name of Baghdad’s district, in which the shelter was situated. The director of the memorial complex said that the district was bombed on February 13th 1991. The first missile hit the reinforced concrete that was two meters thick. There were 408 people inside the shelter at that moment, women and children basically. All of them burned alive. Only 14 people managed to survive – they were standing close to the door at that moment. The door of the shelter was open, so the blast threw them out in the street. Another missile hit the shelter four minutes later. The hall was all filled with smoke, fire and flaming human bodies. It was hell.
On the photo: The monument to the victims of Amiriya air raid shelter
Dmitry Litvinovich PRAVDA.Ru Moscow-Baghdad-Moscow
Translated by Dmitry Sudakov