BAGHDAD, Iraq April 12 —
Harried Marines still in desert camo huddled at a hotel bar with
Iraqi civil servants on Saturday, taking the first stabs at
restoring a capital collapsed in chaos and looting.
Outside the generator-lit hotel serving as makeshift government
headquarters, Iraqi police leaders and others were desperate to help
but stood stymied at the gate, blocked by Marines guarding the
Five days after U.S. troops took much of the capital, Marines
struggled to fill the vacuum left when the Saddam Hussein regime
fled. On Saturday, U.S. military and Iraqi police officials said
they will begin joint patrols to restore order in Baghdad.
"It's like trying to get Los Angeles back up," said Marine Maj.
Frank Simone, one of a handful of Marine civil affairs officers
summoning groups of Iraqi water, electrical and police civil
servants to the Palestine Hotel, where U.S. forces more or less have
set up a base.
The joint patrols, like ones the British announced in the
southern city of Basra, will start in a day or two, said Iraqi
police Col. Mohammed Zaki. "Anyone who carries a weapon or fires a
weapon, we will fire at," he said. Marines didn't offer a start
time, but said it would be soon.
Outside the cordon in front of the hotel, police Maj. Ali
Hussein, in neat shirt and tie, pleaded with M-16 toting Marines
holding him back from joining the meeting inside. "People are
stealing everywhere, breaking in everywhere," he said.
Inside, Ahmad Hussein, a national-ID-registration official,
argued for using police. "We all, everyone, want to go back to work.
We want only to protect Iraq's citizens," he said.
Looters have roamed the city's main routes, power has been off
for more than a week, hospitals are overworked and themselves
targeted by robbers. Water has slowed to a sporadic trickle.
Iraqis have appealed for Americans to allow the country's police
officers to return to work. The Americans, however, suspect some
police of collaborating with Saddam's fighters, such as using police
radios to guide Iraqi attacks.
"Most of the top people, the ones we think are Baath officials,
the ones that fled, are guys that we don't want to come back,"
Simone said. "But a lot of the ones that stayed are good guys."
Restoring electricity remains a top goal.
The power has been off since April 2, three days before American
troops first entered Baghdad, when someone in authority in Saddam's
regime sent out a general shutdown order, said Riyadh Nahed, a top
engineer at one city power plant.
Most electrical workers then abandoned their jobs, though some
tried to restore electricity right up to the eve of the entry of
U.S. forces to the city, Nahed said.
The network appears to have been spared both American bombs and
Iraqi sabotage but workers told the Marines they have neither the
fuel, transportation, assurances of safety nor direction to return
On Saturday, there were a few signs of improvement. U.S. forces
who had been concentrated in key intersections spread out, and the
departure of tanks closing roads allowed honking traffic to fill
U.S. forces stood guard by at least one hospital. Hospitals and
ambulances have been hit hard by robbers; one reported case had
robbers rolling hospital beds out of one medical center to restock
the one in their neighborhood, near the Shia Saddam City.
At the hotel meetings, the Iraqi civilian officials agreed to an
American request to contact their employees and ask them to return
"The sooner you can get the power back, the sooner we can stop
all the looting, all the bad things," Marine civil affairs Capt.
Ezra Carbins told Iraqi power plant engineers, technicians and
"That's the main thing, and I know the main thing you all want is
|Iraqis loot a pretol station's
fuel storage tanks in Baghdad Saturday April 12 2003 as
widespread looting continues throughout the Iraqi capital. (AP
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