Robert Fisk of the Independent is currently writing his stories from Baghdad. Some of the things he mentions are interesting – and I have thought about the way in which the Iraqi Ministers give the dead and wounded statistics – they don’t appear over the top, and are quite believeable given the scale of UK-US bombing. He also gives some credence to the truthfulness of the Iraqi side of things – people that, as a Westerner, I am not supposed to believe.
But the sheer amount of military and statistical detail coming from the Iraqi authorities is beginning to make the US Centcom information boys look like chumps. On Sunday, the Iraqi Minister of Defence, General Sultan Hashim, gave a remarkable briefing on the war, naming the units involved in front-line fighting the 3rd Battalion of the Iraqi army’s 27th Brigade was still holding out at Suq ash-Shuyukh south of Nasariyah, the 3rd Battalion of the Third Iraqi Army was holding Basra. And I remembered how these generals gave identical briefings during the terrible 1980-88 war against Iran. When we set off to check their stories then, they almost always turned out to be true.
And are US-UK APCs and tanks being destroyed as the Iraqis claim?
Does the same apply now? General Hashem repeatedly insisted that his men were destroying US tanks and armour and helicopters.
This was easy to dismiss until videotape of two burning US armoured personnel carriers popped up on the television screen. Vice-President Taha Yassin Ramadan has been obliging enough to explain the Iraqi army’s tactics. It was Iraqi policy to let the Anglo-American armies “roam around” in the desert as long as they want, and attack them when they tried to enter the cities. Which seems to be pretty much what they are doing.
The Iraqis claim there are 62 dead civilians so far, and Fisk continues:
Sixty-two dead civilians if the statistics are correct is not a massacre. But there’s nothing surprising about such a figure. It looks as if the Americans and British are bleeding to “liberate” a people who are not all that keen to be liberated by the Americans and British. A moral problem, of course. But not so big a moral problem as it would be if all this Iraqi suffering at the hands of the Americans and British turned out to be about oil.