April 14, 2003

PAUL McGEOUGH has been in

PAUL McGEOUGH has been in Baghdad too long. He's come down with Fisk Fever. Probably caught it from some of these folks he's been talking to:

"The Americans have disappointed us all. This country won't be operational for at least a year or two," said Abbas Reta, 51, an engineer and father of five, who was among hundreds of Iraqi professionals who volunteered yesterday to help restore services.

"I've seen nothing new since Saddam's fall. All that we have seen is looting. The Americans are responsible. One round from their guns and all the looting would have stopped."

But wouldn't that make it appear as though the Americans were an ... occupying force?

And in the crowd that gathered to protest near the Palestine Hotel there was an ominous warning for Mr Rumsfeld from the mouth of Raad Bahman Qasim, 30: "If this continues in Baghdad, we'll kill any American or British soldier."

What for? They haven't looted anything.

Another of the museum archaeologists, Raed Abdul Ridha Mohammed, 35, was one of the staff who raced to fetch the marines.

"If a country has no record of its history it is nothing. If our civilisation is looted, then we don't have a country. So I blame the US - George Bush promised us liberty, but this is not liberty.

"If we had stayed under Saddam Hussein we'd still have the collection."

And lots more besides. Like the local Gulag 4 Kidz.

As I crested the bridge, the bombed remains of the al-Rasheed international telephone exchange came into view - a high-rise tower filled with the wondrous technology of our civilisation that seems to teeter on warped and spindly concrete columns, which are all that survive of its mid-section after repeated bombing by the US - apparently because Saddam might make a phone call.

You think maybe hed be dialling the local Chinese take-out? Possibly Saddam's calls might be less innocent. Just thinking out loud here.

After witnessing three weeks of attacks on Baghdad and almost a week of looting - especially of the Iraq National Museum - questions about where the criminality lies become blurred.

Get out of Baghdad, Paul! Get out now, before the fever is terminal!

Posted by Tim Blair at April 14, 2003 11:50 AM