Iraq: May 5, 2003

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American troops are being trained in riot control tactics. Equipment for this had been brought along when coalition forces invaded, but it was uncertain if it would be needed. The Sunni Arabs, Saddam Husseins main supporters, are attacking American troops. Most of the attacks are verbal, or rocks. But some diehard Saddam supporters are using guns. The riot control troops will try to quickly disperse hostile crowds, before the disturbance can escalate into a gunfight. The pro-Saddam gunmen like to fire from within crowds of unarmed civilians. 

There has been a lot less unrest in Iraq than news reports would have you believe. Nearly all the demonstrations are held in front of the hotels journalists are staying in. The rest of Iraq is pretty quiet, although people are still steamed about lack of water and electricity. Despite that, coalition troops on patrol generally encounter friendly, or simply curious, Iraqis. Several decades of Saddam's police state has discouraged tourists, and Iraqis from meeting, or even seeing, any foreigners. So the American and British troops on patrol are often the first foreigners most Iraqis, especially kids, have ever seen in the flesh. But all Iraqis know about America and Britain, as these nations have been the two favorite destinations of the fifteen percent of the population that has fled since Saddam came to power. Nearly every Iraqi has a relative in America or Britain, or a friend who does. So except for the few Iraqis working the foreign press for one reason or another, most Iraqis are happy to see America come to them, even if they couldn't get to America. 

Coalition engineers have discovered that Iraq's infrastructure is basically falling apart. Saddam spent little on it during the 1980s, because of the war with Iran. During the 1990s, what money was available went to building palaces, military bases and not the power or water systems. So what you have now is a jury rigged system that has, for years, been on the verge of breakdown. American engineers, after examining the water system, and talking to Iraqi engineers, estimate that up to half the water is lost because of broken or elderly pipes. The electrical system isn't much better, with many ancient, and inefficient, generators and a distribution system rife with power theft and wasted power. For the last few years, there have been brownouts throughout the country every Summer. While the bombing campaign did not target any of the power or water facilities, government and military buildings that were hit often resulted in damage to nearby water and power lines. These have had to be repaired in order to restore power and water to all neighborhoods.

 

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