The fall of a tyrant is invariably followed by scenes of popular jubilation. The rejoicing often spills over into indiscriminate looting and plunder. Baghdad is now experiencing that trauma. For over three days, reports coming out of the capital of Iraq have established beyond any reasonable doubt that law and order is non-existent in Baghdad and may be so in other parts of Iraq as well. The conquering coalition forces cannot escape the responsibility for this state of affairs. Ordinary soldiers can get away by saying “It ain’t my job”. It is the responsibility of the military leadership to instruct the troops that protection of property, public and private, is their job till a proper law and order machinery is put in place. It is clear that no such instructions have been issued. What is worse is that suppression of the plunder does not seem to feature anywhere on the coalition forces’ list of priorities. This is a bizarre situation given the fact that the campaign in Iraq had the ending of barbarism and the establishment of civilized normalcy as two of its principal aims. By their actions the coalition forces have ended tyranny and by their subsequent inaction they have restored barbarism of another kind. The use of the word barbarism may strike the White House and 10 Downing Street as being unduly harsh and unjustified. But there is no other word to describe the sacking of the antiquities museum in Baghdad. Priceless and irreplaceable bits of history have disappeared for good. The posting of a military picket outside the museum could have ensured that this did not happen. The allied army failed to take this precaution even after witnessing the spread of looting. In more ways than one, it impoverished human history.
The failure to stop looting might appear to be a trifle to the military and political leadership of the United States of America and Great Britain. But it is an important factor in the erosion of global goodwill. If the act of ending tyranny in Iraq was an achievement, the inactivity in the presence of plunder is a blot on the achievement. Mr George W. Bush and his think-tank must appreciate that military might is adequate to push through a triumphant military campaign, but it is not an instrument for winning the peace and public opinion. Even those who have supported the invasion of Iraq are watching in horror what is happening in Baghdad. It is this sense of horror that has completely overwhelmed whatever good work the allies have done in Iraq. The fruits of victory have been looted from the hands of the US and Britain. Their soldiers, because of the lack of proper direction, have allowed this to happen. The execution of the military campaign against Iraq set new standards in the art of war. But the immediate aftermath of the war has shown that some things in the annals of the end of tyranny and war remain unchanged.