Monday, March 31, 2003

Moving to the Nation at War section of March 29, the top story, on page B1, by Jane Perlez with Marc Santora, is "British Cargo Vessel Carrying Relief Supplies Docks in a Southern Iraqi Port." (Great photo by Ian Waldie.) The Sir Galahad brought 650 tons of food and medical supplies, the article says.

According to British soldiers, write Perlez and Santora, people in the port town of Umm Qasr, where the aid ship docked, "had enough food for the next several months."

"The hospital in town, and the medical clinic, also had enough supplies. The big problem was a shortage of water, caused largely because electricity to drive the pumps, was cut. The town's electricity supply comes from Basra, they said.

"A team of United States government aid experts traveled to Umm Qasr from Kuwait City Wednesday and Thursday to assess the humanitarian situation. They concurred with the British military: there was not an immediate crisis."

In Basra, too, the article says, the biggest concern is water, rather than food or medicine.

Press and TV reporters with cameras were not invited by Britain's Royal Marines to observe the aid being handed out. "The reporters, escorted to the port from Kuwait City by the British military to witness the arrival of the aid, were kept at the dockside and not allowed to talk to people in the town.

" 'People don't want to be treated as museum pieces, or to be in a goldfish bowl,' said Col. Steve Cox, deputy commander of the Third Commando Brigade. 'When I talk to people, the word dignity comes up a lot. They don't want aid thrown at them.' "

Earlier, Perlez and Santora note, "The Kuwaiti Red Crescent has trucked food into Safwan, just across the border in Iraq, twice now. And twice the Kuwaitis have been met by crowds that quickly turned into mobs desperately trying to get whatever they could while they could — but still deeply ambivalent about whether to side with Saddam Hussein or the United States."