"US Forces Encourage Looting"
By Ole Rothenborg Dagens Nyheter, Saturday April 11, 2003
(Translated article from Sweden's largest circulation daily)
Malmoe. Khaled Bayomi looks a bit surprised when he looks at the American officer on TV regret that they don't have any resources to stop the looting in Baghdad.
- I happened to be there just as the US forces told people to commence looting.
Khaled Bayomi departed from Malmoe to Baghdad, as a human shield, and arrived on the same day the fighting begun. About this he can tell us plenty and for a long time, but the most interesting part of his story is his witness-account about the great surge of looting now taking place.
- I had visited a few friends that live in a worn-down area just beyond the Haifa Avenue, on the west bank of the Tigris River. It was April 8 and the fighting was so heavy I couldn't make it over to the other side of the river. On the afternoon it became perfectly quit, and four American tanks pulled up in position on the outskirts of the slum area. From these tanks we heard anxious calls in Arabic, which told the population to come closer.
- During the morning everybody that tried to cross the streets had been fired upon. But during this strange silence people eventually became curious. After three-quarters of an hour the first Baghdad citizens dared to come forward. At that moment the US solders shot two Sudanese guards, who were posted in front of a local administrative building, on the other side of the Haifa Avenue.
- I was just 300 meters away when the guards where murdered. Then they shot the building entrance to pieces, and their Arabic translators in the tanks told people to run for grabs inside the building. Rumors spread rapidly and the house was cleaned out. Moments later tanks broke down the doors to the Justice Department, residing in the neighboring building, and looting was carried on to there.
- I was standing in a big crowd of civilians that saw all this together with me. They did not take any part in the looting, but were to afraid to take any action against it. Many of them had tears of shame in their eyes. The next morning looting spread to the Museum of Modern Art, which lies another 500 meters to the north. There was also two crowds in place, one that was looting and another one that disgracefully saw it happen.
Do you mean to say that it was the US troops that initiated the looting?
- Absolutely. The lack of scenes of joy had the US forces in need of images on Iraqi's who in different ways demonstrated their disgust with Saddam's regime.
But people in Baghdad tore down a big statue of Saddam?
- They did? It was a US tank that did this, close to the hotel where all the journalists live. Until noon on the 9th of April, I didn't see a single torn picture of Saddam anywhere. If people had wanted to turn over statues they could have gone for some of the many smaller ones, without the help of an American tank. Had this been a political uproar then people would have turned over statues first and looted afterwards.
Back home in Sweden Khaled Bayomi is PhD student at the University of Lund, where he since ten years teaches and researches about conflicts in the Middle East. He is very well informed about the conflicts, as well as he is on the propaganda war.
Isn't it good that Saddam is gone?
- He is not gone. He has dissolved his army in tiny, tiny groups. This is why there never was any big battle. Saddam dissolved Iraq as a state already in 1992 and have shad a parallel tribal structure going, which since then has been altogether decisive for the country. When USA begun the war Saddam completely abandoned the state, and now depends on this tribal structure. This is why he left the big cities without any battle.
- Now USA are forced to do everything themselves, because there is no political force from within that would challenge the structure in place. The two challengers who came in from the outside were immediately lynched.
Khaled Bayomi refers to what happened to general Nazar al-Khazraji, who escaped from Denmark, and Shia-muslim leader Abdul Majid al- Khoei, who both where chopped to pieces by a raging crowd in Najaf, because they where perceived to be American marionettes. According to Danish newspaper BT, al-Khazraji was picked up by the CIA in Denmark and then brought to Iraq.
- Now we have an occupying power in place in Iraq, that has not said how long they will stay, not brought forward any time-plan for civilian rule and no date for general elections. Now awaits only a big chaos.