Firas Al-Atraqchi: The Thieves of Baghdad
The Thieves of Baghdad
By Firas Al-Atraqchi
IMAGE: What Are These Guys Doing… Fixing A Door?
On February 27, 2003 U.S. President George Bush told the conservative American Enterprise Institute think tank, "We will seek to protect Iraq's natural resources from sabotage by a dying regime, and ensure those resources are used for the benefit of the owners -- the Iraqi people…. A liberated Iraq can show the power of freedom to transform this vital region by bringing hope and progress into the lives of millions."
What President Bush should have said, and unfortunately didn't, was that Iraq's natural resources need protection from the protectors themselves - the U.S. forces and brigade of media personnel in Iraq.
In less than a week, the media was forced to admit that some of its own were willing participants in a little looting and 'confiscating' on the side, and report that U.S. military personnel were responsible for stealing cash as well as other Iraqi items.
Benjamin James Johnson, a Fox News Channel engineer was charged this week with attempting to smuggle 12 paintings taken from one of Uday Hussein's Baghdad palace. Johnson who worked for FOX for six years, admitted that he had initially lied to U.S. Customs agents when he said the paintings were given to him by Iraqi nationals. He later revealed that he simply took the 12 paintings while traveling with U.S. military personal who briefly occupied Uday Hussein's palace.
U.S. Customs agents also acknowledged finding some 40 Iraqi Monetary Bonds in Johnson's possession.
Later in the week, Customs agents also unearthed a gold-plated rifle, pistol, and AK-47 assault rifle, swords, knives and other gear taken from an Iraqi government facility by U.S. military personnel.
Another incident in Baghdad earlier this week further embarrassed the U.S. military. According to the Pentagon, at least five U.S. soldiers are being investigated for 'stashing' a total of 900,000 U.S. dollars from a cache of 600 million recovered in a Baghdad neighbourhood. There have been no further updates since early last week.
An embedded Boston Herald journalist, Jules Crittenden, who reported helping U.S. troops spot hiding Iraqi soldiers and referred to the troops as "we" (thereby implying partiality) rather in the journalistic jargon of 'they', was also briefly detained as several Iraqi items were confiscated off his person.
American allies, the U.S.-backed Free Iraqi Forces, the armed wing of Iraqi National Congress opposition groups, also provided further embarrassment to U.S. Central Command last week. According to the Associated Press, Chalabi's men were found looting private residences and subsequently arrested by U.S. military personnel.
"On Tuesday, soldiers from A Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment detained four suspected looters dressed in the group's [Free Iraqi Forces] desert camouflage uniforms and carrying rocket-propelled grenades, Ivings said. The men, who did not speak English, were taken to a prisoner-of-war detention center," says the AP report.
Another four FIF personnel were arrested elsewhere in Baghdad as they tried to rob the empty houses of Iraqi officials and security personnel. According to U.S. military personnel, some of the looted items included china, glassware and clothing.
The stories of looting by FIF or U.S. military and media personnel have since been suppressed.