- The Washington Times - Monday, March 24, 2003

BAGHDAD, Iraq, March 24 (UPI) — Baghdad came under attack Monday, barely minutes after Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had appeared on television to defiantly denounce the U.S. and British attacks and urge his troops to do everything possible to defend their country.

No sooner had the transmission ended than more than half a dozen bombs rocked the city. This correspondent was walking through a market area when one of the bombs landed with a deafening explosion barely 500 yards away. Some of the shoppers ducked or ran into nearby doorways. Police and soldiers were very quickly on the scene and I was ushered away.

The sky over Baghdad is very heavily overcast, partly due to inclement weather and partly as a result of oil fires the authorities are using to interfere with the laser guidance system of the coalition bombs.

There is a strange sense of foreboding in the city. People are trying to go about their normal lives, but it's difficult. Most businesses are closed, the bombs are coming down all the time and most often without warning. Air-raid sirens no longer wail, so it's a constant fear of sudden death that pulls on the nerves.

Most Iraqis don't want to go into their bunkers; memories are fresh of the Amiriya shelter where more than 300 civilians reportedly perished in 1991. Everyone drives a little faster, those who can be bothered to venture out onto the street at all. Food prices have gone up by more than a third in the last week and the reality of an imminent siege of the city is making everybody edgy.

The expected curfews have not yet been put in place, but we all know it is only a matter of time. Rumors that coalition forces are now at Karbala, barely 50 miles away, is making everybody realize that some sort of doomsday isn't very far off.

The bombs come at any time, without warning. They wake you up brutally; the hotel room shakes violently. Some of us sleep with our boots on, just in case. Everyone is stocking up on food and all the foreigners are swapping telephone numbers in case some of them don't make it back home. The news of Terry Lloyd of British Independent Television News being killed in Basra isn't encouraging.

The reality of a full-scale war is beginning to dawn on the earnest, mostly young foreigners who are here as human shields. But the novelty is wearing off fast for them. It will vanish when bodies appear in the streets.

But the Iraqis are still putting on a brave face. Their generosity and good manners are endless. They are having a tough time of it, but they are still grinning. It's hard not to admire them. But the usual fears are always there and sometimes even they can't hide it.

At the hospitals, all non-essential operations have been canceled. Everyone is preparing for emergency operations. Most of the staff camp in the hospital grounds, mainly because scared civilians tend to rush for the sanctuary of the hospitals when the bombing starts.

Thankfully, casualties so far have been light, but we are preparing for the worst. It's a natural attitude in a war zone. It's not pessimism, it's name is realism.




LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide