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投稿者 木村愛二 日時 2003 年 5 月 06 日 18:42:27:




A Sense Of Limbo In South
Iraqi Power Void Results in 'Chaos'

NAJAF, Iraq, May 5 -- Nearly a month after the war ended in Iraq, the U.S.-British occupation in the south is defined mainly by absence: the absence of Saddam Hussein's ruthless government, but also the absence of authority, the absence of improvements, the absence of answers about what is coming next.

In cities across the Shiite-inhabited region stretching southward from Najaf to the Persian Gulf, business and personal affairs remain largely at a standstill. Iraqis say they are waiting, most of all, for someone to take charge. An Iraqi, an American -- many say they do not care in the short run as long as their lives gain purpose and direction.

The Hussein government has evaporated, but nothing has emerged yet to take its place, even in the part of Iraq most clearly pacified and ready for reconstruction. Makeshift city councils are being formed, yet Iraqis consider them a poor substitute for an established government.

A grain company worker in Amarah said he can't do anything without equipment, which was looted, or instructions, especially after two generations of centralized Baath Party control. A physician in Basra said someone must decide who will run the health system, either the doctors' preferred candidate or the Baath Party health minister who refuses to leave his post. An engineering professor at Basra University, surveying his destroyed campus, said, "This is chaos, not freedom."

On a drive through Basra, southern Iraq's largest city, 220 miles southeast of here, it is nearly impossible to find a concrete improvement since resistance by Baath militiamen was silenced April 7. In nearby Umm Qasr, according to Iraqis and British soldiers in charge of the region, the new town council is proving corrupt and inefficient. It did not help that Spanish soldiers, dispatched to aid in the occupation, waded in to break up a demonstration, only to discover it was a funeral procession.

"We're glad to hear what Mr. Bush is saying about the future, but the future is a long time. We want the present," said Mustafa As Badar, an executive at an oil drilling company. "We want them to handle this like Americans."

For all their ambivalence about U.S. power, Iraqis in the south are perplexed that the United States has not done more to help them now that the war is over.

They watched on Kuwaiti television as President Bush pledged rejuvenation. They read the leaflets that fluttered from U.S. planes, rallying them to a bountiful new era. They saw U.S. military might roaring through the desert toward Baghdad. Yet looters wreaked havoc under the noses of U.S. and British commanders. Large-scale humanitarian aid did not arrive and the distribution of staples has not yet resumed. For all the joy about the overthrow of Hussein, political change has produced little but uncertainty. Iraqis across the region say they no longer know which end is up -- and no one is offering a set of instructions.

In the Shiite holy city of Najaf, the interim mayor -- a former army colonel, Baath Party member and political neophyte backed by the Americans -- declared recently that new elections would be held at the chamber of commerce. Someone pointed out that the business group was a private entity outside his purview. After much hubbub, he backed down.

"This is what happens when you have no government," the chamber president, Abboud Tufaily, said ruefully. "People were very happy about the fall of Saddam, but this happiness has been shrinking. The Americans should have had a prearranged program for the postwar period. Even the conflict between the Pentagon and the State Department makes the situation worse."

What one Islamic scholar, Sheik Ahmed Baghdadi, described last week in Amarah as "a circle of emptiness" has inspired more than a few conspiracy theories. Baghdadi charged that the Bush administration is trying to exploit the political vacuum for its own narrow purposes and will lose in the end.

"We are confused now. We are suspicious. Why is there an absence of political control?" asked Abbas Nema, 36, an unemployed resident of Amarah, where the electricity had been turned off for the previous two days. The Americans "want a mess in the political situation so they can do what they have planned."

A policeman standing nearby, Raad Hashemi, 45, agreed. He suspects the United States, intent on grabbing Iraqi oil, is trying "to put us under pressure so we will do what they want." As he spoke, several hundred marchers paraded down a parched street, carrying banners painted with anti-American slogans. Another crowd had chanted in Arabic 30 minutes earlier, "Yes, yes for Islam! No, no for America and Saddam!"

The looting and the elimination of the political establishment without a ready replacement are causing major problems. While farmers harvest tomatoes and store owners open their shops, the government infrastructure is barely functioning. And in southern Iraq, nearly everything of consequence was run by the government.

Offices and banks stand gutted and abandoned. Contracts, work orders, financial records and employee rolls have been lost or destroyed. Equipment has been stolen.

A grain trader, Walid Khaled, said too few trucks remain to haul vegetables to market or grain to silos. Purchasing agents have no money to pay the producers, he said. Government distributors burned out of their offices cannot complete the paperwork to keep track of distribution. Employees everywhere, schooled in a regulated society where excessive initiative was punishable, are waiting for commands that have not yet come.

"We are used to following procedures from the ministry in Baghdad," Khaled said. "What will we do? How will it work? Who will be in charge?"

Attempting to take charge, a mishmash of Baath Party figures and postwar political aspirants find themselves vying for the same turf. Compromised party officials, expected to quit out of shame or fear, have remained in greater numbers than U.S. planners expected.

Take the case of Ali Faisal, Basra's health director under Hussein. Colleagues said he stole medical supplies and skimmed profits from hospital contracts. When British troops seized the city and the hospitals were in chaos, Faisal offered to help, and the invaders gratefully accepted.

Doctors and administrators were outraged. They stormed into a meeting with the British and demanded that Faisal be replaced with someone elected by the medical community. British commanders agreed with the logic and the solution, said Basra doctor Rafiq Mafoudh.

"We threw him out and we elected a new guy. But he says he's still in charge. It's unbelievable," said Mafoudh. "The British have authority and could step in. But they don't care if he is in the Baath Party. They don't care if he was corrupt. As long as he cooperates with them, that's okay."

British commanders reporting to American superiors explain they are undermanned and are doing the best they can. They say they are finding it difficult to deliver results that inspire goodwill, an observation echoed by a U.S. Marine in Najaf Sunday. He said U.S. forces are refurbishing schools and mustering a police force, but never seem to get any credit.

U.S. and British forces, trying to strike a balance between giving orders and standing aside, have encountered many frustrations. Infighting and inefficiency on the 11-member town council in Umm Qasr, intended as a showcase of international postwar success, prompted the exasperated British military governor to call elections for Saturday, according to a British soldier and several Iraqis.

Town council members bickered over three gleaming SUVs presented by the Japanese ambassador. At least two of them were intended for the new police force, but some council members wanted to keep them for themselves. A charitable delivery of 2,000 school knapsacks from Kuwait filled with candy, pens, sneakers and notebooks went awry when only half of them, given to the council for distribution to children, made it to schools.

"We told them six times that the council wants everything for themselves," complained 27-year-old Fidel Razi. "It goes from worse to worse. We need some people who have the talent and the authority to guide other people, not only to give interviews and talk to the press."

On top of that, prices at the town market are rising, as is the value of the Iraqi dinar, as occupying forces hand out $20 emergency payments to government workers. Slightly more than two pounds of potatoes, which cost 300 dinars before the war, now costs 1,000 dinars. Two weeks ago, $1 would buy about 3,000 dinars. Today, the rate is lower than the prewar figure of 2,000 as Iraqis convert their dollars to the more convenient local currency.

Anger at the council is grave enough that someone posted a sign at the market that read: "Today, we warn you. Tomorrow, we'll kill you."

Iraqis keep asking when the cavalry will arrive. By that, they mean the Americans. The British soldiers, who handle much of the day-to-day work in the south, are asking the same question. "Always when we ask the British, they said, 'You must talk with the Americans,' " said engineer Ali Aziz. "They say they have no powers."

"The Americans cruised in as the messengers of freedom: 'We are the messengers of happiness for Iraqis. We will deliver you from Saddam Hussein,' " said Khaled, the grain trader. "We see nothing. Just destruction and shortages."

In the brutal afternoon heat in Umm Qasr one day last week, two red-and-white Coca-Cola trucks with Kuwaiti license plates barreled through town and across the hard-packed desert, kicking up dust clouds. Children waved as the trucks drove past and kept watching as they disappeared -- into a U.S.-British military base.

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