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 /

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
September 03, 2015
Lynn Holland
For the Love of Water: El Salvador’s Mining Ban
Geoff Dutton
Time for Some Anger Management
Jack Rasmus
The New Colonialism: Greece and Ukraine
Norman Pollack
American Jews and the Iran Accord: The Politics of Fear
John Grant
Sorting Through the Bullshit in America
David Macaray
The Unbearable Lightness of Treaties
Chad Nelson
Lessig Uses a Scalpel Where a Machete is Needed
September 02, 2015
Paul Street
Strange Words From St. Bernard and the Sandernistas
Jose Martinez
Houston, We Have a Problem: False Equivalencies on Police Violence
Henry Giroux
Global Capitalism and the Culture of Mad Violence
Ajamu Baraka
Making Black Lives Matter in Riohacha, Colombia
William Edstrom
Wall Street and the Military are Draining Americans High and Dry
David Altheide
The Media Syndrome Between a Glock and a GoPro
Yves Engler
Canada vs. Africa
Ron Jacobs
The League of Empire
Andrew Smolski
Democracy and Privatization in Neoliberal Mexico
Stephen Lendman
Gaza: a Socioeconomic Dead Zone
Norman Pollack
Obama, Flim-Flam Artist: Alaska Offshore Drilling
Binoy Kampmark
Australian Border Force Gore
Ruth Fowler
Ask Not: Lost in the Crowd with Amanda Palmer
Kim Nicolini
Remembering Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes
September 01, 2015
Mike Whitney
Return to Crisis: Things Keep Getting Worse
Michael Schwalbe
The Moral Hazards of Capitalism
Eric Mann
Inside the Civil Rights Movement: a Conversation With Julian Bond
Pam Martens
How Wall Street Parasites Have Devoured Their Hosts, Your Retirement Plan and the U.S. Economy
Jonathan Latham
Growing Doubt: a Scientist’s Experience of GMOs
Fran Shor
Occupy Wall Street and the Sanders Campaign: a Case of Historical Amnesia?
Joe Paff
The Big Trees: Cockburn, Marx and Shostakovich
Randy Blazak
University Administrators Allow Fraternities to Turn Colleges Into Rape Factories
Robert Hunziker
The IPCC Caught in a Pressure Cooker
George Wuerthner
Myths of the Anthropocene Boosters: Truthout’s Misguided Attack on Wilderness and National Park Ideals
Robert Koehler
Sending Your Children Off to Safe Spaces in College
Jesse Jackson
Season of the Insurgents: From Trump to Sanders
August 31, 2015
Michael Hudson
Whitewashing the IMF’s Destructive Role in Greece
Conn Hallinan
Europe’s New Barbarians
Lawrence Ware
George Bush (Still) Doesn’t Care About Black People
Joseph Natoli
Plutocracy, Gentrification and Racial Violence
Franklin Spinney
One Presidential Debate You Won’t Hear: Why It is Time to Adopt a Sensible Grand Strategy
Dave Lindorff
What’s Wrong with Police in America
Louis Proyect
Jacobin and “The War on Syria”
Lawrence Wittner
Militarism Run Amok: How Russians and Americans are Preparing Their Children for War
Binoy Kampmark
Tales of Darkness: Europe’s Refugee Woes
Ralph Nader
Lo, the Poor Enlightened Billionaire!
Peter Koenig
Greece: a New Beginning? A New Hope?
Dean Baker
America Needs an “Idiot-Proof” Retirement System