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Colin Powell overlooks US troops' incitements to looting in Iraq
Tuesday June 19, 2007 00:51 by Coilín ÓhAiseadha aatchoo at gmail dot com +353-86 060 3818
US "didn't have enough troops" to restore order - and worse!
In a recent interview published in the Washington Post, former US secretary of state Colin Powell said that the US "didn't have enough troops" in Iraq to restore order following the ill-fated US-led invasion. In saying this, Powell is not revealing anything, but in fact concealing plausible accounts of American soldiers actively inciting Iraqis to plunder public buildings at the time of the invasion.
This is an extract from the interview:
"We were liberators for a moment," Powell said, "and then we simply did not handle the aftermath." He described the burning and looting of government ministries as the beginning of the insurgency. Turmoil went on, he said, because "we didn't have enough troops there to restore that order, nor did we have the political understanding of our obligation to restore that order."
See above excerpt in context:
Powell Calls for Closure of Military Prison at Guantanamo
By Walter Pincus, Monday, June 11, 2007; Page A03
This is very patriotic of Powell, but leaves much to be desired as regards acknowledging war crimes committed by the invading forces. Accordingly, I have submitted the following response to the Washington Post, and I reproduce it here so that the factual information I provide will be readily available to anybody searching for Powell's words on the Web:
While I welcome former secretary of state Colin Powell’s call for the closure of the US internment camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, I see a need for a shift in emphasis as regards the looting that followed the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Yes, the looting of Iraqi government ministries may have contributed to the emergence of the Iraqi insurgency, but also to acts of violence that are not entirely political. For example, the looting of the Iraqi Ministry of Justice may have led to the destruction of records of violent criminals, and some of these criminals may have gone on to kidnap and murder journalists and aid workers.
I agree that the invading forces had a responsibility to prevent such looting, but when Mr. Powell says that "we didn't have enough troops there to restore that order,” he is concealing more than he is revealing.
In May 2003, I interviewed a plausible witness to the looting of the Ministry of Justice: Khaled Bayomi, Ph.D. Dr. Bayomi is a lecturer in history at the University of Lund, in southern Sweden, and although he himself was a refugee from Saddam’s Iraq, he acted as a human shield at a water works in Baghdad in March-April 2003.
Bayomi described how American forces used a tank to break down the door to the Ministry of Justice on Haifa Avenue on the afternoon of 8 April and, through an Arabic interpreter, invited locals to go in and take whatever they liked.
Bayomi’s very detailed account was unfaltering and entirely consistent with interviews he had already given to TV and print media. He had no reason to lie on behalf of the regime that had persecuted him, and had just been toppled. And since Bayomi stakes his whole reputation as a historian on these statements, we cannot easily dismiss them. We must take them very seriously.
US Troops Encouraged Ransacking:
In another incident, reported by Jonathan Duffy on BBC News Online on 6 May 2003, American soldiers fired dozens of rounds at the south wall of Nasiriya's Technical Institute and waved looters in. Duffy names six witnesses to these events.
US troops 'encouraged' Iraqi looters:
So it is not enough for Powell to say that the invading force lacked troops to restore order, and the political understanding of their obligation to restore that order; some of the invading forces actively contributed to the destruction of the public order and to the development of the current chaotic conflict in Iraq.
Mr. Powell might use his remaining influence to call for the payment of reparations to the people of Iraq for the destruction of lives and property by coalition forces.
If anybody has any more information about the incidents described above, or about other cases of incitement to looting, please contact me in confidence at the e-mail address or telephone number provided.