Monday, September 05, 2005

Looters in Iraq, Looters in New Orleans

Oh, my God, thank God somebody said this, because I've been thinking it for days. Remember when Donald Rumsfeld announced that the orgy of looting and burning by Iraqis after the U.S. invasion was a sign of "pent-up feelings of oppression"? The Bush administration has responded to the looters in New Orleans with the same understanding and tolerance, right?

In April of 2003 the US military stood by and allowed Baghdad to be looted. Not only were private establishments emptied, but all the major ministries (except the Ministry of Petroleum) were looted and burned. When Iraqis complained to the new occupation authority, the GI's informed them that stopping the looting was "not the mission." The documents from the Baath Foreign Ministry that might have shed light on the dealings of Reagan, Bush senior, Schultz and Rumsfeld with Saddam Hussein before 1990 were helpfully burned. The modern history of Iraq, including cabinet meetings from the 1930s and 1940s, mostly went up in smoke (it would be as though the US National Archives for every administration since Roosevelt was burned, along with all microfilm copies). The Iraq Museum, a key repository for ancient Iraqi civilization and the history of humankind, was looted of dozens of major pieces and thousands of lesser ones.

The widespread looting and the breakdown of order started Iraq on its descent into chaos.
What was the response of the man responsible for one of the most damaging debacles in the history of modern Iraq? Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said,"Freedom's untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things," . . . Looting, he added, was not uncommon for countries that experience significant social upheaval. "Stuff happens," Rumsfeld said.
In late summer of 2005, as Hurricane Katrina recast New Orleans as a latter-day Atlantis, displacing a million persons and reducing hundreds of thousands to dire poverty, a wave of looting broke out in the city. Some legal scholars argued that where people felt their lives were in danger because of a natural disaster, they actually had the right to take food, medicine and water--and other materials necessary to their survival-- from abandoned stores.
So the Bush administration treated Louisiana's Walmart managers the same way it treated Iraqi property holders, right? After all, "stuff happens," right? Free people are free to make errors and commit crimes in times of crisis, correct?


' "Saying he was carrying a message from U.S. President George W. Bush, New Orleans U.S. Attorney Jim Letten said police and prosecutors were ready to hunt down a small group of criminals responsible for "horrendous" crimes in the stricken city. "The streets of New Orleans belong to its citizens, not the violent thugs who have stuck their heads up out of holes in an attempt to exploit a national tragedy," Letten told reporters. "Not one inch of that city is going to be ceded to the criminal element," he said in Baton Rouge. "Not one inch." '

So I guess it just depends on whose property is being destroyed and looted, whether Bush bothers to send in US troops to stop looting.

Prof. Cole goes on to say that the different responses have not been lost on Iraqis.

Read the entire piece. It's well worth your time, and the photographs are riveting.

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