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Propganda - "Winning Iraqis' hearts, minds, starts with water"

Date: Thu, 17 Apr 2003 23:52:46 +1200

The logic contained in particular passages in the propaganda-piece below this, make me swoon:

"Hussein used to provide water — part of his system of controlling Iraqis — and now that his forces are losing control, somebody has to step in."

"the U.S. Army . . . have discovered the depths of Hussein's totalitarian system. Hussein-sponsored networks supervised delivery of water and food."

So, if provision of water by a government is "totalitarian control" - and from an army, is "humanitarian aid" - then what do we call private water corporations' efforts - "Free market" benevolence??

In a real democracy, common folk can do without dictators, armies or profiteers to "provide" for them - we need publicly owned and operated water services - globally! The struggle to secure such basic necessities of life is part of the overall war against the ruling class, their corporations and their corrupt governments.

Jim Gladwin

Winning Iraqis' hearts, minds, starts with water

April 2003

U.S. Water News Online

UMM QASR, Iraq — The best way to win hearts across the Iraqi countryside today is with water.

Small children beg for it at roadsides. Farmers in search of it drive listing jalopies for miles. Women clad head to toe in black brave the noon sun lugging empty plastic containers. Such is the collective thirst here that Sabah, 45, and his 12-year-old son, Ali, dared to venture into an abandoned Iraqi army compound where elite soldiers recently guarded the country's main port here at the top of the Persian Gulf.

In the compound, beyond coils of barbed wire, Sabah and Ali rummaged through discarded gas masks, unexploded artillery shells sticking up from a slimy green pond, empty bunkers, a black beret in the sand, and abandoned pet rabbits. Then Sabah spotted a tap dripping beneath a tank marked "Down U.S.A." Ali immediately began filling their five containers.

Less than the length of a soccer field away, U.S. and British soldiers camped. They have occupied the port and set up strict security gates out front.

Children here seem excited by the arrival of U.S. forces, and some adults tentatively say they support war to remove Saddam Hussein — even hiring on to deliver U.S.-supplied water to fellow Iraqis. But other men flashed thumbs down at U.S. soldiers.

U.S. Army commanders — eying their dinner as Sabah eyed his water — say th ey are well aware of the anti-American sentiment and also that thousands of Iraqi families in the area need water desperately. Hussein used to provide water — part of his system of controlling Iraqis — and now that his forces are losing control, somebody has to step in.

By day, the troops here are trying to step in as soon as possible. This is America's most secure beachhead inside Iraq, and a core part of the mission is winning over hostile Iraqis — crucial for the Bush administration's strategy of ensuring a stable and, eventually, democratic Iraq. Commanders have ramped up humanitarian efforts, enlisting a cadre of Iraqi truck drivers who know the area to pick up water from a new pipeline from Kuwait and deliver it to the hinterlands.

Whatever happens here in this relatively sympathetic Shiite Muslim part of Iraq will become an example for Iraqis elsewhere — many of them Sunni Muslims more loyal to Hussein, said Col. Dave Bassert, sitting in the port administration building — now a makeshift military headquarters.

"We have to show, by what we do here, what our real intent is," Bassert said. "Our goal is to get the military out and the civilian agencies in, and then get the civilian agencies out and the Iraqis in."

But just delivering water, let alone bringing civilian aid agencies in, is happening much more slowly than commanders want. "Anything that happens here," Bassert lamented, "is like elephants mating. It takes a lot of time and coordination."

Commanders here point out that Congress has not funded the military to do long-term humanitarian work. "We would love to have (civilian aid professionals) any time. Certainly we are at a stage now where we can use their assistance. It's time to start rebuilding," Bassert said.

A two-member team from the U.S. Agency for International Development, Sally Hodgson and Don Finn, finally came in by convoy after several delays. Security assessments had been made, and they will set up an office this week. "We have to get the humanitarian aid flowing," Hodgson said, "because people will suffer if we don't."

For now, water delivery depends on the U.S. Army. That challenge is taking troops deeper and deeper into Iraqi affairs. They have discovered the depths of Hussein's totalitarian system. Hussein-sponsored networks supervised delivery of water and food. Villages counted on water trucks arriving each week. And Iraqis all carried cards assigning them to one local shop where they collected food.

American soldiers say they are breaking down that system by chasing Hussein's loyalists from the area. They conduct nightly patrols. "There are still Baathists (members of Hussein's ruling Baath Party) in the town," Bassert said.

Col. Dave Blackledge, chief of the civil affairs operations here, drove around Umm Qasr to monitor conditions.

"Obviously, there are some that don't want us here," Blackledge said. "This was the first time we've seen people doing the thumbs down." He tried to put a positive spin on it. "It may be a sign that they feel more comfortable expressing how they feel.

His men who are able to talk with Iraqis are finding that many want change but remain very afraid of retaliation by Hussein's forces if America does not prevail. Bassert said Iraqis often ask: "Are you planning to stay? Will you be around to protect us?" To work with Iraqis, U.S. troops draw on a team of Iraqi-American soldiers, who translate to get the water-delivery trucking system up and rolling.

Drivers are to be paid more than five times their prewar wages, around $5 a day. Many men are eager for the work. Those hired are told they must follow coalition rules against charging townspeople money for the water they bring. But until the deliveries begin, the villagers search. Men pedal bicycles loaded with empty containers. Boys clutch empty bottles. Girls implore with empty looks in their eyes. "Water!"

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