"USA encouraged ransacking"
This is a translation of an article from April 11 from
Dagens Nyheter, Sweden's largest newspaper, based in
Stockholm. The article was written by Ole Rothenborg
and translated by Joe Valasek. Khaled Bayomi, has
taught and researched on Middle Eastern conflicts for
ten years at the University of Lund where he is also
working on his doctorate.
Khaled Bayomi looks surprised when the American officer
on TV complains that they don't have the resources to
stop the plundering in Baghdad. "I happened to be right
there just as the American troops encouraged people to
begin the plundering."
Khaled Bayomi traveled from Europe to Baghdad to be a
human shield and arrived on the same day that the war
began. About this he can tell many stories but the most
interesting is certainly his eyewitness account of the
wave of plundering.
"I had gone to see some friends who live near a
dilapidated area just past Haifa Avenue on the west
bank of the Tigris. It was the 8th of April and the
fighting was so intense that I was unable to return to
the other side of the river. In the afternoon it became
perfectly quiet and four American tanks took places on
the edge of the slum area. The soldiers shot two
Sudanese guards who stood at their posts outside a
local administration building on the other side of
Haifa Avenue. Then they blasted apart the doors to the
building and from the tanks came eager calls in Arabic
encouraging people to come close to them. "
"The entire morning, everyone who had tried to cross
the road had been shot. But in the strange silence
after all the shooting, people gradually became
curious. After 45 minutes, the first Baghdad citizens
dared to come out. Arab interpreters in the tanks told
the people to go and take what they wanted in the
"The word spread quickly and the building was
ransacked. I was standing only 300 yards from there
when the guards were murdered. Afterwards the tank
crushed the entrance to the Justice Department, which
was in a neighboring building, and the plundering
"I stood in a large crowd and watched this together
with them. They did not partake in the plundering but
dared not to interfere. Many had tears of shame in
their eyes. The next morning the plundering spread to
the Modern Museum, which lies a quarter mile farther
north. There were also two crowds there, one that
plundered and one with watched with disgust."
"Are you saying that it was US troops who initiated the
"Absolutely. The lack of jubilant scenes meant that the
American troops needed pictures of Iraqis who in
different ways demonstrated hatred for Saddam's
"The people pulled down a large statue of Saddam?"
"Did they? It was an American tank that did that, right
beside the hotel where all the journalists stay. Until
lunchtime on April 9, I did not see one destroyed
Saddam portrait. If people had wanted to pull down
statues they could have taken down some of the small
ones without any help from American tanks. If it had
been a political upheaval, the people would have pulled
down statues first and then plundered."
"Isn't it good that Saddam is gone?"
"He's not gone. He has broken his army down into very
small groups. That's why there hasn't been a large
battle. About the official state, you could say that
Saddam dissolved that already in 1992 and he's built a
parallel tribal structure that is totally decisive in
Iraq. When the US began the war, Saddam abandoned the
state completely and now depends on the tribal
structure. That was why he abandoned the large cities
without a fight."
"Now the US is compelled to do everything themselves
because there's no political body within the country
which will challenge the existing structure. The two
who came in from outside the country were annihilated
at once. (The reference here is to General Nazar al-
Khazraji, who returned from Denmark and the Shiite
Muslim leader, Abdul Majid al-Khoei.) They were cut to
pieces with swords and knives by a furious crowd in
Najaf because they were thought to be American puppets.
According to the Danish newspaper BT, al-Khazraji was
brought from Denmark to Iraq by the CIA."
"Now we have an occupying power in place in Iraq that
has not said how long it intends to remain, has not
given any plan for civilian rule and no date for
general elections. Enormous chaos is now to be