Skip to comments.Exclusive: ?If They Stop Now We?re As Good As Dead?
Posted on 03/31/2003 2:02:35 PM PST by observer5
Exclusive: ?If They Stop Now We?re As Good As Dead? Essam Al-Ghalib, Arab News War Correspondent
UMM QASR/BASRA, 31 March 2003 ? As the flares extinguished in the night sky above Umm Qasr, we found ourselves in total darkness, unsure of who was approaching us with rifles. Several tense minutes passed while we waited. I recited every prayer I knew, and crouched behind a car hoping whomever was approaching was friendly.
When we heard rustling 50 meters in front of us, one of the Italian journalists scanned the area with his flashlight blinding the approaching armed person.
The sweetest words I had heard spoken in a long time, considering the circumstances, rang out.
?Turn that bloody light off,? was yelled in an Irish accent.
It was the British-Irish Brigade. We started to yell that we were journalists and were ordered to ?shut up?.
Several soldiers approached and informed us that they were unaware of our presence in the area and that we should be careful because there was an Iraqi sniper taking shots at them.
They bid us well and left.
My friend Mohammed and I of course started scanning the area and started seeing Iraqi snipers in every shadow and behind every tree: Victims of our own imagination. After a while, we somehow drifted off to sleep.
At 3 a.m., we were woken by the sound of machine-gun fire getting closer and closer. For several minutes, nothing.
Suddenly, about 150 meters away from us, we heard a huge volley of fire; and then again nothing for the rest of the night. The outcome of the sniper hunt was unclear.
However, the next day as we went to speak to the people of Umm Qasr, they told us that a fellow citizen, wracked by hunger, had tried to break into a store to take some food and was shot and killed by the British. Until now, it is unclear whether this is the same person as the reported sniper.
The people I spoke with at Umm Qasr said they were happy about the removal of Saddam, as he had held them in terror for years. They took me to see the local Baath Party headquarters. They told me that many bad things happened there and that most of those picked up in the middle of the night and taken to that building were never seen again.
I entered the building and walked around. I couldn?t help noticing the excitement in the people?s voices as they pointed out the bullet holes and the charred remains of where the building burned.
That was when I first got the sense that these people were really eager to see Saddam and Baath gone.
I asked several what they thought of the US/UK plan to remove Saddam. They told me: ?Now that they have started to remove him, they cannot stop. If they do, then we are all as good as dead. He still has informants in Umm Qasr and he knows who is against him and who isn?t.?
When asked about what they think of this war, most Iraqis said that they were against the loss of innocent life and the destruction of their cities, but they seemed adamant about the removal of Saddam. They were happy about the ?liberation? of Umm Qasr but were disappointed in the US/UK for not keeping their promises to provide humanitarian aid.
Salim, 31, told Arab News: ?We have not had enough to eat or drink for three days. At the American and British camps there is electricity, just half a kilometer away. Why don?t we have any? The meat we had stored in our homes is now spoiled because there is no refrigeration.?
After visiting the Baath headquarters, the group of journalists I was with said that it would be dangerous to spend two nights in Umm Qasr, as they were concerned about a possible plan in the works to raid us for our supplies.
One of the journalists said he could possibly get us into the British Armored Transportation Division?s camp to spend the night there. We packed up our belongings, confident that we would be safer in a British camp than in Umm Qasr.
Prior to making our move to the British camp, we decided to drive to Basra to see for ourselves the on-going fight and to talk to some of the refugees and soldiers.
On the road, as we made our way to Basra, we could see that the battle had begun on the outskirts of the city and was slowly moving its way in.
Alongside the road lay the charred remains of several Iraqi tanks and anti-aircraft gun transporters, among them the charred remains of two UK or US tanks, indicating that the Iraqis had put up a fight.
As we approached Basra, we could clearly see the smoke rising in the distance. The closer we got to Basra, the more people we saw standing and walking alongside the heavily traveled road. They were begging for food and water.
Two kilometers before Basra was a bridge where a check point had been set up by British military personnel, in front of which were crouched 75 Iraqis wanting to be let into Basra.
?We have been sitting here for two days,? a number of them said. ?We brought food and vegetables from the farms on the outskirts of Basra to bring for our families to eat, because the price of food in Basra has been inflated. A kilogram of tomatoes is being sold for 1,750 Iraqi dinars! Now we are not being allowed back in, our families are hungry and our tomatoes are spoiling in the sun. Our women and children are in Basra alone, and they need us with them.?
Many others wanted to go into Basra, simply to get their families so they could all leave again together, but they were prevented from doing so as well.
I approached a soldier and showed him our credentials and explained that we wanted to get into Basra to see the conditions for ourselves.
?Not today mate, it?s too dangerous,? he told us.
It was pointless to sit and argue, so we decided we should get to the British encampment, set up camp there and try again the following day. (Part III tomorrow)
Wouln't find anything like this on CNN and BBC!!
?This is utterly correct? We're too far committed now to stop, past the point of no return. ?It is more imperative than ever now that the antiwar protesters must not get their way, ironically, because if they do we'll have another bloodbath on our hands?
The situation in 1991 in Basra was terrible, and its coming back to ?haunt us? now.
Correct. There is no way to stop until this is over. We can't just call off the invasion; we can't even afford to lose the war.
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