Why Baghdad is stripped bare

April 21st, 2003 § Two comments

In an earlier post about the looting of Iraqi museums and libraries, I asserted that the United States military could have stopped the looting. The writer Teresa Nielsen Hayden makes a different and more convincing claim:

We don’t have the manpower [to stop the looting]. Our guys couldn’t protect Baghdad’s hospitals, so 39 out of 40 of those are gone, stripped to the walls. The banks are gone too; and if you think that’s trivial, imagine you’re an elderly Iraqi whose savings were in a bank that’s not only been robbed, but stripped of its computers, filing cabinets, furniture, light fixtures, and plumbing. Mom-and-pop stores are being pillaged. The offices responsible for dull but essential social services are being plundered for their office equipment and furniture. It’s ugly.

And why are our troops stretched so thin? Because when the war was in its planning stages, Donald Rumsfeld repeatedly dismissed and overruled the experienced military planners who told him how much force would be needed to invade Iraq. We have the troops. We have the equipment. Our annual military budget could practically have bought the country. More conventionally, we could have gone in with massive force and done everything in an orderly fashion, the way all our military doctrine says we should do it. But Rumsfeld said no.

America started war with the goal of dismantling Saddam Hussein’s government. The people who planned the war—Rumsfeld and all the rest—ought to have known that once the government was gone, looting would become a problem. Either they did not realize this, which is unlikely, or they did not care, which is horrifying. It makes little difference now. There were not enough troops in Baghdad to maintain order after the government fell, and so the entire city has been plundered.

Two comments

  • Brian says:

    Lest anyone doubt that the looting was expected…
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A7115-2003Apr21.html
    According to today’s Post, there were 12 armored vehicles protecting the Oil Ministry at roughly the same time as museums and hospitals were being pillaged. It’s all about priorities. Thousand year old antiquities? Human life? Or data about oil production?

  • Jeff says:

    Well, really, which would you rather have: some boring 7,000-year-old pottery, or a tanker full of sweet, sweet crude that you can refine into fuel for your 2003 Ford Crushatero?

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