Monday, August 06, 2007

‘We are living in the stone age’

Three headlines from a country in the fourth year of foreign occupation: ‘Armed robots to go to war in Iraq’; ‘Power cuts worsen as grid collapses’; ‘ US soldier sentenced to 110 years’. Three indictments of the American-British invasion of 2003 that has brought untold suffering and misery to the Iraqi people. Puppet governments installed following the removal of Saddam Hussein have no authority and no capacity to unite the country. Instead, Sunni and Shia insurgents, each with their own agenda, have moved Iraq towards sectarian civil war. Millions have fled the country to Syria and Jordan, leaving the country short of professional workers like doctors and teachers.

Now, as the summer heat blasts the country, the power system is unable to cope.

The electricity ministry says that power generation nationally is only meeting half the demand. Four blackouts have hit the country this week. Power supplies in Baghdad are down to just a few hours a day. This has hit the water supply because blackouts have affected pumping and filter stations. Provinces are disconnecting their power supplies from the national grid because they claim it is one-way traffic, adding to the sense of dismemberment of Iraq. Of 17 power lines running into the capital, only two were operational this week. The rest have been sabotaged. One province south of the capital has been without power for three days because in a country with the world’s third largest oil reserves, a 50-megawatt power station in the area has no fuel. Kerbala market stall holder Hazim Obeid, said: "We no longer need television documentaries about the stone age. We are actually living in it.”

But do not worry, the US military is coming to the rescue, or rather its robotic arm is. American forces have deployed robots equipped with automatic weapons in Iraq, the first battlefield use of machines capable of waging war by remote control. The Sword robots are a modified bomb disposal devices. Soldiers operate the robots with a specially modified laptop, complete with joystick controls. The devices are armed machine guns and come with these comforting words from a consultant on the project: “Anytime you utilise technology to take a US service member out of harm’s way, it is worth every penny. These armed robots can be used as a force multiplier to augment an already significant force in the battle space.” The robots have another advantage – they can’t be jailed for the rape and murder of a 14-year old Iraqi and the killing of her family like Private Jesse Spielman was this week. He, of course, is just a pawn in a greater game, where oil and profit are the the goals of the occupation. Many soldiers not yet brutalised by Iraq know this all too well. They understand that companies like Halliburton, once headed by Dick Cheney vice-president and architect of the invasion, are doing nicely. As always, the infantry are fighting someone else’s war.

Paul Feldman, AWTW communications editor

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