FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Bombing the Phone System

by ROBERT FISK

It’s difficult to weep about a telephone exchange. True, the destruction of the local phone system in Baghdad is a miserable experience for tens of thousands of Iraqi families who want to keep in contact with their relatives during the long dark hours of bombing. But the shattered exchanges and umbilical wires and broken concrete of the Mimoun International Communications Centre scarcely equals the exposed bones and intestines and torn flesh of the civilian wounded of Baghdad.

The point, of course, is that it represents another of those little degradations which we (as in “we, the West”) routinely undertake when things aren’t going our way in a war. Obviously, “we” hoped it wouldn’t come to this. The Anglo-American armies wanted to maintain the infrastructure of Baghdad for themselves –after they had “liberated” the city under a hail of roses from its rejoicing people–because they would need working phone lines on their arrival.

But after a night of massive explosions across the city, dawn yesterday brought the realisation that communications had been sacrificed. The huge Rashid telecom-munications centre was struck by a cruise missile which penetrated the basement of the building. The exchange in Karada, where Baghdadis pay their phone bills, was ripped open. No more. Because “we” have decided to destroy the phones and all those “command and control” systems that may be included, dual use, into the network.

So yesterday, most Baghdadis had to drive across town to see each other; there was more traffic on the roads than at any time since the start of the war. Down, too, went Baghdad’s internet system. Iraqi television, a pale shadow of itself since the Americans bombed the studios on Wednesday night, can be watched only between an increasing number of power cuts.

So what’s next? Each day, of course, brings news of events which, on their own, have no great import but which, together, add a sinister, new dimension to the coming siege of Baghdad.

Yesterday, hundreds of tribesmen from across Iraq gathered at the Baghdad Hotel before meeting President Saddam Hussein.

The Iraqi tribes, ignored by the military planners and Washington pundits who think Iraq is held together only by the Baath party and the army, are a powerful force, their unity cemented by marriage and a network of families loyal to President Saddam who provide a force as cohesive as the Baath party itself.

Tribesmen guard the grain silos and electricity generating stations around Baghdad. Two of them were credited with disabling an Apache helicopter captured last week.

And yesterday, tribal leaders came from all over Iraq, from Ninevah and Babylon and Basra and Nasiriyah and all the cities of Mesopotamia.

President Saddam has already issued one set of orders which tells the tribesmen “to fight [the Americans and British] in groups and attack their advance and rear lines to block the way of their progress … If the enemy settles into a position, start to harass them at night …”

Another sign of things to come. At least 20 international “human shields” –hitherto “guarding” power stations, oil refineries and food production plants –decided to leave Iraq yesterday. So did all Chinese journalists, on instructions from their government. Not all the optimistic claims from the Iraqi government, a victory against US Marines outside Nasiriyah was among them, could change their minds.

The nightly attacks long ago spread into the daylight hours, so the sound of aircraft and rockets –I have several times actually heard the missiles passing over the central streets –have acquired a kind of normality. A few stores have reopened. There are fresh vegetables again. And like every blitzed people, Baghdadis are growing used to what has become a dull, familiar danger.

Is this “shock and awe”, I sometimes ask myself?

Yesterday’s Features

Daniel Wolff
A Road Trip in Wartime

Chris Clarke
We Never Spit on Any Baby Killers

David Lindorff
Saddam, a Hero Made in Washington

Pierre Tristam
Icarus on Crack: American Hubris and Iraq

Jason Leopold
Richard Perle: the Enterprising Hawk

Saul Landau
Technological Massacre

Carol Norris
The Mother of All Bombs

Riad Abdelkarim, MD
Iraq War Lingo 101

Adam Engel
Schlock and Awe

Website of the War
Iraq Body Count

Keep CounterPunch Alive:
Make a Tax Deductible Donation Today Online!

home / subscribe / about us / books / archives / search / links /

Weekend Edition
May 06, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Dave Wagner
When Liberals Run Out of Patience: the Impolite Exile of Seymour Hersh
John Stauber
Strange Bedfellows: the Bizarre Coalition of Kochs, Neocons and Democrats Allied Against Trump and His #FUvoters
Rob Urie
Hillary Clinton and the End of the Democratic Party
Joshua Frank
Afghanistan: Bombing the Land of the Snow Leopard
Bill Martin
Fear of Trump: Annals of Parliamentary Cretinism
Doug Johnson Hatlem
NYC Board of Elections Suspends 2nd Official, Delays Hillary Clinton v. Bernie Sanders Results Certification
Carol Miller
Pretending the Democratic Party Platform Matters
Paul Street
Hey, Bernie, Leave Them Kids Alone
Tamara Pearson
Mexico Already Has a Giant Wall, and a Mining Company Helped to Build It
Paul Craig Roberts
Somnolent Europe, Russia, and China
Dave Lindorff
Bringing the Sanders ‘Revolution’ to Philly’s Streets
Margaret Kimberley
Obama’s Last Gasp Imperialism
Carmelo Ruiz
The New Wave of Repression in Puerto Rico
Jack Denton
Prison Labor Strike in Alabama: “We Will No Longer Contribute to Our Own Oppression”
Jeffrey St. Clair
David Bowie’s 100 Favorite Books, the CounterPunch Connection
David Rosen
Poverty in America: the Deepening Crisis
Pepe Escobar
NATO on Trade, in Europe and Asia, is Doomed
Pete Dolack
Another Goodbye to Democracy if Transatlantic Partnership is Passed
Carla Blank
Prince: Pain and Dance
Gabriel Rockhill
Media Blackout on Nuit Debout
Barry Lando
Welcome to the Machine World: the Perfect Technological Storm
Hilary Goodfriend
The Wall Street Journal is Playing Dirty in El Salvador, Again
Frank Stricker
Ready for the Coming Assault on Social Security? Five Things Paul Ryan and Friends Don’t Want You to Think About
Robert Gordon
Beyond the Wall: an In-Depth Look at U.S. Immigration Policy
Roger Annis
City at the Heart of the Alberta Tar Sands Burning to the Ground
Simon Jones
RISE: New Politics for a Tired Scotland
Rob Hager
After Indiana: Sanders Wins another Purple State, But Remains Lost in a Haze of Bad Strategy and Rigged Delegate Math
Howard Lisnoff
Father Daniel Berrigan, Anti-war Hero With a Huge Blindspot
Adam Bartley
Australia-China Relations and the Politics of Canberra’s Submarine Deal
Nyla Ali Khan
The Complexity of the Kashmir Issue: “Conflict Can and Should be Handled Constructively
Josh Hoxie
American Tax Havens: Elites Don’t Have to go to Panama to Hide Their Money–They’ve Got Delaware
Ramzy Baroud
The Spirit of Nelson Mandela in Palestine: Is His Real Legacy Being Upheld?
Alli McCracken - Raed Jarrar
#IsraelSaudi: A Match Made in Hell
George Wuerthner
Working Wilderness and Other Code Words
Robert Koehler
Cowardice and Exoneration in Kunduz
Ron Jacobs
Psychedelic Rangers Extraordinaire
Missy Comley Beattie
It’s a Shit Show!
David Macaray
Our Best Weapon Is Being Systematically Eliminated
Colin Todhunter
Future Options: From Militarism and Monsanto to Gandhi and Bhaskar Save
Binoy Kampmark
The Trump Train Chugs Along
Cesar Chelala
A Lesson of Auschwitz
John Laforge
Dan Berrigan, 1921 – 2016: “We Haven’t Lost, Because We Haven’t Given Up.”
Norman Trabulsy Jr
John Denver and My 40th High School Reunion
Charles R. Larson
Being Gay in China, Circa 1987
David Yearsley
Skepticism, Irony, and Doubt: Williams on Bach
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail