4/14/03 4:49:15 PM Pacific Daylight Time
"USA Encouraged Ransacking"
This is a translation of an article from April 11 from Dagens
Nyheter, Sweden's largest newspaper, based in Stockholm. The article
was written by Ole Rothenborg and translated by Joe Valasek. The
subject of the interview, Khaled Bayomi, has taught and researched on
Middle Eastern conflicts for ten years at the University of Lund
where he is also working on his doctorate. He has given his
permission for this interview to be widely disseminated.
Khaled Bayomi looks surprised when the American officer on TV
complains that they don't have the resources to stop the plundering
in Baghdad. "I happened to be right there just as the American troops
encouraged people to begin the plundering."
Khaled Bayomi traveled from Europe to Baghdad to be a human shield and
arrived on the same day that the war began. About this he can tell
many stories but the most interesting is certainly his eyewitness
account of the wave of plundering.
"I had gone to see some friends who live near a dilapidated area just
past Haifa Avenue on the west bank of the Tigris. It was the 8th of
April and the fighting was so intense that I was unable to return to
the other side of the river. In the afternoon it became perfectly
quiet and four American tanks took places on the edge of the slum
area. The soldiers shot two Sudanese guards who stood at their posts
outside a local administration building on the other side of Haifa
Avenue. Then they blasted apart the doors to the building and from
the tanks came eager calls in Arabic encouraging people to come close
to them. "
"The entire morning, everyone who had tried to cross the road had
been shot. But in the strange silence after all the shooting, people
gradually became curious. After 45 minutes, the first Baghdad
citizens dared to come out. Arab interpreters in the tanks told the
people to go and take what they wanted in the building. The word
spread quickly and the building was ransacked. I was standing only
300 yards from there when the guards were murdered. Afterwards the
tank crushed the entrance to the
Justice Department, which was in a neighboring building, and the
plundering continued there".
"I stood in a large crowd and watched this together with them. They
did not partake in the plundering but dared not to interfere. Many
had tears of shame in their eyes. The next morning the plundering
spread to the Modern Museum, which lies a quarter mile farther north.
There were also two crowds there, one that plundered and one with
watched with disgust."
Q: "Are you saying that it was US troops who initiated the
A: "Absolutely. The lack of jubilant scenes meant that the American
troops needed pictures of Iraqis who in different ways demonstrated
hatred for Saddam's regime."
Q: "The people pulled down a large statue of Saddam?"
A: "Did they? It was an American tank that did that, right beside the
hotel where all the journalists stay. Until lunchtime on April 9, I
did not see one destroyed Saddam portrait. If people had wanted to
pull down statues they could have taken down some of the small ones
without any help from American tanks. If it had been a political
upheaval, the people would have pulled down statues first and then
Q: "Isn't it good that Saddam is gone?"
A: "He's not gone. He has broken his army down into very small groups.
That's why there hasn't been a large battle. About the official
state, you could say that Saddam dissolved that already in 1992 and
he's built a parallel tribal structure that is totally decisive in
Iraq. When the US began the war, Saddam abandoned the state
completely and now depends on the tribal structure. That was why he
abandoned the large cities without a fight."
"Now the US is compelled to do everything themselves because there's
no political body within the country which will challenge the existing
structure. The two who came in from outside the country were
annihilated at once. (The reference here is to General Nazar
al-Khazraji, who returned from Denmark and the Shiite Muslim leader,
Abdul Majid al-Khoei.) They were cut to pieces with swords and knives
by a furious crowd in Najaf because they were thought to be American
puppets. According to the Danish newspaper BT, al-Khazraji was
brought from Denmark to Iraq by the CIA."
"Now we have an occupying power in place in Iraq that has not said
how long it intends to remain, has not given any plan for civilian
rule and no date for general elections. Enormous chaos is now to be
"He who would give up essential liberty in order to have a little security
deserves neither liberty, nor security."
To announce that there must be no criticism of the President,
or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong,
is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable
to the American public.
Theodore Roosevelt, 26th US President (1858-1919)