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Sorry... It Really Is a Must Read
Yes, yes, I know that all the biggies are linking to that Mark Steyn piece about his visit to Iraq, but it really is the must-read article of the weekend. There's even a little something for the conspiracy theorists:
So what precisely is happening in Rutba that requires an Oxfam/ICRC summit? Well, the problem, as they see it, is that, sure, there's plenty of food available but "the prices are too high". That's why the World Food Programme and the other NGOs need to be brought in, to distribute more rations to more people.
Can you think of anything Iraq needs less? If prices really are "too high", it's because storekeepers are in the first flush of a liberated economy. Given that the main drag in Rutbah has a gazillion corner shops lined up side by side, competition will soon bring prices down to what the market can bear, if it hasn't already. Offering folks WFP rations will only put some of those storekeepers out of business and ensure that even more people need rations. But perhaps that's the idea.
It's a toss-up, as far as I'm concerned, whether this is truly a self-interested manipulation of the Iraqi economy (after all, if they can cause enough shop owners to go out of business, they'll only have more anti-Bush stories of unemployment to peddle to the Western media) or merely another case of good intentions not matched with intelligent consideration exacerbating the problems that they seek to alleviate.
And as far as looting, the following passage certainly makes it sound as if you're better off having a business in Iraq after a war...
In the western towns, which were relatively unscathed by the war, it's the almost surgical removal of the regime that you're struck by. Every Main Street roundabout has its empty plinths where the Saddam portraits stood. There are generally a couple of large blocks plus a compound and maybe a fancy house with elaborate decorative stonework with their doors and gates hanging off the hinges and the odd goat or donkey defecating over the interior: these are the Ba'athist buildings, and they're the sole target of highly focused looting. Everything else is untouched - the poky grocery stores piled high with boxes of soda you could boil a lobster in, the ramshackle auto shops with their mounds of second-hand tyres, all these are open for business, and in the end they're more relevant to the future of Iraq than the legions of unemployed Saddamite bureaucrats in Baghdad or the NGO armies in their brand new, gleaming white Chevy Suburbans and Land Rovers cruising the streets touting for business like drug pushers in search of junkies.
... than in a European city during a G8 summit:
The most violent protests early Sunday were in the Swiss city Lausanne, across Lake Geneva from the G-8 summit site. Demonstrators wearing masks hurled rocks at police and a posh hotel and looted a gas station and a supermarket. ...
Demonstrators gathered in Geneva early Sunday, blocking the city's main bridge -- the Mont-Blanc -- and several others with burning barricades made of trash cans and other items. The crowd, which grew to 10,000, was mostly peaceful, though some smashed the windows of a gas station and threw rocks through the windows of an employment agency, spray-painting "slave-trader" on its walls. ...
Most of the demonstrators were peaceful, but an aggressive core of about 200 wearing black ski masks and other face coverings knocked down phone booths and tore down signs. They threw large rocks at the Hotel Royal and at police guarding the Olympic Museum.
They also looted a construction site for scaffolding and bars, presumably to build barricades on several streets. Rioters ransacked an Esso gas station, stealing candy and cigarettes that they then handed out to people watching the demonstration. They also broke into a supermarket.
I guess the difference is that the Iraqis and the foreign troops in Iraq actually care about other people and their property more than expressing a petulant, immature angst.
Here's more on the protests/rioters/looters:
Anarchists and anti-capitalists rampaged through the plush streets of Geneva and Lausanne Sunday, smashing shops and looting businesses as world leaders met beyond their reach in France.
Police detained several hundred youths, most of them in Lausanne, and the skirmishes continued into the evening in Geneva while world leaders settled down unperturbed to dinner some 32 miles away.
Whatever the "cause" or event, it's just an excuse to them.
Posted by Justin Katz @ 05:19
Thank God for Mark Steyn.
Marc @ 06/02/2003
07:14 AM EST