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This is a - by now predictably - biased report from Associated Press [below] and comparable Western press wire services. But a cursory reading between the lines and a modicum of short-term historical memory leads to this conclusion: The US, Britain and its 'coalition of the willing' at that time employed graphite bombs to knock out electricity to another unoffending capital city - Belgrade - almost four years to the day. Iraq's second largest city, Basra, with a population (pre-fleeing from the outskirts) of at least a million and a half residents, has been without electricity, water, sewage facilities and other modern urban amenities for at least two weeks.
With temperatures reaching a hundred degrees Fahrenheit [37 Celsius], both cities are now optimal breeding grounds for typhoid, dysentery, cholera and other epidemic infectious diseases.
Additionally, a complete cut-off of electricity means that thousands of wounded patients are deprived of life-support systems, cardiac monitors, scanning equipment, even lighting.
This is indisputably a war against the entire civilian population of Iraqis in the nation's cities; as such it violates Article Six of the Nuremberg Charter, sections B and C: War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity. Section A, which the Nuremberg Tribunal's chief justice Robert Jackson defined as the major international crime, out of which the other two spring - Crimes Against Peace, the launching of a war of aggression - was violated two weeks ago this past Wednesday.]
Associated Press April 5, 2003
Blackout foreshadows humanitarian crisis
NEW YORK APRIL 5. The shut-off of Baghdad's electrical power and water supply foreshadows a potential humanitarian crisis that could overwhelm coalition forces, even as they battle to quell resistance by Saddam Hussein's die-hard defenders, military and relief agency experts say.
The scenario is not just of one but of many nightmares — food riots, disease, suicide bombers and widespread civilian casualties in the city of more than 5 million, said Patrick Garrett, an associate analyst at Globalsecurity.com, a Virginia-based think tank.
``Nothing up to now has been as difficult as this is likely to be,'' he said. ``The most difficult days are ahead. It could be days, weeks, months — or it could be hours, if Saddam has left Baghdad and gone to Tikrit — in which case they get to do it all over again.''
``What you have is the making of a humanitarian catastrophe,'' said Sid Balman, spokesman for InterAction, an umbrella group of 165 relief organisations.
Baghdad went dark on Thursday for the first time since the war began on March 20, just as spearhead troops of America's 3rd Infantry Division closed in on the international airport on the capital's south-western outskirts.
U.S. officials denied targeting the electric grid. ``We didn't do it. It's as simple as that,''' said Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks, chief spokesman for the U.S. Central Command in Qatar.
Experts said it was more in Mr. Hussein's interest to shut down the power, creating a crisis that the allied forces would have to deal with, and triggering an outcry from the international community and the United Nations. ``They (the Iraqis) can't afford a siege. They haven't got the troops for it,'' said Robert Hutchinson, a defence consultant with Jane's Defence Weekly in London.
``Saddam must be wanting to prolong this as long as possible in hope that casualties will affect public opinion or that the horrors of urban warfare will bring pressure to stop,'' he said.
The United States would be blamed by some for a humanitarian crisis because it would not have happened without an invasion, Mr. Garrett said.
The U.S. President, George W. Bush's top military adviser said on Thursday that American forces might stop short of storming Baghdad and instead isolate it while a new national government is organised.
Richard Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Pentagon reporters that if Baghdad was ``basically isolated,'' it would no longer control Iraq. ``Whatever's happening inside Baghdad is almost irrelevant compared to what's going on in the rest of the country,'' he said.
An expanding civil crisis could require the administration to revise that plan, sending troops into the city or hastily revamping its strategy in other ways, Mr. Garrett said.
Along with the Red Crescent Society — the Arab equivalent of the Red Cross — Medicins Sans Frontieres, Australian CARE and a few others already in Baghdad, some 25 U.S.-based agencies would be expected to work in Iraq. But they would not risk going into the capital unless it was secure, officials said.
``A secure environment is critical for NGOs to do their work safely — it is the bottom line consideration,'' Mr. Balman said. ``Baghdad would not be a secure environment if there is a full-blown siege.''
On Friday, Medicins Sans Frontieres — also known as Doctors Without Borders — reported two of its members were missing in the Iraqi capital.
Mr. Balman said that after seven months of talks with Bush administration officials, InterAction does not know what U.S. plans are for dealing with a potential humanitarian crisis. ``Their argument has been that to share these plans would reveal the war plans, and that they can't plan for something that has not happened,'' he said.
An urban nightmare could have many parts, beginning with a water shortage, and expanding to include food riots, sewage pollution, possible infectious diseases and a breakdown in civil order.
Even tight U.S. control of major portions of Baghdad could not prevent resistance by armed militants and Fedayeen militants.
``The task of distribution would be insane, and that's what would play into the hands of the militants. It's when it's chaotic, or you have the food riots, that the Fedayeen would be able to slip in and set off suicide bombs,'' he said. ``That would be absolutely horrendous, a huge area where the Marines or what-have-you were trying to dole out food to people who were hungry, and a suicide bomber detonates himself. The sheer chaos that resulted would be unimaginable.''
One problem would be the enormous need for water, food and other relief supplies. ``Water is critical. But you have new-born babies, pregnant women, everything that exists in a city,'' said Mr. Balman, who worked in the Bosnian city of Sarajevo, during the siege there.
``Sarajevo was pretty low tech and a much smaller city. Here you have the world's most powerful military against a regime doing everything it can to survive. ... We don't see how they plan to handle it,'' he said.
Copyright AP and Rick Rozoff 2003. For fair use only/ pour usage équitable seulement .