Monday, April 14, 2003

Teresa Nielsen Hayden mourns the looting of the national museum of Iraq, which may be mentioned in centuries to come in the same breath as the burning of the library of Alexandria.

Of course, our troops had hospitals to protect. And they weren't doing that either; they told anyone who asked that, particularly with too few troops to really try and control things, their orders didn't let them get involved. They have now, belatedly, been ordered to protect the hospitals, but as of yesterday, those orders were going to troops who don't know where those hospitals are.

(And it comes in the wake of news that at least in Basra, coalition forces had encouraged mobs to loot government buildings -- were they too blinkered to think it would go further, or did they just not care?)

But there were buildings that got protection from the start. As the Knight Ridder story explains:

At the Ministry of Oil, Marines had set up a machine gun and barbed wire to prevent further pillaging. A tank sat behind a steel fence. A handwritten sign next to a machine gun nest said "Looters Lane."

"Why do the Americans go to the Oil Ministry and not the hospital, not the college?" asked Khader Alias, 45, a musician. "They must do something. Believe me, all Iraqi people are not like this."

They just had more important things to do. Like this:

At the Rashid Hotel, where many foreign journalists visiting Mr. Hussein's Iraq were required to stay, American troops were sent to break up a tile mosaic of the first President Bush on the floor of the lobby. Until the mosaic was destroyed today, the likeness of Mr. Bush was stepped on dozens of times a day.

This isn't about the troops who were following the orders. It's about the REMFs who issued them, and who sent in a force too small to do the job in the first place.

(via Billmon's Whiskey Bar and comments at the Daily Kos).


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